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Red Cross Cautions Iraqi Soldiers Using Civilian Disguises
01 Apr 2003, 16:51 UTC
International Committee of the Red Cross is warning that Iraqi
soldiers who disguise themselves as civilians risk prosecution.
The Red Cross has called for both sides in the Iraq war to stop
using tactics that endanger Iraqi civilians.
The Red Cross said the rules of warfare outlined by the Geneva
Conventions are clear. In a conflict situation, there must be
an unmistakable distinction between what is civilian and what
While additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions
recognize people's rights to resist and defend themselves, the
Red Cross said there are rules that apply even in these cases,
including one that says arms must be carried openly.
Red Cross spokesman Kim Gordon-Bates said soldiers who masquerade
as civilians in order to deceive the enemy violate the
conventions and risk prosecution. "Somebody who
evades normal identification as a fighter is exposing themselves
to being prosecuted, if ever they are arrested. What they are
doing is denying themselves protection that fighters normally
get. Then it becomes a crime, a violation, whatever that
is up to a tribunal to decide. But they are doing something
which is no longer a formal act of war performed by a formal,
regular force," he said.
Mr. Gordon-Bates said recognized soldiers are protected
under the Third Geneva Convention. This means they cannot be
prosecuted for taking up arms against an enemy force. But this
convention does not protect armed civilians. He said Iraq, the
United States, and Britain are all parties to the Conventions.
Coalition troops have reported several instances where Iraqi
soldiers have posed as civilians. Recently, an Iraqi soldier
posing as a taxi driver detonated a car bomb that killed
him and four U.S. soldiers at a U.S. military roadblock near
Edgy about suicide attacks, U.S. troops shot dead an
unarmed driver Tuesday. In an incident Monday, U.S. soldiers
fired at a van that failed to stop at a checkpoint after warning
shots were fired, killing seven women and children. Red Cross
spokeswoman Antonella Notari said the Conventions apply here
"Checkpoints have, of course, the right to try
to defend their own security and the security of their personnel
so they may search vans, they may stop vehicles. There are certain
rules on how you proceed in that. Of course, we hope that they
took all the necessary measures to warn the people, to clearly
alert them," she said.
The Red Cross said it will not play the role of arbitrator,
but expects military authorities to adhere to the rules of war.
They said chief among these is the protection of civilians from
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