Technically, a detainee can be any individual held by an armed force; detainees along with the wounded and the sick are the three vulnerable populations to which the International Committee of the Red Cross has traditionally directed its services. The term detainee as it is used in public discourse today, however, usually refers to individuals held as suspected terrorists. The legal status of such suspects has been the subject of intensive debate and legislative action in the United States and Europe since the September 11 attacks, particularly on the questions of what interrogation procedures, some amounting to torture, can be used on detainees and the length of detention without trial.

The U.S. presidential administration of George W. Bush (2001–2009) has received especially intense criticism for its ...

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