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Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador for war crime issues, left, and W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Judge Advocate General for the Army, brief reporters Monday on U.S. plans to bring members of the Iraqi regime to trial for war crime violations. The regime appears to be in clear violation of war crimes for three acts committed thus far, Parks said. They are the filming and airing of interviews with U.S. prisoners of war for the sake of humiliation and propaganda, executing U.S. POWs, and Iraqi troops displaying white surrender flags in order to entrap U.S. warfighters.

Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador for war crime issues, left, and W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Judge Advocate General for the Army, brief reporters Monday on U.S. plans to bring members of the Iraqi regime to trial for war crime violations. The regime appears to be in clear violation of war crimes for three acts committed thus far, Parks said. They are the filming and airing of interviews with U.S. prisoners of war for the sake of humiliation and propaganda, executing U.S. POWs, and Iraqi troops displaying white surrender flags in order to entrap U.S. warfighters. (Sandra Jontz / S&S)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Even as U.S. troops continue to battle for Baghdad, they are collecting evidence so U.S. military lawyers might prosecute Iraqi leaders for war crimes, officials said.

“It’s not necessary to wait until the end of hostilities to want to begin looking for evidence of war crimes,” Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador for war crime issues, told reporters Monday.

Elements of the Iraqi leadership “practice widespread and systematic violations of the law,” Prosper said.

The U.S. government is mounting a criminal case against the top leadership, including Saddam Hussein and his sons, he said.

The regime appears to have committed at least three war crimes for which U.S. officials plan to ensure they’re brought to justice, said W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Judge Advocate General for the Army.

The regime, Parks said, violated laws of the Geneva Conventions when they filmed and aired on state television interviews with five U.S. prisoners of war, members of the 507th Maintenance Company captured during an ambush March 23 when their convoy took a wrong turn in southern Iraq.

The film also shows evidence that some of the POWs, other members of the 507th, were executed, Parks said.

And Iraqi military members, particularly those of the Fedayeen militia, violated laws by dressing as civilians and using white flags to fake surrender and then attack coalition forces.

U.S. military officials will begin this week holding hearings, called Article 5 hearings, to determine the legal status of the more than 7,000 enemy prisoners of war in coalition custody now, officials said.

A majority of the prisoners are being held at a facility in Umm Qasr and guarded by British forces, said Cmdr. Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman. Another facility there is under construction, and could be ready for occupation by the middle of this week, he said. The second facility will be run by the U.S. Army.

The United States also is giving advice to exiled Iraqi officials and representatives of other nations, such as Kuwait, to set up legal systems and plans to prosecute Iraqi leaders who committed war crimes during the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and ensuing Persian Gulf War, Parks said.

If the United States prosecutes war criminals, it will be solely from the current conflict, he said.

The two also said U.S. personnel have not violated any laws by allowing journalists embedded with the troops to film the captured or surrender of Iraqi troops. The filming at the time is a “statement of fact,” Parks said.

And U.S. Special Forces aren’t violating laws when they are clad in civilian clothes for special missions, Parks said.

“Ninety-nine point nine-nine percent of the time, our forces are going to be in full uniform,” he said. In the “rare cases,” when troops mix with the indigenous population or fighters, they mark themselves with some form of identifiers, be it a hat, scarf, arm band or even an American flag sewn somewhere on their clothing, Parks said.

“And they always carry their arms openly,” he said.

In the early conflicts in Afghanistan, Special Forces soldiers wore civilian clothing and long hair and beards to blend in order to blend in with the population.


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