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Agreeing with Al Jazeera

I find myself squarely on the side of Al Jazeera on a human rights issue. From an article posted today:

There is nothing wrong with Article 13 of the Geneva Convention that the world adopted in 1950 for enshrining rights and privileges of a captured prisoner in war. “Prisoners of war must at all time be humanely treated…..POWs must at all time be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insult and public curiosity," it stated.

The problem is that the US is seeking to take refuge under provisions of the United Nations when the war they are waging does not have UN approval.

There is more to the US double-standards.

The US is holding 158 Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees in one of its high-security bases in Guantanomo Bay in Cuba for the past one year without even having them face a trial.

Taken prisoners in the Afghanistan war, the US has even denied them the status of Prisoners of War.

"They were not POWS but unlawful combatants," Rumsfeld has maintained while warding of accusations that the US was denying the detainees their fundamental rights to defend themselves in courts. The underlying logic has been that the detainees had no rights since they were not POWs.

Rumsfeld's bluster has not silenced the critics. Does a US defense secretary have the authority to determine who is a POW?

The accepted principle in the world hitherto has been that anyone detained in an armed conflict is presumed to be a POW, unless a competent court or tribunal determines otherwise.

But the Guantanomo detainees haven't had the luxury yet of being produced before a court.

An application filed by Human Rights groups before the US federal court seeking an end to the arbitrary detention got thrown out last fortnight because the "detainees held outside US territory were beyond the jurisdiction of US courts."

Robbed of any legal recourse, the Guantanomo detainees have been chained, manacled, hooded and forcibly shaved.

On each score, the US has erred. Forcible hooding, even temporarily, is violation of the 1984 convention against torture and reality.

Forced shaving of beards is in contravention to the 1966 convention of civil and political rights.

The continuing ill-treatment of the Guantanomo Bay detainees bodes ill. "The violations there will undermine the ability of the US government to ensure adequate treatment as and when US citizens are captured or held," said Michael Byers of the International Law at Duke University, North Carolina.

I don't know if Hell is actually freezing over, but let's say it feels more than a little strange to find myself on the same side of an issue as the editorial staff of Al Jazeera, in opposition to my own country's Secretary of Defense. Wow.


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Frank Boosman is pro-war and he and I have had several debates/discussions about this. On the issue of the treatment of POW's, he's on Al Jazeera's side and provides good reasons which I ag... [Read More]

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