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US lawmakers urge Trump not to revive torture, repopulate Guantanamo

US lawmakers urge Trump not to revive torture, repopulate Guantanamo

WASHINGTON: The ranking members of five key committees of the US Senate have sent a letter to Secretary of Defence James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo expressing alarm at reports that the Trump administration was set to revoke the bans on CIA “black site” detention facilities and excessive interrogation techniques.

The ranking members of the Senate Intelligence, Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Appropriations Committees noted in the letter that the interrogation techniques, practised previously but discarded by the Obama administration, were not in the US Army’s Field Manual. The techniques include waterboarding, which has been branded as physical torture by several human rights groups.

The lawmakers pointed out that the Trump administration also planned to send additional detainees to the detention facility at Guantanamo, as indicated in the reports. Although the Obama administration failed to fulfil its pledge to close the prison facility, it stopped fresh transfers and drastically reduced the prison population, from 780 to 41.

“We are deeply concerned … those reports, as well as comments by the President, have created alarm that this administration may be preparing a return to policies and practices that are ineffective, contrary to our national values, and damaging to our national security,” wrote the senators.

The letter was signed by Sen. Mark R. Warner, Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence; Sen. Jack Reed, Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Ben Cardin, the Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. All the lawmakers are Democrats and some of them have headed these committee until two years ago, when Democrats were a majority in the Senate.

“Torture is immoral and deeply contrary to the principles of this nation.

Beyond that, it is widely recognised as ineffective and even counter-productive, as it produces unreliable information,” wrote the senators.

“The use of torture and secret foreign prisons were a boon to terrorist groups, helping their propaganda and recruitment efforts.”

The senators noted that such practices frayed US relations with key allies, some of whom have faced legal liability before their own or international courts. “Similarly, these practices put our own forces and personnel at risk of legal liability and being subjected to harsh treatment when they are detained,” they added.

The letter also refers to a draft of the Executive Order, which asserts that it was in “the interests of the United States” to maintain the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Senators reminded Secretary Mattis and Director Pompeo that both the Bush and Obama administrations worked to close the detention centre at Guantanamo because they realised that both the moral and financial costs were not justified and that there were better, more humane alternatives.

“We cannot go back to those practices if we want the United States of America to continue to serve as a beacon of justice, law and human rights for the world. We appreciate your firm commitments in the confirmation process to follow the law,” they wrote.

“We remain firmly opposed to changing the law or any policy that could bring back these abhorrent and ineffective practices,” the senators told Secretary Mattis and Director Pompeo.

The lawmakers reminded the Trump administration that the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defence Authorization Act prohibits interrogation techniques not authorized by the Army Field Manual, as well as any changes to the Field Manual involving the use or threat of force.

The statute also requires that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of, and prompt access to, detainees held by the United States.

Published in Dawn February 4th, 2017

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