President Bush Changes and Say Taliban Covered by Geneva Convention

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Monday, April 1, 2002
Bruce Zagaris
On February 7, 2002, U.S. President Bush reversed his prior position and declared that captured combatants who fought for Afghanistan’s Taliban regime will be formed covered by the Geneva Convention although he refused to give such status to those who belong to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Immediately the international Committee of the Red Cross and some foreign governments that are U.S. allies criticized the failure to extend prisoner of war status to all the combatants arrested during the Afghanistan conflict. Some persons have reported that the Bush decision will have no practical effects on the conditions or treatment of the detainees, which include on February 7, 2002 186 prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and an additional 271 in Afghanistan. However, the decision whether to apply the Geneva Convention to detainees as well as their classification as PoWs has enormous practical consequences. First, the application of the Geneva Convention requirement that endeavors to provide some due process. PoWs have the same rights available to a U.S. solider during a court-martial-including the right to be represented by a lawyer, to present evidence and witnesses, and to file an appeal. On January 18, 2002, President Bush decided to deny the detainees covered under the Geneva Conventions and not to declare them PoWs.