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Wednesday, May 19

Soldiers' training stresses what not to do

By Matthew Cox | Army Times

One of the defenses that may emerge in the prosecution of the soldiers accused of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq, is that they were poorly trained in the proper treatment of detainees.

Army legal officials, however, insist that trainees are grounded in how to handle prisoners and deal with unlawful orders before being sent to the field.

Current and former military lawyers say every soldier in the active military, National Guard or reserves receives an introduction to the Law of Land Warfare.

These are a set of rules dating back to the Civil War, designed to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners of war, detainees and civilians in a combat zone. Since then, these rules have been incorporated into such international treaties as the Hague Conventions of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Instruction on the warfare guide is required in all of the Army's training, including basic combat and officers' training. The guide is the basis for a one-hour class new soldiers receive in basic combat training.

Drill sergeants must cover humane treatment of prisoners of war, detainees and civilians on the battlefield, as well as how to deal with criminal or unlawful orders, said Lt. Col. Ralph Tremaglio, with the judge advocate general's office, or Army legal staff, at Fort Benning, Ga.

The training guide stresses that ``certain acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever.'' These include:

- Violation to the life and person, in particular murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.

- Taking of hostages.

- Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

``No matter how you look at it, it doesn't seem to me there would be any lawful basis for what these people were photographed doing'' to the prisoners, said H. Wayne Elliott, a retired lieutenant colonel who taught classes on the warfare guide at the Judge Advocate General School in Charlottesville, Va.