Gonzales Asks for Protection from ‘War Crime’ Statute

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts. Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

Anybody know the context of the 1996 law? Why did it come out of committee and get passed? What was happening in the news at the time – or did it pass by easily?

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2 thoughts on “Gonzales Asks for Protection from ‘War Crime’ Statute

  1. Jon

    It appears that it was basically a housekeeping bill, meant to finally (forty years late) enact the legal sanctions for breaches of the Geneva or Hague Conventions, since the simple ratification of those treaties didn’t actually change US law. Interestingly, it was written and introduced in the House by Walter “freedom fries” Jones (R-NC) and championed (as much as something with no opposition can be championed) in the senate by James Inhofe (R-OK), and the only thing anyone apparently had a problem with was the death penalty provision — but because opponents were anti-death-penalty, not because criminals in a future administration might be subject to it.

    The law itself: US Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 118, § 2441.

    Remarks in the House at passage, remarks in the Senate at passage.

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