23 May 2004

How to hand over sovereignty without handing over sovereignty

The Observer is reporting that Iraqis lose right to sue troops over war crimes:

British and American troops are to be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq after the crucial 30 June handover, undermining claims that the new Iraqi government will have 'full sovereignty' over the state.

Despite widespread ill-feeling about the abuse of prisoners by American forces and allegations of mistreatment by British troops, coalition forces will be protected from any legal action.

They will only be subject to the domestic law of their home countries. Military sources have told The Observer that the question of immunity was central to obtaining military agreement on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq to be published by the middle of next month.

The new resolution will lift the arms embargo against Iraq, allowing the country to rearm its 80,000-strong army in readiness for taking over the nation's security once coalition forces finally leave.

'The legal situation in Iraq will be very difficult after 30 June, with some confusion over where jurisdiction lies,' said one Whitehall official. 'We wanted to ensure that British troops maintained the immunity they already have under Order 17.'

Human Rights Watch has a good analysis of this legal legerdemain. The Bush administration has always been a staunch advocate of tort reform. Who knew tort reform includes torture reform?

One of the more pathetic sights of recent times has been US senators asking if the ITG will command coalition forces. Don't they read anything anymore? The Transitional Administrative Law's Article 59 makes quite clear they do not.

The not-sovereignty the Iraqi transitional government will exercise does not include military command, finances or apparently the civil rights of Iraqis. The bill of rights Bush makes such a song and dance about will not apply to forces under Bush's command and control. After all, we can hardly have Iraqi judges ordering the release of prisoners from Abu Ghraib can we?

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