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The nation’s largest lawyers group condemned the government’s handling of foreign detainees Monday over the objections of members who called it a cheap shot at the White House. The American Bar Association criticized what it called “a widespread pattern of abusive detention methods.” Those abuses, it said, “feed terrorism by painting the United States as an arrogant nation above the law.” The ABA was responding to abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and concerns about the treatment of about 600 terrorism suspects being held in Cuba. Some lawyers complained that the nonpartisan group, with more than 400,000 members, was getting too political, especially as the presidential election nears. David Rivkin Jr., a Washington attorney who served in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, told ABA leaders the resolution was poorly worded and “could be dismissed as grandstanding.” The Bush administration has aggressively defended its imprisonment of men — without traditional rights — whom it classifies as enemy combatants. Government officials have said abuses at overseas prisons have been isolated and those responsible are being punished. An administration lawyer was sent to Atlanta, but did not speak against the resolution, which had overwhelming support. During the debate, Washington attorney Mark Agrast said, “If we want the world to embrace American ideals, we first must live up to those ideals ourselves.” “I don’t think it’s the least bit political,” said Neal Sonnett, a Miami attorney who helped draft the plan. “We used strong language because it’s deserved. We need to get the administration’s attention and the public’s attention.” Prisoners at Abu Ghraib were interrogated for as long as 20 hours at a time, kept hooded and naked, intimidated with dogs and forcibly shaved. Administration officials have said other treatment of prisoners there was unauthorized, such as forcing prisoners to perform sex acts, beating them and piling them in a naked human pyramid. The ABA proposal recommends strengthening the federal anti-torture law, making it easier to prove criminal charges against soldiers and others who engage in torture, and expanding the law to apply to acts committed in the United States, not just those overseas. Also Monday, the ABA’s policy-making board meeting in Atlanta voted to lobby Congress and states to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. The laws set minimum prison sentences for many crimes. The ABA has long opposed mandatory minimums. The latest push follows a study of prison sentences prompted by remarks by Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy a year ago that mandatory minimums are unjust. The Bush administration opposed that resolution. Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum said during Monday’s debate that “being tough, fair and consistent in sentencing is being smart on crime because it has reduced crime and saved lives.” Stephen Saltzburg, the chairman of a commission named after Kennedy, said prison sentences should be more rational. “We’re not asking anybody to roll back penalties for rapists and murderers,” he told ABA leaders, who applauded after the plan was approved on a voice vote. In other action, the ABA policy-makers: � approved a resolution that addressed the legal status of human clones, to ensure they have full rights. The resolution restates support for therapeutic, or medical, cloning as opposed to cloning that would produce a live baby; and � cancelled a vote on a resolution that would have dealt with concerns that doctors and hospitals are withholding information on abortion options. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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