Exclusive: Methods devised in secret in recent years may breach international law
The British military has been training interrogators in techniques that include threats, sensory deprivation and enforced nakedness in an apparent breach of the Geneva conventions, the Guardian has discovered.
Training materials drawn up secretly in recent years tell interrogators they should aim to provoke humiliation, insecurity, disorientation, exhaustion, anxiety and fear in the prisoners they are questioning, and suggest ways in which this can be achieved.
One PowerPoint training aid created in September 2005 tells trainee military interrogators that prisoners should be stripped before they are questioned. "Get them naked," it says. "Keep them naked if they do not follow commands." Another manual prepared around the same time advises the use of blindfolds to put prisoners under pressure.
A manual prepared in April 2008 suggests that "Cpers" – captured personnel – be kept in conditions of physical discomfort and intimidated. Sensory deprivation is lawful, it adds, if there are "valid operational reasons". It also urges enforced nakedness.
More recent training material says blindfolds, earmuffs and plastic handcuffs are essential equipment for military interrogators, and says that while prisoners should be allowed to sleep or rest for eight hours in each 24, they need be permitted only four hours unbroken sleep. It also suggests that interrogators tell prisoners they will be held incommunicado unless they answer questions.
The 1949 Geneva conventions prohibit any "physical or moral coercion", in particular any coercion employed to obtain information.
The revelations come after the Guardian published US military documents leaked to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks revealing details of torture, summary executions and war crimes in Iraq.