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Updated 05/11/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—May 11, 2007

1. Army survey shows support for abuse, increased rates of mental illness among troops in Iraq
2. Bush administration retreats from pledge to seek warrants for domestic wiretapping
3. German prosecutors drop war crimes suit against former defense secretary
4. U.S. lawmakers propose legislation to close Guantánamo Bay prison
5. Supreme Court will not intervene in transfer of Guantánamo prisoner to Libya

1. Army survey shows support for abuse, increased rates of mental illness among troops in Iraq
According to a Pentagon report released May 4, more than a third of U.S. soldiers in Iraq surveyed by the Army said they support the use of torture to obtain information that could save the lives of U.S. troops or provide intelligence on insurgents, and only 40 percent of Marines and 55 percent of U.S. Army troops said they would report abuse of innocent Iraqis by fellow service members. Ten percent of U.S. troops surveyed said they had abused civilians, either physically or by property damage, a finding attributed to increasing rates of mental health problems. Among troops with high combat experience, 30 percent exhibited symptoms of anxiety, depression or acute stress. Army experts recommended extending the time between deployments to 18 to 36 months to allow troops to recover mentally. The survey, conducted by the U.S. Army Mental Health Advisory Team between Aug. 28 and Oct. 3, 2006, included 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines. It is the fourth such study conducted since the war in Iraq began in 2003. [Reuters, 5/4/07; Mental Health Advisory Team IV report, 11/17/06 (released to public 5/4/07)]

2. Bush administration retreats from pledge to seek warrants for domestic wiretapping
In a retreat from policy announced in January, senior Bush administration officials on May 2 told Congress they could not guarantee that the president would continue to seek warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to conduct domestic wiretapping. Instead, they said, the president has the constitutional authority to authorize surveillance of suspected terrorists without warrants, should he choose to. In related news, the FISA court approved a record number of government requests for surveillance and search warrants last year, according to statistics released by the U.S. Justice Department May 1. The FISA court last year approved 2,176 warrant requests for search or electronic eavesdropping on suspected terrorists within the United States, more than twice the number approved in 2000. [JURIST, 5/2/07; NY Times, 5/2/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 1/19/07]

3. German prosecutors drop war crimes suit against former defense secretary
On April 27 German prosecutors announced they were not proceeding with a lawsuit against former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes. The suit was filed in November 2006 by a number of civil rights organizations, chief among them the Center for Constitutional Rights, on behalf of 11 Iraqis who claim they were abused at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and a Saudi, Mohamed al-Qahtani, currently held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs alleged that Rumsfeld personally approved techniques for torture and other forms of abuse. The suit utilized Germany’s universal jurisdiction law, which allows for the prosecution of war crimes regardless of where they occurred or what nationality the victims or perpetrators are. Nevertheless, the federal prosecutor, in rejecting the case, said the defendants should not be prosecuted in Germany because they do not reside there. A lawyer involved in the German lawsuit announced on April 30 that he would try bringing a similar suit against Rumsfeld in Spain, which also has a universal jurisdiction law. [UPI, 4/27/07; AP, 4/27/07; Spiegel, 4/30/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 11/17/06]

4. U.S. lawmakers propose legislation to close Guantánamo Bay prison
Two Democratic Congress members introduced legislation on May 8 that would require the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to close within a year, allowing prisoners to be transferred to prisons inside the United States or to international tribunals. Reps. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, and Jane Harman, D-Calif., co-sponsored the bill. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed similar legislation in the Senate on May 1. [LA Times, 5/1/07; AFP, 5/9/07; UPI, 5/10/07]

5. Supreme Court will not intervene in transfer of Guantánamo prisoner to Libya
On May 1 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider a request to stop the transfer of Guantánamo Bay prisoner Abu Abdul Rauf Zalita to his home country of Libya. Zalita’s lawyers argued that he would be at “grave risk” of torture and assassination if he returned. The Justice Department claims that Zalita, who was captured in Pakistan, was a member of a terrorist organization and received training from it. In arguing against his request the government claimed that U.S. courts have not had jurisdiction over detainees at Guantánamo Bay since the enacting of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in Oct. 2006. [AP, 5/1/07; JURIST, 5/2/07]

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