Exposed: US War crimes

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey presents the case against the government of the United States of America for War Crimes committed in Iraq.

In this article, we will present to our viewers the terms of international law governing the area, the case for the accusation and the case for the defence. We will leave it to our readers to decide who is guilty and who is innocent and how to take this case forward.

The law

Under international law, it is illegal to deploy munitions which render the battlefield dangerous after the conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), based in Geneva, states clearly and categorically in its document "Weapons and International Humanitarian Law" that "Combatants are prohibited to use weapons which are inherently discriminate or which are of
a nature to inflict suffering greater than that required to take combatants out of action".

Furthermore, it dictates that "The use of weapons which cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment is prohibited".

In the document "Conduct of hostilities", the ICRC, Geneva, declares that material and methods of warfare which cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering are illegal, as are attacks against civilians or civilian objects and stresses "the obligation to take precautionary measures
with a view to avoiding, or in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects".

Under the UN Charter, every state has the obligation "to refrain from the threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of any State".

The accusation

We submit that the government of the United States of America, led by President George W. Bush, is guilty of war crimes by breach of the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter, for the non-protection of the civilian population of Iraq during hostilities.

Leaving aside the legality of the attack on Iraq, the practices during this conflict are in clear breach of international law.

Firstly, we produce as evidence the document released today by the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), a report issued after a careful investigation in ten cities in Iraq between 29th April and 1st June 2003, in which it was discovered that the claims by the British Ministry of Defence, that 50 cluster munitions had been deployed in Iraq, were wholly unfounded.

The report states that British and US forces deployed no less than 13,000 cluster bombs in Iraq, frequently in populated areas. Cluster bombs are composed of a bomb, which has 150 "submunitions", bright yellow bomblets which lie inside or on the ground, waiting to be activated by a passer-by. The British and US forces knew that these bombs were dangerous due to the
number of children killed in Afghanistan when they picked up these bright yellow packages, for them to explode in their faces.

The investigation by HRW led to an estimate that no less than 13,000 cluster bombs had been deployed in Iraq, containing 2,000,000 highly explosive submunitions. This claim was backed up by medical records in many of the cities visited, and officials of various NGOs who claimed that the effect of unexploded cluster bombs in populated areas was enormous.

The parties which deployed these weapons in Iraq in areas where civilian casualties were likely to be inflicted without any regard for their protection knew beforehand that between 5 and 30% of these bombs fail to explode. Such was declared at a meeting of UN and NGO organisms in November 2003, in which it was proved that this percentage of these weapons systematically produced the same statistics in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, 30 years after the conflict.

This was no miscalculation with untested weaponry.

Secondly, the "decapitation plan" by Washington to launch strikes on Iraqi leaders was a disaster. In 50 strikes, tens, if not hundreds, of civilians were slaughtered when strikes were launched against an area where a satellite telephone had been used, by military forces which knew that the rate of accuracy was within 100 metres.

Thirdly, the invading forces launched attacks against water and electricity supplies, which can never be described as military targets.

Fourth, the attacks against the media, including the bombing of Al-Jazeera's transmission site, were illegal. Armed forces are obliged under international law to take full precautions against civilian casualty, not to target infrastructures and journalists.

These accusations are not based on whim and fantasy. The US Central Command has admitted that its forces used 10, 782 cluster munitions in Iraq.

The defence

Disregarding the legality of this war, the coalition forces claim they tried to reduce civilian casualties to a minimum and avoided attacking infrastructures, such as mosques, where they knew weaponry was hidden, to avoid a public opinion fiasco.

The use of cluster munitions is not illegal under international law if it can be proved that the deployment was proportional to the military result obtained.


We conclude by stating that the coalition forces were fully aware of the dangers posed by the deployment of cluster munitions, that these were used deliberately and constantly in civilian areas and that the inherent risks of this practice were obvious.

Therefore we hereby accuse the government of the United States of America of war crimes in Iraq and request that the international community take up the case and punish those responsible in accordance with international law.


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Author`s name Andrey Mikhailov