Rights groups: US rules of engagement slack

Human rights groups have accused the US of failing to carry out proper investigations into the deaths of civilians in occupied Iraq amid growing evidence that the rules of engagement are too lax.

    US troops stand accused of being too trigger happy

    Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April, the military has announced several inquiries into alleged transgressions by its forces in the war-ravaged country. Few verdicts have been reported and almost all of those have exonerated the soldiers.

    “No one feels safe in Iraq now and not a day goes by without more civilians being killed or injured by US soldiers or by armed groups amidst total impunity,” human rights group Amnesty International told AFP on Friday.
      
    “US forces are facing direct attacks and a serious law and order emergency, but that cannot be justification for a virtual licence to kill,” it added in a statement issued by the group’s Geneva office.

    US refers inquiries

    American officials declined to comment on the allegations. 
      
    “I'll have to refer that to our research department,” said Sergeant Nicole Thompson, a spokeswoman for the US-led coalition.

    "What is most shocking is that there is no evidence of serious commitment to carry out independent, thorough and impartial investigations into these cases"

    Amnesty International

    Still, the US Army did say on Friday that soldiers were facing disciplinary action for an incident last month when a helicopter attempted to remove a religious flag in Baghdad’s poor Sadr neighbourhood. The resulting violence left one Iraqi dead.
      
    The military refused to name the soldiers charged or say what sanctions would be used against them.

    Apology

    US officials also apologised for the 12 September deaths of nine Iraqi security men and a Jordanian hospital guard. But an inquiry found the US troops who opened fire on a high-speed police chase "acted within the construct of their rules of engagement."

    “It is clearly so upsetting for the Iraqi public that it's incumbent on them (the US military) to make public how they conduct their investigations and to be forthcoming with the results,” Fred Abraham, a researcher for the New York-based Human Rights Watch told AFP.

    Amnesty International adopted a harder approach.

    “What is most shocking is that there is no evidence of serious commitment to carry out independent, thorough and impartial investigations into these cases,” the group said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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