Friday, July 07, 2006

This one is for the Crazy Uke

CU: The detainees at Guantánamo are not prisoners of war. They haven’t earned that status. They are therefore not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention(s). They are unlawful combatants, just like President Bush and John Yoo say. The Supreme Court in Hamdan was crazy. [Spot is paraphrasing CU here, but this is really close to what CU, the Wall Street Journal opinion editors, and the hysterical right-wing blogosphere are saying.]

S: First of all, CU, keep your Rottweiler seated and on a short leash. Spot would hate to have to hurt him.

Did you know, CU, that you don’t have to be a prisoner of war to be protected by the laws of war?

CU: Aw baloney, or maybe polish sausage parboiled in beer and then grilled to smoky perfection!

S. Well, it’s true, CU regardless of what the WSJ, Johnny Rocketseed or anyone else tells you. Actually, there are four Geneva Conventions, all signed August 12, 1949 that make up the framework of the modern laws of war. Here they are, together with a little history of the law of armed conflict at the link:
Convention I

For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Geneva, 12 August 1949: Sets forth the protections for members of the armed forces who become wounded or sick.

Convention II

For the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea,Geneva, 12 August 1949: Extends these protections to wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of naval forces.

Convention III

Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949 lists the rights of prisoners of war.

Convention IV

Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949: Deals with the protection of the civilian population in times of war.

Protocol I

Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977: Eextends protection to victims of wars against racist regimes, wars of self determination, and against alien oppression.

Protocol II

Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Proection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, 8 June 1977: Extends protection to victims of internal conflicts in which an armed opposition controls enough territory to enable them to carry out sustained military operations.

CU: See, you dumb dog – no, not you my faithful Rottweiler, down boy – the Conventions mention prisoners of war, fighting openly in uniform, and civilians. President Bush dropped the detainees down the broad seam between them where they can rot forever!

S: Of course, it is helpful to actually read the contents of the Conventions, including Common Article 3. Can you guess CU, why it is named that?

CU: ‘Cuz it’s badly written?

S: No, because it’s in each Convention. Putz. Here’s Common Article 3:
Art. 3. 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 [but not limited to] 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. [italics are Spot’s]

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. [italics are Spot’s]

(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.

Of course, once you are detained, you are no longer taking an active part in the hostilities! What a concept! Then, the Article says, you are entitled to be tried, if you’re gonna be tried, in a real court, not just by some banana republic ad hoc military commission conceived by John Yoo. Also a putz.

That’s what the Supreme Court held. Spot even thinks Justice Stevens called John Yoo a putz in a footnote; maybe not. Aziz Huk has a good piece on this in today’s monsense. An excerpt:
But Geneva is a comprehensive framework for everyone captured in warfare. Hence, it has a minimal baseline standard for any person captured during wartime, a baseline that precludes “[o]utrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment,” and also criminal trials outside of a “regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.” This is “Common Article 3.”

“Common Article 3”—so-called because it appears in each of the four Conventions—is the point beyond which no nation can go without losing its claim to dignity and honor. Geneva’s drafters (including the United States), President Truman, and the U.S. Senate concluded that the limit on torture and unfair trials formed such bare essentials.

It is solely Common Article 3 that was at issue in Hamdan. It was solely this irreducible floor that the Supreme Court found applied to military commission procedures as a matter of Congress’s command. The court simply did not hold that members of the Taliban rank automatically with U.S. soldiers, or that they benefit from “combatant immunity.”

So CU, my friend, the issue is not whether a detainee has earned the status of prisoner of war, it is that they deserve the status of human being.


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