U.S. Will Prosecute Iraqis for War Crimes

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 9, 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S. Will Prosecute Iraqis for War Crimes


Byline: Frank J. Murray, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Top U.S. military planners have issued the equivalent of a broad indictment for war crimes punishable by prison or death against Iraqi policy-makers and troops even before coalition forces have secured Baghdad.

Two war-crimes specialists served notice at the Pentagon that wheels are turning to punish "textbook violations" against U.S. and British prisoners and Iraqi civilians during the current war, as well as prosecuting unpunished abuses in Kuwait from the 1990-91 Persian Gulf war.

"The position of the United States government is to do everything in its power to bring to justice anyone who, by action or inaction, is responsible for violations of the law of war," said Army legal adviser W. Hays Parks.

Mr. Parks also said Americans who violate the laws of war will face prosecution and recalled that he personally prosecuted Americans for Vietnam War crimes.

"We have begun to catalog the numerous abuses, both past and present, that have been committed by the Iraqi regime. Our troops have been given the additional mission of securing and preserving evidence of war crimes and atrocities that they uncover," said U.S. Ambassador for War Crimes Pierre-Richard Prosper.

Atrocities, such as gassing civilians, would be prosecuted in Iraqi courts under what Mr. Prosper called "an Iraqi-led process that will bring justice for the years of abuses."

Using Iraqi courts makes sense for crimes committed off the battlefield but could make it tricky for the United States to avoid the label of "victor's justice," said international-law professor John Quigley of Ohio State University.

"The Iraqi judges may be thugs of Saddam Hussein, but if they're going to try someone for chemical gassing of people a decade ago, it's critical that Iraqi courts be seen as partial and proper courts," Mr. Quigley said yesterday.

"The danger there is that we go in and it looks somehow like we manipulate the selection process and get judges biased in favor of the United States," he said.

But Mr. Prosper said, "It's not a 'victor's justice. By being victimized, we can prosecute."

Military tribunals would deal with violations of international law against invading troops in the war that still is very much under way at the gates of Baghdad.

Known crimes include false-flag surrenders to hide ambushes behind truce gestures, use of human shields, fortifying hospitals and mosques, killing civilians with mortars and machine guns to prevent flight, and transporting "death squads" in ambulances, Mr. …

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