updated 10/19/2006 7:57:29 PM ET 2006-10-19T23:57:29

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed concern on Thursday at a new U.S. law allowing tough CIA interrogation techniques and military trials for terrorism suspects.

In an interview on its Web site, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said the law was too vague about which detainees could be covered and did not explicitly exclude the use of evidence extracted by force in trials.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, signed by President George W. Bush on Tuesday, could also weaken basic guarantees given under the Geneva Conventions which are supposed to protect everybody from humiliating and degrading treatment, he said.

“Our preliminary reading of the new legislation raises certain concerns and questions,” Kellenberger said.

“The very broad definition of who is an ’unlawful enemy combatant’ and the fact that there is not an explicit prohibition on the admission of evidence attained by coercion are examples,” he said.

Bush says the law will enable the United States to bring to trial some of those believed to be behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

It also means that Washington can continue a secret CIA program for interrogating terrorism suspects whom Bush argues could have vital information needed to thwart future plots against the United States.

But human rights groups charge that the measure, likely to face legal challenges that go up as far as the Supreme Court, would allow harsh techniques bordering on torture, such as sleep deprivation and induced hypothermia.

The White House has refused to describe what techniques will be allowed. Bush insisted “the United States does not torture”.

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