2002 January 7

Amnesty International Warns Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld About “Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading” Punishments


After photographs surfaced of hooded and shackled terrorist detainees in Afghanistan, Amnesty International warned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on this day that international law prohibited the use of sensory deprivation on prisoners — and also banned any “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” punishment.

The Bush administration consistently argued that international law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, did not apply to its actions in the war against terrorism. Other administration officials gave the same warning to top Bush administration officials, but they were ignored. See, for example, the dissent from administration policy expressed by U.S. State Department Legal Advisor William Taft, IV on January 11, 2002. And even more important, see the infamous “Torture Memo” by the Office of Legal Counsel on August 1, 2002 that justified the use of “harsh interrogation” techniques by the CIA in interrogating suspected terrorists.

Read Amnesty’s letter to Rumsfeld: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/torturingdemocracy/documents/20020107.pdf

Read other key documents: Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel, eds, The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib (2005)

Learn about torture and the Bush administration: Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War On Terror (2006)

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