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USATODAY.com - On Deadline June 5, 2006

Report: Pentagon to drop Geneva

According to this morning's Los Angeles Times, the Defense and State departments are battling over whether to include a major human-rights decree in the U.S. terror-war rules. The public seems likely to join the debate as well.

"The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans 'humiliating and degrading treatment,' according to knowledgeable military officials," the Times says, "a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards."

The Geneva rule at stake is Article 3 (full text), banning "cruel treatment and torture" among other activities. After superseding this rule previously, the Times explains, the Pentagon is redrawing its standard rules. Within the department, the debate over Article 3 is pitting military lawyers -- including JAG leaders -- and State officials against Pentagon intelligence and Vice President Cheney's office.

In May, the Times reported the Pentagon was delaying the rules, which are published in the Army Field Manual, due to opposition in the Senate. "Some lawmakers think that creating different rules for enemy prisoners of war and irregular fighters contradicts the torture ban passed by Congress last year, which requires a 'uniform standard' for treating detainees," the paper reported. Senate action on that ban also delayed the manual from a release in fall 2005. If you're interested in more reading, Slate published an Explainer at the time: "What's an Army Field Manual?"

The Explainer links to the relevant manual section on an Army website, but visting that site today results in an "Error 403 Forbidden," saying "Distribution authorized to U.S. Government agencies and their contractors only." But a 1987 version of the manual is available in HTML form from the popular military-information site GlobalSecurity.org, and the Federation of American Scientists links to a PDF of the latest version, a 1992 edition.



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