In what would mark a major policy shift for the US government, the Pentagon has reportedly decided to give prisoners in US custody the minimal protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions. The Financial Times is reporting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England made the announcement to senior military personnel on Friday. England said the US would respect Common Article Three, which prohibits inhumane treatment and requires certain basic legal rights. If confirmed, the decision would reverse the Bush administration’s policy on detainees captured in the so-called war on terror. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled the Bush administration’s military tribunals to try Guantanamo prisoners are illegal. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the tribunals at a hearing today. The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday.
The U.S. military has identified the four soldiers who have been charged with raping an Iraqi teenager and murdering her and three family members. A military official named them as Sergeant Paul Cortez, Specialist James Barker and Privates First Class Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard. A fifth soldier, Sergeant Anthony Yribe has also been charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crime. Prosecutors say the troops conspired with Steven Green, who was arrested last week and charged as a civilian because he has since been discharged.
Meanwhile, an al-Quaida-linked group has released a video claiming last month’s abduction and murder of two US soldiers was in revenge for the rape and killings. The video shows the mutilated bodies of two soldiers, believed to be Private Kristian Menchaca and Private Thomas Tucker. The two were from the same unit as the five accused soldiers.
Meanwhile, in another major development, Iraq’s human rights minister said Monday he will ask the United Nations to stop granting U.S. troops immunity from local prosecution.
The campaign for Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has released preliminary video of what it says proves he was cheated out of last week’s Presidential election. In a video shot in the central state of Guanajuato, the footage shows an apparent supporter of conservative candidate Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party stuffing a ballot box on the day of the elections. Lopez Obrador’s campaign says the footage is the first among many it has received from across Mexico. Calderon was declared the winner by just over half a percentage point. Meanwhile, Lopez Obrador’s campaign is criticizing foreign governments who are already backing Calderon as the winner. President Bush is among a handful of foreign leaders who have called the conservative candidate to congratulate him. Calderon cannot be declared president-elect until Mexico’s electoral court rules on the case.
The Russian government has announced the killing of its most-wanted enemy. Shamil Basayev, the Chechen rebel leader who masterminded the Beslan school siege and other major attacks, died in what appears to have been an accidental bombing. Basayev had a $10 million dollar bounty on his head. His attacks led to the deaths of more than eight hundred people.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel has destroyed a northern bridge first targeted in the initial days of its latest assault. The bridge separates northern and southern Gaza. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to insist he will not negotiate with the captors of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas has called for the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit’s release. More than 55 Palestinians have been killed since the offensive began.
The Bush administration has unveiled a controversial new plan for intervening in Cuba’s political affairs. The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba has produced a report calling on the US to spend millions of dollars supporting opponents of Fidel Castro.
The promised funding has been billed as “democracy promotion.” Critics say it will work to undermine Cuba’s government the same way the US democracy funding has destabilized democratically-elected regimes in other countries such as Haiti and Venezuela. Cuba’s government has likened the new program to a declaration of war.
In Detroit, the Bush administration has asked a federal court to dismiss another lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s domestic spying. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of a group including scholars, attorneys, journalists and NGOs that regularly make phone calls or send e-mails to the Middle East. The Bush administration has also asked a federal judge to dismiss a parallel suit filed here in New York.
This news from the Pentagon — new documents shows senior Defense Department officials ignored requests from commanders in Afghanistan for clarification on which interrogation measures could be used on prisoners held by US troops. The documents were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Some of the techniques had been authorized for exclusive use at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay. These include the use of military dogs, stress positions, sleep adjustment and environmental manipulation. When commanders failed to receive a response to their request, they took the Pentagon’s silence as proof the measures had been approved.
The wife of slain Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayoub is bringing a lawsuit against the Bush administration for her husband’s death. On April 8 2003, Ayoub was reporting from Al Jazeera’s offices when he was killed by a US missile. An attorney for his widow, Dima Tahboub, says the case is being launched in part from the disclosure in London’s Daily Mirror President Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair of his desire to bomb Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar. The Mirror cited a secret memo leaked from the British government. A recent book from investigative journalist Run Suskind bolstered the accusations based on his interviews with unnamed US intelligence officials.
Meanwhile, an Iranian-American filmmaker who spent nearly two months in a US prison in Iraq has filed suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top military officials. Cyrus Kar was detained in May 2005 while he was riding in a taxi cab in Baghdad. Kar was never charged, denied access to an attorney and kept in solitary confinement.
And the community organizer Michael ZinZun has died. He chaired the Coalition Against Police Abuse in Los Angeles. He was a former member of the Black Panthers and brought two successful suits against the LA police department and a third against the Pasadena Police Department. He was involved in successful efforts to achieve a truce between Crips and Bloods members in Watts. He also hosted the television show “Message to the Grassroots.”