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Detainees sent abroad for torture photographed nude by CIA: report

Le logo de la Central Intelligence Agency dans le hall d'entrée du siège de la CIA à Langley, en Virginie, le 14 août 2008
Saul Loeb (AFP/Archives)
Pictures could raise questions about the United States' possible use of "sexual humiliations" of suspects

The US Central Intelligence Agency took nude photographs of detainees whom it then transferred to foreign custody as part of its "rendition program", UK newspaper the Guardian reported Monday.   

The pictures could raise questions about the United States' possible use of "sexual humiliations" of suspects, the Guardian claimed, and some have described the photography as a war crime.

The reasoning behind the tactic was, a source told the Guardian, that the photographs could help prove that any harsh treatment was inflicted in a foreign country, not by the CIA.

The photographs were reportedly intended to shield the CIA from allegations that it had committed any torture, although the US elicited assurances from intelligence allies that they would not commit torture.

The photos are classified but believed to still be in the CIA's possession. According to the Guardian, some photos show detainees blindfolded and bound, with some exhibiting bruising. Some photos reportedly also show non-detainees, believed to be CIA employees or contractors, next to the naked prisoners.

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights said the naked photography was a form of sexual assault. "It's cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment at a minimum and may constitute torture," he said.

Iacopino, however, has not seen the photographs, said the Guardian.

Nicholas Kamm (AFP/Archives)

According to the Guardian, photographing prisoners is banned under International human rights law, especially in situations that would compromise a person's dignity.  The only time it is allowed is under specially exceptions which are related to detention.   

Nathaniel Raymond, a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, told the Guardian that “Photographing or videotaping detainees in US custody unrelated to the processing of prisoners or the management of detention facilities can constitute a violation of the laws of war, including the Geneva conventions, in some cases.” 

A number of other allegations have been brought forth by rights groups concerning the US government's use of torture.

In a scathing report released last December, the Human Rights Watch decried the lack of prosecutions of those involved in the Central Intelligence Agency's secret program to torture detainees in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"While the program officially ended in 2009, the cover-up of these crimes appears to be ongoing," said the report, which argues that there is enough evidence for the attorney general to order criminal probes.

The wall of secrecy around the CIA program of "extraordinary rendition," already started to crumble in December last year when the US Senate Intelligence Committee published a report into the scheme.

It detailed how dozens of detainees in CIA-run sites around the world were subject to torture -- including waterboarding or simulated drowning, and mock executions -- with little useful intelligence gained as a result.

Under the UN Convention against Torture, ratified by the United States in 1988, governments are meant to investigate allegations of torture.

"The failure to investigate and prosecute CIA torture increases the danger that some future president will authorize similar illegal interrogation methods in response to an inevitable serious security threat," the group said.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump recently called for the return of waterboarding, a simulated drowning interrogation technique widely denounced as torture, saying it was "peanuts" compared to what the Islamic State group is doing.

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