Military commissions undermined by 'evidence tainted by torture': rights group

[JURIST] The legitimacy of military commissions of Guantanamo Bay detainees will be undermined by "the admission of evidence tainted by torture," according to a report [PDF text; press release] released Monday by Human Rights First [advocacy website]. The report cites the cases of six Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees who have alleged that they were tortured in US custody, and says that so-called harsh interrogation techniques have no track record of producing reliable information. It further argued that admitting evidence obtained through controversial techniques like waterboarding [JURIST news archive] has thrown the legitimacy of the military commissions into doubt:

A question of legitimacy hangs over the detention and legal proceedings at Guantanamo. Defense lawyers and human rights groups are not alone in their indictment of the military commission process. Many law enforcement and military officials are critical of the MCA's evidentiary rules. These officials know that the reliance on coerced testimony will only serve to tarnish the military commission proceedings at home and in the international community, jeopardize the government's ability to secure convictions that can withstand scrutiny on appeal, and perpetuate the use of abusive interrogation techniques.
A Defense Department spokesman dismissed the report's findings for making "ill-founded assumptions" about the nature of evidence that military prosecutors will use during detainees' military commissions. AFP has more.

The report was released two days after President George W. Bush vetoed [JURIST report] an intelligence funding bill [HR 2082 materials] that would restrict CIA interrogators to using only interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual. Though the US Senate approved [JURIST report] the measure on February 13, it failed to approve it by the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto. The US House agreed to the measure [JURIST report] in December. Field Manual 2-22.3 [PDF text; press release], Human Intelligence Collector Operations, explicitly prohibits the use of waterboarding, electrocution, sensory deprivation, inducing hypothermia, or depriving the subject of food, water, or medical care. The 2006 manual also specifies that the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] apply to all detainees [JURIST report] and eliminates separate standards for the questioning of prisoners of war and enemy combatants.


 

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