War crimes committed by the United States: Wikis


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The United States has been accused of war crimes at various points throughout its history. Most, but not all contemporary war crimes are defined by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Geneva Conventions, and the associated Laws of war under international law.[1] War crimes in the United States can be prosecuted through the War Crimes Act of 1996 but the United States does not accept the Jurisdiction of the ICC over its military forces.


International Criminal Court

As of April 2009, 108 states are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Their nationals are liable to prosecution by the court for the violation of any relevant international criminal laws. Because the United States is not a state party, Americans cannot be prosecuted by the court (except for crimes that take place in the territory of a state that has accepted the court's jurisdiction, or situations that are referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council, where the US has a veto.

On Dec. 31, 2000, President, Bill Clinton, signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. At the time of signing President Clinton recommended that the incoming administration not submit the treaty to the United States Senate for ratification because of serious reservations about numerous clauses in the treaty. After the Rome Statute reached the requisite 60 votes for ratification in 2002, President George W. Bush's Administration sent a note of suspension to the UN Secretary General on May 6, 2002.[2] The note suspended the signature of the US and informed the Secretary General that the US recognized no obligation toward the Rome Statute. In addition, the US stated that its intention not to become a member state be reflected in the UN depositary list because signatories have an obligation not to undermine the object and purpose of a treaty. The US can engage with the Court by reactivating its signature to the Rome Statute by a letter to the UN Secretary General.[3] As the treaty that is not ratified it is not legally binding.[4]

Investigations and prosecutions of war crimes

1902 Lodge Committee investigating Philippine-American war crimes

The Committee on the Philippines was a standing committee of the United States Senate from 1899 to 1921.[1] The committee was established by Senate resolution on December 15, 1899, to oversee administration of the Philippines, which Spain had ceded to the United States as part of the settlement of the Spanish-American War. The committee was established by Senate resolution on December 15, 1899, even though the treaty of December 10, 1899, had not yet been ratified.[2]

In 1921, the Committee was terminated and jurisdiction over legislative matters concerning the Philippines was transferred to the newly created Committee on Territories and Insular Possessions.[3]

World War II

Vietnam War

The Vietnam War Crimes Working Group Files is a collection of formerly secret documents compiled by Pentagon investigators in the early 1970s, confirming that atrocities by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War were more extensive than had been officially acknowledged. The documents are housed by the United States National Archives and Records Administration. They detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by United States Army investigators — not including the 1968 My Lai Massacre.

The My Lai Massacre was the mass murder of 347 to 504 unarmed citizens in South Vietnam, almost entirely civilians, most of them women and children, conducted by U.S. Army forces on March 16, 1968. Some of the victims were sexually abused, beaten, tortured, or maimed, and some of the bodies were found mutilated. The massacre took place in the hamlets of Mỹ Lai and My Khe of Sơn Mỹ village during the Vietnam War.[10][11] Of the 26 US soldiers initially charged with criminal offences for their actions at My Lai, only William Calley was convicted. He served four and one-half months of his two-year sentence.

The incident prompted widespread outrage around the world. The massacre also reduced U.S. support at home for the Vietnam War. Three U.S. Servicemen (Hugh Thompson, Jr., Glenn Andreotta and Lawrence Colburn) who made an effort to halt the massacre and protect the wounded were sharply criticized by U.S. Congressmen, received hate mail, death threats and mutilated animals on their doorsteps.[12] Only 30 years after the event were their efforts honored.[13]

Non-judicial accusations of war crimes

World War II

  • Martin Sorge states in his book The Other Price of Hitler's War that "It was in the wake of the Malmedy incident at Chegnogne that on New Year's Day 1945 some 60 German POWs were shot by their American guards. The crime went unpunished. It was felt that the basis for their action was orders that no prisoners were to be taken".[14][15] However, an official history promulgated by the United States government states that while "it is probable that Germans who attempted to surrender in the days immediately after the 17th ran a greater risk" of being killed than earlier in the year, even so, "there is no evidence... that American troops took advantage of orders, implicit or explicit, to kill their SS prisoners."[16] (See Chenogne massacre). Documentary film makers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick in their series "The War" alleged in episode 6 that 25 unarmed SS soldiers were killed in a Belgian village after they surrendered in the aftermath of the so-called Malmedy massacre. This killing has been reported by an eyewitnessing American soldier who was asked to be a member of the death squad but declined to do so.[17] Owing to the lack of information it is not possible to assess whether this report is a relation of the Chenogne massacre or refers to another one.
  • Richard Dominic Wiggers asserts that American food policy in post-war Germany violated international law by directly and indirectly causing the unnecessary suffering and death, from starvation, of large numbers of civilians and POWs in occupied Germany.[18] The adequate feeding of the German population in occupied Germany was an Allied legal obligation,[19][20] under international law (Article 43 of The 1907 Hague Rules of Land Warfare).[21]

See also


  1. ^ Tarik Kafala. "What is a war crime?". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1420133.stm. 
  2. ^ "Administration Update, Suspension of US Signature, copy of note". The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court. after January, 2009. http://amicc.org/docs/bolton.pdf. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  3. ^ "Administration Update, Suspension of US Signature". The American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court. after January, 2009. http://amicc.org/usinfo/administration.html. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  4. ^ Definition of key terms used in the UN Treaty Collection
  5. ^ Albert Panebianco (ed). Dachau its liberation 57th Infantry Association, Felix L. Sparks, Secretary 15 June 1989. (backup site)
  6. ^ "A Peculiar Crusade" By James J. Weingartner, p. 118. (Google)
  7. ^ James J. Weingartner, "Massacre at Biscari: Patton and an American War Crime", Historian, Volume 52 Issue 1, pp. 24–39, 23 August 2007.
  8. ^ Shimoda et al. v. The State, Tokyo District Court, 7 December 1963
  9. ^ Falk, Richard A. (1965-02-15). "The Claimants of Hiroshima". The Nation.  reprinted in Richard A. Falk, Saul H. Mendlovitz eds., ed (1966). "The Shimoda Case: Challenge and Response". The Strategy of World Order. Volume: 1. New York: World Law Fund. pp. 307–13. 
  10. ^ Summary report from the report of General Peers.
  11. ^ Department of the Army. Report of the Department of the Army Review of the Preliminary Investigations into the My Lai Incident (The Peers Report), Volumes I-III (1970).
  12. ^ Moral Courage In Combat: The My Lai Story, 2003, http://www.usna.edu/Ethics/Publications/ThompsonPg1-28_Final.pdf 
  13. ^ My Lai Pilot Hugh Thompson
  14. ^ Sorge, Martin K. (1986-07-23). The Other Price of Hitler's War : German Military and Civilian Losses Resulting From World War II. Greenwood Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-313-25293-9. "It was in the wake of the Malmedy incident at Chegnogne that on New Year's Day 1945 some 60 German POWs were shot in cold blood by their American guards. It was felt that the basis for their action was orders that no prisoners were to be taken (Gallagher 1964, 98)."  Quote is verifiable using Amazon.com's "search within the book" feature, and is also cited in [Scrapbookpages 2006]. Sorge appears to be quoting [Gallagher 1964].
  15. ^ Gallagher, Richard (1964-01-01). The Malmedy Massacre. New York: Paperback Library. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007ED54W/. Retrieved 2006-06-03. 
  16. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1965). "Chapter XI. The 1st SS Panzer Division's Dash Westward, and Operation Greif". The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. Washington, D.C., USA: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army. pp. 261–264. LCCN 65-60001. http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/7-8/7-8_11.htm. Retrieved 2006-06-03.  This book is an official US military history of the Battle of the Bulge. Footnote 5 on page 264 reads, Thus Fragmentary Order 27. issued by Headquarters, 328th Infantry, on 21 December for the attack scheduled the following day says: "No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoners but will be shot on sight."
  17. ^ Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (directors), The War, Episode 6, "The Ghost Front"
  18. ^ Richard Dominic Wiggers. "The United States and the Refusal to Feed German Civilians after World War II" p. 288.
  19. ^ Nicholas Balabkins, "Germany Under Direct Controls: Economic Aspects of Industrial Disarmament 1945 – 1948", Rutgers University Press, 1964 p. 101.
  20. ^ Richard Dominic Wiggers. "The United States and the Refusal to Feed German Civilians after World War II" p. 274.
  21. ^ Richard Dominic Wiggers p. 279. "In postwar Germany and Japan, the U.S. Army financed the most urgent food imports by citing obligations under Article 43 of The Hague Rules of Land Warfare."

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