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[casi] 'War crimes' fear for British troops



From:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/11/06/nirq06.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/11/06/ixnewstop.html

'War crimes' fear for British troops
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 06/11/2002)


The Government is concerned that British servicemen and women involved in
any war against Iraq could find themselves facing action from the International
Criminal Court, defence sources said yesterday.

This week's attack, by a CIA Predator drone, on a car containing al-Qa'eda
terrorists in Yemen has served only to intensify concerns within the Cabinet,
which extend to Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary. They are both
lawyers by training, as is Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, another key player in
the debate. "Lawyer Blair and lawyer Hoon are really worried about this now," one
defence source said.

Lord Goldsmith, Attorney General, and Harriet Harman, Solicitor General, have
warned the Government that if it attacked Iraq without the backing of a UN
Resolution action then it could find itself hauled before the ICC.

But defence sources said there was just as much concern over the possibility
that even with a resolution in place individual servicemen might find themselves
subject to action.

One suggested that if a British reconnaissance aircraft passed information to
a US ground attack aircraft that subsequently attacked civilians, the British
servicemen might be held responsible.

They would be subject to the ICC, although the pilot of the US aircraft would
not, since America did not recognise the court.

Despite extensive efforts by the British Government and the Foreign Office in
particular, the US administration is opposed to any recognition of the ICC.

Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of Defence Staff, who expressed concerns over
the Government's decision to sign up to the ICC, also warned against the US
willingness to act like "a 21st century high-tech posse".

The attack in Yemen, with the CIA apparently acting as judge, jury and
executioner, was typical of the type of activity over which Admiral Boyce
expressed concern, defence sources said. He advocated drawing "red lines" beyond
which British troops operating alongside US forces would not go.

He also warned ministers that under the ICC commanders might face a choice
between being accused of war crimes or changing rules of engagement to the point
where the enemy could be certain of striking first.

The MoD said that any British serviceman or women involved in any alleged
offence brought before the ICC would have to be tried in Britain and would
therefore be subject to the normal laws of the land.

"We obviously agree to share information and intelligence with the Americans,"
a spokesman said. "We don't necessarily have any control over how it is used.

"Nor does it follow that because US servicemen are not subject to the ICC they
are allowed to go out and act with impunity. Any US serviceman accused of war
crimes would be liable to prosecution in the US courts."

 Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.

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