US Senate bans degrading treatment of detainees

The Bush administration pledged yesterday to veto legislation banning the torture of prisoners by US troops after an almost unprecedented revolt by loyalist congressmen.

The mutiny was the latest setback for an administration facing an increasingly independent and bloody-minded legislature. But it also marked a key moment in Congress's campaign to curtail the huge powers it has granted the White House since 2001 in its war against terrorism.

The late-night Senate vote saw the measure forbidding torture passed by 90 to nine, with most Republicans backing the measure. Most senators said the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and similar allegations at the Guantanamo Bay prison rendered the result a foregone conclusion.

The administration's extraordinary isolation was underlined when the Senate Republican majority leader, Bill Frist, supported the amendment.

The man behind the legislation, Republican Senator John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam, said the move was backed by American soldiers. His amendment would prohibit the "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment of prisoners in the custody of America's defence department.

The vote was one of the largest and best supported congressional revolts during President George W Bush's five years in office and shocked the White House.

"We have put out a Statement of Administration Policy saying that his advisers would recommend that he vetoes it if it contains such language," White House spokesman Scott McClellan warned yesterday, reports Telegraph.

According to Times, the amendment is a response to the damaging 2004 prison abuse scandal that erupted following the publication of pictures that showed US military personnel humiliating and abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

The photos showed detainees piled up naked on the floor in front of US soldiers, cowering in front of snarling military dogs, chained to beds in stress positions and forced to stand naked in front of female guards.

The measure states that "no person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defence or under detention in a Department of Defence facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorised by and listed in the United States Army Field manual on intelligence interrogation".

"The image of the United States was very badly harmed by the pictures of prisoner abuse," said Mr McCain."We have to send a message to the world that we will not ever allow such kind of treatment to be repeated."

President Bush, however, has vowed to veto the measure. "There still seems to be significant opposition from the White House and the Department of Defence," Mr McCain said. "We’ll have to keep working it."


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