UCL News


UCL in the News: Top US legal adviser refuses to rule out 'torture' technique

5 November 2007

The top legal adviser within the US state department, who counsels the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, on international law, has declined to rule out the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding even if it were applied by foreign intelligence services on US citizens.

John Bellinger refused to denounce the technique, which has been condemned by human rights groups as a form of torture, during a debate on the Bush administration's stance on international law held by Guardian America. …

Mr Bellinger made his remarks during a Guardian debate with Philippe Sands QC [UCL Laws].

Mr Sands asked whether he could imagine any circumstances in which waterboarding could be justified on an American national by a foreign intelligence service. "One would have to apply the facts to the law to determine whether any technique, whatever happened, would cause severe physical pain or suffering," Mr Bellinger said.

When Mr Sands said he found Mr Bellinger's inability to exclude waterboarding on Americans very curious, the US official replied: "Well, I'm not willing to include it or exclude it. Our justice department has concluded that we just don't want to get involved in abstract discussions."

Ed Pilkington, 'The Guardian'