Today, House Democrats voted to ban torture by U.S. interrogators and House Republicans voted to retain it.
Defying a White House veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to outlaw harsh interrogation methods, such as simulated drowning, that the CIA has used against suspected terrorists.However, the UN's special envoy has a diferent opinion about whether these interrogations were lawful ,and said that he suspects the Bush administration knows it too.
On a largely party line vote of 222-199, the Democratic-led House approved a measure to require intelligence agents to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans torture in compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
The measure, part of a sweeping intelligence bill, passed amid a congressional probe into the recent disclosure that the CIA destroyed videotapes of al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning.
Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have accused the United States of torturing terror suspects since the September 11 attacks.
President George W. Bush says the United States does not torture, but the administration will not disclose what interrogation methods it has approved for the CIA.
In threatening to veto the House-passed measure, which now awaits Senate action, the White House argued it would prevent the United States from conducting "lawful interrogations of senior al Qaeda terrorists."
A United Nations investigator said on Thursday he strongly suspected the CIA of using torture on terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, suggesting many were not being prosecuted to keep the abuse from emerging at trial.Eighty out of over 800 detainees who have been held at Gitmo over the years are currently expected to come to trial. Over 500 have been released without charge by the U.S. So much for rightwing assumptions that everyone in Gitmo was a dangerous terrorist.
On a visit to the U.S. detention centre in Cuba last week, Martin Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, attended a pre-trial hearing of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver.
Scheinin said U.S. officials had told him that of the roughly 300 detainees currently held at Guantanamo, 80 were expected to face military trials for suspected crimes. Another 80 inmates had been cleared for release, he said.
No decision had been made to either prosecute or release the remaining 150, including many so-called "high value" detainees, he said. Some have been held six years without trial.
"There is not enough evidence that could be presented, even to a military commission chaired by a military judge. Partly there may not be evidence and partly the risk of issues of torture being raised is too high," Sheinin told a news briefing.
"Bringing them to court would bring to the court's attention the method through which the evidence, including the confessions, were obtained. So this is one further affirmation of the conclusion that the CIA or others have been involved in methods of interrogation that are incompatible with international law," he said.
Scheinin, who is Professor of Constitutional and International Law at Åbo Akademi University and Director of the Institute for Human Rights also:
voiced concern at the recent revelation that the CIA had destroyed videotapes in 2005 that recorded al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, which he said amounted to torture.
"The destruction of video tapes on CIA interrogations is one more argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved and continues to be involved in the use of interrogation techniques that violate the absolute prohibition against torture," he said.