State Dept. lawyer: Soldier accused in death of Iraqi general may have violated Geneva rules
FORT CARSON – A U.S. State Department lawyer testified Thursday that an American soldier charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi general appears to have violated the Geneva Conventions on wartime conduct.Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. is accused of killing Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003.Prosecutors say Mowhoush was placed headfirst in a sleeping bag and bound with an electrical cord for interrogation. They say he suffocated while Welshofer sat on his chest and occasionally used his hands to cover Mowhoush’s mouth.State Department lawyer David Hodgkinson, who advises the Defense Department and other nations on the Geneva Conventions, said he believes the techniques used on Mowhoush violated the conventions’ humanitarian provisions.”No matter what, in Iraq there’s a baseline of humanity, humane treatment,” Hodgkinson said.He said the Geneva rules protect against physical and mental coercion or possibly lethal activity.Defense attorney Frank Spinner said Hodgkinson did not know the full story of Mowhoush’s death and that his testimony was based only on prosecution evidence.The prosecution rested Thursday, the fourth day of the court-martial, after questioning Maj. Michael Smith, a forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Mowhoush.Smith testified that he was certain the general died from being suffocated.He pointed out numerous large bruises on photos of the general’s body and said he had five broken ribs, which would have made walking and breathing difficult and painful.”But the circumstances of death are very suspicious,” he said. “The technique that was practiced was an inherently lethal technique.”Spinner has said an expert witness would testify Mowhoush died of heart disease and suggested Smith’s conclusion might be wrong.Smith said while it was possible Mowhoush could have died of natural causes, he did not think so.”That was not within the realm of accident,” Smith said. “These are purposeful acts by one individual that resulted in the death of another individual.”On Wednesday, a witness sitting behind a screen to cloak his identity testified that Welshofer said interrogation rules were being flouted “every day” in Iraq.The witness said he spoke with Welshofer on Nov. 25, 2003, the day before Mowhoush’s death. The witness said he asked Welshofer if he was aware of a memorandum from Welshofer’s commanding general that required authorization for the use of certain interrogation techniques.”He said he was aware of them, but said he was pretty sure they were breaking those rules every day,” the witness said.The memo, dated Oct. 12, 2003, did not mention stress techniques such as the sleeping bag position but said anything not in the memo required approval, according to the witness.Welshofer’s commander has said she would not have approved the sleeping bag technique to be used the way it was against Mowhoush.Under defense questioning, the secret witness conceded he did not witness any wrongdoing.Vail, Colorado
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