Latest News

Report excerpts from State, Justice departments

Below are excerpts from the State Department's "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," released Feb. 25, about practices the U.S. criticized in specific countries. The report is required by two laws, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974. The report may be found at

After those examples are excerpts from a memo written by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee to the White House in August 2002.


Some practices that the State Department criticized in its annual human rights report, released in February.

BURMA: "Members of the security forces reportedly tortured, beat, and otherwise abused prisoners, detainees, and other citizens. They routinely subjected detainees to harsh interrogation techniques designed to intimidate and disorient. There were reports in past years that prisoners were forced to squat or assume stressful, uncomfortable, or painful positions for lengthy periods." Other techniques criticized: sleep and food deprivation and prolonged questioning under bright lights.

CHINA: "Former detainees reported credibly that officials used electric shocks, prolonged periods of solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, beatings, shackles, and other forms of abuse."

EGYPT: "Principal methods of torture reportedly employed by the police . . . included victims being: stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electrical shocks; and doused with cold water." Also criticized: incommunicado detention for long periods.

IRAN: "Methods (of torture) included suspension for long periods in contorted positions . . . sleep deprivation, and most frequently, severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet." Denial of adequate food also was criticized.

PAKISTAN: "Common torture methods included . . . beating . . . sexual assault; prolonged isolation; electric shock; denial of food or sleep; hanging upside down; forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters; and public humiliation."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Ministry of Interior officials were responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, and sleep deprivation. In addition, there were allegations of torture, including allegations of beatings with sticks and suspension from bars by handcuffs."



"Torture as defined in and proscribed by Sections 2340-2340A (criminal statutes) covers only extreme acts. Where the pain is physical, it must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure. Severe mental pain requires suffering not just at the moment of infliction but it also requires lasting psychological harm."

"Because the acts inflicting torture are extreme, there is significant range of acts that though they may constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment fail to rise to the level of torture."


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.