- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

NEW YORK A group of more than 100 law professors and others warned President Bush in a letter published yesterday that senior officials could face prosecution if U.S. soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq.
The experts said violations of international humanitarian law by U.S. and allied forces "were extensively documented" during the 1991 Gulf war and military campaigns in Kosovo in 1999 and in Afghanistan in late 2001.
"Given these past violations, there is a reasonable basis for assuming that in any future military action against Iraq, these requirements will once again be breached," they wrote.
The letter, signed by more than 100 law professors and non governmental organizations, was also sent to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Previous violations included "indiscriminate methods of attack," the use of cluster bombs and fuel-air explosives, and attacks on electricity supplies and dams, it said.
One of the signatories, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said:
"I hope this unjustified war never happens, but if President Bush proceeds to war, we fear it will be a war that unlawfully targets the Iraqi people, as was the case in 1991."
The letters "are putting the U.S., U.K. and Canadian governments on notice that such illegal tactics cannot and must not be used again," Mr. Ratner said.
Britain and Canada are both parties to the statute of the new International Criminal Court, set up July 1 to try cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"While the U.S. did not ratify the treaty establishing the court, U.S. officials involved in committing certain international crimes may nonetheless be held responsible under principles of Universal Jurisdiction and the War Crimes Act," the lawyers said.
They said the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal had plans to convene a hearing in London to examine evidence of violations of international humanitarian law with a view to referring such evidence to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
"We wholly support this initiative," they added.
The lawyers said their primary concern was "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."

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