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US Pacific Commander Orders New Detainee Policy


The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific has ordered his chief lawyer to develop a policy for the treatment of detainees, to be ready in case his troops find themselves in a conflict. The commander, Admiral William Fallon, spoke about the effort at a meeting of military lawyers from 30 countries in Bangkok.

Admiral Fallon told the gathering of about 200 military lawyers that it is important for operational commanders to know what is right, before they send their troops into a conflict. In keeping with that spirit, he says, he told his top military lawyer to work on the detainee issue now.

"I tasked my lawyer to undertake a little task, because it is my intention to have put out a policy for our interactions in the event that we end up with detainees under my command in today's circumstances," he said.

That effort is proceeding in the wake of a decision by the Defense Department to provide detainees with some protections under the Geneva Conventions. The decision followed a ruling by the Supreme Court.

Admiral Fallon reported the effort during his speech opening an annual conference of military lawyers from Pacific and Indian Ocean countries, sponsored by his command. The treatment of detainees is one of several topics to be discussed during the four-day meeting, along with such topics as maritime security and fighting terrorism.

Admiral Fallon told the meeting, one of a commander's most important jobs is to know what is right, and to communicate that to his subordinates. "I would like to leave you with one piece of guidance that I put out to people on my staff, and that is that I'd like us to act according to principle, rather than preference," he said.

The 38-year veteran commander said, among the key principles are respect for the rule of law, understanding the impact of military operations on civilians, proper management of military units and training troops to act on principles, rather than do whatever might be expedient in a crisis.