For Immediate Release: May 15, 2012
New York City – Human Rights First called on Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to address concerns about the distribution of anti-Muslim materials for U.S. military training. In a public letter sent yesterday, the organization condemned not only the virulent nature of the materials, but the distributors’ disregard for the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. The materials spoke, for example, of killing civilian Muslims and destroying entire population centers, conduct that would amount not only to war crimes, but possibly crimes against humanity and genocide, as well.
“Publicity surrounding this incident has rightly centered on the discriminatory nature of the materials,” stated Human Rights First’s Gabor Rona in the letter. “But we are equally distressed by an aspect that has received less attention: the cavalier and ignorant dismissal of the principles and rules of distinction and proportionality reflected in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. In a nation committed to equality under the rule of law, this aspect of the materials is as disturbing as their anti-Islamic nature. Military personnel are supposed to be well trained in the applicability of the law of armed conflict, even if the military cannot train away their personal prejudices. The military must also reinforce the point that law trumps any personal religious beliefs of members of the military.”
Human Rights First asks that the investigation into the materials, led by Major General Rudesheim, address rule of law violations presented by the publications as well as their discriminatory nature. The investigation should confirm the U.S. military’s commitment to train its personnel to comply with humanitarian law. It should identify and lead to the removal of materials and courses in which adherence to the fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law is questioned and assure appropriate measures of accountability for individuals who are found to be responsible.
“Particularly in light of President Obama’s assertion that we should ‘look forward not backwards’ on the issue of torture, it is imperative that the military not create yet another example of impunity in this matter,” Rona concluded.