U.S. Treatment of Prisoners in Iraq: Selected Legal Issues [Updated December 2, 2004]   [open pdf - 144KB]

"Photographs depicting the apparent abuse of Iraqi detainees at the hands of U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have resulted in numerous investigations, congressional hearings, and prosecutions, raising questions regarding the applicable law. The international law of armed conflict, in particular, those parts relating to belligerent occupation, applies in Iraq. The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 related to the treatment of prisoners of war (POW) and civilian detainees, as well as the Hague Regulations define the status of detainees and state responsibility for their treatment. Other international law relevant to human rights and to the treatment of prisoners may also apply. For example, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.' The U.N. Declaration on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention Against Torture (CAT) is also relevant. Federal statutes that implement the relevant international law, such as the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Torture Victim Protection Act, as well as other criminal statutes with extraterritorial application may also come into play. Finally, the law of Iraq as amended by regulations issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may apply in some circumstances."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32395
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