Senate Democrats


Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement on the announcement by the Department of Defense that it will now apply the Geneva Conventions to all prisoners in military custody.

“In the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush Administration political appointees overruled the advice and judgment of professional military lawyers and established a badly flawed detainee and military commission system that was at odds with American values.  Nearly five years later, the results are clear:  not a single detainee has been tried and brought to justice and the U.S. reputation has been badly tarnished internationally.  The system was in desperate need of repair, and the Supreme Court recognized that fact.

“The Defense Department’s decision that it renounces the Bush Administration’s flawed policy is a positive step forward.  While we need to see the specifics of how the Pentagon intends to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, it appears the Pentagon may finally be getting back on course.  This is a welcome development, and hopefully, it will allow us to finally get on with the business of bringing to justice those responsible for acts of terrorism and violations of the laws of war and restoring our integrity around the world.”


The Defense Department Has Completely Changed Course

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow Said Today That the DoD Did Not Really Reverse the Previous Policy.  "It’s not really a reversal of policy.”  [AP, 7/11/06]

But the DoD Did Indicate It Was Ready to Change Course on the Applicability of the Geneva Conventions.  "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."  [Memorandum on the Application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the Treatment of Detainees in the Department of Defense, 7/7/06]

In Contrast:

In 2002, Bush Said Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions Did Not Apply to Detainees.  "I also accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and common Article."  [Memorandum on the Humane Treatment of Taliban and al Qaeda Detainees, 2/7/02]

In 2003, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher Said That the Geneva Conventions Did Not Cover All Detainees.  “Al Qaeda is an international terrorist group and cannot be considered a state party to the Geneva Convention. Its members, therefore, are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and are not entitled to POW status under the treaty. The war on terrorism is a war not envisaged when the Geneva Convention was signed in 1949. In this war, global terrorists transcend national boundaries and internationally target the innocent. The President has maintained the United States’ commitment to the principles of the Geneva Convention, while recognizing that the Convention simply does not cover every situation in which people may be captured or detained by military forces, as we see in Afghanistan today.”  [Press Conference, 5/7/03]