Monday, July 28, 2008

UK Commons report casts doubt on US denial of torture techniques

Via the Jurist: UK Commons report casts doubt on US denial of torture techniques. A week on the whole thing has been forgotten by the mainstream media, which didn't pay enough attention to it in the first place.

"The Human Rights Annual Report 2007 [text, PDF] released Sunday by the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee [committee website] recommended that the UK not rely on any assurances made by the US that it does not use torture. The report also calls on the UK to fully investigate US interrogation tactics to ensure that no torture techniques are being used on US detainees. The report's section on torture focuses on waterboarding [JURIST news archive] and the disconnect between US statements that the practice does not constitute torture and testimony by UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official website] that "water-boarding [sic] amounts to torture." The Foreign Affairs Committee wrote in the report:
We conclude that the Foreign Secretary's view that water-boarding is an instrument of torture is to be welcomed. However, given the recent practice of water-boarding by the US, there are serious implications arising from the Foreign Secretary's stated position. We conclude that, given the clear differences in definition, the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future. We also recommend that the Government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US. We further recommend that, once its analysis is completed, the Government should inform this Committee and Parliament as to its view on whether there are any other interrogation techniques that may be approved for use by the US Administration which it considers to constitute torture.
BBC News has more."

It is also worth noting the following from page 25 of the report (it's actually the paragraph immediately preceding the one above quoted by The Jurist):

"52. There appears to be a striking inconsistency in the Government’s approach to this matter. As noted above, it has relied on assurances by the US Government that it does not use torture. However, it is evident that, in the case of water-boarding and perhaps other techniques, what the UK considers to be torture is viewed as a legal interrogation technique by the US Administration. With the divergence in definitions, it is difficult to see how the UK can rely on US assurances that it does not torture. As Amnesty International argues, “what the USA considers torture does not match international law”.86 Human Rights Watch adds that “President Bush’s statements on torture need to be considered in the light of the memoranda from his legal advisers that re-defined torture so narrowly as to make the prohibition virtually meaningless.”87"

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