US destroying Iraqi homes - Amnesty

US forces are destroying houses in Iraq as retribution for attacks on their soldiers, according to Amnesty International, in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

    Five US helicopters have been downed in Iraq

    The report was hotly denied by the Pentagon.
     
    The human rights group said it sent a letter to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanding he clarify whether the demolitions as a form of collective punishment or deterrence was officially permitted.
      
    “If such proved to be the case, it would constitute a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” the group said in the letter, according to AFP.

    Denied
      
    The Pentagon whilst acknowledging US forces had destroyed “facilities”, including houses, during recent military operations refuted the allegation that the demolitions were intended as retaliation for attacks.
      
    “We have destroyed facilities that were being used by former regime loyalists or terrorists either as a place from which to stage attacks, or as a safe house to avoid capture, or as a facility from which to construct improvised explosive devices,” Lieutenant Colonel Jim Cassella told the French news agency.
      
    “The idea that this is some type of collective punishment is just absolutely without merit,” he added.

    He claimed that some houses were razed after opposition groups to the US occupation used them as bases. Families living in the houses were immediately relocated, he added. 
      
    “What we are doing here is attacking the terrorist infrastructure to deny them the ability to plan, organize and initiate attacks,” he said.

    Examples cited
      
    Amnesty cited reports that 15 houses had been destroyed in the area around Tikrit since 16 November. It added that in one case a family in the village of al-Haweda was given five minutes to evacuate their house before it was demolished by tank and helicopter fire.

    “Any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited”

    Fourth Geneva Convention


      
    The organization also said it had received reports of a 10 November incident in which soldiers gave people living in a farmhouse near the town of al-Mamudiya south of Baghdad 30 minutes to vacate their property.

    The farmhouse was bombed and destroyed later in the day by F-16 fighters.
      
    It said the bombing appeared to have been carried out in retaliation for an attack several days earlier on a convoy in which a US officer was killed.

    Legal framework
      
    Amnesty quoted Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention, which states that “Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
      
    Article 53 states: “Any destruction by the occupying power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.”

    SOURCE: AFP


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