By staff and agency

Human Rights Watch: Trump threatens war crimes against Iran

January 6, 2020 - 21:8

Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s public threat to attack Iranian sites of cultural importance would be war crimes if carried out.

“President Trump should publicly reverse his threats against Iran’s cultural property and make clear that he will not authorize nor order war crimes,” said Andrea Prasow, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch, according to the website of the Human Rights Watch.

“The U.S. Defense Department should publicly reaffirm its commitment to abide by the laws of war and comply only with lawful military orders,” she said.

The laws of war prohibit deliberate attacks on civilian objects not being used for military purposes. Objects of great importance to a people’s cultural heritage must not be the object of attack. Article 53 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions specifically prohibits any acts of hostility against cultural objects, including making such objects the target of reprisals. The U.S. Law of War Manual (2016), which has extensive provisions relating to the protection of cultural property, incorporates this provision into U.S. law. The U.S. is also a party to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954), which similarly prohibits such attacks.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump threatened to target 52 Iranian sites, including cultural and civilian ones.

The tweet came after the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday.

Swiss Ambassador to Tehran Markus Leitner, whose country represents the United States’ interests in Iran, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday over Trump’s remarks.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned Trump’s threats, reminding him that attack on cultural sites is an instance of “war crime”.

NA/PA

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