Pentagon Issues New Rules on Detainees

The U.S. Defense Department has issued new rules for the treatment of detainees and for conduct by interrogators that officials say are designed to ensure humane treatment and prevent the kind of abuses that have happened in recent years. The rules incorporate a part of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war that some had argued should not apply to detainees unless they are members of a recognized army.

The new policy directive includes the full text of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, which requires humane treatment of all detainees and oversight by an impartial international organization like the Red Cross. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson says the new rules apply to all U.S. military services and all detainees in all types of conflicts.

"It sets out policy guidance for all DOD [Department of Defense] detention operations that is necessary and appropriate to ensure the safe, secure and humane detention of enemy combatants, both lawful and unlawful, regardless of the nature of the conflict," said Stimson. "The standard of humane treatment articulated in this directive reflects U.S. law and policy, and provides detainees protections that reflect our values as Americans."

The directive says the treatment of all detainees must at least meet the Article Three standard, and that official prisoners of war, from formal armies, are entitled to additional protections. Secretary Stimson listed some of the types of treatment that are prohibited for all detainees, including some prohibitions he says go beyond the Geneva requirements.

"Cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation, taking of hostages, collective punishments, execution without a trial by proper authority, threats or acts of violence, including rape or forced prostitution, assault and thefts, public curiosity [displaying detainees], bodily injury and reprisals," he said.

The new policy requires that detainees be allowed to practice their religion. It also specifies that departures from the policy can not be justified by what it calls "the stress of combat or deep provocation."

The documents issued Wednesday are the result of more than a year of what Stimson called "robust" discussion in the Defense Department and other parts of the U.S. government. He says they incorporate nearly all the recommendations of 12 investigations of detainee abuse claims in the last two years, as well as U.S. Supreme Court rulings that require stricter standards than some officials wanted to set.

At Human Rights Watch, which has frequently criticized the treatment of detainees in U.S. military custody, Jennifer Daskal says the group is "very pleased" with Wednesday's policy documents.

"What's important is that for the first time in a very long time there is a clear policy from on high that will hopefully be communicated down the chain of command that's an important and significant shift from what happened in February of 2002, when administration officials and others suggested that the Geneva Conventions and humane treatment requirements did not apply," she said.

The second document issued Wednesday was a long-awaited update of the U.S. Army's field manual covering interrogation rules. Officials say the manual has the force of law and applies to all U.S. military services. Lieutenant General John Kimmons, the head of army intelligence, says the army is more than doubling the number of interrogators in the field in an effort to increase the amount of actionable information that commanders receive. He says the new manual specifies 19 methods of interrogation that are the only ones allowed, and prohibits many practices that were against the rules before, but were done in some cases anyway.

"Interrogators may not force a detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner," said General Kimmons. "They can not use hoods or place sacs over a detainee's head or use duct tape over his eyes. They can not beat or electrically shock or burn him, or inflict other forms of physical pain, any form of physical pain."

He also says excessive cold or heat, mock executions and deprivation of food, water and medical care are not allowed. And no dogs may be used in interrogations. The new rules also ban a controversial tactic allegedly used by U.S. interrogators on terror suspects called "waterboarding," a technique that makes people feel they are being drowned.

The general says there was concern that the restrictions might limit the amount of intelligence that would be gathered, but he says he is "very comfortable" with the new rules.

"No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices," he said. "I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tell us that.

The two documents issued Wednesday require extensive training of military personnel involved in detention and interrogation, and that detainee operations be a routine part of operational exercises. They also say troops at all levels, including top commanders, will be held responsible for following the rules.

The military has been criticized for only punishing relatively low-level troops in recent abuse cases. In addition, troops are required to report any violations of the rules, even if their commanders endorse the violations. The new rules also cover civilians under contract to the Defense Department, as well as any U.S. government employees, such as CIA operatives, if they work in Defense Department facilities.

Other aspects of the rules that reflect lessons of the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and other abuse cases include requirements for surprise inspections by commanders and access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to all facilities and detainees, and prohibitions against military health care workers helping interrogators and military police 'softening up' detainees through mistreatment to prepare them for interrogation.


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs