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3705[Fwd: Fw: US War Crimes]

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  • Kristen E Cheney
    Mar 26, 2003
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      A good article from the Guardian, especially in light of Ari Fleischer's refusal to address Helen Thomas's question about the Geneva Convention and Guantanamo Bay in yesterday's press conference...
       
      Beth :-)
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Giovanna Pompele
      To:aegs
      Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2003 5:15 PM
      Subject: US War Crimes

      One rule for them
      Five PoWs are mistreated in Iraq and the US cries foul. What about
      Guantanamo Bay?
      George Monbiot
      Tuesday March 25, 2003
      The Guardian
      Suddenly, the government of the United States has discovered the
      virtues of
      international law. It may be waging an illegal war against a sovereign
      state; it may be seeking to destroy every treaty which impedes its
      attempts
      to run the world, but when five of its captured soldiers were paraded
      in
      front of the Iraqi television cameras on Sunday, Donald Rumsfeld, the
      US
      defence secretary, immediately complained that "it is against the
      Geneva
      convention to show photographs of prisoners of war in a manner that is
      humiliating for them".
      He is, of course, quite right. Article 13 of the third convention,
      concerning the treatment of prisoners, insists that they "must at all
      times
      be protected... against insults and public curiosity". This may number
      among
      the ! ! less heinous of the possible infringements of the laws of war, but
      the
      conventions, ratified by Iraq in 1956, are non-negotiable. If you break
      them, you should expect to be prosecuted for war crimes.
      This being so, Rumsfeld had better watch his back. For this
      enthusiastic
      convert to the cause of legal warfare is, as head of the defence
      department,
      responsible for a series of crimes sufficient, were he ever to be
      tried, to
      put him away for the rest of his natural life.
      His prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where 641 men (nine of whom
      are
      British citizens) are held, breaches no fewer than 15 articles of the
      third
      convention. The US government broke the first of these (article 13) as
      soon
      as the prisoners arrived, by displaying them, just as the Iraqis have
      done,
      on television. In this case, however, they were not encouraged to
      address
      the cameras. They were kneeling on the ground, hands tied behind the! ! ir
      backs, wearing blacked-out goggles and earphones. In breach of article
      18,
      they had been stripped of their own clothes and deprived of their
      possessions. They were then interned in a penitentiary (against article
      22),
      where they were denied proper mess facilities (26), canteens (28),
      religious
      premises (34), opportunities for physical exercise (38), access to the
      text
      of the convention (41), freedom to write to their families (70 and 71)
      and
      parcels of food and books (72).
      They were not "released and repatriated without delay after the
      cessation of
      active hostilities" (118), because, the US authorities say, their
      interrogation might, one day, reveal interesting information about
      al-Qaida.
      Article 17 rules that captives are obliged to give only their name,
      rank,
      number and date of birth. No "coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of
      war
      to secure from them information of any kind whatever". In the hop! ! e of
      breaking them, however, the authorities have confined them to solitary
      cells
      and subjected them to what is now known as "torture lite": sleep
      deprivation
      and constant exposure to bright light. Unsurprisingly, several of the
      prisoners have sought to kill themselves, by smashing their heads
      against
      the walls or trying to slash their wrists with plastic cutlery.
      The US government claims that these men are not subject to the Geneva
      conventions, as they are not "prisoners of war", but "unlawful
      combatants".
      The same claim could be made, with rather more justice, by the Iraqis
      holding the US soldiers who illegally invaded their country. But this
      redefinition is itself a breach of article 4 of the third convention,
      under
      which people detained as suspected members of a militia (the Taliban)
      or a
      volunteer corps (al-Qaida) must be regarded as prisoners of war.
      Even if there is doubt about how such people should be clas! ! sified,
      article 5
      insists that they "shall enjoy the protection of the present convention
      until such time as their status has been determined by a competent
      tribunal". But when, earlier this month, lawyers representing 16 of
      them
      demanded a court hearing, the US court of appeals ruled that as
      Guantanamo
      Bay is not sovereign US territory, the men have no constitutional
      rights.
      Many of these prisoners appear to have been working in Afghanistan as
      teachers, engineers or aid workers. If the US government either tried
      or
      released them, its embarrassing lack of evidence would be brought to
      light.
      You would hesitate to describe these prisoners as lucky, unless you
      knew
      what had happened to some of the other men captured by the Americans
      and
      their allies in Afghanistan. On November 21 2001, around 8,000 Taliban
      soldiers and Pashtun civilians surrendered at Konduz to the Northern
      Alliance commander, General Abdul Ra! ! shid Dostum. Many of them have
      never
      been seen again.
      As Jamie Doran's film Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death records, some
      hundreds, possibly thousands, of them were loaded into container
      lorries at
      Qala-i-Zeini, near the town of Mazar-i-Sharif, on November 26 and 27.
      The
      doors were sealed and the lorries were left to stand in the sun for
      several
      days. At length, they departed for Sheberghan prison, 80 miles away.
      The
      prisoners, many of whom were dying of thirst and asphyxiation, started
      banging on the sides of the trucks. Dostum's men stopped the convoy and
      machine-gunned the containers. When they arrived at Sheberghan, most of
      the
      captives were dead.
      The US special forces running the prison watched the bodies being
      unloaded.
      They instructed Dostum's men to "get rid of them before satellite
      pictures
      can be taken". Doran interviewed a Northern Alliance soldier guarding
      the
      prison. "I was a witness wh! ! en an American soldier broke one prisoner's
      neck.
      The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them."
      Another soldier alleged: "They took the prisoners outside and beat them
      up,
      and then returned them to the prison. But sometimes they were never
      returned, and they disappeared."
      Many of the survivors were loaded back in the containers with the
      corpses,
      then driven to a place in the desert called Dasht-i-Leili. In the
      presence
      of up to 40 US special forces, the living and the dead were dumped into
      ditches. Anyone who moved was shot. The German newspaper Die Zeit
      investigated the claims and concluded that: "No one doubted that the
      Americans had taken part. Even at higher levels there are no doubts on
      this
      issue." The US group Physicians for Human Rights visited the places
      identified by Doran's witnesses and found they "all... contained human
      remains consistent with their designation as possible grave si! ! tes".
      It should not be necessary to point out that hospitality of this kind
      also
      contravenes the third Geneva convention, which prohibits "violence to
      life
      and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel
      treatment
      and torture", as well as extra-judicial execution. Donald Rumsfeld's
      department, assisted by a pliant media, has done all it can to suppress
      Jamie Doran's film, while General Dostum has begun to assassinate his
      witnesses.
      It is not hard, therefore, to see why the US government fought first to
      prevent the establishment of the international criminal court, and then
      to
      ensure that its own citizens are not subject to its jurisdiction. The
      five
      soldiers dragged in front of the cameras yesterday should thank their
      lucky
      stars that they are prisoners not of the American forces fighting for
      civilisation, but of the "barbaric and inhuman" Iraqis.




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      Kristen Cheney
      Doctoral Candidate in Anthropology
      University of California at Santa Cruz
      Social Sciences I Faculty Services
      1156 High Street
      Santa Cruz, CA 95064

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