The continuing uproar over US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib has a top Senate Republican looking at the need to clarify in law the rights of foreign detainees.
On the heels of Amnesty International calling the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "the gulag of our time," Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, will hold hearings this month on the treatment of foreign terrorism suspects at the detention camp, said an aide to the senator.
Earlier this week Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described Amnesty's characterization as "reprehensible."
But on Friday night, the Pentagon, for the first time, confirmed several incidents in which the Koran had been mishandled at Guantanamo Bay prison. The incidents included a soldier deliberately kicking the Muslim holy book, an interrogator stepping on a Koran, and a guard urinating near an air vent splashing urine on a detainee and his Koran.
The Pentagon is working on new guidelines for handling people captured during wartime, including an explicit ban on inhumane treatment. The 142-page draft document is being written by the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is not intended to set policy, but rather to provide the military with guidance to implement detainee policies set by civilian authorities.
Specter, according to an aide, is in the preliminary stages of drafting a bill to establish procedures for detentions and exploring the possibility of making the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court the venue for challenging them.
Amnesty International has called on the US to close its Guantanamo prison, where about 540 men are being held on suspicion they have links to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime or Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.
While the human rights watchdog worries about Congress putting into law "enemy combatant" status, which it says is a category of prisoner not sanctioned by international and humanitarian treaties, it applauded Specter for looking into the issue.
"Any kind of sunshine would be a good antiseptic for this situation," said Jumana Musa, advocacy director for human rights and international justice at Washington's Amnesty International.
Specter's hearing will focus on the detention of enemy combatants at both Guantanamo and in the US, and whether trying them before military tribunals provides them adequate due process, the senator's aide said.
The Bush administration created the detainee category of "enemy combatant" after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and applied it to members or associates of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The administration argues that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to suspected members of al-Qaeda -- a position spelled out in a January 2002 memo to President George W. Bush from then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who is now attorney general.
The Guantanamo camp, which began in January 2002 with the arrival of prisoners captured in Afghanistan, has been widely criticized. So far, only four detainees there have been charged with a crime, and their military trials have been stalled because of appeals in US courts.
The problems at Guantanamo were compounded by the 2004 revelations about mistreatment of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad. Photographs taken by US military personnel and published around the world depicted scenes of sexual humiliation and physical abuse.
So far, only two US citizens have been designated as enemy combatants. Jose Padilla, a former gang member who was born in Brooklyn, New York, has been held since 2002 without being charged. Louisiana native Yaser Hamdi was released in October after the Justice Department said he no longer posed a threat to the US and no longer had any intelligence value. Hamdi, who was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001, gave up his American citizenship and returned to his family in Saudi Arabia as conditions of his release.
AT WASHINGTON SUMMIT: The agreement between the US and 14 Pacific nations came half a year after the Solomon Islands struck a security deal with China The Solomon Islands has joined 13 other Pacific nations in signing a wide-reaching US-led partnership agreement, after early indications it would refuse. The 10-point US-Pacific Partnership deal was announced by the White House on Thursday evening, following the first-ever meeting between a US president and the leaders of every major Pacific nation. It includes commitments for increased action on climate change, economic development and security cooperation. Earlier, US President Joe Biden committed more than US$810 million to a new Pacific initiative. “A great deal of the history of our world is going to be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years
‘DEVOTED GUARDIANS’: A Chinese foreign affairs official said his nation’s diplomats would not ‘sit and do nothing while our country’s interests are being harmed’ China yesterday signaled no letup in its combative approach to foreign policy in a third term for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as leader despite criticism from many Western diplomats that the so-called “wolf warrior” stance has been counterproductive. As relations with the West have soured over issues from trade and human rights to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese diplomats have often been confrontational on the public stage, including on social media, a stridency that some critics see as intended for a domestic audience that nonetheless hurts its foreign ties. “We Chinese will not capitulate. We will not sit and do nothing while
ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER: Most of the escaped gas is methane, the second biggest contributor to climate change and a ‘potent greenhouse gas,’ an oceanographer said Denmark on Tuesday said it believed “deliberate actions” by unknown perpetrators were behind big leaks — which seismologists said followed powerful explosions — in two natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. Although filled with gas, neither pipeline is currently supplying it to Europe. “It is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions — not accidents,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said. However, she added that “there is no information indicating who could be behind it.” Frederiksen
LANDING INCIDENT: A plane with 63 passengers was shot at by ‘terrorists’ from an ethnic minority militia, state news reported, although militants denied responsibility Myanmar’s military government accused rebel forces in the eastern state of Kayah of firing at a passenger plane as it was preparing to land on Friday, wounding a passenger who was hit by a bullet that penetrated the fuselage. Rebel groups denied the allegation. Myanmar state television MRTV said the Myanmar National Airlines plane, carrying 63 passengers, was hit as it was about to land in Loikaw, the capital of the eastern state of Kayah, also known as Karenni. It cited junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun as saying the shooting was carried out by “terrorists” belonging to the Karenni National