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News ::
United States Refuses to Abide by Geneva Convention
19 Jan 2002
On January 11, 2002, the United States announced that it was refusing to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war in its treatment and internment of those taken prisoner in Afghanistan or Pakistan by the United States. The Third Geneva Convention, which provides specific guidelines for treatment of prisoner combatants, is a part of the "law of nations" and is a mainstay of international humanitarian law. The United States explained that the prisoners were not actually prisoners of war, but were in fact "unlawful combatants."

(A version of this statement with links to related articles is
available at http://www.civil-rights.net.)
On January 11, 2002, the United States announced
that it was refusing to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment
of prisoners of war in its treatment and internment of those taken prisoner in
Afghanistan or Pakistan by the United States. The Third
Geneva Convention, which provides specific guidelines for treatment of
prisoner combatants, is a part of the "law of nations" and is a
mainstay of international humanitarian law. The United States explained that the
prisoners were not actually prisoners of war, but were in fact "unlawful
combatants."
The first prisoners arrived in the U.S. base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on January 11, 2002.  According to the Washington
Post, prisoners were hooded
and shackled during the 27 hour flight. The United States defended these
practices as appropriate security measures. Media on site in Cuba reported that
the prisoners were fitted with goggles that were blacked out, for
"security reasons" necessary to prevent them from using their eyes. In
a public
letter to Donald Rumsfeld , Amnesty International expressed concern that the
prisoners' conditions of transport violated international norms.
The prisoners are being housed in outdoor 6 foot by 8 foot
open-air chain link cages, with concrete floors, wooden roofs and containing a
mat and a plastic bucket.
The U.S. demanded that media not show photographs of the
prisoners in these conditions, explaining that the photos would deprive the
prisoners of their rights under the Geneva Convention. According to a Pentagon
spokesperson, any photographs of the prisoners in the United States imposed
conditions would be "humiliating"
and "debasing."  Several outlets have not complied with the
Pentagon's demand.
The Bush Administration's refusal to abide by the world's
humanitarian laws stands in stark contrast to the justifications advanced
for U.S. military actions. On September 20, 2001, in a televised speech, George
W. Bush justified the waging of war as necessary to defend the values of
"civilization" against "evil": "This
is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just
America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight."
On November 8, 2001, in his prime time speech to the nation, President Bush
declared the bombing of Afghanistan to be "a
war to save civilization itself."  
Article
4 of the convention defines the categories of persons who may be considered
as "prisoners of war." According to Article
5 , "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." No competent tribunal has adjudicated such matter.
Among the provisions of the Third
Geneva Convention regarding humane treatment of prisoners of war, that the
U.S. is refusing to apply, are:
Article 13:Humane
treatment required; No reprisals allowed
Article 14: Respect
for persons and honour; No gender discrimination 
Article 16: No
discrimination based on race, nationality, religious belief or political
opinions
Article 17: No
physical or mental torture; No coercion to obtain information; Prisoners who
decline to provide information may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to
unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment
Article 18: Clothing,
articles of personal use, to remain with prisoners
Article 20: Evacuation
or transfer to be under same conditions as afforded Detaining Power
Article 21: Internment
in camp allowed; Close confinement prohibited
Article 22: Internment
in penitentiaries prohibited; Every guarantee of hygiene and healthfulness
required
Article 25: Condition
of quarters must be as favorable for POWs as for the forces of the Detaining
Power; Accommodations for habits and customs of POWs required; Protection from
dampness, adequate heat and lighting required
Article 26: Food
must be in sufficient quantity, quality and variety to maintain good health and
weight
Article 27: Adequate
clothing, underwear and footwear required
Article 28: Canteens
must be installed; Fairly priced food, soap, tobacco and ordinary items must be
stocked
Articles 29 - 32: Proper
hygiene and medical attention, including monthly health inspections, required
Articles 34 - 37: Prisoners
must be afforded complete latitude in the exercise of religion, including
attendance at services, on condition they comply with disciplinary routine
Article 38: Provisions
for physical, intellectual and recreational activities
Article 70: Prisoners
must be allowed to write to family, others
Issued by the Emergency Campaign to Defend Dissent and Advance
Civil Right, a project of the Partnership for Civil Justice~LDEF. For more
information, go to http://www.Civil-Rights.net
.
The authors are members of the national steering committee of
the A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. http://www.internationalanswer.org
. (A version of this statement with links to related articles is available at http://www.civil-rights.net
.)
See also:
http://www.civil-rights.net
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