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New US Army interrogation manual mandates Geneva rules

[JURIST] A new US Army Field Manual on intelligence interrogations [Human Intelligence Collector Operations text, PDF] released [US Army press release] Wednesday specifies that the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] apply to all detainees and eliminates separate standards for the questioning of prisoners of war and enemy combatants [JURIST news archive]. The new manual also abandons plans to keep specific interrogation techniques classified [JURIST report]. Military officials said in June that the revised manual would not contain a classified section [JURIST report], despite warnings from some in the Department of Defense that disclosing certain techniques would undermine the ability of interrogators to extract information. Members of Congress and the State Department had expressed concern about the possibility of including classified techniques, saying that it would cast doubt on US compliance with the Geneva Conventions and raise suspicions that the US was allowing torture.

The specific reference to the Geneva Conventions marks a departure from previous drafts of the revised manual, which omitted references [JURIST report] to common Article 3 [text] of the Conventions. Pentagon officials had been concerned that including references to Article 3, which bans "cruel treatment and torture" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" of detainees, could allow established interrogation techniques, such as segregating detainees or questioning a male detainee's manhood, to be challenged in US courts. After the US Supreme Court's June ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [text; JURIST report], however, the Pentagon said that the Geneva Conventions would be applied to all detainees [DOD memo, PDF; JURIST report] held in US military custody around the world, reversing the Defense Department's policy of classifying detainees as "enemy combatants" outside the protections of Article 3.

The new field manual and accompanying policy directives will apply to all detainees and interrogators in military facilities, as well as to CIA prisoners held at DOD facilities. CIA interrogators working from foreign facilities are not bound by the field manual, but they are barred from treating prisoners inhumanely under the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [JURIST document]. Wednesday's Los Angeles Times has more.

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