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So now the Al Qaeda prisoners in Cuba want human rights.
January 15, 2002 3:26 PM   Subscribe

So now the Al Qaeda prisoners in Cuba want human rights. Ha! Tell that to the victims of WTC etc etc
posted by lagado (59 comments total)

 
Ha!
posted by tcobretti at 3:33 PM on January 15, 2002


He he he he!
posted by geoff. at 3:36 PM on January 15, 2002


lagado: I truly hope you are being sarcastic in your post, because it is unclear. If not, I'm interested in why you would link to an article that makes a very eloquent series of arguments for treating the al-Qaeda detainees as POWs and dismissing it with "Ha! Tell that to the victims of WTC etc etc".

However, perhaps as we speak you are crafting a well thought-out reply. I await your dignified response.

er. but judging by the previous two posts, perhaps there's some larger joke at work here? could anyone fill me in?
posted by fishfucker at 3:42 PM on January 15, 2002


ok. you are being sarcastic. I feel like a humorless rube.
posted by fishfucker at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2002


An extremely well argued piece. Dubious goverments around the world are at this very moment using America's "War on Terrorism" soundbite as a pretext for crushing political activists, journalists and anyone else standing in their way. The term "unlawful combatant" will become part of the day-to-day vocabulary of human rights abusers in no time.
posted by dlewis at 4:07 PM on January 15, 2002


As much as I despise the Al Qaeda and everything they stand for, we should grant them the same rights as any prisoners, if for no other reason than to prove that we are not them.
It may have long term strategic advantages as well. If we treat them with basic dignity, potential terrorist recruits will see the "America as Great Satan" argument for the bullshit that it is.

Just a Thought.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on January 15, 2002


If this is a "War on Terrorism" then the terrorists are soldiers and deserve to be treated as PoWs under the Geneva Convention.

Furthermore it is very difficult to argue that America is a peace-loving, humane, respectful and decent country if it deliberately sets out to circumvent international law and, potentially, to torture soldiers. Bush should be at pains to prove that America is better than the Al Qaeda suspects he is detaining.
posted by skylar at 4:42 PM on January 15, 2002


I think that it's a rather poorly argued piece.

There is a difference between a government and a terrorist
organization, one that most of the world seems to have little trouble grasping. The people who wrote the Geneva Conventions think so - otherwise they wouldn't have put in the bit about unlawful combatants. The US thinks so, otherwise we wouldn't have tried to negotiate with the Taliban. The Afghan people think so, otherwise they wouldn't be letting former members of the Taliban back into civil society while killing any foreign Al Qaeda types they can get their hands on.

This rounding up a bunch of dissatisfied young men, giving them a gun, and sending them off to some other country to stir up shit is one of the more serious problems of our time, and it has to stop. It's bad when the CIA does it, and it's bad when the Saudi royalty does it. Treating it as the serious matter that it is is a step in the right direction.

I wonder what rationale Mr. Byers used to determine that putting a hood on the prisoners before loading them into the airplane was uneccessary, and exactly what security measures he would consider appropriate. Given the past experiences with Al Qaeda prisoners and their demonstrated tendency for violent and suicidal escape attempts, it seems pretty reasonable to me.

And anyone who doubts that America is better than the Al Qaeda suspects in their care is either blind or deliberately not looking.
posted by jaek at 4:46 PM on January 15, 2002


The Independent has two pieces to bear on this topic: American forces 'may be breaking PoW convention' and Legal double-standards are not the way to win a war against terrorism. The forcible shaving of the prisoners' beards and moustaches is way over the top and probably bad p.r. in Muslim countries as well.
posted by y2karl at 4:53 PM on January 15, 2002


I know this sounds like a dumb question, but what crime are the Taleban fighters supposed to have committed? Surely their rise to power within Afganistan was a purely internal matter for the Afganis? When the Allies went in to destroy Al Qaeda, weren't the Taleban justified in defending themselves? Let's leave all moral arguments about the nature of the Taleban out of this.

For that matter, what crime have the Al Qaeda fighters committed, other than "belonging to a terrorist organisation"? I'm very uneasy about what America is doing to these prisoners. We have an internationally recognised Court of Law in the Hague. If they are to be tried anywhere, shouldn't it be there?
posted by salmacis at 4:53 PM on January 15, 2002


The Geneva Conventions are being bandied about like they're the absolute law in dealing with any armed conflict. Not so. They apply only when conflict is between two or more signatories of the Conventions.

To argue that we should apply the Geneva Conventions to Al Qaeda, a group which is not a party to the Conventions, is absurd. The Taliban also is not a party to the Conventions, and so they do not apply to them either.

The key is " the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties", which is Article 2 of all the various Conventions.

Parties which are not signatories are entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions only "if the (party) accepts and applies the provisions thereof.", which would be difficult to argue is the case with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:55 PM on January 15, 2002


I agree with mr_crash_davis on this one. Taliban nor the Al Qaeda are covered under Geneva Convention matters anywhere.

Call me a troll or whatever you want, but if any American has a problem with the way these people are being treated, then you have issues. Stop trying to band wagon this thing, and use friggin' common sense. If I blow up your family, would you want me to have a fair trial? If people who are placing negatives(killing in the name of your God) upon your religion, would you care if they had a fair trial? Please. Wake up.

In my opinion, this is a war. I'd take the cuffs off those captives, and let them run loose in a field. At that time they are no longer prisoners, and I'd shoot every single one of them. Simple, not too brutal, and gives good target practice.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 5:16 PM on January 15, 2002


To argue that we should apply the Geneva Conventions to Al Qaeda, a group which is not a party to the Conventions, is absurd.

The ICRC and most civilized countries understand that Common Article Three of the 1949 Geneva Conventions applies to everyone.
posted by skallas at 5:17 PM on January 15, 2002


The Red Cross and Amnesty International have both expressed concerns over the treatment of the detainees.

And it appears from Michael Byers' faculty profile that they are doing so again, through this Guardian article/opinion piece. At the bottom of the Guardian page, they tell us that he teaches international law at Duke, and is at Oxford on a fellowship. Since Professor Byers mentions Amnesty International in the article, shouldn't that blurb at the bottom have also included information about his professional relationship with the organization?

Anyone else bothered by this?
posted by bragadocchio at 5:23 PM on January 15, 2002


JakeEXTREME, that's a nice bit of trolling (I say that to give you the benefit of the doubt). But, okay, I'll bite:

If you blow up my family, yes, I would want you to have a fair trial.

Yes, if people are "placing negatives" on my religion, I would care if they have a fair trial.

I presume that your argument is that anyone accused of a heinous crime should be submitted to a show trial then tortured to death. After all -- we should reserve fair trials for the good guys, right?

I strongly suggest that you go repair to a quiet room for 2-3 years and see if you can reason your way through some basic moral issues.
posted by argybarg at 5:26 PM on January 15, 2002


Article 3? The one which reads "In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties..."?

Or is there another Article 3 I'm not aware of?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:29 PM on January 15, 2002


That's all very well, crash. But the argument you just gave was not the one the US government gave to the world. They invoked the "unlawful combatants" clause in rather doubtful circumstances. Which gives other countries the moral right to do the same when they see fit. Like it or not the US sets a standard for what other countries see as acceptable behaviour. If America does something, anyone can get away with doing it. That's why small matters such as these can set such dangerous precedents for future generations.

If US special forces were to find themselves captured at some time in the future, in non-standard uniforms, what's to stop these "unlawful combatants" from getting their gonads zapped on a daily basis at the hands of sadist with a cattle prod?
posted by dlewis at 5:31 PM on January 15, 2002


That's a pretty long leap from bags over the head to a taser in the nuts.
posted by darukaru at 5:38 PM on January 15, 2002


If I blow up your family, would you want me to have a fair trial? If people who are placing negatives(killing in the name of your God) upon your religion, would you care if they had a fair trial?

Yes.

Seems to me "the Taliban" and "terrorists" would agree with your particular stance more than anyone else. Isn't that odd?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2002


True :)

But it doesn't matter. Once you're free of the rules - written or unwritten - you can do pretty much whatever you like. Unlawful combatants aren't subject to international standards of civilized human treatment. Sure the US isn't likely to whip out the tazers. But there's plenty of other governments in the world that would. If if we're not careful there'll be nothing we can say or do about it apart from turn a blind eye, lest we be accused of hypocrisy. And nobody likes that.
posted by dlewis at 5:48 PM on January 15, 2002


An interesting tie-in: the land of the free becomes the home of the hypocrite. Not necessarily my opinion, don't shoot the messenger, yada yada yada.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:51 PM on January 15, 2002


mr_crash_davis asks:
Or is there another Article 3 I'm not aware of?
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.
posted by skallas at 5:58 PM on January 15, 2002


Jake, my man. I know you, and I know you hate the Taliban, for all the right reasons, but I don't want to do what you described for the reasons I outlined in my earlier post, and you know me well enough I am not jumping on any damn bandwagon.
Al Qeada have already been recognized by the the world for the murderous brain-dead bastards they are, so eliminate the leaders and let the underlings be swept into the dustbin of history where they belong.

BTW, buddy, I warned you about fold_and_mutilate. Hope you brought your boxing gloves.
posted by jonmc at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2002


ICRC article cached here.
posted by skallas at 6:07 PM on January 15, 2002


Al Qeada have already been recognized by the the world for the murderous brain-dead bastards they are

So then no one should have a problem killing them right?

fold_and_mutilate, I may sound as if I am a terrorist myself, but I assure you I am not. My theory is fairly simple. 'I am American' is my theory. I am not liberal, I'm not conservative, hell I don't give a damn about politics on any end of it. I do not think politics has any part in bringing killers to justice. If we can prove you are linked to a group that has killed thousands of people that live in my country, then you should be taken down. If we pussy-foot around, then it happens again and again and again and again and again. Catch my drift?

Swordfish

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.

I can't see shaving beards as inhumane treatment. Just trying to keep the bugs from nesting on their beards that's all. And covering them up, that'll let them survive IF they are let free. If I was splashed on TV for a terrible crime that I suppossedly didn't commit I wouldn't want some extremist guy to know my face and name to hunt me down and kill me provided I was innocent.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 6:32 PM on January 15, 2002


Yes, skallas, that is the rest of Article 3.

The part I already posted is the relevant part.

"In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties..."

That would indicate to me that Article 3 revers to a "civil war", which clearly this is not, unless you're arguing that the Northern Alliance is detaining people in Cuba.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:32 PM on January 15, 2002


I do not think politics has any part in bringing killers to justice.

Well, except for the politics involved in the laws passed against murder and whatnot over the years, and the executive order signed for military tribunals, and the laws passed by Congress to back to the president, and the orders of the president to send troops overseas and the politics of intelligence and foreign policy, etc.
posted by raysmj at 6:41 PM on January 15, 2002


raysmj, the context of my comment in this discussion clearly dictates what is meant. Please refrain from adding useless sarcasm to the topic.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 6:48 PM on January 15, 2002


Bear with me, this is going to be long and probably quite silly, but I tried to use analogy to make sure I understand this correctly:

Let's say skallas and I and all the other MeFi users sign a treaty that lays out how MeFi users are to treat the others in the event of a flame war. Sadly, one day skallas is kicked out of his computer chair by the Skaliban. The Skaliban (who skallas thought were his friends but were really just laying low waiting for him to step out for a root beer so they could steal his chair) then start giving the use of skallas' bandwidth to an evil hacker from Plastic.com who uses it to launch a DOS attack against me.

Now, the MeFi Convention says that DOS attacks are verboten, but the Skaliban (who are logging in as skallas, claiming to be skallas, but everyone knows they're not skallas, except fold_and_mutilate who immediately opens an embassy on skallas' desktop) aren't signatories to the MeFi Convention, so they don't care. And the evildoer (who I want to bring to justice for his nasty DOS attack) isn't a signatory either; in fact, he's pretty pleased that I've suffered some harm and he would like to continue to harass me by any means he can devise. Meanwhile, skallas is hiding out in the kitchen, waiting for someone to help take back his PC.

So, if I decide to launch my own DOS attack from fold_and_mutilate's house (after convincing him that he needs to join the rest of the community by bribing him with tofu burgers and the promise of more tofu burgers to come) in order to stop the evil Plastic.com hacker from launching more DOS attacks against me, put skallas back in charge of his PC (with some help from his Neighborhood Watch for a while), and bring the evildoing hacker and the Skaliban to justice, should I have to abide by the rules that skallas and I agreed to, even though my enemy and his protectors don't?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:01 PM on January 15, 2002


mr_crash_davis, I salute you.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:04 PM on January 15, 2002


Crash, if you do this can me and JakeExtreme, like, lay cable for something for you when this DOS attack happens? We'll work for beer.
posted by jonmc at 7:07 PM on January 15, 2002


No beer for me, water is fine.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:08 PM on January 15, 2002


Jake-what are you, a communist!?
posted by jonmc at 7:15 PM on January 15, 2002


Jake: You said you don't care about politics, a fact you brought up completely on your own. There was no context.
posted by raysmj at 7:18 PM on January 15, 2002


Nope. But I need water to hydrate me when I'm in SLC.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:18 PM on January 15, 2002


to wash down all that jell-o naturally.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 PM on January 15, 2002


Well, except for the politics involved in the laws passed against murder and whatnot over the years,

Doesn't apply to this topic at all.


and the executive order signed for military tribunals,

Applies only in the fact that they're giving these people trials, in which I feel as my personal opinion, is stupid.

and the laws passed by Congress to back to the president,

The president can authorize a few thousand troops(if I recall right I think it's 50,000) to go overseas for 30 days without Congressional authorization, so I think we could rule said designated combat area in 30 days or less. Anywho... the mentioned regulation was approved by the President, rusty on my history, so I don't remember which one, but whatever.


and the orders of the president to send troops overseas

See the above statement.

and the politics of intelligence and foreign policy, etc.

Which is just a bunch of backstabbing to benefit the highest bidder in the long run.


If people who advocate humane treatment could only see the things these helpless prisoners did most everyday to their own people. That's one step for humanity, one giant leap for insanity.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:32 PM on January 15, 2002


If people who advocate humane treatment could only see the things these helpless prisoners did most everyday to their own people. That's one step for humanity, one giant leap for insanity.

i am unsure of what's wrong with advocating humane treatment, jake. to me it seems an indefensible argument; you can't really demonstrate that humane treatment should not be right in anyone's eyes except for yourself. perhaps on this issue it might be best in agreeing to disagree.
posted by moz at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2002


I will say this moz...

Humane treatment is great in the right doses.

In certain cases there are exceptions. In my mind this is one of them.

As I drift into thought, who was it that said there are exceptions to every rule?

If I'm reading your post correctly, I will agree that there is no clear winner to this thread, simply because the two waring sides will not surrender and there is not enough either way to kill the other.

I do play video games.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:49 PM on January 15, 2002


there's something more important than being AMERICAN, it's called being HUMAN.

i do not wish to see any more bloodletting in the name of "justice". Killing someone who has killed your family will not bring your family back from the dead, nor do i think will it bring an end to your grief. If indeed it does, you would be as inhuman and sociopathic as these people have been in the past....and so the cycle continues, as it has for so many thousands of years.

don't be the shadow.
posted by elphTeq at 8:03 PM on January 15, 2002


don't be the shadow.

But the shadow knows...

God that was pretentious, elphteq
posted by jonmc at 8:07 PM on January 15, 2002


i am unsure of what's wrong with advocating humane treatment, jake.

I would like to point out that the link isn't talking about "humane treatment" as regards the detainees/political prisoners/war criminals/POWs. What is being discussed are human rights as defined by the captors of "criminals". Though I'm sure that f&m is having fantasies right now of how these persons are being tortured, what is under the microscope here is whether or not the Al Queda prisoners are to be treated according to the Geneva convention.

My view is that they are prisoners, accountable for their participation in training for and abetting international crimes. I don't cotton to the idea that they be tried by tribunals, but I'm not going to confuse their "legal rights" according to the Geneva convention, with their humane treatment. Not giving them the benifit of POW status (under the Geneva codes) is not the same as "abusing" them unfairly.

JakeEXTREME, I don't disagree with you completely, but we're still talking about human beings. Chill a little, 'kay?
posted by Wulfgar! at 8:07 PM on January 15, 2002


And my point is this. They aren't under the Geneva Convention hoohaa so why should they be protected by it. They use that as a way to get away with treating people the way they do, so we should be able to flip the table on them, right? The day they sign the treaty is the day they can be protected under it.

I'm not arguing with you Wulfgar!. The emotional part of humans allow us to think in less words and speak in even less. The later part is one of my strong points.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:22 PM on January 15, 2002


Ok, out of sheer boredom...

[poet mode]


Al Queda killed so many and kill more
Murder their own women and children too
They've slaughtered oh so many but what for
Filthy lowlifes nothing better to do

So now we've got them friggin' red handed
not part of the Geneva Convention
Plan isn't running the way they planned it
to protect them isn't our intention

MeFites across the globe carry debate
yes but they're human just like you and I
They've killed so many we can't calculate
and it's plain as day they deserve to die

Perhaps we should just send them to trial
or shall many guns-a-blaze be the style

[poet mode off]

Yes, I'm very bored.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 9:02 PM on January 15, 2002


That folks, was the first ever War Sonnet, and absolutely the first sonnet to evr use the word "MeFites".
Let us all bow our heads and contemplate the significance of this...

Ah, hell, any of you english majors wanna tear my pal apart?!
posted by jonmc at 9:05 PM on January 15, 2002


Let's recap. A fellow in the UK, many miles from the scene, has some theoretical ideas about the manner how the guards handle the Al Queda prisoners.

In the meantime, back on the scene in Cuba, those who guard the Al Queda prisoners are very familiar with the stories describing the prisoners' death-wishes, the ways and means of their earlier uprisings, and how they used the slightest opportunity to attack and kill those who guard them. Accordingly, the guards do everything they can think of not to give their prisoners any opportunity for attack.

So, what's the argument here?
posted by semmi at 9:06 PM on January 15, 2002


Hahaha. Some pal you are jonmc! Offering me up to the sharks!
posted by JakeEXTREME at 9:06 PM on January 15, 2002


Crash, how does the fact that Afghanistan is a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Conventions affect that? I confess to being somewhat boggled by this sort of thing -- do the repeated changes in government and the failure of the Taliban to assert themselves as successors to the signatory mean that it doesn't apply to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan?
posted by snarkout at 9:28 PM on January 15, 2002


snarkout:

It's my understanding that, since the Taliban were not recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (except by Pakistan and two[?] other countries), the signatory authority did not transfer to them. I'm not sure that belief has any legal basis, but no one has offered any persuasive evidence to the contrary so I'm comfortable sticking with it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:40 PM on January 15, 2002


jonmc : pretentious? possibly but unintentionally- i was trying to avoid saying i find some of these opinions as scary as those of the fundamentalists your country is crusading against. very very scary.
posted by elphTeq at 10:32 PM on January 15, 2002


I think it's a cop-out to say we shouldn't follow the Geneva Convention rules when dealing with Al Qaeda/Taliban prisoners because they didn't sign the treaty. So what? We did. That means more than saying we only have to play by those rules with people who also agreed to play by them. By signing the treaty, we said we believe that prisoners should be treated humanely, and we agreed to follow certain guidelines for making sure that they are. That should apply to any prisoners, not just a select group. When we agreed to the rules, we also agreed to the principles behind them.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:49 PM on January 15, 2002


There are multiple arguments swirling around here (not that anyone's still reading this thread, but you know).

One is whether or not the Geneva Convention on POWs actually applies to these particular prisoners. I do not believe it does. The Geneva Conventions themselves allow loopholes, if you will, that apply to unlawful combatants, which could allow them to be treated as equally as saboteurs.

Another is whether the prisoners are actually receiving treatment that is humane. I believe they are. The shaving is certainly no worse than that our soldiers must endure, and as POWs we are only required to give all religions equal treatment. Muslims do not universally wear beards, no matter what these guys think about that. The wearing of beards is (possibly) unhygienic and (possibly) dangerous for the flight. Whether they will be permitted to grow out their beards once ensconced in Gitmo hasn't been established one way or the other; all we know is that this was a security measure considered for the transport, and that all prisoners were treated equally. I believe groups like Amnesty International, however noble their intentions, are using an especially generous definition of "inhumane".
posted by dhartung at 12:07 AM on January 16, 2002


An extremely well argued piece. Dubious goverments around the world are at this very moment using America's "War on Terrorism" soundbite as a pretext for crushing political activists, journalists and anyone else standing in their way. The term "unlawful combatant" will become part of the day-to-day vocabulary of human rights abusers in no time.

Exactly. Somehow it seems a lot of people here seem to think that bad things only happen to bad people and that justice is always served. Not so.

First of all. The same standards applied by the U.S. on it's enemies can and will be used by other countries on their enemies. The Chinese and the Russians are already bombing their internal dissidents because it's easy for them to just label them terrorists and thereby denying them all human rights. Tibethans (sp?) and Chinese anti-communists are given a very hard time by the communist Chinese, for instance. In Africa and in the Middleeast the picture remains the same.

The rhetoric of the "War on Terrorism" has enabled countries all over the world to wage wars of aggression against political enemies, because there is no clear cut definition of terrorism. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

Second of all. Politicians make mistakes. The military makes mistakes. And GOOD people get hurt. What happened to "the land of the free"? By giving the politicians and the military a carte blanche and extreme discretionary powers you are taking the power away from the citizens and placing it firmly and squarely in the grasp of the government. Big government on our backs.
posted by cx at 1:51 AM on January 16, 2002


I think it's a cop-out to say we shouldn't follow the Geneva Convention rules when dealing with Al Qaeda/Taliban prisoners because they didn't sign the treaty. So what? We did.

I couldn't agree more.

I know of one instance, though there are probably many more, where one combatant was a signatory and the other wasn't. The Soviet Union hadn't signed by the time of the German invasion in '41 but Germany had. The Germans used this as an excuse for doing what ever the hell they liked with Soviet prisoners.

I'm not suggesting the US is going to try experiments with gas on these people, but their being non-signatories to the Geneva Convention is a pretty crappy basis to proceed on.
posted by vbfg at 2:37 AM on January 16, 2002


What if one or some of those Al Qaeda suspects is innocent?
posted by skylar at 3:28 AM on January 16, 2002


Skylar: Exactly

This entire discussion has been based on the assumption of guilt. They're in Cuba precisely to allow an assumption of guilt and to circumvent the very democracy that would normally allow us to take the moral high ground.
posted by niceness at 5:36 AM on January 16, 2002


Why is U.S. flouting rules on prisoners? Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star: The U.S. government says that the terrorist attack on New York City was an act of war. Yet it refuses to treat those it has captured in the course of this war as prisoners of war. Instead, it refers to them as "unlawful combatants" not entitled to the protection of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which the U.S. signed and which sets out rules for treating enemy soldiers. It shackles them, houses them in unprotected chain link compounds (in Cuba, of all places) and threatens "intense interrogation." This may be convenient for Washington. But it sets a dangerous precedent for all soldiers who face capture in the so-called war on terrorism, including Canada's.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:25 AM on January 16, 2002


So let me summarize the hard asses postion on this. Bad guys don't get the same rights as good guys and these are bad guys. How do we know? Well we locked them up didn't we. Duh
posted by onegoodmove at 12:03 PM on January 16, 2002


Interesting take on this at Flit

HOLD ON, WAIT A MINUTE -- GENEVA CONVENTIONS AND GUERRILLAS

I've got to confess I've never been a fan of Donald Rumsfeld's dissembling at press conferences, and bloggers in general who are backing up on this "unlawful combatants" stuff seem to be on the wrong side of American history and legal precedent, I'm sorry to say.


There is nothing about "using guerrilla tactics," as one blogger put it, that disqualifies one for Geneva Convention protections. Reading the law for both its letter AND its intent, the key distinction in the conventions that separates a "lawful" combatant from an "unlawful" one is the act of carrying arms openly: ie, self-identifying as a soldier rather than retaining one's "deniability" and working as a spy or saboteur. The conventions specifically include all "members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict." If we accept that the Taliban formed the government of Afghanistan for a time, and that Afghanistan was the other party to this conflict, it thus doesn't matter what the soldiers acting in their name were wearing or how they fought. Even an Al Qaeda terrorist, who would have clearly been an "unlawful combatant" if he had snuck into the US and thrown a bomb as part of the war effort, would still be a "lawful" combatant once he was back with his Al Qaeda unit in Afghanistan fighting the Northern Alliance on the ground. The rules seem quite clear on this. (The other exception would be soldiers who were strictly mercenary, ie did not self-identify themselves with a particular state, but were fighting for the highest bidder in a foreign land. Neither the native Afghans nor the foreign Islamist volunteers really qualify.)


Al Qaeda members could still be subject to prosecutions for war crimes, murder, what have you, through American tribunals or otherwise, but that is separate from their internment as Taliban prisoners of war, which by definition must end when the fighting in Afghanistan has reached a mutually agreed-upon conclusion.


To interpret the law differently would be to fly in the face of the Americans' own experiences with irregular warfare: in the Revolution and the Civil War, among other occasions, where "irregulars" like the Minutemen were not given the same privileges as "regular" combatants, and Americans were outraged about it. (It's infuriating to anyone who remembers American history how Donald Rumsfeld has consistently been cavalier about these sorts of issues, since the war's start; this writer has never shared the almost universal admiration for his plain-talking ways.) Canadians are right to question those rules (even to the point of withdrawing its soldiers if the Americans are confirmed to be flouting international law) and whatever the Red Cross determines in today's meetings (this being their bailiwick and all) should be followed by all parties on the ground. Otherwise, we have met the enemy and he is us.


UPDATE: David Carr on Samizdata is one of those who's got the Geneva definitions of combatants backwards, focussing on whether they meet the intentionally narrowly construed definition of "militia or volunteer corps," ie organized resistance movements (wearing an insignia, etc.). But the Taliban is not necessarily an organized resistance movement. If you accept that they are "members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict", ie that the Taliban was the de facto (not legitimate, mind you, but de facto) government of Afghanistan on Sept. 11, then their soldiers don't have to meet all those "organized resistance movement" stipulations. Even if you don't, they would still be considered soldiers under paragraph 6 of the same Geneva article, which extends prisoner of war protections to anyone who resists the invasion of their country," provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war." It's what Law & Order calls "black-letter law." Until and unless they are identified and indicted for crimes related to terrorism, every Taliban soldier in U.S. custody is a POW under international law. Period. Any other interpretation is Rumsfeldian semantics.
posted by lagado at 8:45 PM on January 18, 2002


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