Posted by Sadie from D006044.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (188.8.131.52) on Saturday, March 29, 2003 at 1:07PM :
How Bush kicked the [expletive] out of the Geneva Conventions
Nothing George Bush says on the subject of Geneva Conventions and international legal standards is likely to convince anyone, says Paul Knox
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
The people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.
-George W. Bush
And so they should be. That video footage of U.S. soldiers being subjected to a humiliating public display and harsh interrogation -- possibly after beatings -- was disgusting. Iraqi soldiers should respect long-standing norms for treatment of prisoners of war, even though we know better than to expect the same from Saddam Hussein.
But nothing George Bush says on the subject of Geneva Conventions and international legal standards is likely to convince anyone. He has unleashed the greatest onslaught against international law of any U.S. president in living memory. He has torn up arms-control agreements and worked to sabotage the International Criminal Court. In his campaign against terrorism, he has not only flouted the venerable Geneva accords but sought to deny suspects the benefits of the law he is sworn to uphold.
Extensive U.S. press reports -- challenged only in the most general terms by the Bush administration -- have revealed that U.S. interrogators are using borderline torture techniques against suspected terrorists. The toughest methods are used at Bagram air force base in Afghanistan and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. There, "stress and duress" tactics include sleep deprivation, questioning under pain and subjecting the suspects to extremes of cold or heat.
More disturbingly, U.S. officials acknowledge that some terror suspects have been turned over to countries such as Pakistan and Jordan, which Washington's own annual human-rights reports accuse of practising torture. "We don't kick the [expletive] out of them," one official told The Washington Post. "We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them." This despite the fact that the U.S. is a party, along with 131 other countries, to the 1987 convention against torture.
Mr. Bush insists on calling his counterterrorism campaign a war -- yet the hundreds of prisoners rounded up since September of 2001 are not accorded the status of prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Hundreds have been held, incognito and without charge, for more than a year. The U.S. government says they are "unlawful combatants," subject to no laws whatsoever because they are neither U.S. citizens nor held on U.S. soil. It says it can hold them for as long as it wants, with no access to lawyers or judicial oversight. Shamefully, U.S. courts appear to agree.
The next time you see a video of captive U.S. troops in Iraq, spare a thought for the 18 Afghans released this month from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They showed up yesterday in Kabul -- cleared, for what it's worth, of suspicion.
One of them, Salaiman Shah, told Agence France-Presse that he'd been picked up in northern Afghanistan by forces of the savage warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. He said he was tortured and kept for days without food before being turned over to U.S. forces, eventually spending 18 months in a two-metre-square cell at Guantanamo. Mr. Shah said he had no connection to the former Taliban regime or al-Qaeda, and apparently his U.S. interrogators eventually came to believe him.
Another prisoner, identified only as Bismillah, spent more than a year at Guantanamo. His crime was failing to answer when asked by U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan about the location of Taliban units. He's deaf, he said; he couldn't understand them.
This treatment of terrorism suspects falls far short of the standards Mr. Bush wants others to uphold. Here is the commitment the United States should make:
"We pledge to honour our obligations as a party to the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture.
"Suspected terrorists captured by U.S. forces or agents outside U.S. territory will henceforth be treated either as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, or in accordance with the laws and judicial precedents of the United States.
"Employees of the U.S. government and members of its armed forces are expressly prohibited from engaging in torture, condoning torture or acquiescing in the application of torture.
"Suspected terrorists and prisoners of war will only be transferred to the custody of other countries on condition they are not tortured. The United States will closely monitor their conditions of detention to ensure that torture is not used."
If Mr. Bush could bring himself to say that in public, his case against the Iraqis would be far more compelling.
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