The Bush administration has pledged for the first time that the United States will not torture terrorism suspects or treat them cruelly in an attempt to extract information, the Washington Post reports. The move comes as the deaths of two Afghan prisoners in U.S. custody are being investigated as homicides. “All interrogations, wherever they may occur,” must be conducted without the use of cruel and inhuman tactics, the Pentagon’s senior lawyer wrote after members of Congress and human rights groups pressed the White House to renounce abusive tactics.
Human rights activists said the administration appeared to bar such techniques as depriving prisoners of sleep, withholding medicine and forcing them to stand at length in painful positions. U.S. authorities have used each technique against captives held abroad in the war on terrorism, the Post says.
In the first 15 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, nearly 3,000 suspected al Qaeda members and supporters were detained worldwide. News reports have surfaced about cruel treatment of detainees in American-run detention centers, where the rules of due process are not always applied. In interviews last year, members of the U.S. government’s national security apparatus defended the use of violence as just and necessary. “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job. I don’t think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this,” said an official who supervised the capture of accused terrorists.