Myers Warns Iraq Against Using Human Shields
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2003 America's top military officer warned Iraq today not to use human shields if conflict with Iraq begins.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented on Iraqi efforts to recruit noncombatants to serve as human shields around sensitive sites in Iraq. He said deploying human shields is against the International Law of Armed Conflict and would be considered a war crime.
"If death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields would be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions," Myers said during a Pentagon news briefing.
Myers said that if Iraq used human shields, U.S. and coalition forces would have to assess each situation separately to decide how to respond. "There will be some situations where military necessity - if it's a case of defending your forces - where you would have to take action, probably," he said. "There are other cases where, if you could avoid it, you would.
"The object is clearly to not engage noncombatants," he said. The chairman stated there would be cases where the United States would not know where noncombatants were, and the onus would be on Iraq if casualties occur.
"We're not into killing," Myers said. "That's one thing that separates us from the al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime: We don't want to take on civilian populations, we don't want to take on noncombatants and we take every measure to avoid doing that."
News reports indicate that anti-war activists from several Western countries, including Canada, the United States and Australia, have marshaled in Amman, Jordan, to join Iraq's human shield effort. Iraq is actively encouraging these groups.
In 1990, Iraq used Americans and other foreign nationals trapped in the country as human shields. The regime used human shields again in December 1998 as coalition forces launched Operation Desert Fox.