Sleep deprivation is torture

One of the documents on interrogation techniques released this week in Washington [[see our previous post here ]] was an internal CIA report that, as AP says, describes “two instances in 2007 in which the CIA was allowed to exceed the guidelines set by Bush administration lawyers allowing prisoners to be kept awake for up to four days”.

It specifies that “CIA operatives used severe sleep deprivation tactics against a terror detainee in late 2007, keeping him awake for six straight days with permission from government lawyers”.

According to the AP story, “The first episode occurred in August 2007, when interrogators were given permission from the Office of Legal Counsel to keep an unidentified detainee awake for five days, a U.S. government official confirmed … According to the documents, the sleep-deprived prisoner was kept awake by being forced to stand with his arms chained above heart level. He wore diapers, allowing interrogators to keep him chained continuously without bathroom breaks. [[One has to ask who, if anyone, changed his diapers? Wearing soiled diapers for even one full causes serious skin burns from the ammonia in urine …]] The second incident occurred in November 2007. After again asking permission from Justice lawyers to keep a detainee awake an extra day, interrogators pressed to extend the treatment for another 24 hours, depriving the prisoner of sleep for six straight days. It is unclear from the documents whether the two incidents involved the same detainee. CIA spokesman George Little would not provide the identity of the prisoner referred to in the document … According to the documents, the prisoner was monitored by closed-circuit television. If he started to fall asleep, the chains jerking on his arms would wake him up. If a prisoner’s leg swelled — a condition known as edema, which can cause blood clots and stroke — interrogators could chain him to a low, unbalanced stool or on the floor with arms outstretched“.

The AP report added that “Sleep deprivation beyond 48 hours is known to produce hallucinations. It can reduce resistance to pain, and it makes people suggestible. The State Department regularly lists sleep deprivation as a form of torture in its annual report on human rights abuses … Andrea Northwood, director of client services at the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, said her organization considers 96 hours of sleep deprivation to be torture. ‘It’s a primary method that is used around the world because it is effective in breaking people. It is effective because it induces severe harm’, she said. ‘It causes people to feel absolutely crazy’. She said that in many cases there are lingering effects. ‘My experience in working with survivors, they are still struggling with questions whether they are normal, whether they should have acted as they did when they talked under this kind of pressure’, she said”.

The AP story says that this occurred more than a year “after the Bush Administration abandoned its harshest interrogation methods”, and despite a ruling from the Supreme Court that the prisoners were entitled to the protetctions of the Geneva Conventions”. It added that “even as the Bush administration was scaling back its use of severe interrogation techniques, the CIA was still pushing the boundaries of what the administration’s own legal counsel considered acceptable treatment”.

Now, AP says, “The Obama administration has since rescinded authority for any of the severe methods. Under the rules of the U.S. Army Field Manual, which now governs all interrogations, prisoners must be allowed to sleep at least four hours during every 24-hour period”. This can be read in full here.

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