[sixties-l] Rights Group Seeks Probe of Possible U.S. War Crimes

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed May 09 2001 - 22:42:27 EDT

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    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
    group said.

    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,''
    it said.

    ``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.

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