US wants to bring Saddam to trial for war crimes

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The Independent Online

Ten years after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States said yesterday that it hoped to set up an international tribunal to try Iraqi leaders for war crimes committed by Iraqi forces.

Ten years after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States said yesterday that it hoped to set up an international tribunal to try Iraqi leaders for war crimes committed by Iraqi forces.

"We believe the evidence justifies an international tribunal like what exists now for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda," US ambassador David Scheffer told a briefing.

"We would like to see [official investigations launched] ... within the next half year or so," added Mr Scheffer, who is ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues.

US officials have spoken of the possibility before but Mr Scheffer said the momentum to create a new court should build as researchers release evidence of Iraqi war crimes in Iran, Kurdistan and Kuwait.

The main target would beSaddam Hussein, who ruled Iraq through the 1980-88 war with Iran, the chemical weapon attack on Kurds in 1988 and the invasion of Kuwait.

The US, as part of its attempt to help the opposition to Saddam Hussein, has been financing the London-based group Indict, which specialises in collating war crimes evidence against Iraqi leaders.

The Iraqi Foundation, a group working for democracy and human rights in Iraq, yesterday released some incriminating documents from the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

The eight documents, onwww.iraqfoundation.org, mostly give orders to the Iraq military in Kuwait, for example to destroy houses, prepare to set Kuwaiti oil wells alight or execute certain categories of people.

Mr Scheffer said the documents, captured by the US at the end of the Gulf War and recently declassified, were just "the tip of a very large iceberg".

"These first few documents give a sampling of what is in these thousands of documents. They describe hostage-taking, looting, wanton destruction of property not justified by military necessity and orders for the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells," he said. The US also favours prosecuting Iraqi leaders for war crimes in countries where prosecution is possible, he said, but under the US legal system it would be hard to do so.

It has discussed the international criminal tribunal with fellow members of the UN Security Council, the only body which could set it up. Mr Scheffer said the proposal annoyed some states because they think it is too late to indict Saddam and want to "move on".

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