Policies Proscribe Forms of Torture; U.S., U.N. Rules Prohibit Use

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U.S. military guidelines and international conventions bar the types of treatment of prisoners depicted in recently released photographs; specifically, mental torture, such as mock executions and abnormal sleep deprivation.

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer, said the photographs published so far showing U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners could be viewed as torture under U.S. military regulations and international conventions.

"It's very clear from the regulations that they are prohibited from doing what they did in those pictures," Col. Maginnis said in an interview.

Torture is defined in the United Nations' Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the United States in 1994, as:

"Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or her or a third person information or a confession."

Torture also is defined as punishing someone for an act they have committed or "intimidating or coercing him or her or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Initial indications are that the abuse was part of an effort to pressure detainees into giving information about operations against U.S. and allied military forces.

For military intelligence personnel, the photographed abuses in Iraq - including naked prisoners being placed in sexual positions - are not permitted under Army rules for interrogation, according to Maj. Gen. James A. Marks, commanding officer of the U. …