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Gonzales seeking to 'shield' US soldiers from US war crimes legislation

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] pressed Republican lawmakers last week for a bill that would "shield" US soldiers from potential prosecution in US federal courts over violations of the 1996 War Crimes Act [text], according to a report in Friday's Washington Post. The War Crimes Act authorizes life sentences for US soldiers who breach the war crimes provisions of Common Article 3 [text] or Protocol II [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] or any other international treaty, and authorizes the death penalty if a detainee dies while held in such detention.

Gonzales wants a bill that would prevent detainees held by the US from bringing lawsuits under the 1996 statute, leaving the prosecution of alleged crimes to federal prosecutors, and that would clarify that the US government's interpretation of what the Geneva Conventions require trumps any other interpretation. According to Department of Justice lawyers, the proposed legislation would protect US soldiers who acted under the authority of a 2002 presidential order [text] that declared the Geneva Conventions inapplicable to terrorist detainees, an order that was revoked after the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [text] declared that the Conventions applied [JURIST report]. The Washington Post has more.

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