Rights Group Seeks Probe of Possible U.S. War Crimes
Wednesday May 9
HANOI (Reuters) - Revelations that a commando team led by ex-U.S. Senator
Bob Kerrey killed civilians during the Vietnam War show the need for the
United States to investigate possible war crimes, a U.S.-based human rights
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld should launch an inquiry to determine whether U.S. military
policy, orders and practices in Vietnam constituted or led directly to war
It called for particular focus on special operations and unconventional
warfare and said that if war crimes were proven in the case of Kerrey's
Navy SEAL mission in 1969, there should be prosecutions.
The group said it had said in a letter to Rumsfeld that Kerrey's
revelations ``suggested that certain military units then operated under
standing orders or employed methods that directly violated the Fourth
Geneva Convention, resulting in 'grave breaches' of that Convention, or war
Human Rights Watch said it had not conducted an independent investigation
into the killings in the Mekong Delta village of Thanh Phong on February
25, 1969 and took no position on factual disputes surrounding Kerrey's
``The allegation that members of the team killed unarmed persons in their
custody, however, warrants specific investigation by the U.S. government,''
``If proved, such acts would clearly constitute war crimes, for which there
is no statute of limitations, and should result in prosecutions.''
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Kerrey's
disclosures had reopened bitter debates about the Vietnam War.
``But that doesn't mean the U.S. can shirk its responsibility to find the
truth and pursue justice,'' he said in a statement.
``As a party to the Geneva Conventions since 1955, the U.S. had, and still
has, a clear legal obligation to investigate possible war crimes by its
forces in Vietnam.''
Villagers who said they were survivors of the attack told Western reporters
last month Kerrey's squad killed at least 20 civilians in cold blood,
mostly women and children.
Kerrey has acknowledged killing of civilians took place, but said his squad
was returning fire and did not know civilians had been killed until after
the fighting. He has flatly denied the squad acted with brutality.
The villagers said there was no exchange of fire.
Vietnam's communist government, which wants improved economic ties with the
United States, has carefully avoided calling the killings a ``war crime.''
Earlier this month, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh called
them ``a crime committed during wartime.''
She said Vietnam respected villagers' accounts but said Kerrey's tormented
conscience should be punishment enough.
Kerrey has been among the U.S. politicians who have pushed hardest for
post-war reconciliation with Vietnam.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu May 10 2001 - 01:10:11 EDT