Saddam Is a POW, But Status Could Change

By Gerry J. Gilmore

Jan. 10, 2004 – The United States now considers former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to be a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions, a senior U.S. official said today in Baghdad.

However, Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor told reporters that Hussein’s POW status may change, depending on any evidence that may be uncovered pertaining to his alleged crimes against humanity.

Hussein "is now technically an enemy prisoner of war, but that status, his ultimate designation, is neither affected nor determined by that (POW) designation," Senor explained, noting "until further information comes forward, that is his status."

The former dictator had disappeared after the April 9, 2003, fall of his Baath Party-controlled government and remained at large until U.S. forces captured him Dec. 13.

Hussein has been accused of being responsible for the deaths of up to 300,000 Iraqis during his 24-year rule, including using chemical weapons against those who opposed him.

"A thorough investigation" of Hussein’s alleged crimes will be conducted, Senor said, noting the Iraqi people "will have a substantial leadership role" in the process to bring the former dictator to justice.

The vast majority of Iraqis today identify Hussein’s outlawed Baath Party with "torture chambers, rape rooms, mass graves, chemical attacks," Senor pointed out.

The U.S. official said it’s important "for the Iraqi people to know that Saddam Hussein and his evil regime and the Baath Party are gone and they are not coming back."

As a symbol of post-Saddam Iraq, Senor pointed to the Jan. 15 issuance of new Iraqi postal stamps, which unlike most former regime stamps destroyed after the war, are Saddam-Hussein-image-free.

Scrubbing Saddam and his Baathist legacy from Iraqi public life is necessary, Senor asserted. He added that although free speech is part and parcel of a new, democratic Iraq, any use of "the messages and the images and the symbols of the Baath Party" would not be tolerated.