Al-Zaman/ AFP report that [Ar.] the fundamentalist Shiite United Iraqi Alliance is awaiting the arrival in Baghdad of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani at the beginning of the coming week for discussions concerning the formation of a new government. A source within the UIA told al-Zaman [the Baghdad Times] that the party had formed two delegations, which will negotiate simultaneously, one with the Kurdistan Alliance and the other with the Iraqi Accord Front [Sunni fundamentalist] over how to form a national unity government. The source was vague on the likelihood that the UIA might accept members of Iyad Allawi’s National Iraqi Party in the government. (Earlier reports said that the Sadrist faction had ruled it out.) Other party members said that Allawi and his faction would not be welcome.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports [Ar.] that US troops have formally turned over security duties to the Iraqi army in Ninevah province, which is dominated demograpically by its capital of Mosul. US troops had 100 bases in Iraq, and have been turning them over to Iraqi troops. They typically continue to be garrisoned near major cities so as to retain the capability of intervening where trouble gets out of hand.
According to documents sprung by the ACLU, the US military in Iraq sometimes kidnaps the wives of suspected guerrillas as a way of pressuring them to turn in their husbands or of getting the husbands to turn themselves in. Informed Comment is one of the few places where Iraqi allegations to this effect, and street demonstrations over the issue, have been covered. The kidnapping of journalist Jill Carroll appears to be an attempt by guerrillas to free wives of key fighters, so as to reduce the likelihood they will be broken and inform on their husbands’ whereabouts. The US claims to have only a handful of women in custody, and to have just released 5 of them.
A kind reader writes:
‘ It may interest you to know that the taking of hostages is a “grave breach” of the Fourth Geveva Convention.
Following are relevant extracts from the ICRC web site.
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Part III : ARTICLE 34
The taking of hostages is prohibited.
ARTICLE 34. — HOSTAGES (1)
1. ‘ Definition and historical survey ‘
The word “hostage” has stood for rather different conceptions. It is not, therefore, easy to give a definition of it valid for every case. Generally speaking, hostages are nationals of a belligerent State who of their own free will or through compulsion are in the hands of the enemy and are answerable with their freedom or their life for the execution of his orders and the security of his armed forces.
In the beginning, the hostage constituted a guarantee by the adversary that a treaty would be carried out; hostages were given [p.230] as a pledge or a safeguard; this practice, which is very ancient, has now disappeared. The modern form, with which this Article is concerned, is the taking of hostages as a means of intimidating the population in order to weaken its spirit of resistance and to prevent breaches of the law and sabotage in order to ensure the security of the Detaining Power.
(a) The most frequent case is that of an Occupying Power taking as hostages persons generally selected from among prominent persons in a city or a district in order to prevent disorders or attacks on occupation troops.
(b) Another form of the taking of hostages which is very close to (a) consists of arresting after an attack a certain number of inhabitants of the occupied territory and announcing that they will be kept captive or executed if the guilty are not given up.
Part IV : ARTICLE 147
Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
ARTICLE 147. — GRAVE BREACHES
[p.597] The idea of defining grave breaches in the Convention itself must be laid to the credit of the experts convened in 1948 by the International Committee of the Red Cross. If repression of grave breaches was to be universal, it was necessary to determine what constituted them. However, there are violations of certain detailed provisions of the Geneva Convention which would constitute minor offences or mere disciplinary faults which as such could not be punished to the same degree.
It was also thought advisable to draw up as a warning to possible offenders a clear list of crimes whose authors would be sought for in all countries. The idea had been stated in the draft of Article 40, which defined in a rather general way what was meant by grave breaches. A joint amendment submitted to the Diplomatic Conference by a number of delegations led to the inclusion in each Convention of a list of offences defined more exactly. It was that text which was finally adopted by the Conference with slight alterations (1).
The taking of hostages. ‘ — Hostages might be considered as persons illegally deprived of their liberty, a crime which most penal codes take cognizance of and punish. However, there is an additional feature, i.e. the threat either to prolong the hostage’s detention or to put him to death. The taking of hostages should therefore be treated as a special offence. Certainly, the most serious crime would be to execute hostages which, as we have seen, constitutes wilful killing. However, the fact of taking hostages, by its arbitrary character, especially when accompanied by a threat of death, is in itself [p.601] a very serious crime; it causes in the hostage and among his family a mortal anguish which nothing can justify.
The text is here.