- NEW YORK
(Reuters) - A group of U.S. law professors opposed to a possible
war on Iraq warned U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday that
he and senior government officials could be prosecuted for war
crimes if military tactics violated international humanitarian
- "Our primary concern ... is the large
number of civilian casualties that may result should U.S. and
coalition forces fail to comply with international humanitarian
law in using force against Iraq," the group, led by the New
York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a letter to
Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
- The group cited the particular need for U.S.
and coalition forces to abide by humanitarian law requiring
warring parties to distinguish between military and civilian
areas, use only the level of force that is militarily necessary
and to use weaponry that is proportionate to what is being
- The letter, which had more than 100
signatories, said the rules had been broken in other recent
- It said air strikes on populated cities,
carpet bombing and the use of fuel-air explosives were examples
of inappropriate military action taken during the 1991 Gulf War,
the 1999 Kosovo campaign and the 2001 Afghan conflict that led
to civilian casualties and might be used again in Iraq.
- The letter to Bush and Rumsfeld coincided with
similar notes sent this week to British Prime Minister Tony
Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien by lawyers in
- Ironically, Bush on Wednesday advised Iraqi
officers and soldiers to disobey any orders to use weapons of
mass destruction in the event of a conflict. "If you choose
to do so, when Iraq is liberated, you will be treated, tried and
persecuted as a war criminal," he said.
- On Sunday, Rumsfeld said he would favor
granting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and senior Iraqi leaders
immunity from possible war crimes prosecution if it would clear
the way for their exile and avoid a war.
- INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
- Government officials in Britain and Canada
could theoretically be investigated by the new International
Criminal Court in The Hague if it was determined that
international laws had been broken in war. The United States has
refused to cooperate with the court and has withdrawn its
signature from the treaty establishing it.
- The letter to Blair, dated Jan. 22, from
Public Interest Lawyers said that if Britain's actions in Iraq
were deemed possible war crimes, "we, and others, will take
steps to ensure that you, and other leaders of the U.K.
government are held accountable."
- The Canadian group, Lawyers Against the War,
said in its letter dated Jan. 20, that it was putting Chretien's
government on notice that without explicit U.N. Security Council
approval for a war on Iraq, "we will pursue all responsible
government officials on charges of murder and crimes against
humanity in both the Canadian and the international criminal
- One of the leading signatories to the letter
to Bush said although Washington was not a party to the ICC,
U.S. officials could still be prosecuted under the Geneva
- "War crimes under that convention can be
prosecuted wherever the perpetrators are found," said
Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional
- He said the situation could be likened to the
attempt by a Spanish magistrate to prosecute former Chilean
military dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1996 for human rights
violations during his rule.
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