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Geneva references omitted from revised Army interrogation manual: report

[JURIST] The US Defense Department [official website] has decided to omit references to common Article 3 [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], which bans "cruel treatment and torture" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" of detainees, from the new Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation [current text] and accompanying directives, an anonymous military official told the Los Angeles Times. The decision to omit specific references to Article 3 will not be final until the Pentagon officially releases the new field manual and implementing directives, which it was scheduled to do last April. The US State Department [official website] has been adamant in its opposition to omitting Geneva Convention protections, contending that including Article 3 in the field manual and official US interrogation guidelines will make it easier to defend US policies abroad by placing the US government on a better "moral footing." Pentagon officials, however, are concerned that the inclusion of Article 3 references could allow established interrogation techniques, such as segregating detainees or questioning a male detainee's manhood, to be challenged in US courts. A senior defense official, speaking anonymously, said that the planned detainee directive is based on Article 3, but "there are certain things unlawful combatants are not entitled to."

The Pentagon has been working on a new version of the manual since the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] surfaced in 2004, but has struggled to come to an agreement [JURIST report] on revisions. Delays in its release have been attributed to attempts to legitimize different interrogation techniques and allow the army to obtain timely intelligence from prisoners, while complying with the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [JURIST document], a measure pushed through Congress last year by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [official website] that explicitly prohibits any cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of persons in custody of the US government. High level military attorneys in May told Congress that some interrogation methods at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] are not consistent with the field manual [JURIST report], calling some tactics humiliating and degrading. Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times has more.

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