Circumventing Article 3 and Other Atrocities by the Bush Administration
Before I begin, I want to say thank you to everyone for inviting me to participate in Blogathon 2006. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Robbie and I’m a writer and aspiring novelist. I currently have three blogs: Greetings From America’s Finest City (personal), Independent Opinions (politics), and The Round Table (Los Angeles Kings hockey weblog).
Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get this party started...
Right now, you should be outraged at the Bush administration for attempting to circumvent the War Crimes Act of 1996. When the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on June 29, 2006 that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military tribunals for Guantanamo Bay detainees, they also in effect ruled that the Bush administration did not have the authority to torture them.
In response to that, the Bush administration has drafted legislation that would grant protections to U.S. personnel for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996, which defines a war crime as a violation or grave breach of any of the Geneva Conventions or the Hague Conventions of 1907. What really concerns them is Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, which states the following:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
The penalty for violating Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, as stated by the War Crimes Act of 1996, is life imprisonment or death. The death penalty is enacted if the misconduct resulted in the death of one or more victims, which has happened in the Guantanamo Bay prison and in Abu Gharib.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has consulted with Republican members of Congress for their help in covering the Bush administration’s backside. They, along with U.S. personnel that carried out these atrocities should be very afraid of what they’ve done in the name of protecting our freedom. A 55-page report by Human Rights Watch called No Blood, No Foul (you can download a PDF of the report by clicking here) details soldiers’ accounts of detainee abuse in Iraq, including reports of the use of abusive --I mean "creative" interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation, environmental controls, hot and cold water. (Due to time constraints I cannot list them all, so please click here to download the PDF file or click here to reference the publication online.)
If the Bush administration succeeds in weakening the War Crimes Act of 1996, not only will they get away with the atrocities against detainees in our prisons but an unintentional consequence will be the possible future mistreatment of captured U.S. military personnel. We don’t need a repeat of what’s going on between Hezbollah and Israel to remind us of those consequences.
You as a concerned American citizen, especially those of you who say we are governed by "the rule of law", must do what is morally right. Contact your elected officials and let them know what you think about the Bush administration’s attempt to skirt its responsibility to the War Crimes Act of 1996 and Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. We ratified those agreements and it is our duty to bring those who violated those laws to justice.