Sunday, June 28, 2009

'Will US ever face ICC over allegations of war crimes in Iraq?'

Nothing the US did in Iraq could ever constitute a war crime that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
This is the view of Richard Goldstone, a former chief international war crimes prosecutor and international law expert.

"I don't believe that any allegation that I have read or heard against the United States leaders comes anywhere near the sorts of crimes that the ICC has been set up to investigate. Genocide, crimes against humanity, serious war crimes - it just doesn't measure up."

Richard Goldstone - chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda from 1994-1996 and currently head of a UN fact-finding team on international law violations - made his remarks during a Radio Netherlands Worldwide debate in The Hague.

Asked by a member of the audience if former President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, could ever see themselves on trial at the International Criminal Court for their role in the US-led invasion of Iraq - Judge Goldstone was unequivocal in his answer.

"Let me say I don't believe, while there are allegations of torture - and errors made in bombing of Kosovo during the Clinton administration - or some civilians being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, I don't believe that any allegation that I have read or heard against the United States leaders comes anywhere near the sorts of crimes that the ICC has been set up to investigate. Genocide, crimes against humanity, serious war crimes - it just doesn't measure up, that's point one. I don't think it's a fair comparison."

The US has never ratified the treaty setting up the ICC and, as such, does not fall under its jurisdiction. American citizens can in theory be put on trial at the ICC if they commit a war crime, or other crime serious enough to warrant a case, in a country that has signed up to the ICC, but then only if the US courts themselves don't take action.

Richard Goldstone said this is unlikely to happen as democracies like the US are always willing to demonstrate capable legal systems.

Invasion

Under President Bush the US actively worked against the International Criminal Court putting a bill on the statute books, which became known unofficially as The Hague Invasion Act.
The American Service Members Protection Act, its real name, actually threatens American lawyers with legal action should they ever work on a case which could lead to a US citizen being put before the ICC. And it ultimately would allow US troops to come and free anyone on trial in The Hague, hence the unofficial name.
Judge Goldstone was also straight talking when it came to this point, saying the legislation should be scrapped as soon as possible.

"I think it is a blot on the ethics and the morality of the US Congress that there is an act that makes it a criminal offence for government officials to assist the ICC. This was an inheritance from John Bolton's days and I would hope sooner rather than later the now democratic majority in the Senate and the House will repeal those acts. There is talk of it happening and I'm sure it will happen. My attitude on it is very simple, get rid of it."

I agree here with Goldstone that it will be very difficult to make a case against Bush and Co., who are responsible for other crimes than the above mentioned: plundering of Iraq (outsourcing) and pushing the world into a polarized zone. But, in my opinion, Americans should be subject to the same agreements, the same rules, the same standards that anyone else is subject to and this legislation (Haque Invasion act) is as flawed and outrageous as the Helms-Burton Act. On the other hand, just take a look around you, there is so much knee-jerk, blind hatred, illogical and irrational anti-Americanism that it's no wonder people doubt whether you can even find a fair trial.
But get rid of the unethical The Haque Invasion Act which can lead (in theorie) to the bombing and invasion of The Hague in the Netherlands since the ICC is based there.

(Richard Goldstone has been back in the Netherlands for the last three months as The Hague Peace Philosopher - an initiative resulting from the new Spinoza Fellowship, a partnership between the City of The Hague, the Netherlands Institute for Advance Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the University of Leiden's Campus The Hague.)

Day Opening - June 28


Öxarárfoss in Iceland - Aurora Borealis taken by Arnar Valdimarsson.