Sunday, January 09, 2005

Prisoner abuse authorized by Bush?

The ACLU recently released an e-mail (PDF, one of many documents) by the FBI's "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad" regarding interrogation of prisoners in Iraq (ACLU press release). This e-mail stated that there was an "Executive Order signed by President Bush" authorizing the use of interrogation techniques banned by the Geneva Conventions. Specifically,
"We are aware that prior to a revision in policy last week, an Executive Order signed by President Bush authorized the following interrogation techniques among others[:] sleep "management," use of MWDs (military working dogs), "stress positions" such as half squats, "environmental manipulation" such as the use of loud music, sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc" (FBI e-mail PDF)
Lest anyone question whether or not these techniques are against the Geneva Conventions, let's go right to the source.

Geneva Convention III (Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War):
"Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information." (Conv. 3, art. 17)

"No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." (Conv. 3, art. 17)

Geneva Convention IV (Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War):
"Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals." (Conv. 4, art. 4)

"Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity." (Conv. 4, art. 27)

"No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties." (Conv. 4, art. 31)

According to this ICRC PDF, Iraq became a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions on Feb. 14, 1956, as did the U.S. on Aug. 2, 1955.

A number of groups, including Human Rights Watch (press release) and the ACLU (press release), have called for Bush to explain this discovery. As the Human Rights Watch press release says,
"'The FBI e-mail is not proof of a presidential order to commit unlawful acts, but it strongly suggests that U.S. interrogators thought they were acting with the president's approval,' said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. 'It's no longer enough for Bush to issue a simple denial. A real explanation is needed.'"

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