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Saturday, May 06, 2006

US denies failed torture policy

My lips are moving, which means I'm lying

U.S. Explains Itself to U.N. on Torture Charges

By TOM WRIGHT International Herald Tribune
Published: May 5, 2006

GENEVA, May 5 — A delegation of American officials came before a United Nations panel on torture today to account for the conduct of the United States in the fight against terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

John B. Bellinger III, the legal adviser to the State Department, left, speaks as Barry F. Lowenkron, assistant secretary of state for democracy looks on at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland today.

The American officials, who were part of an unusually large group sent to deliver a report on the country's compliance with the Convention Against Torture, offered a careful and familiar set of responses to questions that the panel posed.

Despite abuses in places like the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the American officials denied that the government systematically mistreated prisoners and they reiterated a commitment to a global ban on torture.

John B. Bellinger III, the legal adviser to the State Department, who led the delegation, said that criticism of United States policy has become "so hyperbolic as to be absurd." He added: "I would ask you not to believe every allegation that you have heard."

Speaking before the United Nation's Committee Against Torture, he also reiterated the "absolute commitment" of the United States to eradicating torture globally and said the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib were isolated incidents that have been, or will be, investigated and punished.

But the United Nations legal experts charged with ensuring that nations keep their commitments under the Convention Against Torture appeared skeptical.

Fernando Mariño Menéndez of Spain cited data from human rights groups that of 600 United States personnel alleged to have been involved in the torture or murder of prisoners, only 10 received prison terms of a year or more.

The 10-member committee raised a number of other concerns, which the delegation is to respond to in detail on Monday. They include Washington's reported policy of sending prisoners for questioning to countries with poor human rights records, and the role of controversial interrogation techniques like "waterboarding," in which prisoners are led to believe they are going to drown.

By sending its delegation here, the Bush administration was trying to restore credibility to its program for treating prisoners by affirming support for the Convention Against Torture, a treaty outlawing prisoner abuse that was signed by Washington more than a decade ago.

Under provisions of the treaty, the 140 signatories must periodically submit reports and appear before the United Nations to show they are applying the rules.

"The timing of our report comes at a difficult time for the United States," Mr. Bellinger said, referring to recent prisoner abuse scandals, reported kidnappings and the severe treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. "But we did not shy away from coming."

However, Gabor Rona, legal director for Human Rights First International, a nongovernmental group, said the American delegation "failed to resolve serious questions about the U.S. commitment to fully implement Congress's recently enacted ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

The next president will have to try and jail some of these people for what they have done.

posted by Steve @ 12:06:00 AM

12:06:00 AM

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