William Hunsaker

16.01.2012 ( Last modified: 01.06.2016 )
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facts

William B. Hunsaker is from Missouri and enlisted in the United States Army in 2001. He served in Korea before going to Iraq on 7 August 2005 with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (known as the Screaming Eagles).

In the course of a mission codenamed Operation Iron Triangle, Hunsaker and three other soldiers (Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Private First Class Corey Clagett and Specialist Juston Graber) had as their objective a confirmed al-Qaida training compound. This compound had in the past been visited by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The four soldiers were led by Col. Steele, who had previously commanded a company sent into Mogadishu, Somalia.

Col. Steele allegedly gave the men the order to “kill all military age males,” which resulted in the three soldiers killing three men.

Subsequently, Hunsaker is alleged to have threatened Private First Class Bradley L. Mason (“I will kill you if you tell anyone” and “don’t tell anyone because if I go to jail I will kill you”), and to have attempted to influence his testimony in the investigation into the shootings.

Hunsaker was arrested some weeks after the killings of 9 May 2006 (date unclear) and incarcerated in Kuwait.

legal procedure

Hunsaker was arrested some weeks after the killings of 9 May 2006 (date unclear) and incarcerated in Kuwait. A military prosecutor accused him of committing war crimes. He was charged with premeditated murder, attempted premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder, communicating a threat, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

It was alleged that Hunsaker’s superior, Col. Steele, had given orders to “kill all military age males”. This allegation was never substantiated and was later withdrawn during Courts Martial. Steele was investigated for war crimes but charges against him were dropped. No action taken against the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Skip Johnson, or the battalion commander in charge of Operation Iron Triangle, Lt. Col. Richard Root.

In August 2006 a pre-trial hearing (a so-called Article 32 hearing) was conducted at Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. Hunsaker told investigators that he and Clagett were attacked by the three men and shot them in self-defense. The prosecutors did not accept this version of the events and Hunsaker was formally charged, along with his colleagues, Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Private First ClassCorey Clagett and Specialist Juston Graber and the charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. On 2 September 2006 Army investigator Lt. Col. James P. Daniel Jr. recommended the death penalty.

Hunsaker was defended by Michael Waddington. The General Court Martial was held in Fort Campbell, Kentucky and Hunsaker’s sentence was pronounced in September 2007.

Hunsaker entered into a plea agreement, which reduced his maximum sentence to 18 years. When pleading guilty to the charges, Hunsaker apparently told the military judge he believed that he was saving American lives and his actions were a “lesser evil for the greater good.”

Hunsaker is now serving that sentence at Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

context

The Iraqi special tribunal is a hybrid tribunal created on the 10th December 2003 in Bagdad by the coalition provisional authorities which were government established after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The mission of this tribunal is to judge acts of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as war crimes committed between 17 July 1968 and the 1st May 2003, the period covering the political regime of the Baas party. It is therefore aimed specifically at crimes committed by Iraqis in the aforementioned period notably those committed during the war against Iran (1980 – 1988) and the invasion of Kuwait (1990-1991).

The Iraqi special tribunal was created in the context of the Iraq war (also known as the Gulf war) that began on the 20th March 2003 by operation “Iraqi Freedom.” The operation involved the invasion of Iraq by the coalition. It was conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and the international coalition in order to overthrow the Baas party of Saddam Hussain. The Baas party originating in Damascus in 1947 came to power in Iraq in 1963 but it was only due to a coup of 17th July 1968 that it definitively seized power until 2003. When Saddam Hussein came to power on the 16th July 1979 the party changed significantly and militarised itself. By organising itself into various cells throughout the country the party became strongly resistant in the face of hardship. The United States have been the leaders of the war in Iraq and many reasons for the war have been officially cited by the government of G.W Bush; the fight against terrorism, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was supposed to hold; the arrest of Saddam Hussein, to mention only the main ones. After a rapid defeat of the Iraqi army at the end of April 2003 and the capture ofSaddam Hussein, the coalition and Iraq tried to establish a transitional democratic government representing all the Iraqi communities. The coalition also aimed to try members of the Baas party that had been captured.

In close collaboration with the American department of justice to which he reports directly, Paul Bremer, (Iraqi second civil administrator) established by decree the statute of the Special Iraqi tribunal on the 10th December 2003. The United States have awarded more than $100 million to ensure the “construction of the courtroom, conduct exhumations, study the documents seized, the preparation of evidence and the training of the tribunal’s members”.

The statute of the tribunal is a mix of two existing forms of procedure, inspired strongly by American adversarial law as well as Egyptian law which is essentially inquisitorial. If the statute is deemed to be insufficient it explicitly states that the Iraqi penal code of 1971 is to be used. The statute of the tribunal introduced alongside the Iraqi penal legislation a number of crimes taken from statutes of other international criminal courts in order to incriminate the former dictator Saddam Hussein and other members of the regime, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Furthermore, each time that one of these crimes does not have a corresponding match in the Iraqi penal order, the statute authorises the tribunal judges themselves to determine the sentence taking into account the gravity of the crime, the individual characteristics of the accused and international jurisprudence. With regards to its composition, the Iraqi special tribunal consists of 20 attorneys contracted for 3 years, 3 chambers composed of 9 permanent judges appointed for 5 years, a court of appeal composing of 9 judges and 20 judges appointed for 3 years. It is formed solely of Iraqi judges of which a certain number have denounced from the beginning the pressure exerted by the provisional government. Some judges have been the victims of threats, of removal and even of assassination.

Whilst being discredited from the beginning as rendering winners justice, the Iraqi special tribunal had the means to quickly realise its central objective, that of judging the ex head of state Saddam Hussein as well as the main representatives of the Baas regime. In addition to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the tribunal also had jurisdiction to try cases relating to the manipulation of judges, squandering national resources and the use of the Iraqi army against another Arab state. All of these charges were on the indictment for the first trial.

The first trial which took place in front of the tribunal was the trial of Saddam Husseinjudged alongside seven of his lieutenants on the 19th October 2003. There were doubts concerning the fairness of the trial in regard to the conditions under which the trial began. Several Human Rights organisations one being  Human Rights Watch have condemned technical and financial limits placed on the defence which risked hindering their work in comparison with the support received by the prosecution. Another issue which was the subject of controversy was the re-establishment of the death penalty on the 30th June 2004, which was abolished in 2003 by Paul Bremer. Despite the position today in international law being clearly abolitionist,  several death sentences were passed early on culminating with the hanging of Saddam Hussein in December 2006 which was voluntarily made public. After said hanging the tribunal has continued and continues today to prosecute the former members of the Baas government.

At present, the Iraqi special tribunal is still evolving in the context of a political crises and repeated attacks. The execution on 25 January 2010 of “Chemical Ali”, Saddam Hussein’s cousin seems to have revived the movements against religious minorities present in Iraq.