Kuwaiti resistance leaders are helping allied military officials identify Iraqi troops who committed heinous crimes against civilians since Iraq overran Kuwait on Aug. 2, military officials and government lawyers said.
Lawyers are also preparing to bring charges against Iraqi leaders who allegedly abused captured allied prisoners, Pentagon authorities said Thursday.Military officials are concentrating their identification efforts on Iraqi troops who have surrendered or were captured on routes leading out of Kuwait City, where atrocities against civilians were reportedly widespread.
There is "a series of roadblocks" leading out of the capital that are being monitored by Marines, Army personnel and Arab forces, said Lt. Gen. Peter de la Billiere, the British commander. "Anybody moving along that road is being screened because we're particularly interested, if possible, in picking up anybody who's been involved in the atrocities in Kuwait City," he said.
Iraqi troops reportedly engaged in the systematic torture and killing of Kuwaiti citizens, in some cases forcing Kuwaitis to kill each other, some witnesses have said.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, theater commander, disclosed Wednesday that the timing of a land invasion into enemy territory was in part prompted by the "absolutely unspeakable atrocities that occurred in Kuwait in the past week."
The U.S. government said war crimes allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his military leadership would be pursued. But a State Department official said resolution of those issues would not be among U.N. requirements for an end to the war.
President Bush refused to discuss the merits of prosecuting Saddam, suggesting a formal cease-fire and withdrawal would take precedence.
"We have the military track that will go forward, and so I'll leave those matters to our experts to work out," Bush said while meeting with Kuwaiti Ambassador Saud Nassir Al-Sabah.
One of the 12 U.N. resolutions aimed at evicting Iraq from Kuwait specifically states that Iraq must comply with the fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids nations at war from harming civilians. The resolution states that Saddam and his generals would be held accountable for any breaches of the convention.
Government lawyers said Saddam could be held legally accountable on two counts: for abusing allied troops who were taken prisoner and for directing atrocities against Kuwaiti civilians.
Most of the nine American servicemen confirmed taken prisoner are believed to have been abused and deprived of their rights spelled out in the Geneva Convention, military officials said.