Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday a ban on U.S. personnel subjecting detainees to cruel treatment extends worldwide. Ms. Rice made the clarification of U.S. policy at a news conference in Kiev.
The issue of alleged secret Central Intelligence Agency detention facilities and the treatment of detained terrorist suspects has dominated the agenda of Ms. Rice's European trip, thus far.
Aides to the secretary say she made the policy clarification at her news conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, to quell speculation that the United States has sought to circumvent obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Some U.S. officials had been quoted as saying American obligations under the convention, barring coercive and inhumane treatment of prisoners, applied only to U.S. government agents within the United States, itself.
But Ms. Rice - responding to a question that aides had encouraged reporters to pose - made clear that the Bush administration interprets the obligation as implying to U.S. personnel, wherever they may be.
"As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT, which prohibits of course cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment - those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," she said.
During her trip and in a pre-departure policy statement Monday, Ms. Rice has refused to confirm or deny news accounts of covert CIA detention sites or secret flights to and from Europe, carrying detainees.
But she has said the United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances. She has also defended the so-called rendition of terrorist suspects, or their transfer between countries outside of normal extradition procedures.
She says the practice has helped pre-empt terrorist attacks and has saved lives. She has also insisted the United States has not violated the sovereignty of any of the countries with which it is cooperating in the war on terrorism.