[JURIST] The US military has decided to apply the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] to all detainees held in US military custody around the world, according to Tuesday's Financial Times. The move marks a sharp reversal from a previous policy classifying detainees as "enemy combatants" outside the protections of Article 3 [text] of the Geneva Conventions. The provision, often called Common Article 3 as it is common to all four Geneva Conventions, prohibits torture and other inhumane treatment and mandates basic legal rights – "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples" – at trial before a "regularly constituted court." Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England [official profile] reportedly told senior military officials in a memo on Friday that Common Article 3 would apply to all detainees in military custody. Gordon's memo follows last month's US Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [text], where the Court struck down [JURIST report] military commissions as currently constituted for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainees, ruling that commission structures and procedures violate both the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text]. The Court also rejected the government's argument that Hamdan, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, was not entitled to Geneva Convention protections because he was not part of a uniformed enemy, ruling instead that the Geneva Conventions apply to the war on terror [JURIST op-ed].
Though the new Pentagon policy applies to all detainees held in military custody, it will not apply to any prisoners outside of the military detention system, including any prisoners held in alleged secret CIA prisons [COE materials; JURIST report]. The Financial Times has more.
10:19 AM ET – White House Press Secretary Tony Snow confirmed Tuesday morning that Common Article 3 will be applied to all detainees held in military custody, but refuted the characterization that England's memo reflects a reversal of policy. Snow said that Defense Department manuals already require that detainees be treated humanely. AP has more.
12:16 PM ET – In the July 7 memo, England wrote:
The Supreme Court has determined that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies as a matter of law to the conflict with Al Qaeda. The Court found that the military commissions as constituted by the Department of Defense are not consistent with Common Article 3.
It is my understanding that, aside from the military commission procedures, existing DoD orders, policies, directives, execute orders, and doctrine comply with the standards of Common Article 3 and, therefore, actions by DoD personnel that comply with such issuances would comply with the standards of Common Article 3. … In addition, you will recall the President's prior directive that "the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely," humane treatment being the overarching requirement of Common Article 3.
You will ensure that all DoD personnel adhere to these standards. In this regard, I request that you promptly review all relevant directives, regulations, policies, practices, and procedures under your purview to ensure that they comply with the standards of Common Article 3.
Read the full text [PDF] of the memorandum.