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ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Department lawyers have compiled a preliminary list of the crimes that military lawyers and judges will use in military tribunals to try suspects of terrorism and possibly future conflicts.

The list of 31 crimes include definitions for the willful killing of protected persons, terrorism, hijacking of a vessel or aircraft, and attacking civilians and civilian objects — definitions that lay the groundwork to prosecute members of the al-Qaida terrorist network and others detained in the war on terrorism.

The draft, released Friday, also makes it a crime to use people or property as shields, acts not associated to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or the subsequent war on terrorism.

It has been reported that, in the event of military action taken against Iraq, President Saddam Hussein would use densely populated areas and buildings considered to be off-limits for military action to store weapons or troops — and peace activists are traveling to Iraq to act as human shields in the event of a war.

The Pentagon decided to release a draft of the laws to the public, including posting it on the Internet, in order to get suggestions from national and international organizations and law scholars, said two officials from the Pentagon’s General Counsel’s Office, who spoke with reporters Friday on the condition of anonymity.

Both repeatedly said the 19-page draft is a working document, to which crimes can be added or removed. As it stands, genocide and crimes against humanity are not listed in the draft.

The document, titled “Crimes and Elements for Trials by Military Commission,” was created because the administration “does not have a single, comprehensive document for violations of the laws of war,” one of the officials said.

“In the event that a military commission is warranted, this instruction will assist all participants — including prosecutors, defense counsel, and military commission members — to understand what constitutes an offense that is triable under the law of armed conflict,” Defense Deputy General Counsel Whit Cobb said in a prepared statement.

In November 2001, President Bush authorized the use of military tribunals, called military commissions by the Pentagon and White House, to try non-U.S. citizens who either committed, or harbored those who committed, terrorism.

Under that order, it’s up to the president to decide who will be brought to trial with the advice from top leaders, such as the defense secretary, one official said. So far, no individuals have been designated to stand trial.

However, one official said it “would be a fair assessment” that the United States could use the document to try combatants captured in the war on terrorism.

The U.S. military is holding about 650 prisoners at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and roughly 70 in Afghanistan. In recent months, some detainees have been released without charges because they no longer provided intelligence or posed a danger, Pentagon officials said.

According to the draft, it also would be a crime for someone to be a member of a group deemed to be a criminal organization, which could allow the United States to prosecute detainees for being members of al-Qaida, one of the general counsel officials said.

The draft of the document is available on the Internet at: www.defenselink.mil/news/Feb2003/d20030228dmci.pdf.

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