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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 21:10 GMT 22:10 UK
CIA 'took detainees out of Iraq'
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The practice may be against the Geneva Conventions
United States intelligence officers have taken detainees out of Iraq for interrogation, according to The Washington Post.

At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department allegedly compiled a secret memo allowing transfer of a dozen detainees over the last six months.

International Red Cross officials have not met with the detainees, an unnamed officer told the newspaper.

Legal experts have said the practice contravenes the Geneva Conventions.

Senators 'troubled'

Law specialists say the memo "amounts to a reinterpretation of one of the most basic rights of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians during wartime and occupation", the Washington Post says.

The treaty prohibits the "individual or mass forcible transfers", the newspaper notes.

These conventions and these rules are in place for a reason, because you get on a slippery slope and you don't know where to get off,
Senator John McCain
The Justice Department memo allegedly permits the CIA to take Iraqis out of the country for questioning for a "brief but not indefinite period".

It also says intelligence officers can permanently remove persons deemed to be "illegal aliens" under "local immigration law".

The alleged transfers are reminiscent of the removal by US troops of alleged al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan during the war there.

Two US senators have said they are troubled by the report of the transfers.

"These conventions and these rules are in place for a reason, because you get on a slippery slope and you don't know where to get off," said Senator John McCain, who has campaigned for George W Bush, in an interview with ABC television.

"The thing that separates us from the enemy is our respect for human rights."

Senator Joseph Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, called for "new leadership at the Justice Department", which is presently headed by Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The Washington Post said the CIA and Justice Department declined to comment for the article.




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