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UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 7 -- The U.S.-led fight against terrorism is eroding the time-honored international prohibition of torture and other forms of cruel or degrading treatment of prisoners, the top U.N. human rights official said Wednesday in a statement commemorating Human Rights Day.
Louise Arbour, the high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations, presented the most forceful criticism to date of U.S. detention policies by a senior U.N. official, asserting that holding suspects incommunicado in itself amounts to torture.
She also expressed concern in a news conference with efforts by some U.S. policymakers to exempt CIA interrogators from elements of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Vice President Cheney's office has sought to block efforts by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other lawmakers to subject CIA personnel from the 1984 convention's ban on the use of cruel or degrading treatment of detainees....
But sources on Capitol Hill said yesterday that the administration is backing down on its opposition to the proposed legislation, after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Ukraine that U.S. personnel are prohibited from violating the U.N. Convention on Torture while overseas. The administration has previously said the agreement does not apply abroad.
Arbour's statement said that the "absolute ban on torture, a cornerstone of the international human rights edifice, is under attack. The principle once believed to be unassailable -- the inherent right to physical integrity and dignity of person -- is becoming a casualty of the so-called 'war on terrorism.' "