UN Says Military Commissions Act May Violate International Treaties

In Civil Liberties, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, International politics, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on October 29, 2006 at 1:15 pm

According to an article released this past week, the UN is raising concern over the Military Commissions Act and its compatibilty with international law.

Washington’s new anti-terrorism law could end up violating international treaties protecting detainees, with some provisions denying suspects the right to a fair trial, a key U.N. rights expert said Friday.

Martin Scheinin, the United Nations’ expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, said the Military Commissions Act signed into law earlier this month by U.S. President George W. Bush contains provisions “incompatible” with U.S. obligations to adhere to treaties on human rights and humanitarian law.

“One of the most serious aspects of this legislation is the power of the president to declare anyone, including U.S. citizens, without charge as an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ – a term unknown in international humanitarian law,” said Scheinin, a legal expert from Finland.

As a result, he said, those detainees are subject to the jurisdiction of a military commission composed of military officers – rather than a civilian court of law.

He also deplored the denial of the habeas corpus rights of foreigners – including legal, permanent U.S. residents – to challenge the legality of their detention, “in manifest contradiction with” the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992.

Another concern, Scheinin said, is the denial of detainees’ rights to see evidence that could exonerate them if the evidence is deemed classified. That, he said, “severely impedes the right to a fair trial.”

Even though it’s great that the UN is saying this, I’m not expecting much to come of it. I mean, after all, it’s not the first time that the current administration has ignored the opinion of the UN and gone ahead to do what it wants. For some reason the UN seems powerless against the US, and that’s a scary thing. I would also like to know where the UN was a while back, before the signing of the bill. Couldn’t they have spoken up then? Why wait until after it’s signed to make such statements.


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