War Crimes Act: Current Issues [Updated January 28, 2008]   [open pdf - 113KB]

"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 certain 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 non-international 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. As amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA, P.L. 109-366), the War Crimes Act now criminalizes only specified Common Article 3 violations labeled as 'grave breaches.' Previously, any violation of Common Article 3 constituted a criminal offense. This report discusses current issues related to the War Crimes Act. This report also briefly describes legislation introduced in the first session of the 110th Congress that would amend the War Crimes Act."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33662
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Via E-mail
Media Type:
Help with citations