The US Congress should reject a Senate bill if it includes a White House-proposed amendment that would allow the CIA to abuse prisoners during interrogations, a human rights group said on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch said that under US President George W. Bush, the US has become "the only government in the world to claim a legal justification for mistreating prisoners during interrogation."
"The administration is setting a dangerous example for the world when it claims that spy agencies are above the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch.
"Congress should reject this proposal outright. Otherwise, the United States will have no standing to demand humane treatment if an American falls into the hands of foreign intelligence services," he said in a statement.
The US Senate recently approved 90-9 a bill sponsored by Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham banning military and Central Intelligence Agency use of any "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment."
However, the Bush administration has approached members of Congress to place a waiver in the bill that would allow the CIA to use cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment on foreign detainees in US custody outside the US, Human Rights Watch said.
Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA director Porter Goss met with McCain to propose the presidential waiver for the proposed legislation, the New York-based rights group said.
The proposed waiver says the measure "shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense," according to a copy of the proposal on the group's Web site.
"While many other governments practice torture and other forms of mistreatment and have records of abuse far worse than the United States, no other government currently claims that such abuse is legally permissible," Human Rights Watch said.
"This exception contains code language that could give the CIA a green light to treat prisoners inhumanely," Malinowski said.
"If allowed to stand, it will render President Bush's past pledges about humane treatment meaningless," he said.