Iraqis thumb noses at international law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Tribune staf

Did anyone really expect Saddam Hussein and his henchmen to obey international law? After all, brutality reflects more than 20 years of Saddam's rule of Iraq.

Just four days into fighting, the Iraqis are already committing blatant war crimes. On Sunday, the Arab satellite television channel Al Jazeera aired chilling footage of dead and captured U.S. soldiers in Iraq. At least 10 bodies of U.S. servicemen - two who had apparently been shot in the head, execution-style - were used for despicable propaganda purposes. Thankfully, U.S. networks did not show the footage.

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By broadcasting video of what apparently were executed American soldiers and other American POWs under interrogation, the Iraqi regime brutally ignored the Geneva Convention. Adopted Aug. 12, 1949, and signed by Iraq

in 1956, Article 13 of the Geneva Convention protects prisoners of war against "violence and acts of intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war must be dealt with humanely at all times and not put on display. So what does Iraq do with the first Americans it gets its hands on? They bring in government cameramen and record the gruesome images for national and international TV audiences.

Contrast all this to how the 2,000-plus Iraqi POWs are being handled by their American and British captors. They are given food, water and medical attention.

Even after the footage of the inhumane treatment of U.S. soldiers was broadcast, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahaf said Monday that Iraq is fully committed to observing the Geneva Convention. Speaking at a press conference aired by Al Jazeera, Sahaf said "war criminal (President George W.) Bush shed crocodile tears on the Geneva Convention and his hands are stained with the blood of the innocent Afghani and Vietnamese women and children."

Regardless of whether or not a country signed all or any of the Geneva Convention, such behavior displayed by the Iraqis Sunday is illegal and immoral. It should not only be considered

war crimes, but it also should be deemed crimes against humanity.

Recourse for these crimes should be fully pursued after Saddam's dictatorship is overthrown. Rest assured, having seen their comrades abused, U.S. and British troops are going to fight even harder to accomplish this task.