HRW urges US Government to support anti-torture legislation

9 June 2015 (Last Updated June 9th, 2015 18:30)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the US to fully support newly introduced legislation that bans the country from re-engaging in torture during an interrogation.

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the US to fully support newly introduced legislation that bans the country from re-engaging in torture during an interrogation.

Introduced by US Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, the proposed legislation would require all US government agencies to accept the rules outlined in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

The law also calls for regular review and updation of the manual to ensure that it reflects current best practise and complies with all US legal obligations.

The legislation seeks to permanently ban the government from waterboarding detainees, depriving them of sleep, or using any extreme methods of interrogation.

In addition to these provisions, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would be notified of and be granted prompt access to all prisoners held by the US in any armed conflict.

However, the watchdog insists that the risk of US officials ignoring the law, as they did in the past, will remain until the government criminally investigates the use of torture in the past, and prosecutes those responsible for planning and authorising it.

Human Rights Watch senior national security counsel Laura Pitter said: "Requiring the CIA and other US agencies to abide by one uniform set of interrogation rules will help prevent torture.

"But such legal fixes won't carry weight in the future if those responsible for torture in the past aren't brought to justice.

"Requiring the CIA and other US agencies to abide by one uniform set of interrogation rules will help prevent torture."

"The Obama administration's continued failure to act on criminal investigations and prosecutions risks sending the message that even though torture is a crime, those responsible will escape justice."

The law comes after the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) abusive detention and interrogation programme after the 9/11 attacks.

In 2005, the US Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act, prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment against any detainee in US custody. This act required Department of Defense personnel to follow the Interrogation Manual for all interrogations, after revelations of torture by US forces at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The McCain-Feinstein law is expected to reinforce the suspension of ill-treatment and torture, as well as extending the application of the manual as the sole source of interrogation techniques to all US government agencies, including the CIA.


Image: US Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein at the US Capitol n Washington, D.C. Photo: copyright 2014 Reuters.