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2004-11-16

War Crime Caught on Tape: U.S. Marine Executes Wounded Unarmed Iraqi

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An NBC cameraman caught on tape video of a US Marine executing an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in Fallujah. We speak with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. [includes rush transcript]

This news from Iraq: an NBC cameraman has caught on tape video of a US Marine shooting dead an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in Fallujah.

The NBC correspondent Kevin Sites said the Iraqi man who was killed was one of five Iraqis who had been injured after the US raided a Fallujah mosque. Another 10 Iraqis had already been killed in the raid.

The Marine is heard on tape claiming the Iraqi was faking his death. A marine can be heard saying on the pool footage provided to Reuters, "He’s [expletive] faking he’s dead. He faking he’s [expletive] dead."

The marine then raises his rifle and fires into the man’s head. The Marine involved in the shooting has been removed from the field and was being questioned by the US military.

The NBC correspondent on the scene said the shot prisoner "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way".

The shooting came on the same day that another US soldier was charged with murder for the killing of an Iraqi detainee in Baghdad.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The marine can be heard saying on the pool footage provided to Reuters, quote, "He’s faking his death. He’s faking he’s dead." The marine then raises his rifle firing into the man’s head. Again extremely disturbing footage.

MARINE: He’s faking he’s dead!

MARINE: He’s breathing.

MARINE: He’s faking he’s dead.

AMY GOODMAN: The marine involved in the shooting has been removed from the field and was being questioned by the U.S. military, the NBC correspondent on the scene said that the prisoner, quote, "did not appear to be armed or threatening in any way." The shooting came on the same day that another U.S. soldier was charged with murder for the killing of an Iraqi detainee in Baghdad. For quick comment we turn now to the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to this footage to what happened.

MICHAEL RATNER: It’s a war crime. It’s a clear war crime. When you have a — the person who was on the ground lying there wounded is a protected person under the Geneva Convention. You cannot harm a protected person. You cannot execute them, obviously, once they’re wounded and what they call hors de combat. They’re outside — they’re no longer a combatant. So it’s an execution. It’s a violation of the Geneva Convention. It’s a grave breach of the Geneva Convention. What’s most interesting about that, of course, is our U.S. law, our U.S. criminal statute, makes any grave breach of the Convention a war crime under U.S. law, that you can get life in jail and even the death penalty for. So it’s a really serious crime, and of course, one of my thoughts here is this apparently was not the only person executed at that particular moment. There were a couple of other people according to some articles I read today. The other thing it raises is the fact that he was willing to do it in front of a cameraman or apparently willing in some way, how widespread is this practice in Fallujah? Did they simply go in there and when people were wounded or when they were outside of combat, did they just murder them? And in some — there’s some evidence of that. I think you recall the story of a couple days ago when men, women and children tried to get out of Fallujah, and they let the women and children go and they forced the men back in, even though they had no weapons and they had been tested for explosives and there was nothing on them and they forced them back in, essentially into a killing field. So the whole question here is what we really did there, it appears from this, is a killing field in Fallujah.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, we also have this report, Sunday Times of London, saying that it has obtained evidence that the U.S. government is leasing this special gulf stream jet to transport detained suspects to other nations that routinely use torture. Pentagon, C.I.A. sending some — using the plane some 300 times dropping off detainees in Syria, Egypt and Uzbekistan.

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, there’s two things about that. One is, of course, it’s illegal under our own law for two reasons, both because we signed the convention against torture and implemented it, and it means that you cannot send people to a country where it’s more likely than not that they’re going to be tortured. We also have made that a criminal statute. A criminal violation again that you can be sentenced to long sentences for sending someone to a place where they can be tortured. And in the particular case that the Center is representing, Maher Arrar, a Canadian citizen who was sent to Syria for torture. Interestingly enough, he was sent there on a gulf stream jet exactly like the one described in the Sunday Times article in England, and the article said the jets actually left from Washington, D.C., and what’s interesting in Arrar’s case, he was first picked up on a plane in New Jersey, then flown to Washington, D.C., and then that plane eventually flew him to Jordan where he was unloaded and taken into Syria where he was tortured. So what’s going on here is essentially a plane that’s being used as an instrument of carrying people to their torturers, and it’s a clear crime under crime under U.S. law, but it’s just additional evidence that the U.S. has gone off the page in terms of what — of law and what it’s willing to do to people.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner, president of Center for Constitutional Rights. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL RATNER: Thank you.

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