White House wary of war crimes charges
WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) -- White House officials are drafting legislation to protect U.S. personnel from certain war crimes prosecutions, The Washington Post reported.
The War Crimes Act of 1996 has Bush administration officials concerned that officials and troops involved in handling terrorism detainee matters could be accused of war crimes and prosecuted in U.S. courts, the newspaper said.
Senior officials are working on legislation that would provide protection for U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight, against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act -- which criminalizes Geneva Conventions violations and could result in the death penalty in cases in which detainees die from abusive treatment in U.S. custody.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the detainees suspected of terrorism, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for protections, the newspaper reported, citing someone who heard his remarks.
The source said Gonzales told the lawmakers U.S. personnel who were acting under a 2002 presidential order -- which the Supreme Court declared illegal -- and under Justice Department legal opinions that have been withdrawn under fire, needed legal protection.