NEW YORK-The U.S. military's inadequate
checkpoint procedures in Iraq endanger civilians, including journalists,
as well as U.S. service members, Human Rights Watch and the
Committee to Protect Journalists said today in a joint letter to U.S.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The letter called on Rumsfeld to immediately implement a series of
recommendations contained in the military's internal investigation into
the March 4 checkpoint shooting that killed the Italian intelligence
officer Nicola Calipari and wounded Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian
journalist just released by kidnappers.
U.S. military investigators recommended installing temporary speed
bumps and spike strips at checkpoints to slow down vehicles,
launching a public awareness campaign to educate the Iraqi population
about how to safely approach checkpoints, and using signs in both
Arabic and English to warn drivers.
"Iraqi civilians and U.S. forces alike continue to face unnecessary
danger at checkpoints," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at
Human Rights Watch. "It's time for the Pentagon to follow its own
recommendations to implement basic safety procedures."
The military's recommendations were similar to those made in
October 2003 in a Human Rights Watch report on civilian casualties in
Iraq. The report, titled "Hearts and Minds," documented 18 deaths
resulting from actions by U.S. soldiers between May and September
2003. Eleven of these came at checkpoints.
"Developing and implementing new checkpoint procedures should be
a priority for U.S. commanders," the letter noted. "Checkpoint
shootings have sparked outrage among Iraqi citizens, undermining
public confidence in the U.S. military."
Three journalists and a media worker have been killed by soldiers at
U.S. checkpoints. Journalists in Iraq have told the Committee to
Protect Journalists that approaching a U.S. checkpoint remains a
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that
works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information,
To read the letter, please visit