The US military today firmly denied allegations of torture and mistreatment of suspected al-Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan, claiming detention procedures were misreported by a leading US newspaper.
The Washington Post reported that terrorism suspects held in a CIA interrogation centre at a US military air base at Bagram, north of Kabul, were subjected to "stress and duress" techniques.
These include forcing them to maintain awkward, painful positions for long periods and depriving them of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights.
The claims prompted the New York-based Human Rights Watch to demand the administration of US President George W Bush to investigate the treatment.
Major Steve Clutter, a US military spokesman for Bagram, said the allegations were ill-founded.
"The article was false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram; there is a facility run by the US army.
However, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that persons under control of the US Army have been mistreated," he said.
"The United States Army is treating enemy combatants under government control, humanely and in conditions that are generally better than they were experiencing before we placed them under our control."
The Post article also claimed that those who do not cooperate at Bagram are turned over to foreign intelligence services whose practice of torture has been documented by the US government and human rights organisations.
But Clutter said many were released after an interrogation process routinely screened by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"I would like to point out that persons under US government control who come to Bagram are not automatically deemed to be terrorists or enemy combatants," he said.
"When they arrive, they go through an interview process to determine whether they are enemy combatants or have information that can help us prevent terrorist attacks against Americans or attacks against US forces.
"If they are deemed to be enemy combatants or pose a danger, they become detainees. If they are not, they are ultimately released."www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,5762352%255E401,00.htmlE-mail this article