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Proposed Pentagon guidelines will formalize the U.S. military’s illegal policy of holding “enemy combatants” without protections under the Geneva Conventions, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The new policies, set out in a 142-page final draft document prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff entitled “Joint Publication 3-63: Joint Doctrine for Detainee Operations,”include a directive that would allow the military to hold enemy combatants as “ghost detainees,” by denying access to them by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The guidelines also specify that humane treatment of all detainees can be limited by “military necessity,” a position that is both contrary to international and domestic law and opens the door to mistreatment and even torture of detainees.

“Instead of correcting current violations of the Geneva Conventions, these guidelines would shred the conventions further,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The policies set out in this document could even require personnel to commit war crimes.”

Military personnel can be criminally liable for stripping protected persons of their rights under the conventions.

The guidelines formalize a new category of detainee, “enemy combatants,” in connection with “the Global War on Terror” who are “not entitled to the privileges and protection of the Geneva Conventions.” The document then cites an extensive and expanding list of “terrorists and terrorist groups” identified under President Bush’s 2001 Executive Order 13224, and states: “Anyone detained that is affiliated with these organizations will be classified as EC [Enemy Combatant].”

Executive Order 13224, currently 92 pages, contains common names and aliases like “Mohammad Zia” and “Abdullah Ahmed,” shared by tens of thousands of persons worldwide, and names groups that are neither at war with nor engaged in terrorism against the United States, such as the Basque group ETA; the Sword of David or American Friends of the United Yeshiva Movement; and the Real Irish Republican Army.

“This policy could strip hundreds of thousands of people worldwide—including civilians—of their basic rights not to arbitrarily detained,” said Roth.

The Pentagon document has not yet been publicly released, and is set to be submitted to Secretary Rumsfeld for approval on April 16. Human Rights Watch called on Secretary Rumsfeld to reject the proposed guidelines.

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