[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] said Monday that insurgent groups are committing war crimes in Iraq by targeting civilians and other non-combatants. In a new report [text], HRW documents attacks against civilian targets and other insurgent attacks HRW says violate the laws of war:
The laws of war, binding on government armed forces and non-state armed groups, prohibit direct attacks on civilians, attacks made with no effort to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and attacks that cause civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military gain. Also prohibited are attacks intended primarily to spread terror among the civilian population. Crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population are considered crimes against humanity. Anyone responsible for serious violations is subject to prosecution, including those commanders who ordered or knew or should have known of the unlawful attacks and did nothing. ...HRW concludes that the attacks on civilian targets by insurgent groups, including al Qaeda in Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic Army in Iraq, "have no basis in international law" and HRW has called on political leaders to publicly condemn the attacks. The report also highlights relevant international humanitarian law [report text] and criminal responsibility for war crimes. AP has more. Read the Human Rights Watch press release.
The report also documents attacks against Iraqi, U.S. and other coalition military forces that violate the laws of war. Some insurgent groups have committed war crimes by executing, torturing or otherwise mistreating combatants in their custody. They have violated the laws of war by committing perfidious attacks on military targets, that is, attacks in which the attacker feigns being a civilian. And some insurgent attacks on military targets have unlawfully failed to discriminate between combatants and civilians or have caused disproportionate civilian casualties. While international law does not prohibit insurgents from attacking military targets, such attacks are violations of Iraqi criminal law for which the perpetrators may be prosecuted. Likewise, Iraqi government forces are liable under domestic law for torturing detainees and other misuses of force. This report assesses the conduct of the insurgents solely under the applicable provisions of the international laws of war.