U.S. focus on 'war criminals'

WASHINGTON APRIL 9. As the United States-led coalition forces are beginning to see the end of military hostilities in Iraq, the Bush administration is setting its sights on war crimes, keen and intent on bringing senior members of the Saddam Hussein regime before a tribunal of sorts.

And the move has the backing of key members of the Congress, both among Republicans and Democrats. Law makers on Tuesday called for the creation of international tribunals or using existing ones to prosecute Iraqis who have committed war crimes and haul in those members of the Saddam regime who have openly called on soldiers and civilians to commit `crimes' against coalition forces.

Members of the Congress are also making it known that the drive to prosecute members of the past regime will not be a solely American initiative, rather it will have an Iraqi oversight as well. "This is about a regime that has done more to violate human rights since Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. We expect the regime and the leaders in Baghdad to understand that, down to the very soldier and officer level, that we will hold them accountable," said Curt Weldon, a Republican law maker who sits in the House Armed Services Committee.

At the Senate, efforts are on for a resolution to create an International Court on Iraqi war crimes with members here hoping for a Senate-House Bill on the subject to reach the President at the earliest. Key members of the Senate such as Joseph Biden, the Democrat and ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee and the Republican, Arlen Specter, are the prime movers of the idea.

Focus on higher-ups

Law makers have got involved in the war crimes tribunals after suicide bombers killed at least seven American soldiers and three civilians last week. And the focus is on those higher-ups in the Saddam regime who have been openly calling for violence against coalition forces such as mounting suicide attacks.

"Soliciting suicide bombers, hiding munitions in holy sites, using civilians as human shields are clear violations of the rules of armed conflict. No one should believe they can get away with such crimes," argued Mr. Biden, in a clear reference to the Iraqi Vice-President and the Deputy Prime Minister for saying that suicide bombings is part of "military policy."

The Bush administration will now have to agree on the mechanisms of going about with any war crimes tribunals pertaining to Iraq. Washington does not recognise jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court; neither does Iraq for that matter.

And it remains to be seen if the United Nations Security Council — given all that has gone between the major powers — will set up a special court for Iraq on the same lines as Bosnia and Rwanda. Another idea has been for some of the crimes of the Iraqi regime to be tried in Kuwaiti courts. The Government of Kuwait has a lot of interest in getting hold of some persons responsible for the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990,and in all the crimes that is supposed to have been committed during this period.