[Marxism] UN Extends Immunity to US/UK Troops on War Crimes

Richard Menec menecraj at shaw.ca
Sun May 23 08:54:14 MDT 2004



Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes

Military win immunity pledge in deal on UN vote

Kamal Ahmed, political editor
Sunday May 23, 2004
The Observer

British and American troops are to be granted immunity 
from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, 
undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have 
'full sovereignty' over the state.

Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners 
by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by 
British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any 
legal action.

They will only be subject to the domestic law of their home 
countries. Military sources have told The Observer that the 
question of immunity was central to obtaining military 
agreement on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq to 
be published by the middle of next month.

The new resolution will lift the arms embargo against Iraq, 
allowing the country to rearm its 80,000-strong army in 
readiness for taking over the nation's security once 
coalition forces finally leave.

'The legal situation in Iraq will be very difficult after 30 June, 
with some confusion over where jurisdiction lies,' said one 
Whitehall official. 'We wanted to ensure that British troops 
maintained the immunity they already have under Order 17.'

Order 17 refers to an agreement signed by the Coalition 
Provisional Authority giving American and British troops 
protection. That will now be extended to the new 
multinational force made up of British and American forces 
which will remain in Iraq at the invitation of the interim 

Last night MPs demanded that Iraqi citizens should have 
some form of legal redress following allegations that people 
had died unnecessarily during gunfights with British forces.

'How is anyone in Iraq expected to bring a case in the 
British courts?' said Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for 
Carmarthen East, who has been credited with uncovering 
many of the claims made against British troops.

'It is taking the idea of diplomatic immunity and applying it 
to 130,000 troops. There is a danger that you are actually 
going from immunity to being able to act with impunity.'

Price said that there should be a military ombudsman 
based in Iraq who could investigate any allegations against 
coalition troops and call for further action.

The British army was facing fresh embarrassment yesterday 
when the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, published a 
statement admitting that allegations against a British soldier 
now facing possible criminal proceedings over the death of 
an Iraqi civilian during an arrest were initially dismissed by 
the forces.

The Crown Prosecution Service is considering pressing 
criminal charges against the soldier over the same incident. 
'The case currently under consideration by the CPS was 
referred to the Attorney General after charges were 
dismissed by the soldier's commanding officer,' Goldsmith 

'In these circumstances, the case cannot be tried by court 

Earlier this month the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, 
said all allegations of mistreatment by British troops were 
thoroughly investigated by the Royal Military Police 
Special Investigations Branch.

The soldier's case is one of the two which he said had now 
reached 'an advanced stage with decisions on prosecutions 
pending'. The first picture of how the new Iraq will look 
after the handover is now starting to emerge. Senior 
diplomatic sources told The Observer that the new UN 
resolution, which will give a legal basis to the Iraqi interim 
government, will be published in the middle of next month.

It is likely to say that this government should be able to 
give 'strategic direction' to the multinational force although 
it will not take over full command, a move that has already 
been rejected by the American and British armies.

Iraq's new ministers will also take over control of the 
prisons, including the notorious Abu Ghraib jail where 
Americans have been photographed and videotaped 
abusing prisoners.

It will also be allowed to equip its army, run a police force 
and all of the departments of state.

'We will give full sovereignty back,' said one source closely 
involved in the negotiations. 'There must be a partnership 
between the Iraqi government and the multi-national force. 
There can't be subservience.'

Iraq will be allowed to control its oil revenues, which will 
raise $48 billion a year within the next three years, although 
it will have to pay tens of billions of pounds in reparations 
imposed following the Gulf war. After the invasion and 
occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1990 
and the subsequent war, the UN oversaw a reparations 
programme, mostly payable to the Kuwaiti government. 
Iraq has so far paid $18bn funded from its oil reserves.

After the new resolution is passed it will still have to use a 
proportion of its revenues to pay off the outstanding amount.

Diplomatic sources made it clear, however, that after the 
handover a lot of work would go into debt relief for areas 
of the country, particularly around Baghdad and in the north, 
where there are high levels of poverty. 

More information about the Marxism mailing list