Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A National Shame

The U.N. takes a look at shrubs "war on ..." practices, and is not pleased:

Martin Scheinin, the U.N.'s independent investigator on human rights in the fight against terrorism, said in a report released Monday that he's concerned about U.S. detention practices, military courts and interrogation techniques.

He urged the U.S. government to end the CIA practice of extraordinary rendition, in which terrorism suspects are taken to foreign countries for interrogation.


Scheinin, a law professor from Finland appointed by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, issued a preliminary report after visiting the United States in May. His final report was issued on Monday, coinciding with the report to the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee.


That would be the human rights commission that the U.S. was kicked off of a few years back. It's a sad time for America, once the beacon of human rights, is now in violation of international law:

In the report, Scheinin called for the abolition of the military commissions which were established in 2001 by President and declared unlawful by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 because they were not authorized by Congress. Congress responded by passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Scheinin said the offenses in the 2006 law — including terrorism, wrongfully aiding the enemy, spying and conspiracy — "go beyond offenses under the laws of war." He argued that the offense did not apply at the time of the alleged acts by detainees, and maintained that the commissions are applying criminal law retroactively in violation of international law.

Due to various concerns, Scheinin recommended the abolition of the commissions. "Wherever possible, ordinary civilian courts should be used to try terrorist suspects," he said.

Scheinin also recommended that the U.S. government abandon "the categorization of persons as `unlawful enemy combatants,'" calling it a "a term of convenience without legal effect."

The report called on the "United States to release or to put on trial those persons detained under that categorization."

While acknowledging the need to bring those accused of war crimes to justice, Scheinin emphasized that "the chance of ensuring a fair trial diminishes over time." He added that "the detention of persons for a period of several years without charge fundamentally undermines the right of fair trial."

Scheinin called on the U.S. to lift restrictions that prohibit Guantanamo Bay detainees to seek "full judicial review of their combatant status." The U.S. prohibition violates the International Covenant's prohibitions on arbitrary detention, the right to a judicial review which could grant freedom, and the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, he said.

How did it come to this? Do we have any legitimacy left when we condemn human rights abuses in other countries? If our own congress lacks the will to end this type of abuse, how much of an impact can the U.N. have?

We deserve better.

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