06 April 2003

US may not be able to treat Iraqi fighters as terrorists

6 April 2003
The Times of India

US may not be able to treat Iraqi fighters as terrorists

Times News Network

NEW DELHI: Can the irregular Iraqi fighters who launch suicide attacks
on the occupying US and British armies be called terrorists because
they are not wearing uniforms? Pentagon commanders say they can and US
President George W Bush has threatened to put the Iraqi leadership on
trial for war crimes for instigating this form of resistance.

However, US troops in Afghanistan have been operating in civilian
clothes for more than a year without anyone in Washington remembering
to invoke the Geneva Conventions. This, despite the fact that the US
tactic has created problems for aid workers as well as international

On February 19, 2003, the Christian Science Monitor's correspondent in
Kabul reported an incident in which Dutch soldiers surrounded a Toyota
pick-up full of heavily armed men, wearing civilian clothes and bushy
beards. The men turned out to be US soldiers. Last January, the
Guardian published an article by two volunteers from Medecins Sans
Frontieres who complained that the US policy of operating
out-of-uniform led many Afghans to suspect aid workers were actually

Unmindful of this double standard, the Pentagon says Iraqi fighters
found operating in civilian clothes would be deemed illegal combatants
or terrorists rather than POWs and could be incarcerated at the US
naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Several hundred Iraqi civilians have already been arrested by the US
and British occupying forces on suspicion of being members of the
Saddam Fidayeen. CNN on Saturday showed footage of the British 1st
Fusiliers brutally arresting Iraqi civilians from their homes near
Basra, forcing them to squat in the open sun with canvas and even
plastic bags tied around their heads. The right of a people to resist
foreign occupation on their own territory is considered almost
absolute in international law.

Indeed, attempts by the US and Israel to brand armed action by
irregular forces against an occupying power as terrorism in the
ongoing UN negotiations over an International Convention on Terrorism
have proved unsuccessful so far. Leaving aside the irony of labeling
as terrorism a suicide attack on Iraqi soil by Iraqi nationals against
occupying soldiers when more than 1,000 civilians have already been
killed by invisible US and British bombs, the Pentagon plan for
deporting Iraqis to Guantanamo is most certainly barred by the Geneva

Article 49 of the Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of
Civilian Persons in Time of War, states: "Deportations from occupied
territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any
other country are prohibited regardless of motive." And Article 76
states: "Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in
the occupied country, and if convicted, they shall serve their
sentences therein."

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