Sat, Feb 12, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Rights group says Bush administration `executed' prisoners

AP , UNITED NATIONS

A US human rights group accused the US of torturing terror suspects at its detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, alleging that at least 37 detainees have died during interrogations.

The World Organization for Human Rights USA said an upcoming report by the US government to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on its compliance with a UN convention outlawing torture was likely to sidestep abuses committed during its war on terror, blaming them on a few "aberrant individuals."

Morton Sklar, the organization's executive director, said there were legal memoranda issued at the highest level in the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Defense "justifying and encouraging the use of torture as a military necessity in time of war."

Brian Whitman, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense, strongly disagreed with the allegations made by the Washington-based group.

"The United States treats all detainees in [its] custody with dignity and respect," he said. "When there have been allegations of misconduct by Department of Defense personnel, they've been aggressively investigated and when substantiated appropriate disciplinary action taken."

A US official said the US is aware of its obligations to report to the Geneva-based Committee Against Torture.

"We intend to submit it as soon as possible," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US became a party to the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1994 and is required to report every four years.

The human rights organization said in its report released Thursday that there was ``substantial evidence of a US policy that authorized and encouraged the systemic torture of suspected terrorists at US detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.''

The group alleged that at least 37 detainees had been "executed" by torture during interrogations in the three countries.

It also alleged that torture is not limited to those captured on the battefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, saying a number of US residents and US citizens have also been tortured.

The World Organization for Human Rights USA accused the US government of having foreign nations detain suspected terrorists so they could be interrogated using "harsh" techniques not permitted in the US.

Citing media reports, the report said at least 200 people suspected of terrorist ties had been sent to other countries for interrogation.

The organization also accused the US government of holding suspected terrorists long-term without charges.

Sklar said his organization wants the US report to the UN Committee Against Torture to be made public as soon as it is issued and to address evidence of torture "in a realistic way."

"The key point we're trying to make is that the US government is trying to sidestep these issues in its official report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in order to avoid further embarrassment," Sklar said in an interview.

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