WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to President Bush expressing deep concern over recent reports that the administration may be drafting legislation to make changes to the 1996 War Crimes Act that may grant protections for US personnel prosecuted for violating the Geneva Conventions. Joining a number of Democratic colleagues, the letter addresses adverse affects that may surface if the United States undermines its commitment to fair and humane treatment of detainees.
The letter follows below, and a signed version can be found here: 09-14-06 - War Crimes Act Letter with signatures1.pdf
September 14, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to you to express our deep concern over press reports that your administration may be considering introducing legislation that could result in an increased threat of inhumane treatment of our troops abroad should they become prisoners of war.
According to an article in the July 28, 2006 Washington Post, Justice Department officials have begun drafting legislation to amend the War Crimes Act of 1996 in order to grant U.S. personnel new protections from prosecution for violations of the Geneva Conventions. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales reportedly has also begun discussions with lawmakers to garner support for such changes, according to the article.
We are opposed to any changes in the War Crimes Act that would have the effect of undermining the proscriptions against torture or other cruel or degrading treatment contained in the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. Such legislation, if adopted, would risk endangering American military personnel around the world by inviting reciprocal treatment by our adversaries and would harm the reputation of the United States as a leader promoting and protecting human rights.
Any changes to the War Crimes Act, which criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions, or other U.S. laws which implement our commitments under the Geneva Conventions, invite others to similarly weaken their observation of requirements for humane treatment of all detainees anywhere. American personnel and especially American troops around the world depend on the universality of the Geneva Conventions to protect them from murder, torture, and other inhumane treatment should they become prisoners. The United States cannot afford to invite the mistreatment of its soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen abroad by weakening our commitments to the fair and humane treatment of detainees in our custody or control.
Edward J. Markey John Conyers
Barney Frank Rush Holt
James P. McGovern Martin T. Meehan
Pete Stark Henry Waxman
John W. Olver Raul M. Grijalva
Jim McDermott Barbara Lee
Betty McCollum Lloyd Doggett
Tammy Baldwin Maxine Waters
Rosa L. DeLauro Diane E. Watson
Sam Farr Michael Michaud
Maurice Hinchey Carolyn B. Maloney
Michael M. Honda José E. Serrano