Executive Order will Limit or Reinforce US Torture? 1

From the Globe and Mail

WASHINGTON — Facing sharp criticism at home and abroad, President George W. Bush signed an executive order giving interrogators new rules on the treatment of suspected terrorists in the U.S. detention program, but the measures failed to quell criticism that the White House condones torture.

The order, which the White House said is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, was criticized by human-rights groups as vague. And the guidelines, which will continue to allow harsh, if unspecified interrogation techniques, may breathe new life into the interrogation program by removing the uncertainty that has hung over it since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year cast doubt on its legality.

The new rules set out conditions that interrogators are not allowed to impose on detainees held at U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prisons and other locations, including the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It includes prohibitions against sexual humiliation, religious denigrations, and deprivation of basic necessities.

The move comes 10 months after Mr. Bush, who has repeatedly denied that the United States practises torture, was forced to suspend its secret-prison system. This decision came after a Supreme Court ruling in June of 2006 that undermined the legality of the program.

In response to the executive order, Christopher Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said:

“The order takes some steps in the right direction, particularly where it explicitly bans CIA practices such as induced hypothermia and prohibits specific acts of humiliation. It also includes broader bans on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, as defined in the War Crimes Act. But of course, the Executive Order is only as good as the people applying it. If any of the recent past presidents, Republican or Democrat, were applying this order, we wouldn’t have any doubt that it means an end to torture and abuse by the CIA. However, with President Bush’s record of playing word games with anti-torture laws, we do not have the same confidence that the torture and abuse has stopped and will not start up again.”

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