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Detainees already treated humanely, DOD lawyer tells Senate Judiciary Committee

[JURIST] A lawyer for the US Department of Defense (DOD) told the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday that US military treatment of detainees complies with Article 3 [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], even though the Bush administration had insisted until last week that detainees designated as enemy combatants were not entitled to Geneva protections. Responding to senators' questions, Daniel Dell'Orto, the Pentagon's principal deputy general counsel, said that detainees' treatment already meets or exceeds the Article 3 standard. Read Dell'Orto's prepared remarks. At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow also said that detainees have been treated humanely, while denying that last week's DOD memo [JURIST report] stating that Common Article 3 would apply to all detainees in military custody was a reversal of policy.

The Judiciary Committee hearing [committee materials] on military commissions [JURIST news archive] for detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] follows the US Supreme Court's decision last month in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [text], which held that the commissions as constituted by President Bush lack proper legal authorization [JURIST report]. Bush has said he would work with congressional leaders [JURIST report] on legislation that would allow military trials to go forward while addressing the concerns of the court. At Tuesday's hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] said Congress would not give the Pentagon a "blank check" to establish standards for detainee trials, while Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] denounced "kangaroo court procedures." According to his prepared statement [text], Leahy said:

Military commissions should not be set up as a sham. They should be consistent with the high-standard of American military justice that has worked for decades. If they are to be United States military commissions, they should dispense just punishment fairly, not just be an easier way to punish.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) told reporters [JURIST report] Monday that floor action on legislation governing procedures for military commissions is unlikely until after Labor Day. AP has more. VOA has additional coverage.

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