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Pentagon erases Geneva rule from Army field manual

  1. Jun 5, 2006 #1
    In rewriting the field manual, the Pentagon has apparently decided to remove language referring to certain 3rd Geneval Convention provisions for human rights in treatment of prisoners of war. The core instructions for Army interrogators will thus no longer include certain provisions explicitly, effectively undermining them. From the LA Times:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationw...5jun05,0,7975161.story?coll=la-home-headlines

    To any Martians visiting our beautiful planet and not yet familiar with our Geneva Conventions, welcome! and here's the relevant text, from the Third Convention enacted in 1950:

    The relevant text is highlighted.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2006 #2

    russ_watters

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    That's a tough one - it is vague and ill-defined. To some, for example, the very fact that they are imprisoned could be considered humiliating and degrading.

    I don't know for sure, but it seems to me that one of the reasons why we didn't ratify all the conventions is because some are unreasonable (mail? c'mon) and others like this one are ill-defined and perhaps even a little sappy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2006
  4. Jun 5, 2006 #3

    Gokul43201

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    When you think something is ill-defined, you can either :

    i. Clarify this requirement with additional explanatory notes so as to still retain the spirit of the clause, or

    ii. Get rid of it entirely, and completely void the intent of that clause.
     
  5. Jun 5, 2006 #4

    Pengwuino

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    Wait a second, prisoners of war? Sounds like this article is explicitely not talking about prisoners of war, rather civilians.
     
  6. Jun 5, 2006 #5

    russ_watters

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    No one at 'Gitmo or an Iraqi prison would be considered a civilian (if they were not fighting, then they should be released).
     
  7. Jun 5, 2006 #6

    Bystander

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    "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: ...."

    That just about excludes every situation to which such a convention could be applied.

    Post-1950 precedents for prisoner treatment? Nam. Long's things get no worse than what went on in the Hilton, no one's got any gripes. Right?
     
  8. Jun 5, 2006 #7
    As far as I can tell, it reduces to the fact that international law is spotty and rarely enforced, and thus lacks precedent. If this were a national law there'd actually be legitimate-looking courts making interpretations and setting precedents. With precedents the language above could easily be well-defined; without precedents the interpretation becomes a matter of opinion apparently. Though if the Pentagon wants to remove some of the language from the Army Field Guide, the intent seems pretty obvious - they wish to undermine one particular clause in practice, without explicitly withdrawing from the Convention.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2006
  9. Jun 5, 2006 #8

    Moonbear

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    Follow the link provided by Rach. The entire Geneva Convention is specifically written regarding Prisoners of War, thus it's not repeated in every article.
     
  10. Jun 5, 2006 #9

    Gokul43201

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    What about the legality of it? Can you sign a Convention and then say you'll ignore this bit here and that one there?
     
  11. Jun 5, 2006 #10

    Moonbear

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    Not publishing it isn't illegal, but if the provisions are violated, then they'd still be held responsible according to any penalties named by the convention. Not informing the Army of these rules seems pretty foolish for that reason.

    If there are problems with ambiguity of wording, then that should have been addressed before it was drafted and signed. Otherwise, it seems the prisoners get to call the shots there as to what is degrading and humiliating if it is not otherwise further defined. It seems it needs to be amended with a clarification, otherwise just putting someone in handcuffs in front of others would qualify as humiliating and degrading.
     
  12. Jun 5, 2006 #11

    Gokul43201

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    No doubts there, but the point of not publishing it is to safeguard themselves against being accused of violating guidelines of their own field manual. An offense that could previously lead to a court-martial, now affords legal wiggle room. The removal of the text serves no purpose if members of the military are going to adhere to that clause. It only serves a purpose if they do not.

    I still think it's a dirty cheat. If there is vagueness in it that gives prisoners an easy out, and it sure looks like there is, the correct solution would be to clarify the clause rather than dismiss it.

    As for Russ' statement that civilian prisoners at Gitmo or in jails in Iraq should be released from there, what mechanism exists to ensure that? How does a detainee prove that s/he is a civilian?
     
  13. Jun 5, 2006 #12

    Moonbear

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    Well, it seems in terms of the Convention itself, the individuals are not the ones responsible, according to Article 12:
    Then articles 129 and 130 state:
    I'm not sure if I'm reading all of this right, but it sounds like ultimately, it's the US held responsible, or whoever gave the order is responsible (but is NOT telling someone NOT to do something covered under that?), not the individual soldiers, except in the case of these "grave breaches," which then each signing country is expected to check are not occurring on the part of individuals.

    What's bothersome is that there are no conditions or penalties spelled out for breaches of the convention other than that those actions should be stopped immediately and the prisoners released back to their home nation.

    The whole thing seems to be pretty vague about what happens if you just disregard it. There is an article stating that they are required to disseminate the text:
    I bolded that last part. Obviously, we're all sitting here reading it, so it's widely available, but it sounds like only those who are actually responsible for prisoners of war MUST have the full text and be given special instruction with regard to it. All the rest of it reads like it's just a recommendation, not a requirement.

    So, does it get someone off the hook if it's not in their field manual, but is still widely available online? If anything, I think it has more of the chance of forcing people higher up the command chain to be held responsible for not providing instruction if someone is handling prisoners of war without having that clause provided to them. But, it's all written in political legalese, so I'm not sure if I'm completely reading it all right.
     
  14. Jun 5, 2006 #13
    Pray tell, how do you know this? Because Bush and/or the military assures you that much? I think it's pretty clear what either of their words are worth...nothing. On the one hand, we have Bush lying in pretty much everything he says (including little things, like saying that he caught a 7.5 pound perch). On the other, we have the cover-up of the Haditha killings. My trust of the federal government is at an all-time low. Ironic, isn't it? By the classical definition, that would make me a conservative, and I should nominally support Bush.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2006
  15. Jun 5, 2006 #14
    There not civilians. They were was a formal decleartion of war against Al-Qudea which means that anyone who is currently an Al-Qudia opertive is currently considerd an emeny combant which means that there not civilans!
     
  16. Jun 5, 2006 #15

    Gokul43201

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    scott, an assertion is not a proof.

    Just saying "everyone at Gitmo is al Qaida" does not make them so. In fact, it is known to be untrue. Some of them have had to be released after having spent several months there with no access to legal counsel, because when it finally came down down proving that they were al Qaida, the Goverment had no case.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2006
  17. Jun 5, 2006 #16
    First of all, it's Al-Qaeda, no Al-Qudia.

    Secondly, I think you're missing the point. I don't how many at Gitmo were Al-Qaeda operatives or not. You don't know how many were Al-Qaeda operatives. No one does: they haven't been tried. All we have is the word of the federal government. Once you start allowing people to be jailed without any justification or evidence, you have a police state.

    Thirdly, assuming for a moment that every Gitmo prisoner actually is an enemy of the US (and that's a big assumption), you still arguing semantics. As Juliet said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Just because you call someone an "enemy combatant" doesn't mean that you can magically treat them any differently from a POW.
     
  18. Jun 5, 2006 #17
    Yet the humiliation of imprisonment itself can't rightly be covered under an agreement not to humiliate prisoners. What the statute does address is things along the lines of the naked-prisoner pyramid photo shoots our solders have been putting prisoners though, and clearly the Pentagon has become less inclined to advise our solders against engaging in such disrespect for human rights.
     
  19. Jun 5, 2006 #18

    Moonbear

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    As I was reading through the language of the Geneva Convention, something related to that caught my attention. In defining a Prisoner of War, they include:
    Does that mean in countries where military service is compulsory for all young men, pretty much any adult male could be picked up and detained under this definition?

    Also, there are conditions where civilians can be held as prisoner's of war:


    Both of these are found in Article 4.
     
  20. Jun 5, 2006 #19
    What about keeping people in prison while there on trial.
    Still there not civilans.
     
  21. Jun 5, 2006 #20
    I think it was estimated to be about 4,000 members around the world.
     
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