The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Democracy has failed

Ed Board doesn’t agree with the Military Commissions Act

The Senate joined the House of Representatives on Thursday, Sept. 28, as it voted to approve Senate bill 3930, otherwise known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This bill, which changes the system of interrogating and prosecuting enemy combatants, violates both basic human rights as outlined in the Geneva Conventions and American constitutional values, and places more power in the hands of the president, taking away power from the judiciary, which is supposed to act as a check of the executive branch.

Although the bill specifically prohibits “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, including “cruel or inhuman treatment,” the outlined definition in the bill of what constitutes “cruel or inhuman treatment” leaves room for the CIA to continue using harsh interrogation tactics including prolonged sleep deprivation. Furthermore, the bill makes it more difficult to determine whether “cruel and inhuman punishment” is actually occurring during interrogation, as it prohibits enemy combatants from filing lawsuits that claim their rights under the Geneva Conventions are being violated. This right to file lawsuits is provided by the habeas corpus provision of the Constitution, which the Supreme Court in 1969 called “the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against lawless state action.”

Proponents of the bill say that the war against terrorism is justification for such limits of basic human and legal rights. The tactics used by terrorists are uniquely despicable-the horrors of acts of terrorism do seem to exceed the horrors of acts of war as terrorism focuses more on civilians and is far less expected than acts of war. We have, undoubtedly, been severely violated, but, regardless of the personal sentiments that have been generated by the acts of terrorism committed against us, it is essential that we continue to adhere to the international standards we would expect any other country to uphold.

Regardless of whether one believes the actions of terrorists justify the suspension of their basic human rights, we, Ed Board, do not believe. There is yet another aspect of the bill that is cause for serious concern. This bill specifically allows the president to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions. Basically, this gives the president the power to authorize interrogation tactics that could be viewed as unlawful by international courts. This also takes power away from Congress and the judiciary to decide what is lawful and what is unlawful. In determining the treatment of detainees, the executive branch is therefore not held accountable by anything or anyone. This is dangerous in both the message it sends to the world about the U.S. consideration of the rule of law and the precedence it sets for allowing the executive branch to stay out of the reach of the judiciary.

The detainee bill devalues the basic principles of our democracy and is the wrong message for the U.S. to send to the rest of the world regarding our opinion of human rights. As a world leader, the U.S. should be setting a better example; by ignoring this country’s essential legal tenants, this bill tells the world that democracy has failed.

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