McCain and Company Fail to Protect Geneva Conventions in Compromise on Military Tribunals Bill
Spin Aside, Republicans Capitulate to Bush Administration in Debate over Geneva Conventions
WASHINGTON - September 22 - In as statement issued today, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights said:
The compromise reached yesterday is a nearly complete capitulation by Senators McCain, Warner and Graham to political pressure from Karl Rove and the White House. The compromise allows President Bush to issue his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions by executive order and immunizes CIA and military personnel from prosecution for past violations of the Geneva Conventions. Most importantly for the many men currently in U.S. custody, the compromise bill would eliminate the right of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention through habeas corpus - a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution.
If this bill passes, the President's mere labeling of someone as an "enemy combatant" would permit the President to lock him up. His innocence would be irrelevant. We now know all too well the dangers of this kind of unchecked executive power. Earlier this week, the Canadian government completely exonerated Maher Arar. Mr. Arar was sent by the U.S. government to be tortured in Syria. He was detained there for a year based on a mere executive assertion. And we know that the overwhelming majority of men currently detained in Guantánamo are men who were guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The President called them the "worst of the worst" and wants this unchecked assertion to justify their detention. It must not.
This legislation would set a dangerous precedent. It would invite our enemies to treat our own troops the same way if they are captured. It would be contrary to our values and dangerous for foreign policy. As others - including Senator Graham - have said before, how we treat those we detain says more about us than it does about them. We must continue to be a nation that prizes the rule of law and allows those we detain an opportunity to prove their innocence.