The UN's chief torture investigator criticized the US government yesterday for defending the use of "waterboarding", an interrogation method often described as a form of torture.
Manfred Nowak, the special rapporteur on torture, said: "This is absolutely unacceptable under international human rights law. [The] time has come that the government will actually acknowledge that they did something wrong and not continue trying to justify what is unjustifiable."
On Tuesday, the CIA admitted for the first time that it had used the technique, in which interrogators strap a suspect to a board and pour water through a cloth over the face, creating a sensation of drowning. Testifying before Congress, the CIA director, Michael Hayden, said the method had been used on the suspected September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and senior al-Qaida leaders Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
He said waterboarding had not been used for five years, but yesterday the White House deputy spokesman Tony Fratto said the practice could be revived if authorized by the president. It would depend on the circumstances, including the belief that an attack might be imminent.
Nowak, an Austrian law professor, said: "I'm not willing any more to discuss these questions with the US government, when they still say that this is allowed. It's not allowed."
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