From: Findlaw Monday, Nov. 07, 2005

The Washington Post recently reported that there now exists a secret overseas network of CIA-run prisons – called “black sites.” According to the Post, “several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials” claim the network was created in order to avoid U.S. laws that prohibit such detentions. But the law, it turns out, cannot be so easily avoided.

Indeed, such a detention system may violate both domestic and international laws. For this reason, it raises questions of legal liability, and accountability, not just for those who maintain these facilities, but also for those who ordered or sanctioned their creation.

As I explain below, secret overseas detentions by U.S. officials are barred by international law, by the extension of U.S. law to official conduct overseas, and by the domestic laws that incorporate or execute international treaties.

International Law: How It May Apply to the Secret CIA Gulag

Common Article 3 (CA3) of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which has been described as “‘a convention within a convention’ to provide a general formula covering respect for intrinsic human values that would always be in force, without regard to the characterization the parties to a conflict might give it,” protects any detainee under any circumstances. The denial of its protections is therefore a grave breach of Geneva and a war crime under the United States’ War Crimes Act of 1996.

CA3 prohibits taking hostages, and it prohibits outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating and degrading treatment. It also prohibits the passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without a previous judgment by a regularly constituted court affording all judicial guarantees.

Full artice at Findlaw: Van Bergen

Jennifer Van Bergen is the author of “The Twilight of Democracy” and has written an article on Dr. Dhafir’s case. Her book can be purchased directly from the author:, or from the publisher, Common Courage Press.