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2 Views of Geneva Accord

September 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

Excerpts from letters, released Thursday, from former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on detainee legislation.

Powell's letter:

Dear Senator [John] McCain:

I just returned to town and learned about the debate taking place in Congress to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I do not support such a step and believe it would be inconsistent with the McCain amendment on torture which I supported last year.

I have read the powerful and eloquent letter sent to you by one [of] my distinguished predecessors as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jack Vessey. I fully endorse in tone and tint his powerful argument. The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.

I am as familiar with "The Armed Forces Officer" as is Jack Vessey. It was written after all the horrors [of] World War II and General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of Defense, used it to tell the world and to remind our soldiers of our moral obligations with respect to those in our custody.


Colin L. Powell


Rice's letter:

Dear Mr. Chairman [Sen. John W. Warner]:

... Our international partners expect that we will undertake good faith interpretations of the [Geneva] Conventions' text, consistent with their object and purpose. In a case where the treaty's terms are inherently vague, it is appropriate for a state to look to its own legal framework, precedents, concepts and norms in interpreting these terms and carrying out its international obligations. Such practice in the application of a treaty is an accepted reference point in international law. The proposed legislation would strengthen U.S. adherence to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions because it would add meaningful definition and clarification to vague terms in the treaties.

In the [State] department's view, there is not, and should not be, any inconsistency with respect to the substantive behavior that is prohibited in paragraphs (a) and (c) of Section 1 of Common Article 3 and the behavior that is prohibited as "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," as that phrase is defined in the U.S. reservation to the Convention Against Torture....

The Department of State supports this legislation and we believe it will help demonstrate to our international partners that we are committed to compliance with Common Article 3.


Condoleezza Rice

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