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Prosecuting War Criminals

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War CriminalsIntroduction

The main purpose of this article is to announce the release of the initial version of a new website warcrimes.org.uk and to explain its purpose, structure and function. Motivation for the establishment of the site arises in part from the belief that where impunity prevails crime flourishes. One of the greatest achievements and most positive indicators of the collective good sense of humanity have been the establishment and almost universal participation in International Institutions such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court which express the clear intention of ending impunity. In the first decade of this century we have seen the abuse and circumventing of the United Nations, the initiation of two illegal wars and the apparent paralysis of the instruments that should bring those responsible to account.

So another part of the motivation for the establishment of the site arises from a renewed comprehension of the expression that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. In the course of my life I have observed a sequence of developments, which can be described in essence as the insidious ascendancy of economic power over political power due to the fact that the former has effectively globalised while the latter has remained constrained within national borders. Since our freedom, to what extent we have it, depends entirely on political power the capture of political power by economic power means in effect, that we have already lost our freedom.

Economic power has immense capacity to maintain, for as long as is necessary, the illusion of freedom. So another part of the motivation for the establishment of the site arises from the understanding that no man is more thoroughly enslaved than he who falsely believes he is free and that unless, while there is still time, there is a global public effort to reform and reinvigorate the International Institutions that establish and give effect to the International Rule of Law, humanity may well have entered an evolutionary cul-de-sac a little more advanced but conceptually no different from that of ants and bees; a technologically maintained feudal society.

Our best chance to begin correcting this situation is a global determination to firmly assert that criminal actions on the part of political leaders at the service of economic power will not be tolerated. This is the issue that should unite the global efforts of the progressive left from all sectors and all causes because it is futile to canvas our political leaders on any other issue if they are compelled to answer to a higher order – the unchallenged demands of economic power. It is from this rationale that I believe that the prosecution of criminals responsible for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is probably the most important issue of our time.

The Illegal Wars

At the time of the invasion of Iraq both the British public and the cabinet were being persuaded that the British government was acting in the belief that an invasion of Iraq would be legal on the basis of UN Resolution 1441, on the advice (after reconsideration) of the Attorney General. In the Iraq Inquiry (for which the public has had to wait in persistent demand for six years) it has first emerged that this was not the advice of the government’s law office. This revelation was tempered by the assertion by the head of the law office that what really mattered was the opinion and advice of the Attorney General. It has subsequently emerged that the reconsideration of the Attorney General’s advice came only after a long and bitter contention during which he was coerced by the government to give the advice it wanted. The war was clearly illegal. 

The prior arrack on Afghanistan in 2001 was construed as a war of self-defence based on the terrorist attacks on the US allegedly originating from Afghanistan and the Afghan government’s refusal to extradite those responsible. Both allegations were false. Attacks perpetrated by individuals, even if originating from within a given state do not constitute an act of war by that state. The individuals allegedly responsible denied responsibility and the Afghan government offered to extradite them to the US (and later repeated the offer to extradite them to a third state) if the US government could provide evidence to implicate them; no evidence was forthcoming and to date, none has been made public. The FBI says there is none.

Asserting these wars to be wars of self-defence fails in the first instance in that it is difficult to sustain in the face of the fact that both wars have been conducted entirely on the enemy’s territory, which is far remote from that of the alleged defender and the enemy clearly has no means of conducting a war of aggression in the opposite direction. The contention also falls down in that the party that is clearly the aggressor has declared an intention of regime change and issued numerous prior threats of attack.

The soiled cloth that has been used to cover the glaring illegality of these wars has grown shabby and worn transparent. The perpetrators must answer to charges under International Law of Crimes Against Peace, laws that have been long established and previously applied to issue and give effect to death penalties for those responsible.

What the Chilcott Inquiry needs is a submission by someone of standing and professional knowledge of International Law (should I suggest Marjorie Cohn?) to connect up the dots for an inquiry that will otherwise surely fail to deliver meaningful conclusions about the illegality of these wars and the criminality of those who initiated them on the basis of a fraud.

The ICC - Political Subterfuge

While great efforts have been made and great progress has been achieved with genuine intent to formally establish a mechanism to adjudicate and give force to the International Rule of Law in the ICC it is clear that other forces have been at work to use the establishment of the ICC for the very opposite end.

The exclusion of the Crime of Aggression from the jurisdiction of the ICC and still worse, the deferment of inclusion pending the definition of aggression clearly exposes the hand of those working to roll back the efficacy of a law that has already been applied on the basis of a definition of aggression that has clearly been regarded as satisfactory in practice.

The role of the United States in refusing to be party to the ICC or to ratify the Rome Statute, while at the same time seeking to both influence its formation and participate in the enforcement functions of the ICC clearly exposes an intention to manipulate and abuse the institution, just as is the case with the UN.

Efforts to have the United Nations Security Council established as the only means to refer allegations of crimes of aggression, thereby acting as a filter and a clear source of bias, further reveal the hand of parties working to establish the ICC as an instrument of political advantage rather than one of impartial justice.

The success of these forces in progressing these intentions at the recent ICC Rome Statute Review Conference held in Kampala in May/June 2010 reveals the need for greater and more assertive public attention to the establishment and development of the ICC. In the present situation the ICC represents a regressive development from what has prevailed for the 60 years since the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals post-WW2 hanged criminals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.

Implications of Failure

We are clearly in danger of witnessing impunity for the perpetrators of some of the worst criminals engaged in the most catastrophic criminal acts in human history; the worst, certainly of this century, and arguably also compared with the last. This would be clearly a disaster for the future of humanity.

If we fail to prosecute the political leaders and others responsible for these crimes it is obvious that others will be emboldened to proceed likewise. For as long as there is personal gain to be had for political leaders willing to serve the criminal ends of economic power (as exampled by Tony Blair’s rising fortunes on the back of commissions from oil companies and American “Peace” Prizes) and there is massive wealth and power to be amassed by corporations and the “anonymous” people who own and control them by sacking and plundering the resources of nations, then the condition of humanity will continue to be plagued by genocide, violence and destruction. The cost is incalculable, the ultimate consequences far worse.

The implications of failure are already materialising as we face imminent war with Iran with probably far greater consequences by an order of magnitude. This is not the road to a harmonious existence for all humanity that is likely to realise the best of human potential, this is the road to a technologically managed feudal society based on dominance, control and oppression that limits human potential to the myopic vision of those who covet power single-mindedly and ruthlessly enough to attain it - absolutely.

The Website

The WarCrimes website (at www.warcrimes.org.uk) provides the foundation for an open framework, intended to serve as a unifying focal point for the purpose of prosecuting war criminals. The site will expand from this initial version by striving to address all aspects of the issue with the aspiration that it should become an organised, convenient and comprehensive source of information supporting and facilitating all activities undertaken by anyone committed to seeking justice for victims of war crimes and prosecution of criminals responsible for them.

The primary goal of the website is to provide tools to assist in the establishment and effect of processes to prosecute war criminals, in particular, those responsible for the obscene crimes of aggressive, illegal war in Afghanistan and Iraq. This, of course, is premised on an assumed incapacity of the ICC to achieve this, an assumption that will stand unchallenged until (at least) 2017 when some as-yet-unclear jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression comes into force, the underlying definition of “aggression” can be tested and the willingness of members of the UN Security Council to allow prosecution of their own leadership is evidenced. To this end the intention of the site is to unify, consolidate and organise information, directly facilitate efforts to prosecute war criminals and to facilitate and encourage all forms of political activism seeking to establish and empower an effective institution capable of prosecuting war criminals (other than only Africans). 

A particular concern is to establish the means to do this in a manner that is open, non-hierarchical, and democratic where appropriate and free from the abuses of manipulation or containment of efforts for change that pervade most “progressive” organizations. A primary objective is to provide an open facility for aggregation of various categories of information making all of the information collected publicly available in an organised and accessible manner. Currently, the site provides separate, specific foundations for some of the key perspectives: professional, Legal, Military and Political. These provide environments in which to build custom facilities, the first of which will be to collect, analyse and publicise public, legal, military and political opinion on the issue. 

For practical reasons the scope of attention has been limited, for the present, to British involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In presenting an initial release the primary focus has been to provide information about the relevant Laws of War (for which the primary sources have been the work of Chris Coverdale of the Campaign to Make Wars History, the Wikipedia pages, the UN website and others). Information on the war laws has been loosely organised into the menu structure. Other information about these war crimes, variously sourced online, has been arranged in the pages to make interesting browsing, hopefully to inspire and motivate, arousing greater public interest and action. A more open system of contributing information and a more formal structure for storing and accessing the information, with facility for keyword searching will be initiated in the next version.

This version of the site establishes the look and feel of the site and the basic elements of the site content. The next version will improve cross-browser support and implement database functionality to maintain user registration, login and data input, access to data and of course, address any problems identified in the meantime.

The Internet is steadily gaining ground in the struggle to overcome the dominance of a corrupt corporate media that fails to fulfil its responsibility to properly inform a democracy. However, the future of the Internet as a real force for democracy and international justice and human rights lies in its power to actively participate in the organization and action of large collectives to exert influence in the realms of both political and economic power. WarCrimes.org.uk (Version 1.0) provides the foundations of a system that will explore those possibilities on the way to prosecuting criminals of the worst and most dangerous kind – those with power and influence.

On the ICC

While many are encouraged by the outcome of the recent ICC conference in Kampala Uganda, I personally considered it a disaster reflecting the general lack of public awareness, engagement and knowledge of the underlying realities. The conference essentially accedes to the pressures that sought to use the ICC as a means to undo established precedents of prosecuting and punishing war criminals. What is worse, the conference accedes to arrangements that will essentially provide a further 7-year window of amnesty for criminals guilty of the crime of aggression, additional to the decade of protection, which the very existence of the ICC has already provided.

Given that this occurs at a time when most of the world, not blinded by corrupt vested interest and obscene media complicity, can see that George W Bush and Tony Blair are two criminals at large, clearly guilty of serious crimes that have had extremely serious consequences of international scale, it is a travesty to the discredit and shame of those who have engineered it, those who have coalesced in it without bitter and loud protest and those who have obstructed processes that should have brought these men to answer for their crimes..

What is needed to overcome the present obstruction is a loud and assertive public demand for an immediate rectification of this appalling state of affairs. It requires, on the one hand, a large, internationally organised, motivated and effective instrument of public demand to pressure political leaders to commit unconditionally to a revised ICC, while on the other hand a qualified, coherent group, cognisant of all the issues, accepting of the view that there existed in 1949 a valid Legal Framework and effective instruments for prosecuting war criminals (in particular, the crime of aggression) and able to expedite a rapid re-establishment of the a reformed ICC.

Conclusion

When we consider the positive things achieved by humanity in a quest of several thousand years for civilisation - value and respect for human life and dignity, respect for rights and property, valuing reason and dialogue over violence as the means for resolution of conflict, empathy and compassion - it’s an outrage and affront against all this that brazen criminals responsible for large scale fraud, genocide, destruction and theft on a national scale and in a manner more violent and barbaric than all the worst of human history should exercise smug self-assurance, indeed grandstand themselves to advocate more of the same while showered with rewards by complicit and like-minded scoundrels. It’s an outrage that all decent-minded people should and do feel to the quick despite the criminal inversion of society that floods us with the brazen lie that all is well if we put it behind us and move on. All is NOT well and indications are that things will get worse if we do not take urgent and necessary steps to correct them.  A vital step, perhaps the first and most important, is the establishment of International Rule of Law; a genuine, impartial and just institution, not the fraud currently established in the ICC that is a barricade and obstacle among the defences of the criminal empire of the owners of western capitalism.

Please allocate some of your time to visit and explore the website, engage with its intention and the significance of its subject, envision its potential and of course, feel free to comment, make suggestions and contribute. Please also inform others.


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