[JURIST] A UN human rights investigator expressed concern Friday that the US Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [text; JURIST news archive] would lead to lower worldwide standards regarding interrogation techniques and trial procedures for noncitizen detainees. Martin Scheinin [academic profile; CV], special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said in a statement [text] that:
[a] number of provisions of the MCA appear to contradict the universal and fundamental principles of fair trial standards and due process enshrined in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. One of the most serious aspects of this legislation is the power of the President to declare anyone, including US citizens, without charge as an "unlawful enemy combatant" - a term unknown in international humanitarian law - resulting in these detainees being subject to the jurisdiction of a military commission composed of commissioned military officers. At the same time, the material scope of crimes to be tried by military commissions is much broader than war crimes in the meaning of the Geneva Conventions.Scheinin also renewed his request for an invitation to meet with US officials for discussions about the MCA and other issues related to human rights, including the USA Patriot Act, immigration laws and CIA rendition practices [JURIST news archives].
Within the US, the MCA has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups and many legal experts since President Bush signed it into law [JURIST reports] on October 17. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [JURIST news archive] has defended the MCA [JURIST report] as giving enemy combatants "greater legal rights than are provided to lawful prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions" and ensuring fair trials through "fundamental" procedural protections. Reuters has more.