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In the Wake of Supreme Court Ruling, US Must Try Detainees Under Uniform Code of Military Justice and Geneva Conventions

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called upon the President and Congress to try detainees for war crimes in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The June 29th ruling by the US Supreme Court in the Case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld affirms that those individuals held by the US as part of counter-terrorism operations are protected by US and international law, PHR said.

“The Supreme Court’s decision makes clear that the Executive Branch cannot, in the name of the fight against terror, ignore US and international law,” stated Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights.

Congress should ensure that the Bush Administration complies with the decision by fully adhering to the requirements of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. Additionally, the decision underscores the importance of the Administration fully complying with the McCain Amendment of the Detainee Treatment Act, which prohibits psychological torture and all other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, the group said.

As the Pentagon prepares for the release of the revised Army Field Manual, which will include standards for the treatment and interrogation of detainees captured as part of counter-terrorism operations, the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff have a responsibility to make sure the manual is in compliance with the affirmation of the Geneva Conventions contained in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, PHR stated. In order to adhere to the decision, PHR said, the Pentagon must reinsert into the manual sections requiring service members to abide by Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions—the prohibition against torture, cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. News reports have indicated that these sections were removed from previous drafts of the manual.

“The upcoming release of the Army Field Manual is an opportunity for the Bush Administration to show that it will abide by the Supreme Court’s decision and reaffirm that all personnel defending our national security must adhere to the Geneva Conventions,” stated Rubenstein.

The decision also comes in the wake of recent action by medical associations and the UN that also reject the current standards and practices adopted by the Bush Administration for the conduct of detention and interrogation of terror suspects. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Medical Association have all adopted strong ethical policies within the past two months that prohibit the involvement of health professionals in interrogation and inhumane detention practices. The UN Committee Against Torture criticized the Administration for not complying with the UN Convention Against Torture.

“There is a rapidly growing consensus that the Administration’s interrogation and detention policies contradict US law, basic medical and military ethical principles, and the Geneva Conventions,” stated Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis, MD (USA-ret.), the former commander of the US Army’s Southeast Medical Command and an Advisor to PHR. “The men and women who defend our country deserve to have their civilian leadership protect, as opposed to erode, the values that our Service Members have sworn to uphold—especially the most basic principles of human rights and the laws of war. President Bush must now commit to provide our military personnel the direction they need to do their job with honor and in accordance with the law.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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