NEW YORK - December 7 - The U.S. Secretary of State's
statement yesterday about U.S. obligations under international law
does not answer key outstanding questions about the treatment of
detainees in U.S. custody, Human Rights Watch said today.
Speaking in Kiev yesterday, Secretary Condoleezza Rice said: "As a
matter of U.S. policy, the United States obligations under the CAT
[Convention against Torture], which prohibits, of course, cruel and
inhumane and degrading treatment, those obligations extend to U.S.
personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or
outside of the United States."
Secretary Rice did not respond to specific allegations that detainees
have been held illegally in CIA detention facilities in Europe. She also
failed to address rising concerns about specific U.S. interrogation
techniques and torture practices such as waterboarding, which clearly
violate the policy announced today.
"If the administration is serious about banning mistreatment, it should
close secret prisons and get rid of waterboards," said Tom Malinowski,
Washington director of Human Rights Watch. "If Secretary Rice
means what she says, the Bush administration should drop its
opposition to Senator John McCain's legislation, pending in the U.S.
Congress, which would strengthen the legal prohibition against all
cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment against all detainees,
Human Rights Watch urged the Bush administration, and European
governments, to cooperate with European inquiries about illegal
transfers of detainees and secret prisons, and called on the United
States to move "disappeared" persons into known detention facilities,
articulate the legal basis under which the detainees are held, and allow
access by independent observers.
Human Rights Watch also urged the administration to clarify Secretary
Rice's announcement today that the United States is bound by
international standards not as mere policy, but as a matter of law.
"The ban against cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment has to be
more than a 'policy,' which can be changed by the president at any
time," said Malinowski. "For months, Senator McCain has been asking
for this international ban to be strengthened under U.S. law, and the
administration should stop resisting his efforts."
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