Newspaper logo  
 
 
  

Op-Ed:

U.S. Violates Geneva Conventions

by members of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

On January 11, 2002, the United States announced that it was refusing to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. The Third Geneva Convention, which provides specific guidelines for treatment of prisoner combatants, is a part of the "law of nations" and is a mainstay of international humanitarian law. The United States explained that the prisoners taken in Afghanistan and Pakistan were not actually prisoners of war, but were in fact "unlawful combatants."

The first prisoners arrived in the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on January 11, 2002. According to the Washington Post, prisoners were hooded and shackled during the 27-hour flight. The United States defended these practices as appropriate security measures. Media on site in Cuba reported that the prisoners were fitted with goggles that were blacked out, for "security reasons" necessary to prevent them from using their eyes. In a public letter to Donald Rumsfeld , Amnesty International expressed concern that the prisoners' conditions of transport violated international norms.

The prisoners are being housed in outdoor 6 foot-by-8 foot open-air chain link cages, with concrete floors and wooden roofs, and contain a mat and a plastic bucket. The U.S. demanded that media not show photographs of the prisoners in these conditions, explaining, without apparent irony at the inconsistency, that the photos would deprive the prisoners of their rights under the Geneva Convention. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, any photographs of the prisoners in the United States-imposed conditions would be "humiliating" and "debasing." Several outlets have not complied with the Pentagon's demand.

The Bush Administration's refusal to abide by the world's humanitarian laws stands in stark contrast to the justifications advanced for U.S. military actions. On September 20, 2001, in a televised speech, George W. Bush justified the waging of war as necessary to defend the values of "civilization" against "evil": "This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight." On November 8, 2001, in his prime-time speech to the nation, President Bush declared the bombing of Afghanistan to be "a war to save civilization itself."

Article 4 of the Geneva Convention defines the categories of persons who may be considered as "prisoners of war." According to Article 5, "should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal." No competent tribunal has adjudicated this matter.

Among the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention regarding humane treatment of prisoners of war, which the U.S. is refusing to apply, are:

- Article 13: Humane treatment required; No reprisals allowed

- Article 14: Respect for persons and honour; No gender discrimination

- Article 16: No discrimination based on race, nationality, religious belief or political opinions

- Article 17: No physical or mental torture; No coercion to obtain information; Prisoners who decline to provide information may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment

- Article 18: Clothing, articles of personal use, to remain with prisoners

- Article 20: Evacuation or transfer to be under same conditions as afforded Detaining Power

- Article 21: Internment in camp allowed; Close confinement prohibited

- Article 22: Internment in penitentiaries prohibited; Every guarantee of hygiene and healthfulness required

- Article 25: Condition of quarters must be as favorable for POWs as for the forces of the Detaining Power; Accommodations for habits and customs of POWs required; Protection from dampness, adequate heat and lighting required

- Article 26: Food must be in sufficient quantity, quality and variety to maintain good health and weight

- Article 27: Adequate clothing, underwear and footwear required

- Article 28: Canteens must be installed; Fairly priced food, soap, tobacco and ordinary items must be stocked

- Articles 29 - 32: Proper hygiene and medical attention, including monthly health inspections, required

- Articles 34 - 37: Prisoners must be afforded complete latitude in the exercise of religion, including attendance at services, on condition they comply with disciplinary routine

- Article 38: Provisions for physical, intellectual and recreational activities

- Article 70: Prisoners must be allowed to write to family, others


The authors are members of the national steering committee of the A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition. www.internationalanswer.org.


Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on February 6, 2002.
  
Local News & Opinion

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Travel
Books, Films, Arts & Education

10.22 Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

10.18 Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers

10.18 For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language

Letters
Open Letters:

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

10.22 Doctors Without Borders Hits Ebola Breaking Point

10.22 Ebola virus: how it spreads and what it does to you – video

10.22 WHO aims for Ebola serum in weeks and vaccine tests in Africa by January

10.22 What If America Had Canada's Healthcare System? [7:25 video, charts]

10.21 Boston University study finds possible link between traumatic brain injuries and domestic violence

10.21 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after pioneering surgery

10.20 The Ebola Wars

10.20 Amazon deforestation picking up pace, satellite data reveals

10.20 Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola

10.19 The Ebola crisis: Much worse to come [map graphic]

10.18 The Dutch boy mopping up a sea of plastic

10.18 US eyes buffet option in global climate talks

10.18 Fossil fuel divestment: climate change activists take aim at Australia's banks

10.18 Ebola 'could be scourge like HIV', warns John Kerry

News Media

Daily FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

Justice Matters

10.20 Megarich Plaintiffs, Legally Adrift

10.18 How Oil and Gas Leases for Fracking Rip Off Homeowners

10.18 Stand-your-ground gun laws 'benefit whites more than blacks', experts say

US Politics, Policy & Culture

10.22 Yes, it's true: Police only shot four people (and nobody died) in all of England the past two years

10.22 The Best Investigative Reporting on Campaign Finance Since 2012

10.21 Warren Makes the Case

10.21 Texas Just Won the Right to Disenfranchise 600,000 People. It's Not the First Time. [A disgraceful history]

10.21 Yes, Mass Shootings Are Occurring More Often [graphs]

10.21 The Bottom 90 Percent: No Better Off Today Than in 1986

10.21 Can Homeless People Move Into Baltimore's Abandoned Houses?

10.21 Chart: Values of Homes Owned by African Americans Take Outsized Hit Compared to Those Owned by Whites

10.21 You might be a politician if ... you tried to defund Ebola research, only to campaign on Ebola fear

10.19 The Racist Housing Policies That Built Ferguson

High Crimes?

10.22 White House Chief Of Staff Negotiating Redaction Of CIA Torture Report

10.22 Fred Branfman, exposer of America’s secret war in Laos, died on September 24th, aged 72

10.22 US ordered to explain withholding of Iraq and Afghanistan torture photos

Economics, Crony Capitalism

10.20 The Feds Just Approved a New GMO Corn. Here's Why I'm Not Rejoicing

10.20 EPA: Those Bee-Killing Pesticides? They're Actually Pretty Useless

10.17 Chris Christie: New Jersey Bill Challenges Governor's Subsidies To GOP Donors

10.17 The Mixed International Picture on Poverty and Inequality

10.17 Matt Stoller: Why We Need to Break Up Amazon – and How to Do It

10.17 "More Money Than I Could Count": Mitch McConnell's Very Special Relationship With Lobbyists

International

10.22 World War III: It's Here And Energy Is Largely Behind It

10.22 Sweden bathes in echoes of cold war drama as submarine hunt continues

10.22 Daily Life in the Shadow of ISIS

10.21 Afghan opium poppy yield hits all-time high

10.20 The Mission

10.20 Deadly Ukraine Crash: German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17

10.20 Turkey to let Iraqi Kurds reinforce Kobani as US air-drops arms

10.19 Full Show: Keeping Faith in Democracy [25:20 video]

10.19 The tech innovators of the Victorian age

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web


Public Service Ads: