Monday, May 10, 2004

U.S. military guidelines and international conventions bar the types of treatment of prisoners depicted in recently released photographs; specifically, mental torture, such as mock executions and abnormal sleep deprivation.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer, said the photographs published so far showing U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners could be viewed as torture under U.S. military regulations and international conventions.

“It’s very clear from the regulations that they are prohibited from doing what they did in those pictures,” Col. Maginnis said in an interview.

Torture is defined in the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the United States in 1994, as:

“Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or her or a third person information or a confession.”

Torture also is defined as punishing someone for an act they have committed or “intimidating or coercing him or her or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

Initial indications are that the abuse was part of an effort to pressure detainees into giving information about operations against U.S. and allied military forces.

For military intelligence personnel, the photographed abuses in Iraq — including naked prisoners being placed in sexual positions — are not permitted under Army rules for interrogation, according to Maj. Gen. James A. Marks, commanding officer of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

“We do not train, condone, nor accept this type of behavior,” he said.

Army interrogators must abide by laws, treaties and conventions, including when questioning prisoners. They include the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, The Hague Treaties, the Convention Against Torture, the U.S. Code and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The use of force, physical torture or coercion, such as food deprivation, beating, inflicting pain through chemicals or bondage, or electric shock, or mental torture, such as mock executions, abnormal sleep deprivation, also are banned.

One photograph shows a hooded prisoner with electrodes attached to his limbs.

According to the intelligence center, whenever an interrogator is engaged in questionable tactics, he must ask whether an action violates international or U.S. law.

“If the answer to either question is affirmative, soldiers are not to engage in the action,” the center said in a statement. “If doubt still remains, soldiers must seek advice from military legal authorities.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced last week that a blue-ribbon panel of specialists will review Pentagon detention operations.

The review panel includes former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger; former Rep. Tillie Fowler, Florida Republican; retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner; and former Defense Secretary Harold Brown.

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