Techniques 'amount to torture'

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent

24 June 2004


Use of extreme interrogation by American soldiers on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq amount to torture and breach international law, lawyers and medical experts said last night. Hooding, sleep deprivation, isolation treatment and the removal of prisoners' clothes are all forms of torture or degrading treatment.

Many of these practices have been specifically banned by the international courts and torture conventions, which have been signed by the American administration. Peter Carter QC, chairman of the Bar's human rights committee, said that while some of the techniques, such as hooding and the use of dogs, are prohibited, other procedures, including the shaving of Muslim prisoners' beards, are an "attack on the dignity of the individual".

He added: "They are designed to destroy a person's belief in their own dignity. They are the same kind of techniques adopted by General Pinochet and the North Vietnamese when they captured American soldiers they accused of spying."

Sherman Carroll, director of public affairs of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, said yesterday: "The documents from the White House authorised specific interrogation techniques by US forces abroad that amount to torture." Mr Carter said the interrogation practices adopted between December 2002, and dropped four months later, brought the US into direct contravention of the international Torture Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Bill Clinton in his presidency.

But he said the "combined use" of interrogation techniques in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq were in breach of rules on inhuman and degrading treatment. Gareth Peirce, the lawyer who acts for Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul, two of the British detainees freed from the US naval base in Cuba, said: "Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul have documented the procedures that were inflicted on them and [those] include and exceed those procedures that the US said they have authorised."

Several of the freed prisoners are considering legal action.