U.S. Denies al-Qaeda Captives the Protection of the Geneva Convention
A report by Radio Free Europe calls attention to the fact that American officials have been careful to refer to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters as "battlefield detainees", and not as prisoners of war (POW), and raises the suspicion that this is being done in a deliberate effort to avoid giving them the benefits of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
The 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which has become a part of the international law, binds all countries to treat prisoners of war humanely. In particular, the convention makes it clear that Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated (article 13), are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honor (article 14), and must be fed, housed and medically cared for (article 15).
Three key aspects of the convention relate to America’s current actions towards the captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Article 15 of the Geneva Convention clearly states: “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”. As albawaba has reported, captured al-Qaeda and Taliban personnel are being questioned by American, Pakistani, Egyptian and Saudi intelligence officers, who are eager to get information about the location of Osama Bin Laden from them. Article 15 would protect these captives from torture or other excessive means of interrogation, but only if they were considered prisoners of war.
Article 22 of the convention states: “Prisoners of war may be interned only in premises located on land”, while the USA has admitted that it is holding several captives imprisoned on board naval vessels out at sea, specifically mentioning the USS Bataan.
Last but not least, Article 118 states: “Prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities”. This does not fit in with the American plans. The USA has confirmed that it intends to put captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters up for trial before military tribunals. These tribunals, which will only take place long after the fighting is over, carry the possibility of death sentences for the accused.
With the number of al-Qaeda and Taliban captives in American hands growing every day, the seeming American disregard for the universally accepted rules on prisoners of war is extremely worrying. (www.albawaba.com)
Illustration credit DOD