Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Outrages upon personal dignity? That is *so* pre-911!

The Bush Administration is literally editing their way out of prosecution for torture. WaPo reports that Attorney General Gonzales has removed the (Geneva) phrase "outrages upon [the] personal dignity" of the prisoner from the list of illegal acts covered by the 1996 War Crimes Act:
The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.
[...] The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.
Left off the list would be what the Geneva Conventions refer to as "outrages upon [the] personal dignity" of a prisoner and deliberately humiliating acts -- such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women's underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- that fall short of torture.
The ICRC has noticed:
The plan has provoked concern at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the entity responsible for safeguarding the Geneva Conventions. A U.S official confirmed that the group's lawyers visited the Pentagon and the State Department last week to discuss the issue but left without any expectation that their objections would be heeded.
And so have some retired military:
"This removal of [any] reference to humiliating and degrading treatment will be perceived by experts and probably allies as 'rewriting' " the Geneva Conventions, said retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S. Corn, who was recently chief of the war law branch of the Army's Office of the Judge Advocate General. Others said the changes could affect how foreigners treat U.S. soldiers.
But this is all happening after the would seem the Devil's Advocates did not succeed in their pre-emptive butt-covering. Remember Hamdan v. Rumsfeld?
The risk of possible prosecution of officials, CIA officers and former service personnel over alleged rough treatment of prisoners arises because the Bush administration, from January 2002 until June, maintained that the Geneva Conventions' protections did not apply to prisoners captured in Afghanistan.
As a result, the government authorized interrogations using methods that U.S. military lawyers have testified were in violation of Common Article 3; it also created a system of military courts not specifically authorized by Congress, which denied defendants many routine due process rights.
The Supreme Court decided in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on June 29, however, that the administration's policy of not honoring the Geneva Conventions was illegal, and that prisoners in the fight against al-Qaeda are entitled to such protections.
U.S. officials have since responded in three ways: They have asked Congress to pass legislation blocking the prisoners' right to sue for the enforcement of those protections. They have drafted legislation allowing the consideration of intelligence-gathering needs during interrogations, in place of an absolute human rights standard.
They also formulated the War Crimes Act amendments spelling out some serious crimes and omitting altogether some that U.S. officials describe as less serious. For example, two acts considered under international law as constituting "outrages" -- rape and sexual abuse -- are listed as prosecutable.
But humiliations, degrading treatment and other acts specifically deemed as "outrages" by the international tribunal prosecuting war crimes in the former Yugoslavia -- such as placing prisoners in "inappropriate conditions of confinement," forcing them to urinate or defecate in their clothes, and merely threatening prisoners with "physical, mental, or sexual violence" -- would not be among the listed U.S. crimes, officials said.
As noted in my previous post, this is something that transcends politics: remember the ex-Swift Boat guy? He's fighting back. They can't Rove their way out of this one.

Meanwhile, guess who won a Distinguished Service Medal from the Pentagon, last week? Mr. Gitmo himself: Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller. Forgot about him? Permit me to remind you of his handiwork:
Miller headed the [Guantanamo Bay] prison camp for foreign terrorism suspects at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from 2002 to 2004 and was sent to Iraq in 2003 to help extract more information from prisoners there. He oversaw all detention operations in Iraq for nine months in 2004.
Human rights activists have accused Miller of permitting widespread abuse of prisoners and of importing the harsh techniques used at Guantanamo to Iraq. They contend that Miller's influence helped create the conditions for the sexual humiliation and abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners.
[...] Military investigators last year recommended that Miller be admonished for failing to monitor and limit the "abusive and degrading" interrogation of a prisoner, but the general who headed US Southern Command rejected the recommendation.
Yeah. Just to be safe, you'd better give him some more medals. And maybe write some more memos. I think the old ones are wearing off.


Blogger James Bowie said...

Great post. You win the August 9th 2006 funniest blog title of the day contest. First prize is a week in Toronto. Second prize is two weeks in Toronto.

8/09/2006 10:46 AM  

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