DoD on Detainee Operations

The Department of Defense has released the final version of its controversial doctrine on “detainee operations” (pdf) which defines the class of unlawful enemy combatants and prescribes their treatment.

“US forces must be prepared to properly control, maintain, protect, and account for all categories of detainees in accordance with applicable domestic law, international law, and policy,” the new publication explains.

Among the categories of detainees are those designated as “unlawful enemy combatants” who, the DoD states, do not enjoy the ordinary protections of lawful combatants.

“Unlawful ECs are persons not entitled to combatant immunity, who engage in acts against the United States or its coalition partners in violation of the laws and customs of war during an armed conflict or who support such acts. For purposes of the war on terrorism, the term unlawful EC is defined to include, but is not limited to, an individual who is or was part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaeda forces or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

At the same time, however, even unlawful enemy combatants must be treated humanely, the document says, and to do otherwise is a war crime.

“Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as construed and applied by US law, establishes minimum standards for the humane treatment of all persons detained by the United States and coalition and allied forces. It is a war crime to undercut or violate these standards. Common Article 3 prohibits at any time and in any place: ‘violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; taking of hostages; outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples’.”

See “Detainee Operations,” Joint Publication JP 3-63, February 6, 2008.

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