Last Thursday the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights issued a press release announcing their complaint submitted to the Human Rights Council in Geneva challenging the Military Commissions Act as inconsistent with U.S. obligations under international law. -- Four specific areas of concern were mentioned: 1) The excessively broad definition of "unlawful enemy combatant," a term unknown in international law; 2) The codification of indefinite arbitrary detention; 3) Effective blanket immunity for crimes of American officials; and 4) Rules on evidence and procedures that fall short of minimum fair trial standards....
MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT FACES INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE
** International Federation for Human Rights and Center for Constitutional Rights File Appeal With U.N. to Evaluate Whether United States' Military Commissions Act Is Consistent With International Law -- MCA Facilitates Continuation of Arbitrary Detention and Torture and Impedes Prosecution of American War Criminals **
Center for Constitutional Rights
November 2, 2006
GENEVA & NEW YORK -- The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) submitted a complaint yesterday to six special procedures of the Human Rights Council in Geneva challenging the compatibility of the United States' Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) with the obligations of the U.S. to respect international human rights law, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party -- and humanitarian law.(1)
The complaint asserts that the Military Commissions Act attempts to legitimate a shadow legal system which "codifies the continuation of current practices in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and other U.S. secret detention centers, places which are governed by arbitrariness and, the government asserts, are beyond the reach of the courts." The complaint brings four primary concerns to the attention of the Special Rapporteurs:
1.The excessively broad definition of "unlawful enemy combatant";
2.The codification of indefinite arbitrary detention;
3.The effective blanket immunity for crimes which American officials may have committed in their antiterrorism activities; and
4.The provision of rules of evidence and procedures falling short of minimum fair trial standards at military commissions hearings.
CCR Attorney Patty Blum said: "Whether defining enemy combatant -- a term which is unknown in international law -- for the first time or in its definitions of torture and due process, the MCA consistently and repeatedly fails to meet the most minimal standard set by international law. The U.S. cannot expect to kidnap citizens of other countries from across the globe and hold them in shackles in secret locations indefinitely and not pay a diplomatic price."
If the Special Procedures choose to act on the complaint, they will initiate a confidential inquest which could include interviews of high-ranking U.S. officials. They can ultimately present their findings and recommendations to the full Human Rights Council (which consists of 47 states).
"The MCA represents a radical departure from the rule of law internationally," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "The sad irony is that after championing the rule of law in the 20th century, the U.S. is now abandoning it in the 21st."
FIDH President Sidiki Kaba, explained: "The MCA rewards and encourages torture and it undermines the fairness of the resulting trials. For all these reasons, it would be fundamental that the six mandate-holders examine the implications inferred by the MCA and react urgently and appropriately."
Press contact :
(1) Complaint filed to the Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Ms. Leila Zerrougui; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Leandro Despouy; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Manfred Nowak; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr. Paul Hunt, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin.
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