Rules of war broken in Falluja

Reuters

Mon 15 November, 2004 12:57

LONDON (Reuters) - The rules of war protecting civilians and wounded combatants have been broken by both sides in the week-long assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, the human rights group Amnesty International says.

The London-based group, which gave examples of what it said were breaches of the rules by both U.S. troops and insurgents, demanded on Monday that all violations be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

Not only had the attacking U.S. and Iraqi troops failed to take the necessary steps to ensure that non-combatants did not come under fire, but insurgents had also abused flags of truce and fired indiscriminately.

"Amnesty International fears that civilians have been killed, in contravention of international humanitarian law, as a result of failure by parties to the fighting to take necessary precautions to protect non-combatants," Amnesty said.

Amnesty said 20 Iraqi medical staff and dozens of other civilians were killed when a missile hit a Falluja clinic on November 9, according to a doctor who survived the strike -- though it was not known who fired the missile.

On the same day a 9-year-old boy bled to death after being hit in the stomach by shrapnel. Unable to take him to hospital because of the fighting, his parents buried him in their garden.

Elsewhere a woman and her three daughters were reported killed when their house was bombed, Amnesty said.

It also said a British television programme, Channel Four News, broadcast footage on November 11 that appeared to show an American soldier firing a shot in the direction of a wounded insurgent behind a wall and then commenting "he's gone".

"Under international humanitarian law the U.S. forces have an obligation to protect fighters hors de combat. Amnesty International calls on the U.S. authorities to investigate this incident immediately," the human rights watchdog said.

It said insurgents were also reported to have violated international humanitarian law.

WHITE FLAG A RUSE

"In one incident, some Iraqis are reported to have come out of a building waving a white flag. When a Marine approached this group, insurgents opened fire on the Marines from different directions."

A U.S. military official in Iraq also accused insurgents of storing weapons in mosques and schools. Insurgents were reported to be firing from a mosque on November 10, Amnesty said.

"All violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated and those responsible for unlawful attacks, including deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, and the killing of injured persons must be brought to justice," it added.

Although half the city's civilian population was reported to have left the city before the assault began, the tens of thousands left behind were in dire straits, it said. Falluja's normal population is believed to be about 300,000.

"There are concerns that a humanitarian crisis is looming with acute shortages of food, water, medicine and with no electricity. There are also many wounded people who could not receive medical care because of the fighting," it added.