THE SIKH TIMES
Noteworthy News and Analysis from Around the World
In-Depth Coverage of Issues Concerning the Global Sikh Community Including Self-Determination, Democracy, Human Rights, Civil Liberties, Antiracism, Religion, and South Asian Geopolitics
Home | News Analysis Archive | Biographies | Book Reviews | Events | Photos | Links | About Us | Contact Us
War on Iraq: U.S. Remembers Geneva Convention
Al Jazeera, Mar. 25, 2003
"Are U.S. prisoners of war more equal than the Iraqi prisoners in the custody of U.S.-led forces? The answer seems to be yes, given the contrasting reactions to images of U.S. prisoners of war captured yesterday. Just a day earlier, pictures of surrendering Iraqi soldiers being forced to kneel down and being body-searched by U.S.-troops stirred few emotions in the Western world."
"But it all changed dramatically the moment Al Jazeera television broadcast on Monday images of five American troops in Iraq's custody. 'Anyone found ill-treating American prisoners of war would be dealt with as war criminals,' insisted U.S. President George W. Bush told [sic] newsmen. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair was more caustic and explained that 'the televised parade of the U.S. prisoners of war was yet another instance of excesses committed by Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.' Western leaders haven't stopped spitting fire since then. In between criticising Iraq and condemning Al Jazeera, they have suddenly begun to recite ad verbatim the rights and privileges of prisoners of wars in the Geneva Convention."
" 'Its [sic] illegal to do things to the prisoners of war that are humiliating to the prisoners. It is against the Geneva Convention,' said U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For the first couple of days of the conflict, western television broadcasts have been replete with images of humiliated and humbled Iraqi prisoners. Some images had the Iraqi soldiers on their knees while they were frisked by U.S. Marines. In others, they were lined up with their hands tied to their backs. Some of the Iraqi prisoners were also seen to be shivering, possibly in shock and fear."
"But neither the U.S. administration nor the western media found anything objectionable in the images, at least not until it was the turn of the captured U.S. prisoners to be shown. Surely, the double-standards were inexplicable and Michael Kik, the Al Jazeera representative in France wondered aloud on Monday as to 'why Al Jazeera alone was being put on trial?' Appearing before the head of the Higher Audiovisual Council (C.S.A.), France's broadcast watchdog, during the day, Kik argued : 'for 10 years pictures of Palestinian prisoners have been shown all over the world, and in the Gulf everyone has been watching images of Iraqi prisoners kneeling in humiliation.' "
"Significantly, several U.S.-based television channels have now broadcast - if not in whole, at least in parts - Al Jazeera's visuals on the U.S. prisoners. N.B.C. broadcast a brief excerpt of the tape while C.N.N. and Fox News have been showing still frames from it. C.B.S. News broadcast a longer excerpt. But none earned any rebuke either from the U.S. administration or the Pentagon, as did Al Jazeera last night when a top U.S. general, in the course of a live press conference, derided the channel for broadcasting 'disgusting' visuals. Analysts say that the U.S. has always applied double-standards in dealing with human rights and the contrasting reactions weren't really surprising. However hostile, the west's [sic] hostile reaction is not free of contradictions."
"There is nothing wrong with Article 13 of the Geneva Convention that the world adopted in 1950 for enshrining rights and privileges of a captured prisoner in war. 'Prisoners of war must at all time be humanely treated . . . P.O.W.s must at all time be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insult and public curiosity,' it stated. The problem is that the U.S. is seeking to take refuge under provisions of the United Nations when the war they are waging does not have U.N. approval."
"There is more to US double-standards. The U.S. is holding 625 suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathisers in Guantanomo Bay in Cuba where there [sic] designation as 'unlawful comabatants' has stripped them of even the most basic human rights including the right of habeus corpus. An application filed by Human Rights [sic] groups before the U.S. federal court seeking an end to the arbitrary detention was again thrown out two weeks ago because the 'detainees held outside U.S. territory were beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.' Robbed of any legal recourse, the Guantanomo detainees have been chained, manacled, hooded and forcibly shaved."
"On each score, the U.S. has erred. Forcible hooding, even temporarily, is violation of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Reality. Forced shaving of beards is in contravention to the 1966 Convention of Civil and Political Rights. The continuing ill-treatment of the Guantanomo Bay detainees bodes ill for the future of all prisoners of war. 'The violations there will undermine the ability of the U.S. government to ensure adequate treatment as and when U.S. citizens are captured or held,' said Michael Byers of the International Law at Duke University, North Carolina."