Sunday, November 13, 2005

Not the Senate Too

The recent vote in the Senate to deny prisoners their basic rights is a comment on the commitment to the rule of law of the American Government. By refusing to grant the prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere the right of habeas corpus, the Senate is ignoring one of the fundamental rights in a democracy. Habeas corpus is the only protection against arbitrary arrest and detention.
There is no justification anywhere in international law for the setting aside of habeas corpus. To the contrary, the Geneva Conventions require fair and humane treatment of all prisoners. Calling the prisoners illegal combatents does not revoke their rights as defined in the Geneva Conventions. Illegal combatent is not defined anywhere in international law and White House lawyers cannot rewrite international law on the fly. As well, the Geneva Conventions requires that any prisoners whose status is in question must appear before an independent tribunal to evaluate their status.

White House lawyers have claimed that parts of the Geneva Conventions are obsolete and therefore, the U.S. government is free to ignore sections of that law. International laws can not be changed arbitrarily by a state who decides that it would be inconvenient to adhere to it. Only an agreement by the signatories of the Conventions can amend the Geneva Conventions.

The Senate vote is even more outrageous given that Article VI of the American Constitution incorporates all international laws to which the U.S. is a signatory into the American system of laws. Also, the War Crimes Act requires the U.S. to ahhere to the Geneva Conventions.

Therefore, the Senate has not only violated international law but it has also violated American law as well. This vote relegates the Senate, as well as the Executive, to that notoriously criminal body of rogue states and individuals who respect no law other than their own. It's a dangerous state of affairs when the President's criminal behaviour is supported by the Senate which not only represents the people but also is supposed to act as a counterweight to the executive branch of government.


At 12:50 PM, Blogger RLP said...

Thanks for your Blog. I stumbled upon it via Counterpunch. On your comments on the US suspension of Habeas corpus, I have this to add: I travel frequently to the US, and have for the last thirty years. I have a number of people down there who I would call friends - we have spent much time together, doing various activities, and have had time to talk at length about all manners of topics. We have also talked about the topic of this very blog - and their attitude, as US citizens, was remarkably nonchalant: it is as if the ordinary citizen does not realize the implication of this Senate vote. These friends of mine are an ordinary mix of white and blue collar workers, for the most part at least high school educated. Some have been in the military, and their age span ranges from thirty five to sixty. This Senate vote has not touched them at all - it is as if it does not involve them - they were all born in a rich priveledged country, and have not had to fight for any of these rights during their lifetime. It is a type of apathy that stems, I believe, from a lack of imagination, as well as from the fact that none of them has been directly affected by the consequences of this vote - yet.


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