US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes

Grant McCool
US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes
Sat Nov 20, 2004 17:25

US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes
By Grant McCool
Lawyers Against the War
January 28, 2003

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 law.

"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 targeted.

The letter, which had more than 100 signatories, said the rules had been broken in other recent wars. 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 those countries.

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.


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 The United States has refused to cooperate with the court and has withdrawn its signature from the treaty establishing it.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 courts."

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 Convention. "War crimes under that convention can be prosecuted wherever the perpetrators are found," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. 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.


There are NO Statutes of Limitations on the Crimes of Genocide!

War Crimes and Criminals

George W. Bush: Wanted for War Crimes

Download & Print

Criminal Administration

US War Crimes in Fallujah

Cluster Bombs: War Crimes of the Bush Administration

Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings
Could Bush administration officials be prosecuted for 'war crimes' as a result of new measures used in the war on terror? The White House's top lawyer thought so.

Bush & Co.: War Crimes and Cover-Up

Bush 'indicted' over war crimes
The Japan Times

The War Crimes of Bush, Cheney and Co.

Bush & Co.: War Crimes and Cover-Up

Again, why George W. Bush must be tried as a war criminal

Help Us Build a Movement to Stop the War and Hold Bush Accountable for His Crimes!

Politician Urges Bush War Crimes Trial
JAKARTA, Indonesia
The United Nations must try President Bush and his allies as war criminals, a top Indonesian politician demanded Monday as protesters elsewhere denounced the war in Iraq as illegal and voiced concern for its victims.

Amien Rais delivered a letter to the U.N. building in Jakarta demanding that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair be tried in an international court "for their unjustified use of force against the people of Iraq."

Rais heads one of the country's largest Islamic political parties and is expected to run for president in 2004.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been a fierce critic of the U.S.-led campaign. Between 100,000 and 300,000 people demonstrated against the war Sunday in the capital, Jakarta.

Four doctors from an Indonesian humanitarian group, the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee, announced they would fly to Iraq to treat civilian war victims.

"We are concerned about all the innocent civilians that we see suffering on our television screens," said spokeswoman Giri Inaya.

At an anti-war demonstration in Multan, in central Pakistan, about 400 doctors also asked that they be allowed to send teams of physicians to treat wounded Iraqis.

The doctors, joined by nurses and paramedics, chanted anti-American slogans, calling the United States the "No. 1 terrorist" and "an enemy of peace."

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in war in terror, but most Pakistanis oppose the U.S.-led attacks on Iraq, and demonstrations against the war have been a daily occurrence.

In Egypt, authorities ordered the release of 64 anti-war protesters, including two lawmakers, detained after protests, prosecutors said.

Nasserite Party MP Hamdeen Sabahi, 50, and independent politician Mohammed Farid Hassanein, 55, were freed Sunday after being among scores of people detained over allegedly inciting anti-war protesters to destroy property and attack police officers.

Protesters accused Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of not doing enough to stop the war. They also criticized his close relationship with America and for allowing coalition warships to pass through Egypt's Suez Canal.

Mubarak has condemned the war but blamed it on what he calls Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's failure to cooperate with the international community.

Humanity vs. George Bush et al, War Criminals

Belgium rethinks war crimes law
Belgium's governing parties are scrambling to amend a controversial law which some fear could be used in a war crimes lawsuit against US President George W Bush.

Japan tribunal charges Bush with war crimes in Afghanistan

The International Criminal Court:
How Nongovernmental Organizations Can Contribute To the Prosecution of War Criminals
September 2004
Download pdf file (213 Kb, 26 pages)


United States Efforts to Undermine the International Criminal Court
Legal Analysis of Impunity Agreements

The Bush Administration is attempting to negotiate bilateral impunity agreements with numerous countries around the globe. The goal of these agreements is to exempt U.S. military and civilian personnel from the jurisdiction of the ICC. The U.S. argues that such agreements are contemplated under Article 98(2) of the Rome Statute. Human Rights Watch disagrees. Such impunity agreements violate the Rome Statute and should be opposed. If State parties, as well as signatories of the Rome Statute, sign such agreements they would breach their legal obligations under the Rome Statute.

Conspiracy to Commit War Crimes

Bush uses "war on terror" as a pretext to commit war crimes, then White House lawyer tortures the truth.
By Frederick Sweet

President George W. Bush knew for over two years that his administration has been promoting policies that qualify as war crimes under the 1996 federal War Crimes Act, the international Third Geneva Convention, and the Torture Convention.

An article in the May 24 issue of Newsweek titled "The Roots of Torture" reveals that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote a January 25, 2002 memo to Bush, urging him to disregard the "obsolete" and "quaint" provisions of the Geneva Convention. He advised the Bush administration to do this precisely because the interrogation methods it was already using on prisoners captured in Afghanistan violated the Convention, leaving US officials open to prosecution for war crimes.

Geneva Convention "Obsolete"

In his January 25 memo, Gonzales urges Bush to declare the war in Afghanistan, including the detention of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, exempt from the provisions of the Geneva Convention. This could be accomplished, Gonzales advised Bush, by inventing a technicality: declaring the detainees arrested in the "war on terror" to be outside the Geneva Convention -- and by extension, beyond the Torture Convention and the U.S. War Crimes Act. He gave his assurances that such a technicality "renders obsolete the Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners." Thus the ambiguity of Bush's newly created and constantly repeated "war on terror" gave his administration carte blanche to do anything it pleased with anyone labeled an "enemy combatant."

"Your determination would create a reasonable basis in law that [the War Crimes Act] does not apply which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution," Gonzales wrote. The best way to guard against such "unwarranted charges," Gonzales concluded, would be for President Bush to stick to his decision -- then being strongly challenged by Secretary of State Powell -- to exempt the treatment of captured Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from the Geneva Convention's provisions.

Newsweek obtained Gonzales' memo and strongly stated dissents by Secretary of State Colin Powell and his chief legal advisor, William Howard Taft IV. These are among hundreds of pages of internal administration documents on the Geneva Conventions and related issues that have been reported for the first time in the May Newsweek magazine. Newsweek also made some of these documents available on the Internet.

Recycling War Crimes

Dismissing the Geneva Conventions is nothing new. Fifty-eight years ago, after World War II, the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal showed that by labeling certain Allied soldiers terrorists, the Third Reich used a legalistic policy for attempting to get around the Geneva Conventions. Openly armed and uniformed Allied troops had been landed behind German lines in occupied France and Norway. In response, Adolf Hitler signed the Commando Order.

Hitler's legalistic directive claimed that Allied units inside of German occupied territory were engaged in terrorist activities. Thus the Commando Order provided for captured commandos to be summarily executed. A related order directed the population to retaliate against Allied airmen who parachuted from disabled aircraft. The airmen had been accused of indiscriminately and illegally attacking civilians -- in bombing raids -- thus making them terrorists. Clearly, similar principles were adopted by Gonzales so that Bush could ignore the Geneva Conventions to advance his policies for his so-called "war on terror."

By February 2002, the White House issued a statement declaring that while the United States would adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, captured Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters would be exempt from prisoner of war status under the Conventions. Administration lawyers believed that this maneuver would protect U.S. interrogators who mistreated prisoners and also their superiors in Washington so that they could not be subjected to prosecutions under the War Crimes Act.

The Nuremberg Tribunal had ruled that various defendants were liable for the abuse of prisoners of war. The Court conceded that some captured combatants were physically depleted. But this was not the cause of their death. They had been made to work in harsh conditions and deprived of food, clothing, and hygiene. The Tribunal concluded that such mistreatment violated a commander's responsibility to insure that prisoners received proper care and were not compelled to work in dangerous conditions. The summary execution of prisoners who allegedly had attempted to escape was also criminal. In addition, commanders were culpable for issuing and transmitting orders that transferred prisoners to the Security Police for "special treatment."

Admitting Nothing

On May 15, 2004, The New York Times published a column by Alberto Gonzales titled "The Rule of Law and the Rules of War." This was a defense of the Bush administration’s use of torture, sexual abuse and severe "stress" techniques against detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq. Reading Gonzales' article can only lead to two possible conclusions: either Gonzalez is completely ignorant of the Third Geneva Convention and its well established interpretations since 1949, or he has simply become an unmitigated propagandist for the war crimes of the Bush administration.

Gonzales’ column was printed only two days after Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and the Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General Peter Pace were summoned by a U.S. Senate committee to admit that interrogation techniques ordered by the Pentagon in Iraq violated the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, and were "not humane." During questioning, Wolfowitz hesitated for a long time before answering the question (which he first tried to avoid): "Do you consider keeping a bag over a prisoner’s head for 72 hours to be humane?" Grudgingly, Wolfowitz finally said, "no."

Sounding like their counterparts at Nuremberg fifty-eight years ago, Wolfowitz and Pace claimed ignorance of the "Rules of Engagement Relative to Interrogation" approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. The top US commander in Iraq, Sanchez had adopted a policy that allowed prisoners to be placed in painful positions, deprived of sleep for up to 72 hours, threatened with dogs and kept in isolation for more than 30 days. Each of these methods is a clear violation of the Third Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Contradicting his own January 25, 2002 memo (discussed above), Gonzales claimed, "There has never been any suggestion by our government that the [Geneva] conventions do not apply in that conflict…. The United States government understands and seeks to comply with its legal obligations and will act s

Main Page -  11/20/04

Message Board by American Patriot Friends Network [APFN]


messageboard.gif (4314 bytes)