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USA must set up commission of inquiry into 'war on terror' detainees

The commission, composed of credible experts independent of government, must have broad-ranging powers to examine the administration’s detention policies and practices and ensure accountability at the highest level.

Amnesty International said:

“The problem does not begin or end at Abu Ghraib. The rule of law and promotion of security and human rights demand that light be shone onto all the USA’s detention policies and practices.”

Evidence of war crimes committed in Abu Ghraib follows persistent claims of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against detainees during the past two and a half years. The USA continues to violate international law and standards by holding detainees outside the protection of the law in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and secret locations. Its alleged transfer of detainees to face torture in third countries has also been a matter of deep concern throughout this period.

Amnesty International said:

“The US administration has fostered a climate conducive to torture and cruelty. We have seen a contemptuous approach to international law and standards, the use of incommunicado and secret detention, and repeated dehumanisation and labelling of detainees as ‘killers’ and ‘terrorists’.”

The commander of the US forces in Iraq has now barred interrogators from using some so-called “stress and duress” techniques, including sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, stress positions, and use of dogs. Some of these techniques reportedly violate the international prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. However, the authorities have not precluded the use of such techniques in interrogations in Afghanistan, Guantánamo or at secret locations.

Amnesty International added:

“Prosecuting alleged perpetrators caught on film in Abu Ghraib through military proceedings will not be enough for justice to be done. Full accountability, of persons at all levels of the chain of command, including officers in the armed forces, Central Intelligence Agency personnel and private contractors, is crucial.”

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