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Study links detentions to torture

The extent of suffering requires a redefinition of torture, it says.

Published March 6, 2007


Prisoners who endure poor or degrading treatment suffer much of the same long-term psychological distress as do captives who are tortured, suggests a study published Monday.

Experts point to the detention of people labeled enemy combatants by the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, and say the findings underscore the need for a broader definition of torture.

"What is the basis for the distinction between torture and other cruel and degrading treatment? Science should inform this debate," the study's lead author, Metin Basoglu of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College in London, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The Bush administration has said the United States uses legal interrogation techniques - not torture - to gain information that could head off terror attacks. It insists the United States complies with the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Washington's definition of torture, as interpreted by the Justice Department after reports surfaced of American abuses in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, is fairly narrow.

It excludes mental pain and suffering created by acts that do not cause severe physical pain, such as blindfolding, hooding, forced nudity, isolation and deprivation of sleep or light, the researchers said, citing a Dec. 30, 2004, Justice Department memo.

The study involved interviews with 279 victims who suffered ill treatment and torture while imprisoned in the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. "Sham executions, witnessing torture of close ones, threats of rape, fondling of genitals and isolation were associated with at least as much if not more distress than some of the physical torture stressors," the researchers wrote.


Detainees turn to high court

Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees held more than five years without charges asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to step in a third time to guarantee that they can challenge their confinement in U.S. courts.

The detainees want the justices to hear their case and issue a decision before the court term ends in summer. "Not only are these questions of paramount legal importance, but the extreme and worsening plight of the Guantanamo detainees make them questions of great humanitarian urgency as well," lawyers for the detainees wrote.

The court has twice ruled that foreigners imprisoned at the U.S. naval base in Cuba can pursue their cases in American courts.

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last month limited the detainees' legal rights.

[Last modified March 6, 2007, 01:35:34]

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