'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, November 08, 2004

Geneva Conventions, Schmeneva Conventions 

The slaughter in Fallujah has begun, this time starting with American Special Forces and some (no will tell us how many) of the mythical "Iraqi troops" sacking a hospital and in the process killing dozens. For what it's worth, attacking a hospital is an explicit violation of article 18 of the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War:

Article 18. Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict.

States which are Parties to a conflict shall provide all civilian hospitals with certificates showing that they are civilian hospitals and that the buildings which they occupy are not used for any purpose which would deprive these hospitals of protection in accordance with Article 19.

Article 19 is a loophole allowing for hospitals to be attacked if they are used to commit acts harmful to the enemy, so of course the US military is claiming the hospital was a "haven for insurgents" -- even if this were true the attack would still constitute a violation of international law because article 19 only applies if the US had given the alleged insurgents in the hospital "due warning" naming "a reasonable time limit" before attacking. Such nit-picking is not really necessary in this case, however, given that the hospital clearly was not actively used to harm the United States' forces. The Times coverage states explicitly that after breaking down doors, smashing windows, and handcuffing patients and hospital employees, the invading forces "met with little resistance" and, further, reports

Dr. Rasheed al-Janabi, a general surgeon at the hospital, said many patients had left in the past few weeks in anticipation of an attack, though some, he said, including several wounded by American bombs, were in no shape to leave. "For many days we see on TV that an attack is coming," he said. Only about 30 percent of the Falluja population is left in the city, he said.

He denied that the hospital was a haven for insurgents. "Fighters?" he shrugged. "I don't know about fighters."

One of the Iraqi soldiers, sitting on a desk nearby, voiced skepticism.

"Doctors from around here are afraid of the terrorists," said the soldier, Hassan, who like many of the Iraqi troops was afraid to give his full name. "They're afraid they'll threaten them or shoot them."

The only bit of hard evidence that the hospital was used by guerillas in the business of conducting the insurgency offered by the Times piece was the discovery of a cell phone on the hospital's roof, allegedly used for "roof-spotting".

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