Monday, June 05, 2006

Geneva Convention Rule To Be Bypassed

The Geneva Conventions, the standard international law treaties regulating conduct with regard to POWs, detainees, refugees, the wounded, etc., are good enough for every other signatory, but not the U.S.

The third Geneva Convention (1949) covers POWs and detainees. The DOD wants to sidestep an important part of the treaty.

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards...

For more than a year, the Pentagon has been redrawing its policies on detainees, and intends to issue a new Army Field Manual on interrogation, which, along with accompanying directives, represents core instructions to U.S. soldiers worldwide.

The process has been beset by debate and controversy, and the decision to omit Geneva protections from a principal directive comes at a time of growing worldwide criticism of U.S. detention practices and the conduct of American forces in Iraq...

President Bush's critics and supporters have debated whether it is possible to prove a direct link between administration declarations that it will not be bound by Geneva and events such as the abuses at Abu Ghraib or the killings of Iraqi civilians last year in Haditha, allegedly by Marines.

But the exclusion of the Geneva provisions may make it more difficult for the administration to portray such incidents as aberrations. And it undercuts contentions that U.S. forces follow the strictest, most broadly accepted standards when fighting wars...

(L)awmakers say that differing standards of treatment allowed by the Field Manual would violate a broadly supported anti-torture measure advanced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). McCain last year pushed Congress to ban torture and cruel treatment and to establish the Army Field Manual as the standard for treatment of all detainees. Despite administration opposition, the measure passed and became law.

For decades, it had been the official policy of the U.S. military to follow the minimum standards for treating all detainees as laid out in the Geneva Convention. But, in 2002, Bush suspended portions of the Geneva Convention for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Bush's order superseded military policy at the time, touching off a wide debate over U.S. obligations under the Geneva accord, a debate that intensified after reports of detainee abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Among the directives being rewritten following Bush's 2002 order is one governing U.S. detention operations. Military lawyers and other defense officials wanted the redrawn version of the document known as DoD Directive 2310, to again embrace Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

That provision — known as a "common" article because it is part of each of the four Geneva pacts approved in 1949 — bans torture and cruel treatment. Unlike other Geneva provisions, Article 3 covers all detainees — whether they are held as unlawful combatants or traditional prisoners of war. The protections for detainees in Article 3 go beyond the McCain amendment by specifically prohibiting humiliation, treatment that falls short of cruelty or torture.

The move to restore U.S. adherence to Article 3 was opposed by officials from Vice President Dick Cheney's office and by the Pentagon's intelligence arm, government sources said. David S. Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, and Stephen A. Cambone, Defense undersecretary for intelligence, said it would restrict the United States' ability to question detainees...

In his February 2002 order, Bush wrote that he determined that "Common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either Al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and Common Article 3 applies only to 'armed conflict not of an international character.' "

Some legal scholars say Bush's interpretation is far too narrow. Article 3 was intended to apply to all wars as a sort of minimum set of standards, and that is how Geneva is customarily interpreted, they say.

But top administration officials contend that after the Sept. 11 attacks, old customs do not apply, especially to a fight against terrorists or insurgents who never play by the rules.

"Top administration officials" contend all sorts of lunatic things, and their apologists can rationalize each and every one.

The exploitation of 9-11 at every opportunity to justify turning the U.S. into a belligerent pariah state is not exactly a position of strength that the world's remaining superpower should be willingly portraying.


Post a Comment

<< Home