Removal of comfort items interrogation techniques

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Removal of comfort items interrogation techniques cover a range of activities, some generally acceptable such as taking away toiletries, to areas that may infringe on rights granted to prisoners of war by the Third Geneva Convention. Under the George W. Bush Administration policies, members of al-Qaeda and certain other individuals were deemed not to have prisoner of war status, and legal interpretations permitted actions that might be questioned under Geneva.

As an example of potential conflict, Article 34 of the Third Convention states "Prisoners of war shall enjoy complete latitude in the exercise of their religious duties, including attendance at the service of their faith, on condition that they comply with the disciplinary routine prescribed by the military authorities." Yet, in the Phifer memorandum on counter-resistance techniques, the removal of comfort items guidance explicitly includes the possibility of religious items.

Article 29 requires the Detaining Power to "take all sanitary measures necessary to ensure the cleanliness and healthfulness of camps and to prevent epidemics. Prisoners of war shall have for their use, day and night, conveniences which conform to the rules of hygiene and are maintained in a constant state of cleanliness." While an unlimited supply of toilet paper plausibly is a security measure, since it could be used to clog plumbing, at what point does restriction of toilet paper become a hygiene issue?

Similar techniques are used for disciplinary punishment in prisons.