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<nettime> Re: Pentagon Doesn't Want Photos Sent
Ivo Skoric on Sat, 12 Jan 2002 18:49:02 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: Pentagon Doesn't Want Photos Sent

It is definitely a unique opinion that publishing of photographs of 
people in chains and hoods may be jeopardizing their rights, while 
the fact that they are put in chains and hoods does not do so. I am 
glad that CBS broke the pictorial silence imposed by Pentagon, 
because such a precedent might be used by any oppresive regime 
in the future, to prevent publishing of photo documentation of 
human rights abuses on the grounds that mere publishing would be 
the abuse by itself.

Besides, I am amazed with general complacency with Al Qaeda 
captives being transferred to Guantanamo Bay base on Cuba - isn't 
it counter-intuitive to bring people intent on blowing up buildings in 
the U.S. closer to the U.S. shores? Couldn't they rather be 
imprisoned at the US base on Guam for example?


date sent:      	Fri, 11 Jan 2002 09:04:45 -0500
send reply to:  	International Justice Watch Discussion List
from:           	Andras Riedlmayer <riedlmay {AT} FAS.HARVARD.EDU>
subject:        	Pentagon Doesn't Want Photos Sent

(cross-posting of comments only permitted)

It's good to know that Pentagon officials are devoting some thought
these days to the Geneva Conventions. But one has to wonder whether,
in this case, they're being scrupulous about legal norms or just
trying to avoid media coverage that could make them look bad.

Andras Riedlmayer
Associated Press
January 10, 2002

Pentagon Doesn't Want Photos Sent

By CHRISTOPHER NEWTON, Associated Press Writer

  WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (AP) - Pentagon officials ordered several news
organizations Thursday not to transmit images of masked and chained
prisoners in Afghanistan.

  A Pentagon spokesman said the decision was made because the Red Cross
raised an objection, contending the images would violate international
laws on the treatment of prisoners.

  ``The Geneva Convention prohibits humiliating, debasing photos,''
said Rear Adm. Craig Quigley. ``We need to be cautious in case there
is a legal action somewhere downstream.''

  But officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva
said the organization had not contacted the Pentagon about photographs
taken in Afghanistan.

  ``We have not raised this as an issue,'' said Vincent Lasser, a
Red Cross spokesman. ``They may have our stance on the issue in their
files but we did not raise an objection.''

  Photographers and camera crews from CNN, CBS, and The Army Times and
other organizations were allowed to take pictures of the 20 prisoners
in Kandahar as they boarded a C-17 cargo plane for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But the journalists had to agree not to transmit the images until military
officials gave them permission.

  Shortly after the plane left the airport, they were told not to send
the images.

  It is unclear how much authority the Pentagon has to keep news
organizations from transmitting images.  CBS spokesman Kelli Edwards
said the station has considered the Pentagon's order and decided to
air the images Friday morning on ``The Early Show'' anyway.

  Fine Arts Library Harvard University riedlmay {AT} fas.harvard.edu Rob
Curtis, a photographer for The Army Times who often takes photos for The
Associated Press, said the Pentagon seemed to be breaking an agreement
made with journalists early in the conflict.

  ``We signed papers that said we would not publish photos that endangered
a military operation,'' Curtis said. ``There are no military implications
for these photos, only political (implications).  This has never come up

  The Geneva Convention, which is accepted as international law on
the treatment of war prisoners, says the captured must ``at all times
be protected against acts of violence and intimidation, and against
insults and public curiosity.''

  Lasser said that in some cases this provision should be interpreted
to prohibit a government from publishing photos of prisoners under its

  ``This is meant to protect prisoners from a government that would show
off images of them in captivity,'' Lasser said. ``It is meant to protect
the dignity of the prisoner as well as the safety of their family from
those who would recognize them back home.''

  Curtis said the images of the prisoners would not have made it possible
to identify them.

  ``They were in red hats, with goggles and surgical masks on,'' he said.
``You would have been able to see the wire holding pens where they were
held. We were kept at a distance.''

  Quigley called the decision a ``legal policy call at the 11th hour.''

  ``We allowed people to collect images in case the answer came back''
that the photos and video could be used, he said. ``We didn't want them
to lose the opportunity to collect the images.''

  He acknowledged this had not come up before, in Bosnia or Kosovo or
Iraq, or even in recent days, when images of the detainees were printed
and broadcast all over the world.

  He said that the Pentagon has not classified the prisoners as POWs,
rather as detainees but that they are being treated in accordance with
the Geneva Convention.


On the Net: Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners of war:

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