Washington, DC -- Today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, issued the following statement in opposition to the President’s signing of military tribunals legislation passed by the House and Senate prior to recess, which grants retroactive immunity to American officials who may have ordered or committed war crimes since 1997.  The new law will also make certain interrogation techniques prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions as cruel or degrading, legal under American law.

Rep. Markey is a long-standing advocate for human rights, and has led the fight in the House to end the practice of extraordinary rendition, in which prisoners in U.S. custody are transferred to other countries for interrogation, many of whom are known to practice torture.  He is the author of H.R. 952, the Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act, which would outlaw the use of extraordinary rendition as well as the use of so-called “diplomatic assurances” as the basis for transfers of persons to countries that are known human rights violators.   Markey has also led Democratic efforts to tighten up homeland security for air cargo, shipping containers, and nuclear and chemical facilities.

Markey said, “This legislation will not make us more secure.  It will endanger American personnel overseas, undermine the Geneva Conventions, and give a get-out-of-jail-free card to people who may have committed war crimes.”  

“If an American is captured in North Korea, Iran, Syria or Somalia and held and interrogated under the same kangaroo-court process this new law will create, every American would be outraged at the miscarriage of justice.”

“Apparently, the War on Terror is so important to some of our Republican friends that they think we must sacrifice our Constitution and our moral and ethical principles, but not so important that they are willing to ask large corporations to spend a little money to make America less vulnerable to terrorist attack.”

“The public is tired of Republican leaders who are willing to sacrifice the moral high ground that America has always stood on in order to pursue the war on terror, but are completely unwilling to do what is really necessary to protect our country from an actual terrorist attack – implement air cargo screening, nuclear scanning of ship cargo, or enact meaningful chemical and nuclear facility security.”  

“Everything about this bill stinks of desperate election-year politics.  After repeatedly saying ‘time is running out,’ President Bush decided to wait 19 days to sign this bill in an attempt to keep the Republican scandals from drowning his message on the evening news.”

“Instead, the Republicans seek to exploit and expand the public’s fear of terrorism to enact laws that will give legal sanction to the use of cruel and degrading prisoner interrogation techniques that are inconsistent with our Constitution and with the Geneva Conventions,” Markey concluded.

For more on Rep. Markey’s work on banning torture and extraordinary rendition, please visit http://markey.house.gov

October 17, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein