The International Committee of the Red Cross says it was notified by Canada that in the past 11 days, JTF2 special forces had handed over prisoners to the American military after capturing them in Afghanistan.
Red Cross spokesman Vincent Lusser said the transfer is the first such handover of combatants in Afghanistan since a renewed flareup of violence earlier this year, and is believed to be the first country-to-country exchange of prisoners since Hamid Karzai formally became Afghanistan's president in 2002.
According to Mr. Lusser, the fighting in Afghanistan is not "an international armed conflict," and therefore the prisoners are not technically prisoners of war.
But he pointed out that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that anyone taken prisoner in any sort of fighting, not just recognized international conflicts, is to be protected from violence, torture and cruel treatment.
Critics, such as Amnesty International, question whether that is good enough, given the reports of American mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq.
The Red Cross practically wrote the Geneva Conventions, and in so doing, helped established civilized norms for the treatment of prisoners of war at a time when they varied widely from country to country.
Most of the critics of U.S. and coalition partners' treatment of terrorist prisoners who fall outside the current international law definitions of combattants and prisoners of war prefer to damn the coalition for not following non-existent international law, instead of recommending positive changes to it.
The Geneva Conventions did not foresee combattant forces who acted for organizations outside the control of any state. There is a gap in international law which the U.S. is trying to fill by treating these unusual prisoners as humanely as possible without according them the same privileges as ordinary prisoners of war.
These men are more than common criminals, yet they are not soldiers in the service of any state. They are outside international law as it stands.
If the Red Cross and their fellow travellers love international law so much, why not recommend creating conventions to define the status and treatment of these men in law, instead of just bitching from the sidelines?
Source: Ottawa Citizen