Pentagon ‘could edit out torture ban’

NEW policies on prisoners being drawn up by the Pentagon will omit a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans “humiliating and degrading treatment,” the Los Angeles Times reported today.

Citing unidentified but knowledgeable military officials, it said the step would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift by the US Government away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
The decision could end a lengthy debate within the Defence Department but would not become final until the Pentagon makes the new guidelines public, the report said.

The State Department fiercely opposes the military’s decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the paper pointed out.

The Pentagon has been redrawing its policies on detainees for more than a year.

It intends to issue a new Army Field Manual on interrogation which, along with accompanying directives, represents core instructions to US troops around the world, The Times said.

The directive on interrogation, a senior defence official said, was being rewritten to create safeguards so that all detainees were treated humanely but can still be questioned effectively, according to the report.
Critics and supporters of US President George W. Bush have debated whether it is possible to prove a direct link between administration declarations that it will not be bound by the Geneva Convention, and events such as the abuses at Abu Ghraib or the killings of Iraqi civilians last year in Haditha, The Times said.

Omitting the Geneva provisions may make it harder for the administration to portray such incidents as aberrations, the paper noted, saying it would also undercut contentions that US forces follow the strictest, most broadly accepted standards when fighting wars.

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