Human Rights First Says Administration Announcements on Detainee Interrogation and Detention Send Mixed Message
(New York, September 7, 2006) – Human Rights First today said a set of announcements and proposals by President Bush on prisoner interrogation, detention and trial sent a mixed message on the Administration’s commitment to the rule of law. The announcements included release of long-awaited revisions to the Army Field Manual governing military interrogation, official acknowledgement of the CIA’s secret detention program, the transfer to Guantanamo of 14 former CIA secret detainees, and a detailed proposal for a military tribunal system to prosecute alleged war criminals.
“On the one hand, the provisions of the interrogation field manual, with a few exceptions, represent a victory for those administration and military officials who seek to return the U.S. military to the path of law,” said Elisa Massimino, Human Rights First Washington Director. “On the other hand, even though the transfer of some detainees from secret locations to a U.S. prison is a welcome development, the President defended the secret CIA detention system and an ‘alternative set of [interrogation] procedures’ which have in the past included waterboarding, stress positions and forced nudity, all of which violate U.S. and international law. Secret detentions using secret interrogation techniques invite cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of suspects, treatment which is a clear violation of the McCain Amendment and international law,” Massimino said.
Human Rights First also expressed concerns about the proposed military commission legislation announced by President Bush. “Emblematic of our concerns is the fact that the bill permits the use of evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, and defines those acts so narrowly that only conduct approaching torture is banned,” Massimino added. “The Administration’s proposal contains provisions that violate the Geneva Conventions and are not consistent with the spirit of the McCain Amendment banning cruel treatment. Congress needs to examine the proposal in a deliberative, bi-partisan way to craft a system that accords with the United States’ obligations under domestic and international law.”
Human Rights First’s groundbreaking reports on the United States’ worldwide military and intelligence detention system, including interrogation of detainees in secret locations, are available online.