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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2526

United States Practices Torture to Combat Terrorism - While Accusing Sri Lanka of the practice in 2007 Human Rights Report

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 14 March (Asiantribune.com): United States President George W. Bush vetoed legislation last week sent by the Congress on intelligence funding because the bill specifically confined interrogation methods to be limited to techniques outlined in the US military manual.

That would have excluded waterboarding, a method of simulated drowning widely seen as a form of torture.

The Bush administration has repeatedly refused to declare waterboarding a form of torture.

In vetoing the bill March 8, Bush called hardcore interrogation methods "one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror," and praised them for preventing another attack on the United States, such as those on September 11, 2001.

While the U.S. administration was embracing torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment for enemy combatants in its campaign in the Global War on Terrorism in vetoing the intelligence bill that prohibited such practices according to prominent human rights organizations in the United Sates, the administration’s top diplomat Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her State Department officials were preparing to release the 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices the following Tuesday March 11.

Sri Lanka, being among 190 countries worldwide that were subjected to intense scrutiny of its human rights practices, got a severe beating from the United States. The Asian Tribune earlier carried an account of the State Department judgment and analyses of the human rights situation and governance in Sri Lanka.

The Asian Tribune re-produces below a section of the 2007 Human Rights Report on Sri Lanka in which the United States gives its observation under the sub title “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

The U.S. report gives the following description:

(Begin Text) “The law makes torture a punishable offense but does not implement several provisions of the UN Convention Against Torture. If convicted of torture, the law mandates a sentence of not less than seven years' imprisonment. However, in the few publicized torture convictions since 2004, the individuals were released on bail pending an appeal rather than serving the minimum seven-year sentence. Human rights groups maintained that while torture is prohibited under specific circumstances, it was allowed under others. According to credible sources, including UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Torture Manfred Nowak, the use of torture by police and security forces to extract admissions and confessions was endemic and conducted with impunity.

In addition, the emergency regulations make confessions obtained under any circumstance, including by torture, sufficient to detain a person until the individual is brought to court. On October 29, following his one week assessment mission to the country, Nowak attributed the lack of convictions for torture to the absence of effective investigation, inadequate protection for victims and witnesses of torture, and an excessive minimum sentence for torture. He stated also that the police used threats of violence or fabrication of criminal cases to prevent the victims of torture by police officers from filing complaints. Nowak added that detainees reported that the magistrates did not provide them an opportunity to complain about police torture while the perpetrators often accompanied the victims to courts and remained present during medical examinations.

“Methods of torture and abuse reportedly included beatings, often with sticks, iron bars or hose; electric shock; suspending individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions; burning with metal objects and cigarettes; genital abuse; blows to the ears; asphyxiation with plastic bags containing chili pepper or gasoline; and near?drowning. Detainees reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment. UNSR Nowak singled out the Terrorist Investigative Department facility in Boossa for including the "fullest manifestation" of torture methods.” (End Text)

A day before the State Department released the 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, America’s premier independent rights organization Human Rights First was critical of Bush Administration’s use of torture when it released an investigative report titled “Tortured Justice.”

The use of torture to extract evidence from detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has tarnished the US legal system's image and alienated allies in the war on terror, the Human Rights First said on Monday March 10.

"This system flies in the face of law that has been in place for more than 200 years in this country and taints the legitimacy of the proceedings at home and internationally," said HRF's Debra Colson, one of the lead authors of the HRF investigative report.

"The use of evidence tainted by torture and other inhuman treatment is pervasive and systematic in the cases of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, and has already infected legal judgments made there," Human Rights First said in its report "Tortured Justice."

By hearing testimony extracted under torture when trying Guantanamo detainees, the United States is "tainting the legitimacy of the proceedings, both at home and in the eyes of the international community; alienating US allies and empowering terrorists," it said.

A Pentagon spokesman defended the legal process set up to try "war on terror" detainees.

The Human Rights First report "makes ill-founded assumptions about the evidence upon which our military prosecutors will rely," said Commander Jeffrey Gordon.

"In fact, military prosecutors are building cases based on solid evidence that will withstand the scrutiny under both the law and in the eyes of the public," he said.

The report was released two days after President George W. Bush vetoed legislation on intelligence funding because it called for interrogation methods to be limited to techniques outlined in a US military manual.

That would have excluded waterboarding, a method of simulated drowning widely seen as a form of torture.

In vetoing the bill on March 8, Bush called hardcore interrogation methods "one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror," and praised them for preventing another attack on the United States, such as those on September 11, 2001.

But according to scientific studies and former interrogators cited in HRF report, torture and other forms of cruelty do not produce useful evidence, says the Washington-based rights organization.

"There is no scientific record that establishes that torture and coercion are going to produce accurate or reliable information," said Avi Cover, co-author of the report “Tortured Justice”.

"Tortured Justice" quoted former FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan as saying the abusive interrogations conducted at the US detention facility at Guantanamo were "a complete and unmitigated failure."

Better results were obtained by providing suspects with legal representation and giving them a fair hearing.

"A tremendous amount of information came our way as a result of treating people humanely," Cloonan was quoted as saying.

The military commissions at Guantanamo were created by an act of Congress in 2006, which also allowed coerced evidence to be used against some suspects. The Congress at that time had Republican Party majority, the party to which President Bush belongs.

"This system flies in the face of law that has been in place for more than 200 years in this country and taints the legitimacy of the proceedings at home and internationally," said HRF's Debra Colson, one of the lead authors of the report.

Allowing evidence obtained by torture would be "inconsistent with the justice system of a civilized society", said Cover.

The report cites the cases of six Guantanamo detainees who were allegedly abused by US government interrogators, but also covers interrogations that took place at secret rendition prisons operated by the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, "all over," said Cover. "The techniques go well beyond waterboarding. Stress and duress techniques were quite common and alleged by many people. Beatings, isolation, sensory deprivation were alleged by many," he said.

"These tactics were part of the catalogue of interrogation techniques used by communist countries during the Cold War that were studied and many times adopted by the CIA," Cover said.

"While it was found often that they produced statements, they have no real record of producing reliable information."

Torture and other inhuman treatment are banned under US criminal, military and international law, the report said.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that due process prohibits the government's use of involuntary statements extracted through psychological pressure, physical intimidation, torture or other mistreatment," it said.

"As the military commission proceedings gather momentum in 2008, the American public and the international community will be watching," it added.

The US had executed Japanese officials for using Waterboarding on US soldiers during World War II.

- Asian Tribune -

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