Wednesday 16 January 2002

POWs or “battlefield detainees”?

I’ve never had a very high regard for Geoffrey Robertson—as if being a lawyer wasn’t enough, he invariably comes across as a do-gooder and a smartypants. And it’s difficult to categorize David Hicks, the Australian caught fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan, as anything but a vicious boofhead.

But Robertson makes a persuasive argument that the United States is attempting to evade its responsibilities under the Geneva convention “by denying prisoner-of-war status to the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters it has corralled in Cuba in preparation for interrogation, trial and possible execution.” It’s difficult to see how a state can commit its armed forces to a “war against terrorism ” while denying that captured enemy soldiers are prisoners-of-war.

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