Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Five Years Later, United States to Finally Follow the Geneva Conventions

The New York Times reported this morning that the Pentagon has finally decided that it will treat all detainees in compliance with the minimum standards of the Geneva conventions. This follows last week’s Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that terror suspects are “armed combatants” who are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Back in 2002, President Bush declared that members of Al Qaeda and other terror suspects seized during the invasion of Afghanistan were “illegal combatants,’’ and so didn’t fall within the Geneva conventions. Lest we think the Geneva conventions promises terrorists outrageously cushy protections, these are the relevant requirements of Article 3:
The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Some of the strongest voices in support of according detainees a level of rights that would be respected internationally have been from the military leadership. Admiral Donald J. Guter, a senior military judge advocates general (JAG) commented to the New York Times that “it’s a matter of defending what we always thought was the rule of law and proper behavior for civilized nations.”

If we don't follow the Geneva conventions, how can we ever expect anyone to do the same for us? As Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, a retired officer who was the chief uniformed lawyer for the Marine Corps said to the Times, “We don’t want someone saying they’ve got our folks as captives and we’re going to do to them exactly what you’ve done because we no longer hold any moral high ground.” And does anyone doubt that other countries are watching how we treat detainees? The cartoon at right was published in Omayya, Al-Hayat on 5/2/04, and republished by Al-Jazeerah.info. The Arabic says "The Geneva Conventions is screaming for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by US-UK soldiers."

The Democrats couldn’t resist getting a few digs in. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. commented to the Times, “I find it difficult for us to buy in to the notion that let’s just trust the president’s judgment. God love him, his judgment has been terrible.’’

Read the Pentagon memo here.

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