Saturday, April 09, 2005

Detainee Handling in Iraq, from DOD

Army Times - News - More News
The following article appeared in the Army Times
DoD preparing new guidelines for handling detainees
By Robert Burns
Associated Press

The Pentagon is preparing new guidelines for the proper handling of people captured during wartime, including an explicit ban on inhumane treatment.

The guidelines, which are not yet final, are the Pentagon’s attempt to establish clearer and more complete rules and lines of authority in hopes of avoiding the discipline and leadership failures that led to detainee abuse by some military members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Investigations have found that some of the worst abuse occurred at what the military calls the “point of capture,” where enemy fighters or suspected terrorists are captured in the heat of battle. Others were abused at detention centers or, in some cases, during interrogations.

“All persons detained by U.S. armed forces during the course of military operations shall be given humanitarian care and treatment from the moment they fall into the hands of U.S. forces until release,” the March 23 draft document said. It is titled, “Joint Doctrine for Detainee Operations.”

Noting that inhumane treatment is prohibited by international law and Pentagon policy, the document adds that even “military necessary” is no excuse for improper treatment of a detainee.

“Accordingly, neither the stress of combat operations, the need for actionable information, nor the provocations by captured/detained personnel justify deviation from this obligation,” it said.

On the other hand, the document says in a separate passage that the requirement for humane treatment of an “enemy combatant” — as opposed to a prisoner of war — is “subject to military necessity” — suggesting there could be circumstances in which the requirement did not apply.

The Bush administration in 2002 created the detainee category of “enemy combatant” and applied it to members or associates of the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban militia from Afghanistan. The administration has said the Geneva Conventions for prisoner protections do not apply to enemy combatants, although it also has said they are to be treated humanely in all cases.

Human Rights Watch, which has been highly critical of the military’s detainee policies, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saying the proposed new guidelines amount to an assertion that prisoner protections under the Geneva Conventions do not have the force of law.

“Human Rights Watch urgently objects to a proposed joint military policy that would formalize as U.S. military policy the category of ‘enemy combatant’ as detainees who are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions,” Kenneth Roth, the group’s executive director, wrote.