UN rights commissioner calls for probe into Fallujah violations

UN rights commissioner calls for probe into Fallujah violations

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former UN war crimes chief prosecutor Louise Arbour issued a statement Tuesday expressing "deep concern" over the situation of civilians in Fallujah and calling for an investigation into possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law:

There have been a number of reports during the current confrontation alleging violations of the rules of war designed to protect civilians and combatants. The High Commissioner is particularly worried over poor access by civilians still in the city to the delivery of humanitarian aid and about the lack of information regarding the number of civilians casualties.

The High Commissioner considers that all violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated and those responsible for breaches — including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields — must be brought to justice, be they members of the Multinational Force or insurgents.

Read the full press release. Reported incidents alleging violations of the rules of war include the Saturday shooting by a US marine of a wounded, unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a Fallujah mosque who was said to be pretending to be dead, now under investigation by the US military (see this previous report on JURIST's Paper Chase for more). Additionally, an AP photographer who witnessed the siege of Fallujah reports seeing US forces shoot dead a family of five attempting to cross the Euphrates River in an attempt to flee the city. AP has more.

Arbour's statement Tuesday marks the first time the former ICTY Chief Prosecutor and Canadian Supreme Court justice has called for an investigation into war crimes abuses in Fallujah, although rights groups have accused both sides of breaking rules designed to protect civilians and wounded combatants during conflict. Last week, Amnesty International released this statement expressing concern about violations of the rules of war in Fallujah. Reuters has more.

11:44 AM ET – Amnesty International Tuesday renewed its call for urgent action to prevent war crimes in Fallujah, saying:

Unequivocal orders for the proper treatment of unarmed and wounded insurgents must be issued or reinforced to all US and Iraqi military and civilian personnel. US and Iraqi forces should be clear that under international law they have an obligation to protect and provide necessary medical attention to wounded insurgents who are no longer posing a threat, as well as to civilians.

The deliberate shooting of unarmed and wounded fighters who pose no immediate threat is a war crime under international law and there is therefore an obligation on the US authorities to investigate all such reports and to hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable before the law. Such investigations should be open and transparent and the findings should be made public. Any potential witnesses should be protected.

Read the full Amnesty press release.