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Hussein and the Geneva Conventions

Shocking! Outrageous! (It's been a long time since I've had one of these…)

According to the International Red Cross, the US will be violating the Geneva Conventions unless it releases or formally charges Saddam Hussein by the June 30 handover of Iraqi sovereignty:

Saddam and other senior officials of the old regime are the only Iraqi detainees to have been given PoW status. […] "When the conflict ends the prisoners of war should be released according to the Geneva conventions," Ms Doumani said. [source]

Hang on just a minute. Who says the Geneva Conventions apply in this case? As SDB explained almost a year ago, there are exceptions written into the Conventions themselves:

There are three main exceptions which apply to most but not all of the provisions of the convention: they broadly don't apply to nations who are not signatory; specific ones don't apply to nations who are themselves violating them even if they are signatory, and some specific ones regarding treatment of enemy soldiers don't apply to enemy combatants who do not formally wear uniforms or formal insignia or other clear and distinct indication of membership in the military. [source]

But ignoring these issues entirely — setting aside the question of whether or not Iraq was following the Conventions, or whether Saddam's hiding among civilians disqualifies him individually — there's still the important moral consideration of due process.

The reason due process is so important is that we don't want to punish the innocent. The evidence may be unconvincing, or the person apprehended may not be the perpetrator. But in the case of Saddam Hussein there is absolutely no doubt of his guilt or his identity. None whatsoever. We've got the right man, the Butcher of Baghdad, in our custody.

When I see the International Red Cross, an organization supposedly dedicated to the relief of suffering, entertaining Saddam's release from custody, I shake my head in disgust. It turns the Conventions on their head, using them to protect the brutal instead of attenuating brutality. This is not what they were intended for.

UPDATE 2004-06-15 19:25:25 UTC: The Red Cross quickly clarified its position:

Nobody in the ICRC is calling for the release of Saddam Hussein. Absolutely not," Notari told The Associated Press from the Geneva headquarters of the humanitarian agency, which serves as a watchdog to ensure adherence to the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare.

Earlier Monday the Baghdad-based ICRC spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, told Associated Press Television News that under international and military law, Saddam and other prisoners of war and civilian prisoners should be released at the end of the conflict and occupation unless there were charges against them.

Methinks the two offices should coodinate notes ahead of their next press release.

Tiny Island