NEW YORK -- A human rights organization says it has
confirmed 20 civilian deaths under questionable circumstances in
Baghdad since May 1, when President Bush declared an end to major
combat operations in Iraq, and has received credible reports of
In a report released late Monday, Human Rights Watch also
accused the U.S. military of failing to conduct proper
investigations into excessive or indiscriminate use of force in the
''It's a tragedy that U.S. soldiers have killed so many
civilians in Baghdad,'' said Joe Stork, acting executive director
of the Middle East and North Africa division of the New York-based
group, which monitors human rights abuses around the world.
''But it's really incredible that the U.S. military does not
even count these deaths,'' Stork said. ''Any time U.S. forces kill
an Iraqi civilian in questionable circumstances, they should
investigate the incident.''
Lt. Col. George Krivo, a spokesman for the U.S. command in
Baghdad, said Monday that he had not seen the report, but added
that ''we do take investigations very seriously.''
Human Rights Watch said it was able to confirm 20 civilian
deaths caused by U.S. forces in Iraq's capital between May 1 and
Sept. 30, based on interviews with witnesses and victims'
relatives. The organization also said it received ''credible
reports'' that U.S. forces killed another 74 civilians under
questionable circumstances during the five-month period.
The organization recommended better language and cultural
training, as well as more accountability for soldiers who now
operate ''with virtual impunity in Iraq.''
In compiling its report, Human Rights Watch said it conducted
more than 60 interviews, reviewed police records and media
accounts, and collected information from the military and human
As of Oct. 1, the organization said, U.S. forces had
acknowledged completing five investigations above the division
level into alleged unlawful killings of civilians. In four of those
incidents, soldiers were found to have operated within rules of
engagement. In the fifth case, a helicopter pilot and his commander
face disciplinary action for removing a Shi'a banner from a tower,
which led to an altercation with demonstrators in which one or more
civilians may have been killed.
Krivo said investigations are ongoing into two fatal incidents.
One centers on the Sept. 12 killing of eight Iraqi police officers
and one Jordanian guard by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The other involves the killing of an Iraqi, he said, but no other
details were provided.
The deaths Human Rights Watch documented fall into three
categories: those that occurred in raids; those in which the group
alleges that soldiers responded disproportionately and
indiscriminately to attacks; and those of Iraqis who failed to stop
''U.S. checkpoints constantly shift throughout Baghdad, and are
sometimes not well marked, although sign visibility is improving,''
the report said. ''A dearth of Arabic interpreters and poor
understanding of Iraqi hand gestures cause confusion, with results
that are sometimes fatal for civilians.''
The report's author, Human Rights Watch consultant Fred
Abrahams, said the report was limited to deaths in Baghdad because
it was ''the natural place to begin.''
AP Special Correspondent Charles J. Hanley in Baghdad
contributed to this report.
On the Net: www.hrw.org
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press