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Kronologi over fredssagen og international politik 9. Mars 2005 / Time Line March 9, 2005

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8. Mars 2005, 10. Mars 2005

Three Misconceptions about the Laws of War
By Jelena Pejic
© 2005 Crimes Of War Project --
After decades of being debated among the initiated few, the basic concepts of the laws of war seem finally to have captured the public's attention. The rights of prisoners of war, the meaning of humane treatment and the duties of occupying powers are just some of the issues currently being discussed at both international conferences and dinner tables. The bright spotlight directed at international humanitarian law (the preferred designation for the laws of war) is welcome news for those who care about the protection of persons affected by armed conflict. However, there is also a risk of interpretations that do not take into account the delicate balance between state security and individual rights that underlies this body of rules.
Outlined below are three examples:
1. The existence of a global "war on terrorism".
While the term "war on terrorism" is so much a part of daily parlance that one hardly gives it a second thought, it must be asked whether this "war" is an armed conflict in the legal sense. The short answer is no. Only certain aspects of the "war on terrorism" are, in fact, war. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions (please note the plural!), international wars are those fought between states. The 2001 war between the US-led coalition and the then effective government of Afghanistan, waged as part of the "war on terrorism", was an example of an international armed conflict.
Humanitarian law does not envisage an international war between states and non-state armed groups for the simple reason that states have never been willing to accord armed groups the privileges enjoyed by members of regular armies. To say that we are witnessing a global international war against groups such as Al-Qaeda would mean that under the laws of war, their followers would be equal in rights and obligations to members of regular armed forces. It was clear back in 1949 that no country was prepared to contemplate exempting non-state fighters from criminal prosecution for lawful acts of war, which is the crux of prisoner of war (POW) status. The Geneva Conventions, which grant such status under strictly specified conditions, are thus neither "outdated" nor "quaint" (references to statements made by 'torture lawyer' Alberto Gonzales -- JW); their drafters were fully aware of the political and practical realities of international armed conflict and crafted the treaty provisions accordingly.
The "war on terrorism" can also take the form of a non-international armed conflict, such as the one currently being waged in parts of Afghanistan between the current Afghan government, supported by allied states, and different armed groups including remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. This conflict is non-international because it is being carried out with the consent and support of the Afghan government and does not involve two opposed states. The ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan are thus governed by humanitarian law rules applicable to non-international armed conflicts, found in both treaty and customary humanitarian law. The same body of rules would apply in other similar circumstances where a definable non-state group is party to the armed conflict and where the level of violence has reached that of an armed conflict.
The critical question that generates the most confusion is whether the totality of acts of terrorism carried out in various parts of the world (outside of situations of armed conflict such as Afghanistan) constitute one and the same armed conflict in the legal sense. Can it be said that the recent school massacre in Beslan, the conflict in Israel/Palestine, and the bombings in Bali, Turkey or Madrid, can be attributed to one and the same party? Can it, in addition, be claimed that the level of violence involved in each of those places has reached that of armed conflict? On both counts, it would appear not. The Spanish authorities did not, for example, apply conduct-of-hostilities rules to deal with the Madrid train bombing suspects. Those rules would have allowed them to factor possible incidental civilian deaths ("collateral damage") into their calculation of how to deal with the suspects. Instead, they applied the rules of law enforcement. They attempted to capture the suspects for later trial, and took care to evacuate nearby buildings in order to avoid all injury to persons living in the vicinity.
In sum, each situation of organized armed violence must be examined in the specific context in which it takes place and be legally qualified either as war or not, depending on the factual circumstances. A global "war on terrorism" might be a useful rhetorical device, but it does not reflect the reality or the variety of responses to terrorist acts on the ground. The laws of war were tailored for war. It serves neither the aims of state security nor of individual protection to extend them to situations short of armed conflict.
2. "Unlawful combatants" have minimal (or no) rights.
The launching of the global "war on terrorism" also launched the term "unlawful combatant" into the public discourse, raising much controversy about the rights of such persons. To begin with, combatant status exists only in international armed conflict, and humanitarian law treaties contain no explicit reference to "unlawful combatants". This designation is shorthand for persons who directly participate in hostilities without being members of the regular armed forces, which, events have proven, often happens in both international and non-international armed conflicts. Contrary to some assertions, international humanitarian law does provide for measures that can lawfully be taken with regard to "unlawful combatants".
"Unlawful combatants" may be attacked during the time that they are directly participating in hostilities. If captured, they may be criminally prosecuted under domestic law for the act of taking up arms, even if they have fought according to the laws of war. They may also be detained for security reasons until the end of active hostilities, unless released earlier. In specific circumstances and within certain bounds, they may even be denied some of the privileges of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Under humanitarian law, no one who has been detained, including an "unlawful combatant," may in any way be subjected to acts prohibited by the Conventions, such as murder, violence to life and person, torture or inhumane treatment, or outrages upon personal dignity; nor may they be denied the right to a fair trial. In this sense, "Unlawful combatants" are fully protected by humanitarian law. It is simply misleading to suggest that they have minimal or no rights. One of the purposes of the laws of war is to protect the life, health and dignity of all persons affected by armed conflict. It is inconceivable that calling someone an "unlawful combatant" should suffice to deprive him or her of rights guaranteed to every individual.
3. Different rules of interrogation for different detainees.
Regardless of whether they are POWs or civilians (including "unlawful combatants"), there is only one set of rules for the interrogation of persons detained in an international armed conflict. The Third Geneva Convention does provide that POWs cannot be coerced to answer questions beyond giving their name, rank, date of birth and service number. This was done primarily in order to prevent the detaining power from eliciting information on ongoing military operations from POWs right after capture. There is, however, nothing in the Convention that would for, example, prohibit the interrogation of a POW suspected of war crimes.
The key issue is therefore not, "Can a detainee be interrogated?" but, rather, what means may be used in the process. Neither a POW nor any other person protected by humanitarian law can be subjected -- it bears repeating -- to any form of violence, torture, inhumane treatment or outrages upon personal dignity. These acts, and others, are strictly prohibited by international law, including humanitarian law. Under the laws of war, it is the detaining authority that bears full responsibility for ensuring that no interrogation method crosses the line.
The Crimes of War Project will continue to publish articles about the legal status of the U.S. military campaign against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We welcome responses or submissions from our readers - please send them to the editor at
Related Chapters from the Book:
Combatant Status:
Prisoner of War Camps:
Related Links:
International Committee of the Red Cross:

U. S. Quits Pact Used in Capital Cases : Foes of Death Penalty Cite Access to Envoys
By Charles Lane
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
The Bush administration has decided to pull out of an international agreement that opponents of the death penalty have used to fight the sentences of foreigners on death row in the United States, officials said yesterday.
In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States "hereby withdraws" from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it -- along with the rest of the Vienna Convention -- in 1969...

Steady Drop in Black Army Recruits : Data Said to Reflect Views on Iraq War
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01
The percentage of new Army recruits who are black has slipped dramatically over the past five years, reflecting a lack of support among African Americans for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as an economy that is providing more enticing options at home, according to Army studies, military experts and recruiters.
Since fiscal 2000, when African Americans made up 23.5 percent of Army recruits, their numbers have fallen steadily to less than 14 percent in this fiscal year, officials said. A similar trend has reduced the number of female Army recruits, who have dropped from 22 percent in 2000 to about 17 percent of this year's new soldiers...

City College Student Counter-Recruiters Charged with Felony Assault
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Counter Recruitment Watch
Projects from Peace No War Network
Press Conference:
Thursday, March 10th, 2005
100 Centre Street
New York, NY
Activist: Meredith Kolodner (917) 881-3896
Lawyers: Sean Maher, Darlene Jorif (212) 876-5500
WHO: City College Counter-Recruiters: Hadas Thier, Nicholas Bergreen, Justino Rodriguez (pending their release) and their supporters: representatives from civil liberties organizations, national anti-war organizations, student anti-war organizations, veterans and military family members, and the legal community
Three undergraduate students at the City College of New York (CCNY) were arrested Wednesday in the course of a peaceful protest against military recruiters. Hadas Thier, Nick Bergreen, and Justino Rodriguez, along with approximately a dozen other protesters attended a job fair organized by the college, and stood up in front of a National Guard recruitment table chanting anti-war slogans. Private security and campus peace officers immediately surrounded the protesters, pushed them into an empty hallway outside of the job fair, closed the hall door and assaulted two protesters and arrested a third who was taking pictures. The two students who were assaulted are now being charged with felony assault, and the third with obstruction of a government administrator.
Military Responding to Counter-Recruitment's Successes
"Counter-recruitment" has become a national issue (USA Today "Counter-recruiters shadowing the military" 3/7/5), and it's working. Between these efforts, and general disagreement about the war, recruitment is down -- according to a 3/6/5 Reuters report, "The regular Army is 6 percent behind its year-to-date recruiting target, the Reserve is 10 percent behind, and the Guard is 26 percent short."
After similar counter-recruitment efforts have taken off from New York to Seattle, the military has clearly become concerned. At William Patterson University in New Jersey, an activist was arrested for simply handing out counter-recruitment leaflets. Twice last semester, CCNY student protesters drove military recruiters off the campus with peaceful protests. This time campus security was ready. "We didn't even get through one round of chanting," according to Tiffany Paul, a junior at CCNY and a member of the Campus Anti-War Network, who was one of the protesters. "We were completely peaceful, it was the officers who were violent."
Unnecessary Brutality
When Mr. Rodriguez was being arrested, his head was slammed into the wall. He called out "look what they're doing to me!" According to Ms. Paul, to silence him one of the guards pulled Mr. Rodriguez's hood over his head and slammed his head into the wall again.
"He just stood on the guy," remembers Mark Turner, a staff member at CCNY, recalling the manner in which Mr. Bergreen was subdued by a private security guard, Mr. Robertson. "His foot was on his back, after he had tackled him. Private security are not supposed to touch us."
Ms. Thier was arrested simply for taking pictures. Several witnesses recall that the guards were pulling on her hair. Juan Alduey remembers that the guards pushed Ms. Thier when she tried to give a statement to students who began filming the event. "I'm being arrested for exercising my right to free speech" Mr. Alduey recalled.
Useful Links:
February 2005 Peace Zine
he Monthly Newsletter from Peace No war Network
Special Counter Recruitment Issue
Photos of U.S. Military Torture in Abu Ghraib Prison:
Los Angeles Times has a complete biographical Information on U.S. Soldiers Killed:
Peace, No War
War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
Not in our Name! And another world is possible!
Tel: (213)403-0131
Information for antiwar movements, news across the World, please visit:
Please Join PeaceNoWar Listserv, send e-mail to:

Africa Integral to U.S. European Command, General Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2005 - Maybe his command shouldn't be called U.S. European Command, but rather U.S. European and African Command, Marine Gen. James L. Jones said in an interview here March 8.
Jones, who is the commander of U.S. European Command and is NATO's supreme allied Europe, suggested that given the importance of Africa, the command may have to amend its name in the future.
"Africa is an important part of our theater, and has been neglected for too long," Jones said. "Africa is everybody's problem and everybody's responsibility."
Jones said Africa "will figure in our national interests in the foreseeable future." And it is a continent beset by problems ranging from an HIV/AIDS epidemic, to charges of genocide in Sudan's Darfur, tribal fighting in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi and vast areas - especially in the Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert - under no effective governmental controls.
The United States and its allies must engage Africa and help the nations of the continent rise out of the mess the region finds itself in, Jones said. "We're trying to become more proactive and less reactive," he said. "By proactive, I mean help the Africans help themselves."
European Command must help struggling democracies in Africa develop their armed forces to protect their borders. This is important, because fundamentalists want to recruit in Africa. These fanatics go to areas where there is not much hope and economic prospects are dismal, Jones said.
"We need to do things to offset that," he said. "We need to help our African friends and allies not only develop from a security standpoint, but also develop from an economic standpoint. It should never be about exploitation. It should be about partnerships and cooperation and it should have a consistency to the relationship, not just the question of being reactive." ...



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