Ari Fleischer announces a policy decision to the press, May 7, 2003:
President Bush today has decided that the Geneva Convention will apply to the Taliban detainees, but not to the al Qaeda international terrorists.
Afghanistan is a party to the Geneva Convention. Although the United States does not recognize the Taliban as a legitimate Afghani government, the President determined that the Taliban members are covered under the treaty because Afghanistan is a party to the Convention.
Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, however, Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status. To qualify as POWs under Article 4, al Qaeda and Taliban detainees would have to have satisfied four conditions: They would have to be part of a military hierarchy; they would have to have worn uniforms or other distinctive signs visible at a distance; they would have to have carried arms openly; and they would have to have conducted their military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
The Taliban have not effectively distinguished themselves from the civilian population of Afghanistan. Moreover, they have not conducted their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. Instead, they have knowingly adopted and provided support to the unlawful terrorist objectives of the al Qaeda.
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.
In a sweeping change of policy, the Pentagon has decided that it will treat all detainees in compliance with the minimum standards spelled out in the Geneva conventions, a senior defense official said today.
Also today, the wonderful and talented Pony Blow:
“It’s not really a reversal of policy,” Snow asserted, calling the Supreme Court decision “complex.”