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Black letter abuse: the US legal response to torture since 9/11

30-09-2007 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 867, by James Ross

The use of torture by the US armed forces and the CIA was not limited to “a few bad apples” at Abu Ghraib. This article explores the various legal avenues pursued by the administration to justify and maintain its coercive interrogation programme, and the response by Congress and the courts.

   

James Ross
is Legal and Policy Director at Human Rights Watch, New York. 

 
Abstract 
The use of torture by the US armed forces and the CIA was not limited to ‘‘a few bad apples’’ at Abu Ghraib but encompassed a broader range of practices, including rendition to third countries and secret ‘‘black sites’’, that the US administration deemed permissible under US and international law. This article explores the various legal avenues pursued by the administration to justify and maintain its coercive interrogation programme, and the response by Congress and the courts. Much of the public debate concerned defining and redefining torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. While US laws defining torture have moved closer to international standards, they have also effectively shut out those seeking redress for mistreatment from bringing their cases before the courts and protect those responsible from prosecution.  

   
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