Arab analysts, politicians: portrayal of Uday, Qusay bodies’ criminal acts; violates Geneva conventions

Published July 29th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Arab analysts and politicians expressed their anger over the portrayal of the bodies of the deposed president’s sons Uday and Qusay by US forces in Iraq. Some described the American move as a ‘criminal act’ that violates the Geneva Conventions, while their Iraqi counterparts viewed the portrayal as justified in view of the crimes the two brothers committed against the Iraqis throughout their father’s tenure.  


The US forces killed the two siblings after a six-hour gun battle on Tuesday, 22 July in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Two days later, the American army released photos of the two bodies prior to openly displaying them before the media inside a tent in Baghdad.  


The Arab Committee for Human Rights’ spokesman and also a Paris-based Syrian opposition leader - Haitham al Manna’a - described the American action as ‘cruel’ and in total violation of international laws connected to human rights. “From both a cultural and human rights’ point of view, this cruelty by the American administration cannot be accepted,” he said.  


Manna’a also noted the double standards in American attitudes towards the issue of using the media to display pictures of either prisoners of war and/or dead bodies. “When Saddam Hussein showed pictures of dead American soldiers, they became furious…how can Americans now exhibit pictures of dead people in a [Muslim Arab] culture that considers such things as taboo?”  


Manna’a highlighted that these actions do have a precedent in US history, an indication of the ‘spiteful’ American mindset. “The US has an old tradition of displaying the dead and prisoners of war in the media. I can recall how CIA pressure led to the display of the body of Che Guevara,” said Manna’a, adding, “This tradition is part of the spiteful American mindset - which is in violation of human rights and international law.”  


“Third Geneva Convention provisions 116 and 120 stipulate the right of the dead to burial and respect for their rituals and graves and availing them in ways that can facilitate their quick identification,” said Manna’a. He also added “under provisions 13 and 14 of the Third Geneva Convention, crowd curiosity, violence and insults against prisoners of war or the dead are prohibited. They also stipulate that the prisoners of war should be respected whether dead or alive.”  


For his part, Palestinian political analyst - Bilal al Hasan - said he was expecting to see the current resentment amongst the Arab public due to the hypocrisy of American policy regarding the display of dead bodies. “I don’t think this will have a lasting effect on the Arab public, but there will be renunciation and resentment due to the contradictions and hypocrisy in American policy towards this issue. This hypocrisy is evident following the display of the bodies of Uday and Qusay, when during the war, American fury lashed out against Saddam Hussein for showing the bodies of dead Americans on TV,” said Hasan.  


“The Arabs now feel that the American propaganda machine is nothing but lies and that the Americans are only interested in libeling others.” Hasan also claims that the assassination of Uday and Qusay was unjustified and in violation of international laws. “Iraq has not been in a state of war with the US since George Bush announced the end of the war on Iraq. During the war, the fighting armies can engage with any opponent, but when the war is over, fighting is not justified except in response to eminent threat,” noted Hasan.  


He suggested “US soldiers could have imposed a siege around the house for a long time until the time they can arrest Uday and Qusay and bring them to court.”  


“Killing them was in violation of international laws. This issue was raised by many legal and human rights institutions and they will continue raising it at the international level,” said Hasan.  


As for the Iraqi perspective, the Iraqi Wifaq party secretary general - Ibrahim al Janabi - perceived the display of Uday and Qusay’s bodies as justified as well as a source of relief for all Iraqis. “The Arab satellite channels cast doubts from the first day over the credibility of the reports about the death of Saddam’s sons, and began implying that these were just lies and fabrications. The Americans were therefore forced to display the bodies so that the reporters can see and judge for themselves,” said Janabi.  


“After the journalists saw the bodies, the Arab channels dumped the subject of suspicion and began to address the issue of Islamic teachings and ethics and how such a display is contrary to those…unfortunately we can never win with these channels” he added.  


On another note, Janabi considers the display of the bodies a matter linked with the magnitude of the crimes committed against the Iraqi people by Saddam’s two sons. He asserted, “the display of the bodies of Uday and Qusay was necessary for the Iraqis to assure them of their deaths so they could be more hopeful about the future.”  


“The Iraqi public is very relieved now and has become more hopeful and convinced that Saddam will face the same fate very soon,” said Janabi, adding that it is important for Iraqis to feel a sense of security and stability. “This has been one of those events that has brought confidence to the Iraqis that Saddam’s regime is gone once and for all.” ( 

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