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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
The war crimes paper trail
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein is one of the alleged war ciminals
By the BBC's Home Affairs Correspondent Jon Silverman

The "paper trail " which incriminates Iraqi leaders in war crimes is enormous according to researchers.

A vast haul of documents was seized when the Allies liberated Kuwait during the Gulf War and millions more documents were removed from Northern Iraq by Human Rights Watch and the US government.

A vast repository of material is now stored at the University of Colorado.

Experts say that the bureaucracy of the Iraqi regime is similar to that of the Nazis in that written authorisation and warrants are required for everything - even down to the issue of bullets used in political executions.

Three options

There are three pieces of international law which would allow for prosecutions of Iraqi leaders - the Torture Convention, the Geneva Convention and the Genocide Convention.

The latter can be discounted for the moment because under it, a suspect would have to be tried either in the country of origin (i.e. Iraq itself) or before an international war crimes tribunal. As yet, such a tribunal does not exist for Iraq.

More promising is the Geneva Convention, which confers universal jurisdiction. In other words, if an Iraqi suspect arrived on the territory of a signatory state, the authorities would be obliged to arrest.

The Torture Convention dates from 1984 so it would only apply to crimes committed some time after that.

War crimes tribunal

The United States ambassador-at-large for war crimes, David Sheffer, would like to see a war crimes tribunal for Iraq similar to those set up for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The Iraqi National Congress, headquartered in London, also supports such a move. But two members of the UN Security Council, Russia and France, are opposed to such a tribunal.

The evidential material supplied by Indict will be offered to a number of European governments to encourage them to arrest Iraqi suspects who arrive on their territory.

Some countries are believed to more sympathetic than others. Both Belgium and Spain vigorously pursued the extradition of the former Chilean dictator, General Pinochet, and it is assumed might be willing to prosecute Iraqi war crimes suspects.

But even if no-one stands trial, the issuing of indictments will probably achieve one object. Any Iraqi on the list will be less likely to travel beyond a small coterie of states friendly to Saddam for fear of being arrested.

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25 Jul 00 | Middle East
Call to indict Iraqi 'war criminals'
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