Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

A GOOD ANALYSIS OF THE SADDAM P.O.W. ISSUE can be found here. (Link via the Conspiracy) The basic gist: contrary to what you may be hearing/reading in the mainstream media, Saddam's current P.O.W. status has no impact whatsoever on whether the Iraqis will eventually be able to try him for war crimes. It had been suggested that now that he's been classified as a P.O.W. the United States would have to try him for war crimes, if he were going to be tried at all. Mr. Carter lays out, with cites to the Geneva Convention, why that's not so.

But if you think about it, that just makes sense. Virtually all of the crimes for which Saddam will be tried took place before the invasion, and don't involve the Americans at all. Under the "the U.S. must now try him" theory, a person declared a P.O.W. can only be tried in military commissions belonging to the occupying power. If this theory is correct, it produces all sorts of crazy results.

Take the case of a hypothetical Iraqi soldier, whom we'll call Ali. Before being conscripted into the army, Ali was a petty thief who stole air conditioners from apartments in the upscale neighborhoods of Baghdad. Early in the war, Ali is captured in the battle of Umm Qasr by British soldiers, who detain him as a P.O.W. Under the theory being promoted by the news agencies, only the Coalition could try Ali, not just for any violations of the law of war he may have committed but also for his past air conditioner theft. Iraqi civilian authorities would have lost the power to try him for that crime forever. And even if we assume that military commissions have jurisdiction over all past unpunished misdeeds committed by captured prisoners of war (which is, to say the least, a stretch) it's hard to believe that the Coalition would be all that interested in punishing old air conditioner thefts, or any number of other petty crimes committed before their arrival. Which means that when hostilities have ended and Ali and his fellow P.O.W.s are repatriated to Iraq they will be immunized, forever, from the possibility of prosecution for their pre-war crimes.

As I said: crazy results.