Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Geneva Convention - Are we above that law?

I am reposting a piece I did back on May 3rd on the Geneva Convention with an UPDATE below given the recent news on the topic. First here's the posting:

May 3, 2006
I promised some information on just what is contained in the Geneva Convention as it relates to those held at Guantanamo Bay as enemy combatants. My investigation on this topic yielded some little known facts on the evolution of the document.

At Geneva, in 1949, it was proposed that to help be more precise in language, the term "responsible authority" should be replaced by "military tribunal". This proposed change was based upon the view that decisions which might have the gravest consequences should not be left to a single person to decide. The matter should be taken to a court.

However this suggestion was not unanimously accepted, as it was felt that to bring a person before a military tribunal might have more serious consequences than a decision to deprive him of the benefits afforded by the Convention. A further amendment was therefore made to the Stockholm text stipulating that a decision regarding persons whose status was in doubt would be taken to a "competent tribunal", and not specifically a military tribunal.

Article 5 reads:
"The present Convention shall apply to the persons referred to in Article 4 from the time they fall into the power of the enemy and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

One issue before our country, is whether the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and by their directives to Rumsfeld, President Bush, VP Cheney and Attorney General Roberto Gonzales, have violated the Geneva Convention by their directives, as to how these prisoner's status was determined. A case could be made, and probably will someday, that they have violated the spirit and letter of the law, signed by the United States, as a major party to this treaty in Geneva.

Much has been written on the topic and for those interested in pursuing the topic further go to
this web page.

UPDATE: So you have some background info on Article 4 & 5 of the Geneva Convention. Well the news is that the Pentagon, the same Pentagon under the stewardship of Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, has been re-writing their Army Manual, as it pertains to the treatment of prisoners. Here's the headline article:

"The Pentagon's move to omit a ban on prisoner humiliation from the basic guide to soldier conduct faces strong State Dept. opposition.
By Julian E. Barnes, Times Staff Writer
June 5, 2006

WASHINGTON — 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.

The decision could culminate a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department fiercely opposes the military's decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the Defense Department officials acknowledged.

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.

"The rest of the world is completely convinced that we are busy torturing people," said Oona A. Hathaway, an expert in international law at Yale Law School. "Whether that is true or not, the fact we keep refusing to provide these protections in our formal directives puts a lot of fuel on the fire."

To read the entire article from the L.A. Times, click here.

I don't know how you are feeling about all this stuff but it is making me angry. Many Americans will say, "Hey America isn't perfect but it's the best country in the whole world!" Well a chink in America's armor has been struck by this President/VP combo, and it has seriously taken its toll on that belief, at least in my opinion. I don't know how many of you can just ignore this stuff and carry on without missing a beat or a moment of conscience. Or are you too busily focused on the Senate debate of the proposed Constitutional Amendment of a Gay Marriage Ban, which obviously is a more important issue?

I have ended many posts with this closing phrase, but on this Primary election day in California, I pray that some will wake up and vote their conscience. WAKE UP AMERICA! Where's the Silent Majority! Make some noise!

To educate yourself, here's a link to the actual Geneva Convention. Read it and share a comment.


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