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US to ban torture statements

SA | March 21, 2006

Washington - In a ruling expected this week, the White House will ban statements made under torture from its military courts at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reversing a July 2005 decision, The Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday.

The new ruling is expected to precede a US Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday on the legality of the military courts, known as military commissions, that were set up following September 11 to prosecute non-US suspects of war crimes.

The move to ban on statements exacted by torture could help the commissions survive the Supreme Court review, said the daily, since government lawyers can argue that the military courts comply with the UN Convention Against Torture the United States ratified in 1994.

The commissions were challenged legally by Salim Hamdan, a Guantanamo defendant and self-confessed driver of Osama bin Laden, because among other things they could consider statements made under torture.

An appeals court in July upheld the commissions - triggering procedural changes by Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes to admit hypothetically tortured statements, and Hamdan's lawyers decided to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Defence department spokesperson Major Jane Boomer, in a statement published by the newspaper, deemed the new ruling was unnecessary.

President George W Bush "has been clear in stating that the US does not condone torture. The Department of Defense of course abides by that admonition, and had believed that a specific commission rule was unnecessary and would erroneously suggest that torture had actually occurred," Boomer said.

"Nevertheless, to eliminate any doubt" that the Torture Convention applies to the commissions, Haynes "has issued a formal instruction that bars prosecutors from offering as evidence any statement obtained as a result of torture, and bars commissions from admitting such evidence against an accused," she added.


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