Human Rights First welcomes the U.S. Army’s plans to revise its interrogation manual as a first step toward preventing abuse of prisoners.
“The proposed new manual is an important acknowledgement of the scope of the severity of the torture problem,” said Michael Posner, Executive Director of Human Rights First. “However, we are concerned the new rules do not go far enough to solve this problem, or to change Administration policy.”
Human Rights First is concerned that the Pentagon still intends to deny Geneva Conventions protections to detainees designated “enemy combatants.” The Department of Defense issued draft guidance in March 2005 on joint detention operations, which codifies the “enemy combatant’ category. The Defense Department maintains that the 520 individuals held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay are enemy combatants and do not merit those protections. The U.S. government has acknowledged denying the Geneva Conventions to over 300 prisoners in Iraq as well. There also remain at least three dozen high value detainees held in a number of secret locations.
The New York Times reported today that the new manual lays out explicit prohibited techniques and clarifies the prohibition against torture. But the current army field manual already offers numerous methods that are impermissible and makes absolutely clear that neither physical torture, nor mental torture, nor coercion may be used.
The new manual also applies only to the army. It provides no new guidance to CIA interrogators. In August of 2002, the Administration reportedly gave the CIA authority to use illegal techniques including “waterboarding,” denial of pain medication and mock burial.
“Until the President makes it absolutely clear that no U.S. personnel, CIA or otherwise, can hold prisoners in secret and cannot engage in practices that reach the level of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the U.S. can simply hold prisoners in non-Army facilities outside of the Red Cross’ reach and without proper legal protection,” said Posner. “The President must make an unequivocal statement rescinding all policies authorizing any and all interrogation techniques that offend human dignity and constitute violations of the law.”