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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

War Times Trials illegal and 'crimes of War'

The AP is reporting that a military judge has thrown out terrorism charges against Omar Khadr, a detainee at Guantanamo that could undo the whole War Crimes trials system. However, what may be more stunning is that this ruling could throw out THE ENTIRE WAR-CRIMES TRIAL SYSTEM. And how? Because of a technicality which appears to have been caused by circumventing the Constitution and other deceptive practices.


The Geneva Convention, which is US law, requires a legal entity (e.g., a court) to first determine that a prisoner is an UNLAWFUL enemy combatant before we can abandon the military-POW-specific elements of the convention. In that case, however, the prisoner should be tried according to international or civilian (e.g., US, or local) law. If the prisoner is a LAWFUL combatant, then the Geneva Convention's POW provisions apply. There are only those two options, and BushCo had to choose one or the other. They chose neither.

Bush has so far only vaguely claimed these men are unlawful combatants, but has not gotten a formal ruling, as required. That's because if they were really ruled unlawful, then non-military laws would still apply, perhaps even the laws of the country where the prisoner was captured (e.g., no extradition treaty means we broke the law too).

The goal seems to be to create a third "limbo" class of prisoner that is essentially a non-entity, with no state, no rights, and no legal status. And it is a clear violation of the terms of the convention, which, I'll repeat, DO apply to every prisoner in a military theater, regardless of the country in which they were captured, because the US ratified the treaty.

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