New Justice Department memo expands "torture" definition

[JURIST] The Justice Department late Thursday posted on its website a revised and expanded interpretation of criminal "torture" under the US Code (18 USC ss. 2340-2340A) a week before White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who oversaw the development of a narrower interpretation articulated in a controversial August 2002 memo [PDF], is due to appear before the US Senate Judiciary Committee as President Bush's nominee for Attorney General. The old interpretation of torture punishable by law had been largely limited to acts causing severe pain leading to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death", and had been blamed for a permissive approach to interrogation procedures leading to prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and other US facilities. Thursday's memorandum, insisting that "torture is abhorrent both to American laws and values and to international norms" and that President Bush had directed that American personnel not engage in torture, is significantly more expansive in keeping with international standards, especially the UN Convention Against Torture. While indicating that torture is not associated with "mild and transitory" acts, it acknowledges that it need not always involve severe physical pain. Read the full text of the memo here [PDF]. The Washington Post has more.

 

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