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Friday, September 15, 2006

It Doesn't Make any Difference what US Law Says about Geneva

Editor & Publisher had a good piece yesterday:

Tony Snow conducted one of his most fascinating briefings today in his relatively short time as White House press secretary.

Most of it had to do with the administration's attempt to redefine -- or as it claims, simply make clearer -- certain key parts of the Geneva Convention's rules on torture and interrogation. In the course of it, Snow charged that former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had just written a letter critical of this move, was "confused" about the matter, and several key GOP senators, including John McCain, similarly not on the right path.

That's right, everyone's all freaked out about torture and the Geneva Convention because the whole thing's so confusing. As E&P points out, "Geneva prohibitions have lasted almost 60 years without others feeling a crying need to clarify or re-define them." Apparently, everyone took stupid pills once we started this whole war on terror thing and now no one can understand something that's been considered unambiguous since it was last revised in 1949.

As Tony Snow helpfully pointed out, among the confused are Bush's former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell wrote, "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis" for Bush's 'War on Terror'. Way to get right on that Colin. Powell's a little late to the truthtelling game. But better late than never.

The problem is, of course, that Geneva's a treaty. Any redefinition of what it says would be irrelevant. We can write in whatever we want, but international law will still stand. As part of Bush's push to redefine war crimes, it's pretty much useless anyway -- it doesn't make a damned bit of difference what the US says, a war crime is an international crime. Saddam Hussein can argue with absolute certainty that gassing the kurds was legal in Iraq.

And the rest of the world can ask, "so what?"


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Anonymous said...

Article 4 covers all conflicts not covered by Article 3 which are all conflicts of an international character. It defines prisoners of war to include:

4.1.1 Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict and members of militias of such armed forces

4.1.2 Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, provided that they fulfill all of the following conditions:
that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
* that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance (there are limited exceptions to this among countries who observe the 1977 Protocol I);
* that of carrying arms openly;
* that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

4.1.3 Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

4.1.4 Civilians who have non-combat support roles with the military and who carry a valid identity card issued by the military they support.

4.1.5 Merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.

4.1.6 Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

4.3 makes explicit that Article 33 takes precedence for the treatment of medical personnel of the enemy and chaplains of the enemy.

Note that Protocol I - in part a partial exemption from the identification aspects - has explicitly not been ratified by the U.S., and per the Convention itself is non-binding until ratified.

Those are facts.

How then, do the Conventions apply to prisoners taken in the Afghanistan & Iraq fighting following the collapse of the governments?

Anonymous said...

At some point somebody will ask for extradition of the Neocon club, it does not matter how they will try and/or succeed to blur the law in the US.
It's a question of time.