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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2223

CIA “Enhanced” Interrogation Techniques Amount to Torture, Cruel and Inhuman Treatment says US Rights Groups’ Report

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 12 August ( A new report issued in early August by Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights, two influential and prominent rights organizations in the United States, provides the first comprehensive look at the legality of 10 so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by the CIA in light of the medical evidence on their mental and physical impact. Many of these techniques are widely reported to have been authorized for use by the CIA.

The report charges that “a close analysis of the War Crimes Act and other U.S. law, informed by medical and psychological expertise, reveals that these "enhanced" interrogation techniques, may constitute "torture" and/or "cruel or inhuman treatment."

On July 20, the President Bush issued an Executive Order on the CIA interrogation program that fails to prohibit these techniques, the two rights groups reveal.

Their report finds that each of these techniques, including mock-drowning, sexual humiliation, severe isolation and sensory bombardment are prohibited by U.S. law and could subject U.S. officials who authorize or use them to criminal prosecution.

The joint report, first of its kind to scientifically probe into the so called torture methods widely reported to have been authorized for use by the CIA, continues to reveal: “On July 20, 2007, President George W. Bush issued an executive order interpreting the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to a program of detention and interrogation by the CIA. The order does not clarify what techniques the CIA can and cannot lawfully engage in. Press accounts, citing anonymous Administration officials, suggest that at least one of the "enhanced" techniques, waterboarding, may no longer be used. The fact that the Administration officials may have ruled out some "enhanced" techniques, though, raises serious questions about whether the CIA guidelines implementing the Executive Order will permit Agency interrogators to resume the other techniques previously authorized.”

“While the details of the CIA's "enhanced" interrogation program remain classified,” the report however points out that “credible reports have disclosed several of the techniques that were authorized in March 2002 for use in the program, including water-boarding (mock drowning), exposure to extreme cold (including induced hypothermia), stress positions, extreme sensory deprivation and overload, shaking, striking, prolonged sleep deprivation, and isolation, among others.”

The Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights further state: “Without identifying specifically approved techniques, the President has, in the past, publicly endorsed "alternative interrogation methods," and declared that the MCA, which he signed into law in October 2006, allows the CIA "program" to continue.”

The report says that “the new executive order fails explicitly to rule out the use of the "enhanced" techniques that the CIA authorized in March 2002. The Executive Order does state clearly that any program of detention and interrogation approved by the Director of Central Intelligence may not include any acts prohibited by the War Crimes Act or the Torture Act. Yet a close analysis of the War Crimes Act and other U.S. law, informed by medical and psychological expertise, reveals that these "enhanced" interrogation techniques, may constitute "torture" and/or "cruel or inhuman treatment" and, consequently, authorization of their use under the Executive Order would place interrogators at serious legal risk of prosecution for war crimes or other violations.”

Violations of the War Crimes Act, the Torture Act
and the Detainee Treatment Act

The report highlights the United States laws that prohibit torture, cruel and inhuman treatment of those who are under its custody:

“The recent amendments to the War Crimes Act (WCA) establish as war crimes "grave breaches" of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, including "torture" and "cruel or inhuman treatment.” "Torture" is characterized, in pertinent part, as "an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering” The separate war crime of "cruel or inhuman treatment," is defined as "an act intended to inflict severe or serious physical or mental pain or suffering.”

“For the crime of torture under the WCA and the Torture Act, severe mental pain or suffering is defined as "the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from" several specified actions, including "the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering" and "the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”

“For the WCA crime of "cruel or inhuman treatment," serious mental pain or suffering is defined as "the serious and non-transitory mental harm (which need not be prolonged) caused by or resulting from" the same specified actions.

“The Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) requires that "no person in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (CIDT)."[18] The DTA defines CIDT as conduct prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution”.

Adverse Physical and Mental Consequences

The Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights joint report continues to state: “Medical literature clearly establishes that tactics such as the CIA's reported "enhanced" interrogation techniques cause the types of physical and mental anguish that are criminalized under the WCA and other laws. In a letter sent to Senator John McCain during the height of the MCA debate, several leading medical and psychological experts, including current and past presidents of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, conveyed this collective knowledge:

“There must be no mistake about the brutality of the "enhanced interrogation methods" reportedly used by the CIA. Prolonged sleep deprivation, induced hypothermia, stress positions, shaking, sensory deprivation and overload, and water-boarding (which may still be authorized), among other reported techniques, can have a devastating impact on the victim's physical and mental health.

“The pain and suffering arising from the individual and combined use of water-boarding, hitting, induced hypothermia, prolonged bombardment with loud music and flashing lights, stress positions, total and long-term isolation, and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques is directly related to the purpose of these techniques: to "break" detainees, mentally and physically. The medical consequences of such abuse have been well-documented through years of research and treatment of survivors of violence and severe trauma.

“Some of the enhanced techniques, particularly water-boarding, hitting, induced hypothermia, and stress positions are capable of causing "severe" or "serious" physical pain and suffering, the intentional infliction of which violates the "torture" and "cruel or inhuman treatment" provisions of the WCA. Each of the techniques can also cause significant psychological harm. According to one recent study, in fact, the significance of the harm caused by non-physical, psychological abuse is virtually identical to the significance of the harm caused by physical abuse”.

Conclusion and Recommendations of the two Rights Groups are:

“This report demonstrates that "enhanced" techniques of interrogation, whether practiced alone or in combination, may cause severe physical and mental pain. In fact, the use of multiple techniques of "enhanced" interrogation virtually assures the infliction of severe physical and mental pain upon detainees.

Given this knowledge, U.S. policy makers and interrogation personnel should understand that if such methods are practiced, it would be reasonable for courts to conclude that the resulting harm was inflicted intentionally.

The interrogation techniques analyzed above - and other techniques that have comparable medical consequences - implicate legal prohibitions and could result in felony criminal prosecutions. It is therefore inappropriate for any such techniques to be used by U.S. personnel in interrogations, and it is the responsibility of U.S. policy makers to ensure that the use of such techniques is effectively precluded.

“In issuing interrogation policy, the United States should refrain from repeating the mistake of allowing euphemistic descriptions of interrogation techniques to stretch the line between permissible and impermissible treatment. Instead, all U.S. agencies should firmly adhere to a single standard of humane treatment that protects the lives and health of individuals in U.S. custody”.

Their Recommendations to the Bush White House are:

1. Prohibit the "enhanced" interrogation techniques, in order to protect U.S. officials and personnel from potential criminal liability and to ensure that all U.S. personnel adhere to U.S. law.

2. Prohibit the use of any other method that, alone or in combination with other interrogation methods, presents a significant risk of causing serious or severe physical and/or mental pain or suffering.

3. Instruct all U.S. interrogators in effective, legal, non-harmful methods of interrogation.

4. Declassify and release all documents, from all relevant U.S. agencies, which contain information on U.S. interrogation policy and practice, including but not limited to the "enhanced" interrogation methods.

Their Recommendations to the U.S. Congress are:

Clarify existing language in the MCA, which under a reasonable interpretation currently prohibits the use of the "enhanced" techniques, by explicitly listing the techniques, forbidding them, and making clear that they remain criminal.

Establish a single standard for detainee treatment and interrogation practices to be followed by all U.S. personnel, including CIA personnel.

- Asian Tribune -

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