<<previous  | index  |  next>>


The hostilities in Iraq in March and April 2003 were the largest engagement of ground forces since the Gulf War in 1991. The U.S.-led Coalition deployed about 350,000 ground forces,150 while the Iraqis fought with an estimated 350,000 ground forces in the regular army and Republican Guard151 and between 18,000 and 40,000 paramilitary fedayeen.152 Human Rights Watch documented a number of cases that constituted serious violations of IHL by Iraqi armed forces. Despite taking extensive precautions to protect civilians, U.S. and U.K. ground forces were found to have caused significant numbers of civilian casualties with the widespread use of cluster munitions, particularly in populated areas. Moreover, in some instances of direct combat, problems with training on as well as dissemination and clarity of the U.S. ground forces’ rules of engagement may have, in some instances, contributed to loss of civilian life.

Synopsis of the Ground War

On March 20, 2003, at approximately 6:15 p.m. local time, artillery from the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division fired upon targets inside Iraq, followed shortly thereafter by artillery from the U.S. Marine Corps’ First Marine Division. By nightfall, mechanized infantry and armored forces from the Third Infantry Division, First Marine Division, and the British Army’s First Armoured Division had crossed the Iraq-Kuwait border. The U.S. Marines and British forces headed toward Umm Qasr, al-Fao Peninsula, and Basra, while the Third Infantry Division took a more westerly route to the Euphrates River Valley and, ultimately, to Baghdad.153

Coalition forces seized Umm Qasr by March 21, though skirmishes continued outside the city. British forces and elements of the First Marine Division encircled Basra on March 22. While British forces settled in to probe Basra’s defenses and cut off the city, the First Marine Division pushed northwest along the Euphrates River toward al-Nasiriyya. Task Force Tarawa, the Marines’ lead element, encountered Iraqi forces on the outskirts of al-Nasiriyya just before dawn on March 23, 2003.154 A pitched battle between U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces ensued in and around the city for several days. Some of the bloodiest fighting of the war occurred along a stretch of highway in al-Nasiriyya that became known as “Ambush Alley.” Having pushed through al-Nasiriyya by March 31, Marine units conducted raids on Ba`th party headquarters in the town of al-Shatra.155 The First Marine Division then moved toward the city of al-Kut on the Tigris River. By April 2, U.S. forces were positioned to assault Baghdad from the southeast.

Meanwhile, advance elements of the Third Infantry Division pushed as far as one hundred miles (160 kilometers) inside Iraq by the evening of March 21.156 On March 22, the division’s Second Brigade engaged enemy forces in al-Samawa, southeast of al-Najaf, while its Third Brigade seized a key bridge across the Euphrates River just northwest of al-Nasiriyya. It also captured al-Talil airbase, southwest of that city and next to the ruins of the ancient city of Ur.157 The First Brigade moved the farthest of the three units, reaching a wide, flat desert plain known as the “Sea of al-Najaf” on the outskirts of the city of al-Najaf. By March 23, the Third Infantry Division had advanced nearly two-thirds of the distance from the Kuwait border to Baghdad.158 In their rapid advance northward, elements of the division avoided fighting in the cities of al-Nasiriyya, al-Samawa, and al-Najaf, leaving behind pockets of resistance. By the time the Third Infantry Division was just north of al-Najaf, its lines of supply and communication extended more than 300 miles (482 kilometers) to the Kuwaiti border and were vulnerable to attack from the regular and irregular Iraqi units that the Americans had passed en route. Hampered by fierce sandstorms beginning on March 25 and stiff resistance from irregular forces around al-Samawa and al-Najaf, U.S. forces halted their advance to consolidate supply lines and eliminate Iraqi forces.

During this pause, U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Army tactical aircraft continued to attack Republican Guard divisions south of Baghdad. Between April 1 and 2, the First Marine Division began to progress up Highway 7 toward al-Kut.159 Nearly simultaneously, the U.S. Army began to push through the Karbala’ Gap.160 U.S. forces advanced toward Baghdad from the southeast and the southwest in a coordinated movement, while elements of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions stayed behind to pacify al-Najaf and Karbala’ after major fighting there. The First Brigade of the Third Infantry Division began the battle for the Saddam International Airport on April 4 while the Second Brigade assumed a blocking position to the south of the city; the First Marine Division approached to within ten miles (sixteen kilometers) of Baghdad from the southeast and spread over an arc to the east of the city.161

On April 5, the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division made the first U.S. foray into downtown Baghdad with a column of sixty armored vehicles. After a three-hour movement through the city, it withdrew to its staging area to the south of Baghdad.162 On April 7, the brigade made another thrust, this time through the governmental district to the Republican Palace complex, and stayed overnight in Baghdad. These operations on April 5 and 7 were nicknamed “Thunder Run.” On April 7, Basra fell to British forces.163 On April 9, Baghdad fell to U.S. forces.164

Iraqi Conduct in the Ground War

Iraqi forces violated international humanitarian law during the ground war, directly causing or contributing to civilian casualties. In particular, Human Rights Watch documented instances of abuse of the red cross and red crescent emblems; violations of the prohibitions on the use of civilian shields, use of antipersonnel landmines, and location of military objects in protected places, such as hospitals, mosques, and cultural property sites; and a failure to take precautions in preparing for urban combat. Witnesses also reported large numbers of Iraqi soldiers wearing civilian clothes, a practice that eroded the distinction between combatant and civilian and put the latter at risk. It must be noted that Human Rights Watch was unable to interview members of the Iraqi armed forces in order to get their response to accusations of violations of IHL.

Use of Human Shields

According to Human Rights Watch interviewees and U.S. and U.K. media reports, Iraqi armed forces endangered civilians by using them to shield combatants from the enemy. Iraqi prisoners of war said they received orders to “use any means necessary” during their battle with the Marines including “putting women and children in the street.”165 Human Rights Watch gathered testimonies that are consistent with such allegations. Yusif Sahib Jawad, a 29-year-old taxi driver, witnessed fedayeen fighters hiding between houses on al-Madina Street where much of the fighting in al-Najaf took place. “Most of the fedayeen and Ba`thists distributed and hid between houses because they thought the Americans wouldn’t shoot civilians. They used civilians as shields,” he said.166 In one case, he saw Ba`th militia members spot a U.S. helicopter in the sky and then pull their car next to a car carrying a civilian family. The helicopter fired and seven civilians died in their vehicle, Jawad said.167 The press reported that helicopter pilots often encountered these kinds of situations.168

Coalition forces interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported other cases of the use of human shields that they had witnessed. In al-Najaf, Colonel David Perkins, commanding officer of the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, saw a fedayeen drive behind a home in a four-by-four vehicle with its lights off. “He went into the building, came out with two women, one was holding a child. So everyone held their fire, and luckily the women were able to break loose,” Perkins said. After his hostages fled, the fedayeen jumped back in his vehicle and started shooting; the U.S. troops then killed him.169 Perkins witnessed another case as his unit was trying to take a bridge across the Euphrates. Iraqi forces lined up civilians in front of their vehicles so they could advance safely. “It would cease all fire,” Perkins said.170 A sergeant in Perkins’ brigade said that during the battle of Baghdad, fedayeen would use civilians to shield themselves while running across the street.171

Members of other service branches reported similar situations. Major Michael Samarov, a battalion executive officer, encountered civilian shields as his Marines entered Baghdad on April 8. “There were busloads of people driven to our position on Highway 6. When [the Iraqi military advance] wouldn’t work, they threw families in the vehicles. It was a very challenging situation. We made every attempt to minimize casualties, but it was extraordinarily difficult,” he said.172 In al-Shatra, a Marine corporal said a caravan of three buses drove toward his unit. Fedayeen had put women and children in the first two to allow the third carrying fedayeen to advance on the Marines safely.173 British troops also reported shielding from the southern part of the country. During fighting east of Basra, Colonel Gil Baldwin, commanding officer of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, said he saw Iraqi forces “herd” women and children out of their homes and fire rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) over their heads.174 Human Rights Watch could not corroborate these specific incidents with non-military sources; however, the detail and repetition of the reports suggests a pattern.

The U.S. and U.K. press also reported incidents of Iraqi forces using civilians, including children, as human shields. In one of many accounts, Sergeant David Baird, a tank commander of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, said fedayeen “were crossing the road to try and outflank us on the left and, as they crossed, four or five of them grabbed kids by the scruff of their necks and dragged them across with them. . . . The children were only five to eight years old.” After the fedayeen crossed, they let the children run back to their mothers.175

International humanitarian law prohibits the use of civilians as shields. Parties to a conflict are expressly prohibited from directing the movement of civilians to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.176 In the cases described above, Iraqi soldiers used civilian bystanders to do both of the prohibited activities: to protect themselves and to advance on their enemy.

Abuse of Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblems

Iraqi armed forces violated international humanitarian law by abusing the red cross and red crescent emblems. These emblems may only be used to identify and protect medical personnel, buildings, and equipment in times of armed conflict and to identify national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The night of March 23, during the battle for al-Najaf, fedayeen came to the Hay al-Hussain Ambulance Center. The ambulances there and in other parts of Iraq were white with red crescent emblems on the front hood and rear door and sometimes on the side door. The fedayeen told the center’s staff that they knew of injured people who needed help and climbed in an ambulance with their guns. “They got in . . . and then took part in the battle. They used [the ambulance] as a cover to reach the field of battle,” said Rashid Majid Hamid, 42, a paramedic, who witnessed two such cases.177 At 11:00 p.m. five days later, an intelligence official commandeered an ambulance from the same center and posed as an ambulance driver to scout the road twenty kilometers (12.4 miles) southeast of al-Najaf. Paramedic Falah Muhsin, 52, said he was afraid to go along but “had no choice.”178 While these examples involved taking local ambulances, in other cases, the fedayeen took ambulances from a more central source. “Because they have so much power, they take them from the Ministry of Health,” Muhsin said.179 A doctor at al-Najaf Teaching Hospital said he saw fedayeen driving in cars with red crescent flags.180 Coalition troops confirmed they had come under attack from ambulances. Major Samarov said the Marines took fire from ambulances one or two nights.181 In another instance of abuse of the red crescent emblem, the Iraqi Intelligence Service occupied the Red Crescent Maternity Hospital in Baghdad.182

An international aid worker also told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi forces disguised a Ba`th party militia building in Basra, with no connection to the ICRC, by affixing an ICRC emblem to it before the war started.183 Such buildings served as rallying points for the local militia. They were used to store small arms, ammunition, rockets, grenades, and other ordnance, and during a crisis, the militia would go to there to receive orders.

These actions violate the prohibition on abuse of the emblem. International humanitarian law has long prohibited making improper use of the “distinctive emblem” of the red cross or red crescent.184 Attacking the enemy under cover of the red crescent constitutes an abuse of the emblem. Using the ICRC emblem to protect military objects is equally unlawful.

Use of Antipersonnel Landmines

Iraqi forces violated the prohibition on the use of indiscriminate weapons by laying antipersonnel landmines in several parts of the country. British Royal Marines advancing toward Basra encountered freshly sown antipersonnel minefields as well as newly laid antivehicle mines that slowed their progress.185 “The U.N. withdrew three or four days before the war. Then the Iraqis rushed to put mines along the border,” said Dr. Akram al-Shuwali, director of Umm Qasr General Hospital.186 Mines caused several of the civilian casualties his hospital received during the war.187 Further north, Iraqi forces used landmines against advancing U.S. troops. Landmines newly planted prior to the Coalition attack were reported on the road between Basra and Baghdad.188 The Iraqis reportedly deployed landmines along access routes to their positions around al-Nasiriyya.189 U.S. troops entering al-Najaf in the last days of March encountered mines on roads and bridges into the city.190 The Third Infantry Division was also “held up in a minefield” near Karbala’.191 According to a U.S. State Department demining expert, most mines found were a twenty-year-old design, largely imported from Italy.192

Although the heaviest fighting took place in south and central Iraq, Iraqi forces also used mines north of Baghdad. In March 2003, reports emerged of Iraqi forces laying mines around the northern city of Kirkuk.193 It was confirmed after the Iraqi forces withdrew that they had laid antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines in dense minefields along and between main roads near Kirkuk and around abandoned military posts.194 Demining teams from the Mines Advisory Group operating in Kirkuk found Valmara 69 antipersonnel bounding fragmentation mines and PMN antipersonnel blast mines placed across nearly all routes and around strategic points.195 Mines were also encountered on the roads between Erbil and the cities of Kirkuk, Gwer, Mosul, and Makhmur.196

Iraqis used landmines not only along their borders and the route of advancing enemy troops but also around civilian infrastructure. “One month ago, the power lines were down and we could only get to the building through a minefield,” said Lieutenant Colonel John Shanahan, commanding officer of a British explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit in Basra.197 British troops near the southern al-Rumaila oilfields found mines and booby-traps left by Iraqi forces.198 As part of their widespread mine-laying around villages in the Mosul-Kirkuk area, Iraqi forces reportedly mined water tanks in the town of Chamchamal after cutting off its water supply. 199 Regardless of location, Iraqi mines continued to endanger civilians after the war. In May, Human Rights Watch found abandoned Iraqi weapons caches that included antipersonnel mines and learned about both caches and minefields from clearance technicians in Basra, Karbala’, al-Hilla, and Baghdad.200

Human Rights Watch believes that the use of antipersonnel landmines is prohibited by customary international law because they are inherently indiscriminate weapons.201 International humanitarian law prohibits “a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective.”202 Antipersonnel landmines fall into that category. They cannot distinguish between combatants, legitimate military objectives, and civilians who inadvertently activate them. Thus, even though Iraq is not among the 141 parties to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty that prohibits use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines,203 Human Rights Watch considers any use of such mines by Iraq a violation of IHL.

Location of Military Objectives in Protected Places

In addition to protecting civilians, international humanitarian law gives special protection to certain facilities, including hospitals, places of worship, and cultural property. Iraqi armed forces used these protected places to advance their military goals. The fedayeen, for example, used al-Nasiriyya Surgical Hospital as the base of their local operations.204 As discussed above, the Mukhabarat occupied the Baghdad Red Crescent Maternity Hospital and threatened to kill Dr. al-Rikabi, the hospital director, if he challenged them.205 Such military use of civilian hospitals violates international humanitarian law. Parties to an armed conflict are required to respect and protect civilian hospitals, which may in no circumstances be attacked.206 This protection ceases, however, if the medical establishments are used to commit “acts harmful to the enemy.”207 By using hospitals as military headquarters, Iraqi forces turned them into military objectives.

Iraqi armed forces also sought to protect themselves by establishing positions in mosques. In al-Najaf, they occupied the Imam `Ali Mosque, the most holy religious site in Iraq. Wasfi Tahir, a 26-year-old merchant, said he saw Iraqi fedayeen and Ba`th militia fighting from this mosque in the middle of the city. He said the fedayeen fired at U.S. troops, but the Americans did not return fire.208 The press reported that about 150 members of the Ba`th party and Fedayeen Saddam had taken positions in the mosque.209 In Baghdad, fedayeen from Syria moved into the Abu Hanifa mosque, one of the holiest Sunni shrines in Iraq. At 4:00 a.m. on April 9, a firefight broke out between U.S. forces and fedayeen inside the mosque. According to a fedayeen combatant, the battle lasted until around noon, killing ten civilians and causing significant damage to the mosque’s well-known clock tower.210

International humanitarian law prohibits the use of “places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples . . . in support of the military effort.”211 The Imam `Ali and Abu Hanifa mosques are not only places of worship, but also mosques with special religious and historical significance to Shi`a and Sunni Muslims, respectively. Iraqi forces’ use of these mosques for military actions is clearly illegal.

Fedayeen from Syria occupied the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, and on April 9, a firefight broke out between U.S. forces and fedayeen inside the mosque. Damage to the mosque’s clock tower is visible in this photo. © 2003 Bonnie Docherty / Human Rights Watch

Iraqi forces also endangered cultural property by establishing military positions around historical landmarks. Agargouf is a fifteenth-century B.C. ziggurat. Ghanan Fadhil, an archaeologist at the site, said the Iraqi military had placed rocket launchers around the site and anti-aircraft guns on top of the mud-brick temple. They also occupied the museum restaurant, only a couple hundred yards from the ziggurat. The Coalition attacked these forces with both air- and ground-launched cluster munitions. “They didn’t hit the ziggurat but the site was so close there were many cracks in newer unsettled places,” Fadhil said.212 When Human Rights Watch visited Agargouf in May, it found an SA-3 surface-to-air missile site across the road, a restaurant that had been trashed, and bullet shell casings on top of the monument. This kind of collocation violates the prohibition on use of “historic monuments . . . which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples . . . in support of the military effort.”213

Lack of Precautions in Preparing for Urban Combat

Iraqi forces regularly located military equipment in heavily populated areas. Human Rights Watch saw military vehicles or anti-aircraft positions in schools and residential neighborhoods in every city it visited. In at least some cases, the placement of this military hardware suggested that Iraqi armed forces failed to take the necessary precautions to spare civilians from the dangers of urban warfare.

From Baghdad to Basra, Human Rights Watch documented dozens of examples of such lack of precautions. Iraqi forces established positions in civilian areas in the weeks before the war. They brought military vehicles and weapons into Nadir, a crowded slum in al-Hilla, a week or so before the conflict began and several weeks before the battle there.214 In a village on the road between al-Hilla and Baghdad, Human Rights Watch saw three tanks wedged into three narrow alleyways. Such placement would not have been the result of ordinary maneuvers during battle. At al-Najah Intermediary School for Girls, located in a Karbala’ residential area, Iraqi troops had dug fighting positions with anti-aircraft guns in the schoolyard.215 Human Rights Watch found dug-in mortar positions and anti-aircraft cannons between homes in Hay al-Zaitun in Basra. Such placements appear to have been intentional, not merely the result of falling back into urban areas during fighting.

Iraqi forces also placed large caches of weapons and ammunition in civilian neighborhoods. For example, residents said troops established caches in Hay al-Khadra, a neighborhood of Baghdad, the week before the war started.216 Several munition stores seemed to pre-date the war. Human Rights Watch visited a huge storage facility near al-Maqal Airfield in Basra that was only a half-kilometer (.3 miles) from a civilian neighborhood. The quantity and nature of the munitions stored at this facility were such that if it had been attacked, the civilian neighborhood would have suffered extensive damage. These caches and the dangers they have posed to civilians are addressed in the last chapter of this report.

Iraqi forces placed this anti-aircraft gun in the yard of al-Najah Intermediary School for Girls, located in a Karbala’ residential area. It was one of dozens of examples of Iraqi placement of military hardware in civilian neighborhoods. © 2003 Bonnie Docherty / Human Rights Watch

Some Iraqi civilians interviewed by Human Rights Watch interpreted the location of military hardware in neighborhoods as an intentional attempt by the Iraqi armed forces to use civilians to protect military objectives. “They put anti-aircraft guns in civilian parts to have a safe place. They thought the Americans would not hit them because it was between civilians,” said Dr. Muhammad Hassan al-`Ubaidi of al-Najaf Teaching Hospital.

Coalition troops made similar allegations. Asked if he thought Iraqis sometimes used the location of military hardware to shield themselves, Colonel Lyle Cayce, staff judge advocate for the Third Infantry Division, “I don’t think there is any question. Look at the entire pattern across the battlefield. Why put airplanes next to mosques? You can’t fly from there.”217 Colonel Baldwin had the same impression after his experiences in southern Iraq. “It must have become clear infrastructure areas were avoided [by Coalition forces]. It wouldn’t take the brains of an archbishop to figure it out,” he said.218 Baldwin described seeing a rocket launcher hidden in a village near Basra. “It could easily have been dug in in the desert,” he said, noting there was “no tactical value” to its placement in the village.219

Asked about the causes of civilian casualties in Baghdad, Dr. `Ali al-Aharkhi, chief of neurosurgery at the Adnan Khiralla Hospital, said, “The real problem was weapons put by our government in between civilian areas. If you put tanks near houses, they will definitely be attacked. There was a tank in front of my house. [The military forces] refused to move it.”220

Human Rights Watch also found examples of Iraqi troops failing to take any steps to protect the population, including the implementation of evacuation plans. Four residents in Nadir, for example, said no precautions had been taken to ensure their safety.221 Residents of Hay al-Khadra’a in Baghdad provided similar testimony.222 “There were . . . vehicles, armor, and weapons (anti-aircraft and rocket launchers) in the streets, highway, and homes. . . . The Iraqi forces did not make any attempt to evacuate us. They did nothing else to protect us and other civilians from the battle,” said Munkith Fathi `Abd al-Razzaq.223 On the contrary, it appears the Iraqi troops hoped the presence of civilians would deter enemy attacks.

The location of military objectives in civilian areas raises concerns under international humanitarian law. While IHL does not prohibit fighting in urban areas, it does require parties to an armed conflict to take precautions to protect civilians from the dangers of military operations.224 If properly implemented these precautions should provide civilians some protection in situations of urban warfare. With regard to precautions taken against the effects of attacks, IHL requires parties to an armed conflict, “to the maximum extent feasible,” to “avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”225 They should also “endeavor to remove the civilian population . . . from the vicinity of military objectives.”226

While military targets such as combatants and military hardware and vehicles may end up in civilian areas during combat, it appears based on Human Rights Watch’s observations that the Iraqi armed forces intentionally located military objectives in civilian areas well ahead of any combat operations. Human Rights Watch believes this practice, coupled with the failure to remove the civilian population from areas exposed to the dangers of fighting, amounts to a failure to take the precautions required by IHL against the effects of attacks.

Combatants in Civilian Clothes

Iraqi civilians around the country reported seeing Iraqi troops out of uniform. Dr. `Abd al-Sayyid, director of al-Nasiriyya General Hospital, blamed many of the civilian deaths in the battle of al-Nasiriyya on the practice. “Fedayeen were among the civilian homes. . . . [T]he problem was with the Iraqi troops and fedayeen dressed as civilians,” he said.227 Yusif Sahib Jawad, the taxi driver who lived along the main battle route in al-Najaf, said he saw Ba`thist and fedayeen combatants wearing civilian clothes.228 Qassim Abu Ahmad, 35, witnessed the battle in al-Yarmuk neighborhood of Baghdad. He reported that all of the fedayeen he saw in the street or on rooftops were dressed like civilians.229 When asked how they knew these combatants were not civilians bearing arms, Iraqis generally replied that “everyone in the neighborhood knows” who is a civilian and who belongs to the army, Ba`th party militia, or fedayeen.230

Almost every member of the Coalition interviewed by Human Rights Watch commented on this practice. “By March 24 [the fourth day of the war], we were already seeing a large number of irregulars out of uniform. It was clearly a combination of systematic and conscious,” said Colonel Baldwin, whose troops advanced up al-Fao Peninsula to Basra.231 Major Samarov said the Marines encountered uniformed troops in the south, near Safwan, al-Zubayr, and Basra. “After that I’d be hard-pressed to think of any enemy not in civilian clothes,” he said.232 Other reports of Iraqi combatants fighting in civilian clothes came from Marines caught in an ambush along the route from al-Nasiriyya to al-Kut and the soldiers in the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, who fought in al-Najaf. 233 The Iraqis often combined such conduct with use of civilian vehicles, particularly orange-and-white taxis. On April 7, for example, Special Republican Guard forces launched a counterattack on Second Brigade forces entering Baghdad while firing from civilian vehicles and wearing civilian clothes.234

Such actions tend to erode the distinction between combatants and civilians and put the latter at risk. They do not, however, relieve the opposing side of its obligation to distinguish at all times between combatants and civilians and to target only combatants.235 In case of doubt, a person must be considered a civilian.236

Conclusion and Recommendations

Iraqi forces committed a number of violations of international humanitarian law, which may have led to significant civilian casualties. These violations included use of human shields, abuse of the red cross and red crescent emblems, use of antipersonnel landmines, placement of military objects in protected places (such as mosques, hospitals, and cultural property sites), and failure to take adequate precautions to protect civilians from the dangers resulting from military operations. The Iraq military’s practice of wearing civilian clothes tended to erode the distinction between combatants and civilians and put the latter at risk.

To prevent future IHL violations by Iraqi armed forces, Human Rights Watch recommends that the new Iraqi army be adequately trained in international humanitarian law and human rights law.

150 “Operation Iraqi Freedom—By the Numbers,” p. 3. This number includes all “deployed personnel,” not just combat troops.

151 “State of the Iraqi Military,” New York Times, n.d., (retrieved October 20, 2003).

152 The Fedayeen Saddam are paramilitary forces that have strong political loyalty to Saddam Hussein and, before the war, reported directly to the presidential palace rather than through the regular army’s command. The term “fedayeen” is also sometimes used to refer to opposition forces from other Arab countries, particularly Syria, that came to Iraq to fight the Coalition in this war. See Global, “Saddam’s Martyrs [‘Men of Sacrifice’]: Fedayeen Saddam,” n.d., (retrieved October 20, 2003). The proper transliteration of “fedayeen” is fida’iyyin, with the singular being fida’i, but Human Rights Watch has used the more common spelling to refer to singular and plural combatants in this report.

153 Steven Lee Myers, “G.I.’s and Marines See Little Iraqi Resistance,” New York Times,March 21, 2003, p. B4.

154 Michael Wilson, “Marines Meet Potent Enemy in Deadly Fight,” New York Times, March 24, 2003, p. A1.

155 Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Alan Sipress, “Army Has First Close Clashes with Republican Guard Units; Iraqi Divisions Shifted South to Defend Capital,” Washington Post, April 1, 2003, p. A1.

156 Patrick Tyler, “Surrenders by Iraqi Forces; 2 Marines Die in Fighting,” New York Times, March 22, 2003, p. A1.

157 Patrick Tyler, “Capital Hit Again; Invading Forces Capture Key Bridge; More American Deaths,” New York Times, March 23, 2003.

158 Steven Lee Myers, “Closing in on Baghdad, U.S. Troops Batter Iraqis,” New York Times,March 24, 2003, p. B4.

159 John Kifner, “Orders in Place, Word Goes Out that ‘This is It,’” New York Times, April 1, 2003, p. B7.

160 Steven Lee Myers, “G.I.’s Pry Iraqis Loose and Surge Over River,” New York Times, April 3, 2003, p. A1.

161 Patrick Tyler, “U.S. Squeezes Baghdad,” New York Times, April 6, 2003.

162 Patrick Tyler, “Show of Force,” New York Times,April 6, 2003.

163 Craig Smith, “Basra Falls, Though Fighting Persists,” New York Times, April 8, 2003.

164 Patrick Tyler, “Combat; U.S. Forces Take Control in Baghdad; Bush Elated; Some Resistance Remains,” New York Times, April 10, 2003, p. A1.

165 Kerry Sanders, “Iraqis Deceive Marines at al-Nasiriyya: Men in Civilian Clothes Ambush U.S. Soldiers on Key Bridges,” MSNBC News, March 24, 2003, (retrieved October 17, 2003).

166 Human Rights Watch interview with Yusif Sahib Jawad, al-Najaf, May 24, 2003.

167 Ibid.

168 Dexter Filkins, “Choosing Targets; Iraqi Fighters or Civilians? Hard Decision for Copters,” New York Times, March 31, 2003. Filkins quoted several U.S. helicopter pilots who said Iraqi soldiers would fire and then disappear in a crowd of civilians before the helicopters could respond. Corporal Joshua Good, for example, said, “I may be 99 percent sure of the guy who shot at me, but if I fly back around and he doesn’t have a gun and he is standing with a bunch of women and children, then I can’t fire.”

169 Human Rights Watch interview with Colonel David Perkins.

170 Ibid.

171 Human Rights Watch interview with Sergeant First Class Morales, Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, U.S. Army, Baghdad, May 18, 2003.

172 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Michael Samarov, executive officer, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, U.S. Marine Corps, Karbala’, May 25, 2003.

173 Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. Marine corporal, al-Hilla, May 20, 2003.

174 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colonel Gil Baldwin, commanding officer, First Queen’s Dragoon Guards, Cardiff, Wales, July 2, 2003.

175 Martin Bentham, “Iraqi Paramilitaries ‘Used Children as Human Shields,’” Independent, April 2, 2003. See also Dexter Filkins, “Choosing Targets; Iraqi Fighters or Civilians? Hard Decision for Copters” (describing how “Iraqi soldiers try to blend in or hide behind civilians after shooting at the Americans”); Jules Crittenden, “‘We Weren’t Expecting This’; Iraq’s Civilian Ploys Force Deadly Decisions,” Boston Herald, April 2, 2003 (quoting an intelligence specialist saying, “We’ve seen them pull women and children into buildings so the Americans won’t shoot.”); Dana Lewis, “Iraqis Ambush American Tanks,” MSNBC News, April 1, 2003, (retrieved October 17, 2003) (“Iraqi soldiers used women and children as human shields”).

176 Protocol I, art. 51(7).

177 Human Rights Watch interview with Rashid Majid Hamid, paramedic, Hay al-Hussain Ambulance Center, al-Najaf, May 24, 2003.

178 Human Rights Watch interview with Falah Muhsin, paramedic, Hay al-Hussain Ambulance Center, al-Najaf, May 24, 2003.

179 Ibid.

180 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. `Ali al-Tufaili, director, al-Najaf General Hospital, May 24, 2003.

181 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Michael Samarov. See also Jules Crittenden, “‘We Weren’t Expecting This’; Iraq’s Civilian Ploys Force Deadly Decisions” (quoting an intelligence sergeant saying, “They are using ambulances to carry troops and resupply. They jump out blazing.”).

182 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Rasmi al-Rikabi.

183 Human Rights Watch interview with international aid worker #1, Basra, April 30, 2003.

184 Protocol I, art. 38.

185 Tim Butcher, “Marines Plan the Siege of Basra,” Daily Telegraph, March 31, 2003.

186 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Akram al-Shuwali, director, Umm Qasr General Hospital, Umm Qasr, May 28, 2003.

187 Ibid. See also Lawrence M. O’Rourke, “Conflict with Iraq: Fedayeen Could Pose Lingering Threat, Aid Worker Says,” Naples Daily News,April 5, 2003.

188 “U.S. Landmine Experts Begin Removal Work in Iraq,” Voice of America,May 24, 2003.

189 “Russian Military Intel Update: War in Iraq, March 25, 2003,” War in Iraq, March 25, 2003, (retrieved November 6, 2003). This document is a translation of a Russian military intelligence report done by Venik.

190 “Iraq Stored Landmines in Mosque,” Reuters, April 3, 2003 (citing New York Times).

191 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Michael Samarov.

192 “U.S. Landmine Experts Begin Removal Work in Iraq.”

193 “U.S. and Britain Struggle to Find Iraq Consensus,” Reuters, March 11, 2003; “Iraqi Forces Litter Northern Front with Landmines,” Agence France-Presse, March 19, 2003.

194 Mines Advisory Group, “MAG in Iraq—First in, Last out,” ReliefWeb, April 19, 2003, (retrieved October 21, 2003).

195 Ibid.

196 Muhy-al-Din Qadr, “Over 1,000 Mines Removed from Just Three Liberated Areas,” Brayati (Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic Party), April 26, 2003, republished as “Over 1,000 Mines Removed in April—Kurdish Paper,” BBC, April 28, 2003.

197 Human Rights Watch interview with Lieutenant Colonel John Shanahan, commanding officer, Joint Forces EOD Team, 33 Engineers Regiment, Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army, Basra, May 28, 2003.

198 Lindsay Taylor, “Basra and Baghdad,” Channel 4 News (U.K.), March 25, 2003, (retrieved October 21, 2003).

199 Michael Holden, “Iraqis Face ‘Horrendous’ Mine Legacy,” Reuters, April 3, 2003.

200 Human Rights Watch interview with Lieutenant Colonel John Shanahan; Human Rights Watch interview with Gunnery Sergeant Tracey Jones, EOD team leader, Brigade Service Support Group 1, U.S. Marine Corps, Karbala’, May 25, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Lieutenant Jerry Roeder, First Battalion, Fourth Marines, U.S. Marine Corps, al-Hilla, May 20, 2003.

201 See Protocol I, art. 51(4).

202 Ibid., art. 51(4)(b).

203 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, September 18, 1997. This convention is also known as the “Mine Ban Treaty.”

204 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. `Ali `Abd al-Sayyid, director, al-Nasiriyya General Hospital, May 7, 2003.

205 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Rasmi al-Rikabi.

206 Fourth Geneva Convention, art. 18.

207 Ibid., art. 19.

208 Human Rights Watch interview with Wasfi Tahir, al-Najaf, May 24, 2003.

209 Scott Fornek, “Troops Blast Baghdad; Bush: ‘We Will Now Go the Last 200 Yards,’” Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 2003. See also “The Conduct of the War,” Voice of America, transcript, April 4, 2003.

210 Human Rights Watch interview with fedayeen, Baghdad, May 18, 2003. This fedayeen, 45, participated in the battle and was injured although he did not go to the hospital for fear of being turned in.

211 Protocol I, art. 53(b).

212 Human Rights Watch interview with Ghanan Fadhil, curator, Agargouf ziggurat, Agargouf, May 17, 2003.

213 Protocol I, art. 53(b).

214 Human Rights Watch interview with Talib Madhlum `Abdullah, al-Hilla, October 13, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Khalaf Jabbar, al-Hilla, October 13, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with `Adil Sa`ad al-Shami, al-Hilla, October 13, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with `Ali Hassan Fakhr, al-Hilla, October 13, 2003.

215 Human Rights Watch found additional evidence of occupation of schools in Baghdad, al-Hilla, al-Najaf, and Basra.

216 Human Rights Watch interview with Munkith Fathi `Abd al-Razzaq, Baghdad, October 10, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Haidar Majed Suhail and Hazza` Majed Suhail, Baghdad, October 10, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Salih Mahdi, Baghdad, October 10, 2003.

217 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colonel Lyle Cayce. Colonel Cayce served as the division’s lead attorney during the war and is now a student at the Army War College.

218 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colonel Gil Baldwin.

219 Ibid.

220 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. `Ali al-Aharkhi, chief of neurosurgery, Adnan Khiralla Hospital, Baghdad, May 17, 2003.

221 Human Rights Watch interview with Talib Madhlum `Abdullah; Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Khalaf Jabbar; Human Rights Watch interview with `Adil Sa`ad al-Shami; Human Rights Watch interview with `Ali Hassan Fakhr.

222 Human Rights Watch interview with Munkith Fathi `Abd al-Razzaq; Human Rights Watch interview with Haidar Majed Suhail and Hazza` Majed Suhail; Human Rights Watch interview with Muhammad Salih Mahdi.

223 Human Rights Watch interview with Munkith Fathi `Abd al-Razzaq.

224 Protocol I, art. 57.

225 Ibid., art. 58(b).

226 Ibid., art. 58(a).

227 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. `Ali `Abd al-Sayyid, director, al-Nasiriyya General Hospital, al-Nasiriyya, May 7, 2003.

228 Human Rights Watch interview with Yusif Sahib Jawad.

229 Human Rights Watch interview with Qassim Abu Ahmad, Baghdad, May 22, 2003.

230 See, e.g., Human Rights Watch telephone interview with `Abd al-Razzaq al-Sa`di, Baghdad, October 14, 2003.

231 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Colonel Gil Baldwin.

232 Human Rights Watch interview with Major Michael Samarov.

233 Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. Marine officer #1, al-Hilla, May 20, 2003; Human Rights Watch interview with Colonel David Perkins.

234 Human Rights Watch interview with Colonel David Perkins.

235 Protocol I, art. 48.

236 Ibid., art. 50(1).

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

December 2003