Human rights group: US committing war crimes in Iraq

Published January 14th, 2004 - 02:00 GMT

Human Rights Watch said US troops had violated international rules of war by destroying civilian houses that were the suspected homes of Iraqi fighters or former officials of ousted leader Saddam Hussein's government. 


The rights group said it had written to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking him to ensure that American troops operating in Iraq adhere to the Geneva Conventions.  


"At least four house demolitions over the past two months appeared to be for purposes of punishing families of suspected insurgents or compelling their cooperation," HRW said in a statement.  


"Destroying civilian property as a reprisal or deterrent amounts to collective punishment, which is prohibited by the 1949 Geneva Conventions," HRW said.  


"Troops... can only destroy a civilian structure when it is being used in an attack... These demolitions did not meet the test of military necessity," HRW director Kenneth Roth said.  


In two instances, HRW said American troops arrested the family of an individual suspected to be opposed to the US-led occupation governing Iraq.  


The group further said US soldiers had held the wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former top aide to Saddam Hussein, for six weeks before they were released.  


"Detaining persons for the purpose of compelling actions from the opposing side amounts to hostage-taking, which is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, in other words, a war crime," HRW said. (

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