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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Torture banned, not

Yesterday, I commented that I didn't trust anything Bush did and said I suspected his new order supposedly banning torture was less than it appeared. Now Human Rights Watch concurs:

(New York, July 20, 2007) – President George W. Bush’s new executive order on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program is contrary to the Geneva Conventions, Human Rights Watch said today.

The new order, issued today, purports to determine that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program “fully complies” with US obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as long as the CIA follows a series of requirements in carrying out the program.

But enforced disappearance – the hallmark of the CIA program, involving secret, incommunicado detention – is itself inconsistent with the requirement under Common Article 3 that detainees be treated humanely. A number of CIA prisoners were held for three or more years in secret detention facilities, known as “black sites,” before being transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay in September 2006. Others who were believed to have been held in CIA detention remain “disappeared.”

“By international human rights and humanitarian law standards, the CIA program is illegal to its core,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “Although the new executive order bars torture and other abuse, the order still can’t purport to legalize a program that violates basic rights.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed skepticism that the treatment requirements set out in the new order – that detainees not be tortured or ill-treated, and be fed adequately, among others – will be followed. It is well documented that holding detainees in prolonged incommunicado detention, without judicial or other independent oversight, is an invitation to torture and other abuse. Human Rights Watch pointed out that even the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been allowed to visit detainees in CIA custody.

In addition, because the written policies governing the CIA interrogation program will be classified, it will be impossible for any outside monitor to assess whether the interrogation practices they allow are consistent with international standards. Given that then-CIA director Porter Goss once referred to waterboarding – a form of mock drowning – as a “professional interrogation technique,” Human Rights Watch is concerned that abusive methods might still be authorized.

Notably, US officials have still refused to publicly denounce waterboarding as torture.


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