The Berg Detention: Legal Issues

Nicholas Berg's family says that he was in US custody for all or part of the period before his release, a release followed almost immediately by his capture by Al Qaeda or someone equally vicious. The US government's denial of this claim is one of the weirdest I've ever heard. The US admits:

  • “the FBI asked the police to keep Berg in custody while its agents reviewed the case”
  • FBI agents met with him repeatedly while he was in custody
  • Berg was freed the day after his parents filed suit claiming he was being held by the US

All together, this hardly paints a picture of US authorities with their hands off. Nevertheless, the US maintains that the Iraqi police were the ones responsible for Berg's detention. But here's the missing element: why is that relevant?

The United States plans to 'return' sovereignty to Iraq on June 30 (although whether this legal action will include any real power is obviously a hotly debated topic in DC right now). It follows that Iraq is not currently sovereign; that sovereignty is being exercised by the occupiers, who might be described as “a coalition of forces” or as “the United States”.

Currently the Iraqi police are an agent of the sovereign power in Iraq. And that's the US (or the 'Coalition' of which the US is the driving force). So either way the US is ultimately responsible, isn't it?

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One Response to The Berg Detention: Legal Issues

  1. MP says:

    He assumed the risk. Iraq is no Mayberry. This warning from DoS was more than enough:
    March 23, 2004
    The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens strongly against travel to Iraq. Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, and criminal elements remain active. Attacks against civilian targets throughout Iraq continue at a high rate, including at hotels, the UN headquarters, the International Committee of the Red Cross, police stations, checkpoints entering Coalition Provisional Authority areas, and several foreign missions. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. There is credible information that terrorists have targeted civil aviation in Iraq. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. Coalition led military operations continue, and there are daily attacks against Coalition forces throughout the country. Attacks against coalition forces as well as civilian targets occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous. Hotels, restaurants and locations with expatriate staff continue to be attacked. The security environment in all of Iraq is dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. Although restrictions on the use of U.S. passports for travel to, in or through Iraq have been lifted, travel to Iraq remains very dangerous.

    All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous, and there have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Travel in or through Ramadi and Faluja, and travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad, is particularly dangerous. There has been an increase in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and dead animals. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas.

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