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UK Government wants to change the Geneva Conventions

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

The UK Defence secretary is worried that the Geneva conventions place too many constraints on UK troops. The Daily Telegraph reports:

“We risk trying to fight 21st-century conflict with 20th-century rules which, when they were devised, did not contemplate the type of enemy which is now extant … The legal constraints upon us have to be set against an enemy that adheres to no constraints whatsoever.”

A key problem, according to the Defence Secretary, are the constraints on the treatment of prisoners. Ths problem thus is not the abuse at places such as Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib; or the push towards torture (more here); or even - morality apart - the strategic concequences of failure or moral leadership by UK and US troops (e.g., here). Instead, the Defence Secretary implies, the problem is that the Geneva Conventions make these things illegal.

More coverage:

  • The Guardian: International laws hinder UK troops - Reid (”But what if another threat develops?”, Mr Reid asked. “Not al-Qaida. Not Muslim extremism. Something none of us are thinking about at the moment.”)
  • The BBC: Reid urges rules of war ‘rethink’ (”We risk trying to fight a 21st century conflict with 20th century rules … The legal constraints upon us have to be set against an enemy that adheres no constraints whatsoever, but an enemy so swift to insist that we do in every particular, and that makes life very difficult for the forces of democracy”).
  • The Financial Times: Laws of war need to be redrawn, says Reid(”The laws of war need to be redrawn by the international community, John Reid, defence secretary, will say today, to eliminate the causes of legal anomalies, of which the US detention centre on Guantanamo Bay is the glaring example.”)