War Crimes Act: Current Issues [Updated September 15, 2006]   [open pdf - 46KB]

"The War Crimes Act of 1996, as amended, makes it a criminal offense to commit certain violations of the laws of war when such offenses are committed by or against U.S. nationals or Armed Service members. Among other things, the Act prohibits violations of Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which sets out minimum standards for the treatment of detainees in armed conflicts of a noninternational character. Common Article 3 prohibits protected persons from being subjected to violence, outrages upon personal dignity, torture, and cruel, humiliating, or degrading treatment. In the 2006 case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush Administration's long-standing position that Common Article 3 was inapplicable to the present armed conflict with Al Qaeda. As a result, questions have arisen regarding the scope of the War Crimes Act as it relates to violations of Common Article 3 and the possibility that U.S. personnel may be prosecuted for the pre-Hamdan treatment of Al Qaeda detainees. This report provides a brief overview of these issues as well recent legislative proposals, including S. 3901, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, proposed by Sen. John Warner and voted out of the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 14, 2006; S. 3861, the Bringing Terrorists to Justice Act of 2006, and S. 3886, the Terrorist Tracking, Identification, and Protection Act of 2006, both introduced by Sen. Bill Frist; and H.R. 6054, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS22504
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