President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act into law on October 17th. The law was put into action to affect detainees in prisons like Guantanamo Bay. It revokes the detainees’ right to habeas corpus, renders the Geneva Conventions unenforceable in court, and declares that Bush has the right to interpret the meaning of the Geneva Conventions.
Detainees use a writ of habeas corpus to seek release from unlawful imprisonment. It is a court order addressed to a prison official that calls for the detainee to be brought into court so that a judge can determine whether or not the detainee should be imprisoned. Revoking this right will inevitably lead to innocents being unlawfully imprisoned. Detainees who are not charged with crimes will likely sit in the prisons because they are now unable to challenge the justness of their imprisonment.
The Geneva Conventions consist of four treaties that set international law for humanitarian concerns. The Military Commissions Act states that a detainee cannot use the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights in any US court. The detainees are unable to contest in court that they have been unlawfully tortured or punished because the Geneva Conventions are nearly meaningless in court. The detainees have no law to use to justify their positions anymore, which almost guarantees that they will remain in prison because they don’t have a strong defense to present to the court.
Furthermore, the act declares that President Bush has the right to interpret the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, and thus define what is and is not torture. This gives Bush the ability to hold detainees indefinitely, and justify violations of human rights. Also, the act pardons Bush and other CIA officials for past or future violations because Bush can simply say that they were not torture. His definition of torture is much different than international definition, stating that torture is only punishable by law when organ failure or death occurs. The problems with this theory are clear as the definition of torture expands into a realm much larger than organ failure and death.
Thus, the Military Commissions Act restricts detainees’ rights to humane treatment and fair court procedures. The act will inevitably lead to further infringements of international law regarding the treatment of detainees.