- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 1, 2003

The Pentagon yesterday released a list of 24 crimes for which detainees in the war on terrorism may be tried by military tribunals.

The list includes offenses that could be lodged against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his commanders should they order the use of weapons of mass destruction or position civilians in or near military targets in the event of a U.S.-led invasion.

One month after al Qaeda terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, President Bush authorized the creation of military tribunals, also called commissions, to try terrorism suspects captured in Afghanistan and other countries.

Today, there are about 650 detainees at a newly constructed detention center at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But to date, the Bush administration has not selected any to appear before a tribunal.

"It does not necessarily mean there's a person who is ready to be put into that process," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday. "If you're asking me, 'Do I have someone in mind that I'm going to tee up?' the answer is no."

The administration has yet to release a list of the prisoners held in Cuba and what crimes they may have committed. Most are believed to be Taliban or al Qaeda members whose release back to the Afghanistan-Pakistan area could endanger American troops.

The United States is holding one al Qaeda member, Zacarias Moussaoui, in this country. He is charged with planning to participate in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Justice Department so far is proceeding with charges against him in federal court, not in a military tribunal.

Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that it is possible that war-crimes suspects in Saddam's regime could be brought to Guantanamo if the United States invades Iraq.

U.S. officials say that if Saddam and other top Ba'ath Party officials are put on trial, they would be prosecuted as war criminals for past crimes of brutalizing Kurds in northern Iraq and Shi'ite Muslims in the south. Whether those trials would be in military tribunals or in some other venue has not been decided, the officials say.

Several offenses on the Pentagon's list might be lodged against Iraqi leaders. They include "employing poison or analogous weapons," "using protected persons as shields" and "using protected property as shields."

Intelligence data show Iraq is already positioning military equipment adjacent to schools and mosques. The United States has said that Saddam's Republican Guard divisions are deployed with artillery shells containing chemicals. The Iraqi leader's air force is armed with chemical bombs, and there may be as many as 50 Scud ballistic missiles that could carry chemical or biological weapons.

The Bush administration has warned Iraqi field commanders not to carry out any orders to use these weapons or to position human shields.

"Deploying human shields is not a military strategy, it's murder, a violation of the laws of armed conflict and a crime against humanity, and it will be treated as such," Mr. Rumsfeld said Feb. 19.

The Pentagon listed other potential crimes as: "attacking civilians," "attacking civilian objects," "pillaging," "taking hostages," "mutilation or maiming," "use of treachery or perfidy," "rape," "degrading treatment of a dead body" and "hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft."

Pentagon officials said the list is a draft and will be finalized later this year.

Mr. Bush set up the options for military tribunals so the proceedings could be closed to the public to protect highly classified intelligence. Defendants would also have limited appeals to the federal courts.

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