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U.S.: Saddam's POW status won't bar Iraqis from trying him

Saddam Hussein is shown shortly after his capture December 13.
Saddam Hussein is shown shortly after his capture December 13.

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CNN's Jamie McIntyre has more on the status of Saddam Hussein as a prisoner of war. (January 10)
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Saddam Hussein's prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions would not keep Iraqis from taking part in a Saddam war crimes trial, a coalition official said Saturday.

"Saddam's ultimate designation is unaffected and undetermined by this designation," said Dan Senor, a Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman. "President Bush said that the pursuit of justice with regard to Saddam Hussein should have an Iraqi leadership role."

The coalition is telling the Governing Council that Saddam's status could change, he said.

The Pentagon Friday said it classified Saddam as an enemy prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions. The declaration could affect how Saddam is treated in captivity and if, or how, he'll be tried.

Since his capture by U.S. troops in December, Saddam has been afforded protection under the spirit of the Geneva Conventions. Because of the POW declaration, the United States will have to adhere to the letter of the treaty, which could limit its options in dealing with the deposed ruler.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors the adherence of the conventions in conflicts across the globe, has been trying to arrange for a visit with Saddam.

According to Article 17 of the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war are not required to divulge anything more than their name, rank, date of birth and serial number, and may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment to force more information from them.

Some critics say the video of Saddam undergoing a medical exam soon after his capture -- images broadcast around the world showing the showed the once-feared leader with matted hair, a beard, and opening his mouth for inspection -- may violate the conventions' prohibition against humiliation of a prisoner.

Also, Saddam's classification as a POW means that he can be tried only under the authority of occupying forces, which might require a U.S. military trial. That would interfere with U.S. plans to turn the former Iraqi leader over to an Iraqi war crimes tribunal. The United States plans to transfer sovereignty to a provisional Iraqi government by July 1.

Also, a Pentagon official said if new information came to light about Saddam, provisions within the conventions could lead to changes in his status. For example, if it was found that Saddam lead the post-war insurgency, he might be considered a terrorist leader and not eligible for POW status.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Saturday Saddam is in a safe location under coalition control, but would not comment on his interrogation.

U.S. and British officials said Friday Saddam has not yet provided any useful information to U.S. interrogators, but documents captured with him have led to a number of arrests and weapons seizures.

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