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Updated 09/11/2006

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—September 11, 2006

1. President acknowledges secret CIA prisons, announces plans for military tribunals and war-crimes protections

2. New Army Field Manual bans harsh interrogation techniques

3. U.S. soldiers may face death penalty for Iraq killings

4. Bush administration asks judge to suspend ruling against NSA wiretaps

5. Amnesty International condemns unfair trials under Turkish antiterrorism laws

1. President acknowledges secret CIA prisons, announces plans for military tribunals and war-crimes protections

On Sept. 6 President Bush acknowledged for the first time the existence of secret CIA prisons, where suspects in the war on terror were held and interrogated. The acknowledgment came as the president announced he was sending legislation to Congress that would establish military tribunals for terrorism suspects and retroactively protect U.S. personnel from prosecution for certain kinds of detainee abuse. The legislation—part of an 86-page bill—does not prohibit “humiliating and degrading treatment,” as described in Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, thus giving CIA officers the freedom to continue using harsh interrogation techniques. The president asserted that the CIA techniques were “safe, lawful and effective” and led directly to the identification and capture of a string of terrorists. However, public documents indicate that techniques went beyond Bush’s description, and that some of the information leading to the arrest of the alleged terrorism plotters was known before the CIA detained its first prisoner.

Bush announced that 14 top al-Qaeda suspects—including the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and the plotters behind the bombings of the USS Cole and the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania—had been transferred from CIA custody to the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. If Congress approves the proposed tribunals, the 14 detainees would face war-crimes trials. Administration lawyers said the proposed military trials are markedly different from the previous tribunal system, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in June, and could withstand future court scrutiny. Republican leaders said the House would vote on the president’s proposal the week of Sept. 18; Senate Republicans are drafting an alternative plan that would give defendants more rights, and Senate Democrats said they are inclined to go along with that plan. [CNN, 9/7/06; AP, 9/7/06; NY Times; 9/7/06; NY Times, 9/7/06; NY Times, 9/7/06]

2. New Army Field Manual bans harsh interrogation techniques

The U.S. Department of Defense on Aug. 6 released a new Army Field Manual, in which three forms of torture are banned as interrogation techniques. These are “intimidating prisoners with military dogs, putting hoods over their heads and simulating the sensation of drowning with a procedure called ‘water boarding.’” Such methods are in addition to 16 banned practices outlined in the previous version of the manual. The new rules apply to all branches of the Armed Forces. The release of the revised manual came on the same day that President Bush announced legislation that would in effect permit CIA operatives and others to continue using some of the harsh interrogation techniques prohibited by the Pentagon. [CNN, 9/6/06; NY Times, 9/7/06]

3. U.S. soldiers may face death penalty for Iraq killings

In two separate cases, U.S. soldiers may face the death penalty if convicted of murdering Iraqis. Four U.S. Army soldiers are charged with murder for killing three Iraqi prisoners, who the soldiers claimed were shot while attempting to escape during an operation in May. In a report dated Aug. 31, a military attorney recommended the death penalty should the soldiers be convicted, but the final decision rests with the commander of the 101st Airborne Division. In a separate case, eight U.S. Marines are charged with murdering a 52-year-old Iraqi man in April. Prosecutors allege the Marines “took [the victim] from his home, tied him up, put him in [a] hole and shot him without provocation.” Pretrial hearings began Aug. 30, and the Marines may also face the death penalty. [Reuters, 9/3/06; CNN, 8/30/06]

4. Bush administration asks judge to suspend ruling against NSA wiretaps

The Bush administration on Sept. 1 asked a federal judge to suspend her order banning the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program while the government appeals it. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor had ruled on Aug. 17 that the government surveillance program violated federal law and the Constitution. Taylor had agreed to delay implementing her ruling until the government had a chance to request a longer-term delay while it appeals the decision. She is scheduled to hear the government’s request on Sept. 28. The Bush administration argues that a halt in the surveillance program would harm national security. Meanwhile, a Republican effort to produce legislation officially sanctioning NSA wiretaps is stalling as leaders have splintered over how much latitude to give the administration. [Washington Post, 9/2/06; Washington Post, 9/6/06]

5. Amnesty International condemns unfair trials under Turkish antiterrorism laws

Amnesty International released a report condemning Turkey for unfair trails under antiterrorism legislation. The report alleges that the Heavy Penal Courts established by antiterrorism legislation to replace the abolished State Security Courts have still resulted in profound human rights violations. Among these are incommunicado detention and convictions based on confessions given under torture. [AI press release, 9/6/06]


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