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Dispatch From The Provinces

US Coalition forces Above the Law, According to the CPA

Dahr Jamail

01/05/04: (ICH)
On Saturday a car was sprayed with gunfire from US soldiers while trying to pass a US convoy in Tikrit. According to Agence France Presse, "Police in Tikrit and Salahaddin province, along with the car's sole survivor, have insisted a US convoy opened fire on a blue Chevrolet Caprice as it tried to pass, riddling it with bullets and killing the driver, a second man, a woman and her nine-year-old child."

One month ago a tank drove over a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric in the Sadr City, a suburb of Baghdad and killed him. The CPA described this as a "traffic accident."

40 Iraqi demonstrators throughout Iraq were shot dead by US soldiers during the aftermath following the capture of Saddam Hussein.

During the Anglo-American Invasion of Iraq, on April 7th Americans killed the al-Jazeera correspondent in Baghdad. On the same day, the Reuters television bureau in Baghdad was attacked and its cameraman was killed, along with a cameraman from Spain's Tele 5 channel. 

How have the Coalition Forces in Iraq been getting away with killing Iraqi civilians, religious leaders, demonstrators, and foreign journalists? It almost appears as though they are above the law.

According to CPA Order Number 17, which deals with the status of the coalition personnel, they appear to be just that-above the law.

According to section 2 of this document, subheading number four, "All Coalition personnel shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of their Parent States and, they shall be immune from local criminal, civil, and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention."

Just in case Coalition personnel commit an act for which there are no criminal sanctions in their Parent State, subheading five states, ".the CPA may request from the Parent State waiver of jurisdiction to try such act or acts under Iraqi law. In such cases, no Legal Process shall be commenced without the written permission of the Administrator of the CPA. (Paul Bremer)

How convenient.

For the record, Coalition Contractors and Sub-Contractors enjoy many of these same 'immunity' benefits as well. Later in said document, "In respect of acts or omissions of Coalition contractors and sub-contractors as well as their employees not normally resident in Iraq.no Iraqi or CPA Legal Process shall be commenced without the written permission of the Administrator of the CPA." (Paul Bremer)

Again, quite convenient.

So, if an Iraqi civilian, religious leader, demonstrator or foreign journalist is killed, one would assume there would at least be the option of their family and/or loved ones being able to file a claim for damages, yes?

Well, section 6 of said document, pertaining to claims, states, "Third party claims including those for property loss or damage and for personal injury, illness or death or in respect of any other matter arising from or attributed to Coalition personnel or any persons employed by them, whether normally resident in Iraq or not and that do not arise in connection with military combat operations, shall be submitted and dealt with by the Parent State whose Coalition personnel, property, activities or other assets are alleged to have caused the claimed damage, in a manner consistent with the national laws of the Parent State."

The inherent 'grey area' of whether a death is related to a military combat operation or not is always in question as well.

I don't enjoy reading legalese any more than the next person, but I read this as saying if an Iraqi suffers damages from Coalition personnel, or anyone working for the Coalition, then the claim must be taken up by their 'Parent State.' 

This is Iraqis 'Parent State', being that we are in Iraq.

Yet the document says that Coalition personnel and people working for the Coalition are immune to Iraqi law.

So where are Iraqis to file their claim?

As I've heard countless Iraqis say, as well as seen painted on so many walls throughout Baghdad,

"Where are our human rights?"

Dahr Jamail, is an independent American journalist reporting from Iraq
Copyright: Dahr Jamail 

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