Guantanamo prosecutors charge Iraqi with unlawful war tactics

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:21pm EDT


Under the Iron Dome

Sirens sound as rockets land deep inside Israel.  Slideshow 

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - An Iraqi prisoner identified as a senior al Qaeda commander has been charged in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal with firing on a medical evacuation helicopter and using unlawful tactics to wage war on U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military made the charges against Abd al Hadi public in a statement as it prepared to start two weeks of pretrial hearings on Tuesday for other alleged al Qaeda operatives in the tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

The cases are plodding along despite President Barack Obama's renewed pledge last month to shut down the Guantanamo detention operation.

Prosecutors allege that Abd al Hadi funded and oversaw all of al Qaeda's operations against U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan from March 2002 to 2004.

They say he directed his forces to use a variety of unlawful means, such as attacking civilians, detonating car bombs and suicide vests in civilian areas, and videotaping the resulting deaths for propaganda purposes.

The charge sheet links Hadi and his forces to numerous attacks on U.S. military targets, several of them deadly, and to a failed plot to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the spring of 2002. It accuses him of paying a reward to the Taliban for assassinating a civilian United Nations worker in Afghanistan in 2003.

Hadi, who is 51 or 52, faces four specific charges alleging acts that violated international rules governing armed conflict. He could face life in prison if convicted by a tribunal of U.S. military officers at the Guantanamo base, where he has been held since 2007.

Specifically, Hadi is charged with "denying quarter," by ordering his forces to kill all U.S. and allied forces on the battlefield, including the wounded, without accepting surrender or taking prisoners.

He is charged with attacking protected property - namely by firing on a medical evacuation helicopter that was marked with a red cross and carrying a wounded U.S. military member from a battlefield in Afghanistan in September 2003.

Hadi is also charged with "perfidy," or carrying out attacks that rely on deceit, by packing civilian cars with explosives and detonating them next to military vehicles.

One such attack targeted a bus full of German military personnel in Afghanistan in 2003, while another targeted a convoy of British and Estonian soldiers in Afghanistan in 2004. The charge sheet said each attack killed at least one person but did not elaborate.

After leading al Qaeda's insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hadi went to Iraq at the behest of late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to perform a similar role there, the charge sheet said.

Pretrial hearings are set to resume on Tuesday in the death penalty case against prisoner Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of directing suicide bombers to ram a boat full of explosives into the side of the USS Cole while the warship was fueling off Yemen in 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed in the explosion.

Pretrial hearings are set next week in the case against five men accused of plotting the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

That is also a death penalty case and the defendants include the alleged mastermind of the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and David Brunnstrom)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
Diane1976 wrote:
The US should feel somewhat hypocritical. Targeting military forces isn’t a war crime anywhere but Gtmo. Targeting civilians is a war crime and there is a line between accidental and intentional, but the US operates very close to it because their enemies don’t distinguish themselves from civilians.

The US justifies its war crimes charges based on the status of its enemies as unlawful combatants, now called unprivileged belligerents, generally fighters who don’t belong to organized, uniformed military forces, typically insurgents and rebels. The US has had allies of that type, and some argue CIA agents fit that definition too. The US would rationalize this because the one advantage its enemies have is that they don’t follow laws. Nevertheless, the US looks like a big pot calling a kettle black when it prosecutes its enemies.

Based on the charges in this case, at least it’s not as bad as when they prosecuted a 15 year old who had been indoctrinated by his parents, for throwing a grenade during a battle between insurgents and the US military in Afghanistan in 2002, denied him legal advice, used illegal, underhanded and abusive means to get him to admit to it, and charged him for the death of a soldier and other actions that appeared to be normal acts of war, based on his unlawful combatant status, under a law that hadn’t been written yet.

The US was also guilty of the war crime of abusive treatment of prisoners captured in war, at least during the early Bush years, contrary to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which the Supreme Court confirmed applied, overruling the Administration’s false and flimsily supported claims. The US government has acknowledged this when Obama banned the use of torture, and through various other sources such as Senate Committee reports and legal decisions.

Not one person was held accountable for the high level policies or their implementation that resulted in violations. In fact, such people still defend their actions and are barely criticized. Obama has appointed at least one person who was likely aware of torture, although he days not, was in a position to object, but did not. There have been some low level scapegoats, the so-called “few bad apples”, a notion that was specifically contradicted by the Senate Armed Services Committee in their report on prisoner abuse by the military, and likely by the Senate Intelligence Committee in their report on the CIA, which has never seen the light of day, and was, last I heard, held up by the CIA.

Jun 11, 2013 3:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.