Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques under the Geneva Conventions [September 8, 2004]   [open pdf - 184KB]

From the Document: "Allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have raised questions about the applicability of the law of war to interrogations for military intelligence purposes. Particular issues involve the level of protection to which the detainees are entitled under the Geneva Conventions of 1949, whether as prisoners of war or civilian "protected persons," or under some other status. After photos of prisoner abuse became public, the Defense Department (DoD) released a series of internal documents disclosing policy deliberations about the appropriate techniques for interrogating persons the Administration had deemed to be "unlawful combatants" and who resisted the standard methods of questioning detainees. Investigations related to the allegations at Abu Ghraib revealed that some of the techniques discussed for "unlawful combatants" had come into use in Iraq, although none of the prisoners there was deemed to be an unlawful combatant. This report outlines the provisions of the Conventions as they apply to prisoners of war and to civilians, and the minimum level of protection offered by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. There follows an analysis of key terms that set the standards for the treatment of prisoners that are especially relevant to interrogation, including torture, coercion, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, with reference to some historical war crimes cases and cases involving the treatment of persons suspected of engaging in terrorism. Finally, the report discusses and analyzes some of the various interrogation techniques approved or considered for use during interrogations of prisoners at Abu Ghraib."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32567
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