US hypocritical on Geneva Conventions? Bernard Hibbitts at 9:52 PM ET
[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] both suggested Monday that American criticism of Iraq for breaching the obligations of the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war may be problematic and even hypocritical in light of US treatment of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere. Human Rights Watch said:
The Iraqi government has filmed American POWs and interrogated them before cameras. The U.S. government has taken insufficient measures to prevent journalists embedded with U.S. forces from filming Iraqi POWs held by the United States. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has appropriately criticized the Iraqi filming of American POWs. However, he has said nothing to date about the filming of Iraqi POWs by media operating alongside U.S. forces. This is not the first time that Secretary Rumsfeld has been unresponsive to concerns that the United States may be acting in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Human Rights Watch and others have previously criticized the U.S. government for aspects of its treatment of captured persons during the war in Afghanistan, particularly the failure to properly determine the legal status of those held, and stress and duress techniques that might amount to torture under international law.
The Center for Constitutional Rights commented:
The US has an immediate and long-term interest in upholding international conventions that establish universal rules of war and regulate the treatment of POWs. At the time of the Guantanamo captures, CCR argued that our own soldiers live with the threat of capture and that they, like all other combatants, deserve the protection of the Geneva Conventions. It is impossible to know whether US violations of the Conventions led to Iraqi non-compliance, but US compliance would have certainly made its current complaints more credible and less hypocritical. Selective compliance with the law by the U.S. leads to selective compliance by others.
Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.