‘Human Shields’ May Be Considered Combatants
A senior defense official said Wednesday that foreigners who have gone to Baghdad to volunteer as “human shields” at key Iraqi sites might be considered war combatants rather than civilians.
The volunteers arrived in Baghdad this month and have begun to take their places at Iraqi installations in the hope of warding off attacks from any U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters: “I’m not a legal expert, but you certainly could argue that since they’re working in the service of the Iraqi government, they may in fact have crossed the line between combatant and noncombatant.”
At Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar, U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks also warned about the danger to the “human shields,” saying that American and allied forces could not assure their safety.
“We’ll do our best to avoid noncombatant casualties and, I will tell you, we will not be 100% successful,” said Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command.
Franks met with British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon, who said later at a news conference: “It is not the case that we would necessarily take account of human shields, so called. I would want to emphasize to you the need for anyone contemplating such a course of action to return home rather than play into the hands of Saddam Hussein.”
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