Global Policy Forum

Iraqis Want to Try Saddam without POW Status

February 15, 2004

The U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council will ask the United States to hand over Saddam Hussein and to remove his status as a prisoner of war when Iraqis take over power on June 30, Iraq's foreign minister said Sunday. "Yes, we will demand changing his status and handing him over to Iraqi justice to put him on trial, " Hoshiyar Zebari said in response to a question at a news conference after a two-day summit in Kuwait by Iraq and neighboring states. "In fact, our agreement with the United States and the coalition forces is that when we as Iraqis are ready, especially after June 30, after the return of sovereignty and authority to the interim Iraqi government, we will demand changing Saddam's prisoner of war status." The United States last month declared the former Iraqi president a prisoner of war, meaning he has certain specific rights under the Geneva Convention on treatment of POWs. That provoked demonstrations in Baghdad by Iraqis opposed to the move, who also demanded that Saddam face the death penalty. "From a legal viewpoint, his status as a prisoner of war does not bar putting him on trial," Zebari added. Saddam has been held by U.S. forces since his December 13 capture near Tikrit. The Iraqi Governing Council is setting up a war crimes tribunal to try him on charges that could include genocide and crimes against humanity. A statement by Iraq and its six neighbors after two days of talks in Kuwait said they "commended the decision of the Iraqi people to bring the leaders of the previous regime, particularly the former President of Iraq, to justice and to try them for their crimes against humanity and call upon all States not to provide them with safe havens." U.S. officials have said they do not rule out the possibility the United States might re-evaluate Saddam's POW status in the future. The Pentagon says Saddam is being given all the rights due him under the Geneva Convention. The convention requires that the International Committee of the Red Cross have access to POWs and that they be treated humanely, including not being subjected to intimidation or insult and not being subjected to public curiosity. It also requires that POWs be given proper food and freedom, be free to exercise their religion and receive monthly pay depending on rank.

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