[JURIST] A range of rights groups, military lawyers and legal scholars Friday ripped into the deal [JURIST report] on military commissions legislation [JURIST news archive] reached Thursday between top Senate Republicans and the White House. American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] spokeperson Caroline Fredrickson called on legislators to reject the so-called compromise [press release], arguing that it whittles away at fundamental guarantees of due process and the protection of Common Article 3 [text] of the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], adding that
under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is - and what is not - a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound.Center for Constitutional Rights [official website] president Michael Ratner sharply criticized [press release] Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for allegedly giving in to "political pressure", suggesting that:
The compromise allows President Bush to issue his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions by executive order and immunizes CIA and military personnel from prosecution for past violations of the Geneva Conventions. Most importantly for the many men currently in US custody, the compromise bill would eliminate the right of detainees to challenge the legality of their detention through habeas corpus - a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution.University of Houston law professor Jordan Paust meanwhile wrote in a JURIST Forum column that the "compromise"
does not provide proper legal guidance to US interrogators and adherence merely to its standards would place the United States in violation of common Article 3 and other provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (such as Articles 1, 146-147 of the Geneva Civilian Convention), not to mention similar provisions in several other international treaties and instruments and customary international law. Those who would authorize, abet, or implement the compromise language in violation of common Article 3 (for example, CIA or US military personnel) would be subject to criminal and civil sanctions outside the United States in any foreign forum and in certain international courts.Several military lawyers also spoke out against the legislation, less than two weeks after top military counsel controversially signed letters supporting aspects of the White House version of the military commissions bill [JURIST report]. To this point, however, Congressional Democrats have not expressed much vocal opposition. Votes on the revised bill are expected next week in the both the House and Senate. The Los Angeles Times has more. McClatchy Newspapers has additional coverage.