War Crimes Act: Current Issues [Updated September 25, 2006]   [open pdf - 56KB]

"The amended War Crimes Act of 1996 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. 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 such, 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 covers these issues as well as recent legislative proposals, including S. 3929 and S. 3930, which are both entitled the Military Commissions Act of 2006, introduced by Senator Mitch McConnell on September 22, 2006; S. 3901, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, proposed by Senator 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 Prosecution Act of 2006, both introduced by Senator Bill Frist; and H.R. 6054, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, introduced by Representative Duncan Hunter."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33662
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