- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2003

The 1991 Persian Gulf war ended without any war crime prosecutions of Iraqis. This time, the United States says Iraqis from President Saddam Hussein to a foot soldier accused of using a human shield could face trial.
The Bush administration intends to handle the task rather than turning it over it to an international court.
The government has several options, among them the military justice system and traditional courts.
Procedures set by the Geneva Conventions generally control how prisoners of war are processed and whether they are freed or held for prosecution.
As for Iraqi POWs held by the United States, the proceedings would be before courts-martial, with U.S. military officers serving as jurors. The same system could be used for war crimes. More likely would be the use of military commissions, or military tribunals, such as those President Bush authorized in 2001 for terrorist suspects.
"Either one of those could be right on the battlefield. It's a portable system," said Scott Silliman, director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security.
Under either system, military officers would determine the fate of war-crime suspects. Their authority also would allow imposition of death sentences.
Mr. Silliman said procedures the administration set up for military trials of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters could be modified and used in Iraq for unlawful combatants, such as the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam.
Compared with courts-martial, this system would provide the accused fewer rights and limited appeals.
"War criminals will be hunted relentlessly and judged severely," Mr. Bush said last week. His legal advisers were figuring out how the judgment part of that mission would be accomplished.
The administration has ruled out prosecution in the International Criminal Court at The Hague, the world's first permanent war-crimes court, because neither Iraq nor the United States participates in the court.
The court was established under a treaty signed by President Clinton, but the Bush administration demurred. It fears rivals too easily could bring politically motivated charges against U.S. soldiers or other Americans.
The administration could ask the U.N. Security Council to set up a special tribunal to deal with Iraqi war crimes. That is seen as unlikely because of divisiveness at the United Nations over the war.
The court has convicted 30 suspects, acquitted five and withdrawn indictments against 21. The most recent conviction was the former president of Serbian Bosnia, Biljana Plavsic, 72, sentenced last month to 11 years in prison for promoting murder, rape and torture against other ethnic groups. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is being tried by the same court, which he rejects as illegitimate.
The U.S. armed forces have been told to collect and catalog details of crimes in Iraq such as killing or torturing prisoners of war, coercing fellow Iraqis to fight, or feigning surrender as a ruse to ambush U.S. soldiers. International law spells out as war crimes acts such as to "kill or wound treacherously" or "make improper use of a flag of truce."

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