Gonzales Says CIA Detainees Protected by Geneva Conventions; Reversal Follows Similar Decision by the Department of Defense

July 19, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies, “without exception,” to all detainees held by the government- including detainees held by the Central Intelligence Agency. That announcement, made Tuesday, follows last week’s announcement by the Department of Defense that Common Article 3 applies to all detainees held by the Defense Department.

“We applaud the Attorney General for clearly stating that the CIA is not above the law when holding detainees,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Last week’s statement by the Defense Department left some uncertainty as to whether CIA detainees were also covered. Hopefully, this newfound commitment to adhere to the Geneva Conventions will bring an end to secret CIA prisons and the abuse and torture of detainees.”

The ACLU noted that Gonzales, as White House counsel, had drafted a memorandum alleging the Geneva Conventions did not apply to many of the detainees currently held by the United States. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions bars the inhumane treatment of detainees. The Defense Department has acknowledged holding approximately 1,000 detainees and although the CIA will not confirm the existence of its secret prisons and torture cells, media reports estimate that the CIA holds at least several dozen persons.

“This welcome reversal by the drafter of the president’s policy on the Geneva Conventions takes away the very reason that the CIA got into the business of holding prisoners,” said Christopher Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The only reason that the CIA prisons exist was so the CIA could use torture and abuse prohibited by the military. Now that Gonzales has said the CIA must comply with the same laws as the military, the president should shut down these secret CIA prisons and torture cells.”

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