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Goldsmith warns US on detainees

Joshua Rozenberg / London Telegraph | September 18 2006

Terrorist suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay should not be subject to humiliating and degrading treatment, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, warned the US government at the weekend.

Speaking in Chicago, Lord Goldsmith told the Bush administration that it should not try to water down the standards in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

This provision, he said, "prohibits outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment" of those detained in combat. It was "an international standard of very considerable importance and its content must be the same for all nations", he stressed.

In a speech that received a standing ovation from members of the American Bar Association and the International Bar Association, Lord Goldsmith acknowledged that he was interfering in a "live, and sensitive, domestic political debate".

But he said it was not purely domestic. "The detainees to whom these procedures apply are non-US citizens and are detained outside the US."

His remarks came after a speech this month by President George W Bush justifying the use of "tough" interrogation methods against a suspected terrorist leader. On Sept 6, the president disclosed that the CIA had used an "alternative set of procedures" to interrogate Abu Zubaydah, believed to have been a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden. He stressed that the US did not use torture.

The president also dismissed the requirement in Article 3 that there must be no outrages upon personal dignity as "very vague" and "wide open to interpretation". He called on Congress to support legislation that would provide "clarity" for US interrogators.

Lord Goldsmith's insistence that the standards of Article 3 must be the same for all nations is seen as a warning that the US should not dilute those standards by passing domestic legislation that permits humiliating and degrading treatment.


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