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[P]
Justice for ALL Concerned?

By m0rzo in Op-Ed
Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:57:19 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

No-one can have escaped the recent television news focus on former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic. His tribunal for war crimes is the first of its kind since the Nuremburg and Tokyo trials held in the aftermath of World War II. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established in 1993 after Resolution 827 was passed following concerns surrounding reports of rape, ethnic cleansing and mass killings


The tribunal has defined the following crimes that are within its jurisdiction:

- Grave Breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention

- Violations of the laws or customs of war

- Genocide

- Crimes against humanity

The tribunal at present has in its detention unit thirty-eight indicted war criminals and thirty-eight convicted war criminals are still at large.

The main rationale behind this article is to present the case for Western leaders being indicted for similar offences. Could it happen? If it could will it happen? NATO has adopted the role in the last decade of global policemen. Are global policemen above international law? In 1989, the perceived threat of the Soviet Union was finally dismantled along with the Berlin Wall. NATO is now the big global power with no apparent equal. It answers to no-one.

In 1991, Operation Desert Storm was initiated following the incursion of Kuwait by Iraq. In the 11 years that have followed, the United States has pursued a policy of containment almost, imposing sanctions that have more of an affect on a civilian populous than any regime that they hope to destabilise. In 1999 the Iraqi Ministry of Health estimated that 1.4 million Iraqis of all ages had died as a result of sanctions. Between 1991 and 1996 according to the UN's own statistics over 500,000 Iraqi children had died due to a lack of medical care and one third of all children were undernourished. Does Saddam care? No. Saddam remains in his palaces whilst his people starve and his ability to make war doesn't seem to have been taken care of.

During the war with Iraq the United States and her allies destroyed Iraq's water supply and in the 11 years that have followed they have prevented it from being repaired. Dams and irrigation systems were knocked out and as a result water-borne diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, cholera and polio are rife. Directly after the war, suffering from the complications of these diseases e.g. vomiting, diarrhoea and extreme dehydration, the people drank more and more of the water that had made them ill. In 2000 it was reported that the US-led forces, during the Gulf War, had deliberately poisoned Iraq's water supply. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention which clearly stipulates in Article 54:

"It is prohibited to attack, destroy or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population."

Why haven't Bush Sr. and John Major, the then leaders in 1991, asked to be accountable for their actions before an international court?

An Iraqi child with dysentery in 1990 had 1 in 100 chance of dying. In 1999 those odds were slashed to 1 in 50.

In 1999 NATO launched Operation Allied Force, an air campaign, against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During this campaign 38, 000 sorties were flown, 10, 484 of which were air strikes against targets within Kosovo and Vojvadina. The explicit aim of this campaign was to drive Serbian armed forces out of the disputed Kosovo region preventing crimes of humanity against the ethnic Albanian civilian population.

"Our military objective is to degrade and damage the military and security structure that President Milosevic (Yugoslav President) has used to depopulate and destroy the Albanian majority in Kosovo.&quot

Yugoslav media estimated that thousands of civilians had been killed by these strikes. The Serbian government, perhaps more realistically, predicted 400 - 600 deaths.

The pressure group, Human Rights Watch, submitted a report in which they came to the conclusion that 500 civilians had been killed. The report concluded that whilst no war crimes had been perpetrated NATO violated International Humanitarian Law. The report suggested that NATO may have broken the Geneva Convention in 5 areas. These areas were:

- They conducted attacks using cluster bombs near civilian areas (following international condemnation, the US stopped using these weapons half way through the war. Britain did not).

- They targeted areas of questionable military legitimacy.

- They did not take adequate measures to warn civilians of impending strikes

- They took insufficient measures to verify the presence of civilians on moving targets.

- They took insufficient measures to verify that targets did not have concentrations of civilians.

The Human Rights Watch report suggested that NATO had attacked nine non-military targets. Those that spring instantly to mind are the bombing of Serb television and radio, two separate incidents of bridges being attacked as a train and bus went over them and the assault on the Serbian civilian town of Surdulica.

Of course, all of these could be put down to incredibly bad logistics. I am not claiming that NATO is an overtly aggressive evil entity guilty of the crimes Milosevic is accused of. I do, however, believe that all of those in high positions (including those in the West) should be held accountable for incidents in war-time. If their actions were unavoidable, then they should explain it to a court of law.

I think this article could yield some interesting, compelling debate over the question of whether Bush Sr., Major, Clinton, Blair and various high-ranking military personnel should have been brought before an international hearing.

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Poll
Should Western Leaders be held accountable for actions in War?
o Yes they should 78%
o No they should not 2%
o COURSE NOT! We're the LEADERS of the FREE WORLD Goddamit! 18%

Votes: 69
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slobodan Milosevic
o tribunal
o Nuremburg
o Resolution 827
o Operation Desert Storm
o poisoned
o Geneva Convention
o NATO
o Operation Allied Force
o Human Rights Watch
o report
o Internatio nal Humanitarian Law
o Serb television and radio
o train
o bus
o Surdulica
o Also by m0rzo


Display: Sort:
Justice for ALL Concerned? | 45 comments (38 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
incredibly bad logistics (3.66 / 9) (#2)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:13:06 AM EST

Logistics? What do logistics have to do with targeting?

They did not take adequate measures to warn civilians of impending strikes

You do understand that sending prior warning of which targets are going to be hit, and when, is militarily insane, don't you?

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"

Well... (3.66 / 3) (#5)
by m0rzo on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:36:41 AM EST

By logistics I'd take that to mean; intelligence, relating to personnel, MAPS. Dictionary.com defines it as;

The management of the details of an operation.

So yes, I did mean LOGISTICS which have EVERYTHING to do with targeting.

NATO gave no vague hint that areas where civilians were, would be hit. Unlike in Afghanistan where helicopters and planes flew over with radio messages, no-one was forewarned. Obviously I'm not saying they should have said, "People, Radar Station A is about to be hit, run!".


My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

Intel not part of logistics (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:55:54 AM EST

Logistics is supply. Intel handles the targeting. Yes, the intel company may get the maps from the supply company, but targeting is not part of supply!

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
International Criminal Court ICC (4.66 / 6) (#6)
by vefoxus on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:37:38 AM EST

I think you should refer much more to the ICC, whose foundations were laid in Rome in 1998 see the web page: ICC Now .

The proposed International Criminal Court will be a permanent Court that will investigate and bring to justice individuals, not countries, who commit the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity-including widespread murder of civilians, torture and mass rape. The ICC will be a global judicial institution, an international jurisdiction complementing national legal systems.

This international court is exactly what you are asking for and event more, since it would really bring "justice", in the sense that all would be equal, without any further need for special tribunals like for Rwanda and Yugoslavia. And that is good because there is no justice if not all people, countries are faced with the same law. It seems to me a very good place to judge even world-scale terrorism such as the Al-Quaida group.

Unfortunately, the ICC does not yet exist. Why ? because it needs to be ratified by at least 60 countries (52 so far), and far from all countries have made this ratification. Most shocking IMHO is the apparent will of the USA to avoid this ratification, and even more any cooperation with a future ICC (see the notes about the US ratifications. Anyone with more knowledge about the US legislation process wants to explain this ?). Excerpt:

The fundamental objections of the United States to the Rome Statute were therefore reduced to a single key concern. The United States wants to be able to exempt its military and political officials and personnel from the jurisdiction of the Court until the United States has ratified the treaty. Attempts to obtain such an exemption were a priority for the previous administration at the Preparatory Commission for the ICC; nevertheless, former President Bill Clinton signed the Statute just before the 31 December 2000 deadline. Upon signing, former President Clinton said the treaty was "signficantly flawed", by which he was referring to this ongoing concern about the Court's jurisdiction. He recommended to his successor that the treaty not be ratified by the Senate and stated that the U.S. concern could best be addressed from inside the process (ie. through participation in the Preparatory Commission).

The new Bush administration has been even more hostile to the ICC as a result of this potential for the Court's jurisdiction to apply to nationals of the U.S. before it had ratified. At the time of the September 11th attacks a policy review was underway and the options under consideration included "unsigning" and a global "anti-ratification" campaign. A small, low level US delegation attended only the debates on Aggression at the seventh session of the PrepCom (March 2001). It gave as its reason for absence that previous efforts to satisfy US concerns in UN negotiations on the ICC had been futile. Nevertheless, at the eighth session (24 September - 5 October 2001), the delegation was larger, included higher level officials, and followed both Aggression and discussions on the Court's financing.

The internal policy review to determine the full approach the administration will take to the ICC, especially in light of the recent U.S. efforts to build coalition to fight against international terrorism, appears to be still in process.

Any comment ? It seems that every country in the EU (except Ireland and Greece which are still in the process of doing it) have ratified it.

what does 'ratification' mean? (none / 0) (#15)
by turmeric on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:22:48 PM EST

does that mean a popular vote? Sorry, america is not real good at that sort of thing, we are still working out ballots after 200 years.

[ Parent ]
Whoa (5.00 / 2) (#19)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:34:12 PM EST

From your post ("we are still ")I assume that you are an American. You don't know how treaties are ratified? Which lame high school did you go to!

It takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate to ratify a treaty.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

Congress Ratifies Treaties (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:48:45 PM EST

It's terrifying when you know more about the constitution of the most powerful country in the world than its own citizens.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
not really (none / 0) (#44)
by ChannelX on Mon Feb 18, 2002 at 01:24:13 AM EST

whats more terrifying is the assumption that because 1 person doesnt have a clue its true for everyone. bad mistake. hate to break this to you but I know people from many different countries as well as here that dont give a shit about how their systems work. it is not just an American problem.

[ Parent ]
why they won't ratify (none / 0) (#27)
by deadplant on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:32:02 PM EST

Ok, maybe I'm too cynical but I really don't think I am. The USA will not ever ratify any treaty that creates an international criminal court if that court has jurisdiction over US politicians.

There's just no way that's gonna happen. The US goverment is not interested in playing by the rules nor have they ever been. The current view of the US gvt is that "anything goes" if it's in the interests of the USA and doesn't happen on US soil. "crimes against humanity" are an image issue only.

Politicians aren't even held accountable for their crimes against the american people themselves! unless one of them starts going around personnally killing people the worst that can happen is they lose their job.(at least for awhile! americans seem to have no qualms about re-electing convicted corrupt/criminal leaders)
Having the president arrested and carted off to some international jail for trial would be "a threat to national security" and would NEVER EVER happen. It just won't happen, they'll shoot you before they let you arrest their president.

Also, it's not just a matter of the US not ratifying the treaty. They actively appose it, all the little 'yes-men' countries that want to please the US are also holding back because the US wants them to.


[ Parent ]
And the answer is (4.00 / 5) (#7)
by fhotg on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:37:54 AM EST

The main rationale behind this article is to present the case for Western leaders being indicted for similar offences. Could it happen? If it could will it happen?
No, not yet.

Because there is an unwritten law, nevertheless set in stone, which states:

Only the loosing party can be accused of war crimes.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Which is why Lebanon and Belguim are. . . (5.00 / 2) (#13)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:17:06 PM EST

Putting Ariel Sharon on trial for war crimes for his alleged involvement in commiting war crimes in Lebanon.

But then again, that is pretty exceptional AFAICT.

Regards,

Lee

[ Parent ]

He's already been found guilty! (4.33 / 3) (#17)
by greenrd on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:21:07 PM EST

Sharon's case is even more unusual because he was found to be culpable by an official Israeli inquiry, which recommended that Sharon should never again be allowed to hold the post of Defense Minister.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Kicking themselves (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by grand master thump on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 08:00:41 AM EST

Bet they are kicking themselves now.

"Damn we should have said that he could not hold the post of Defenece Minister... or the minister's boss"


This sig has been stolen
[ Parent ]

interesting (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by fhotg on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:04:49 PM EST

I wasn't aware of this. Seems like Belgium is the place to go to accuse international-scale criminals.

Sharon convicted would be a pretty strong political statement, but not a verdict in the usual sense: There would be no punishment, as long as he stayed away from countries acknowledging the judgement.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

War crimes and moral standards (4.40 / 5) (#9)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:51:48 AM EST

International law is not law because it is not enforcable. If I break the Geneva Convention, no one can do a damn thing about it if I am powerful enough.

The only way to get around this is to set up a world government, which is a disaster waiting to happen. Humanity cannot and should not be run by a single government and set of laws. And in order for them to enforce these laws on the world, they would need a military machine at least as large as the United States.

Frankly, it is an individual country's business what it does on the international scene. If that means invading Kuwait, or attacking Bosnia-Herzegovinia, international law isn't going to change a thing, while bombing very quickly will.

On the other hand, it is an individual country's business what it does on the international scene. I don't like war, and I don't like killing people. Therefore, it is my responsibility as an ethical person to discourage _my_government_ from going to war or killing people. To quote Noam Chomsky:

"I'm a citizen of the United States and I have a share of responsibility for what it does. I'd like to see it act in ways that meet decent moral standards. It's back to moral truisms: it's of little moral value to criticise the crimes of someone else--though you should do it, and tell the truth. I have no influence over the policies of Sudan but a certain degree over the policies of the US. It's not a matter of expectation but of aspiration."

If we're going to put Bush on trial, let's do it. Not because 'international law' says we have to, but because we find his actions abhorrent. And if we aren't, we shouldn't turn him over to an international tribunal composed of judges just drooling at the chance to take a swing at America.

"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
then why have any federal system at all (3.00 / 3) (#14)
by turmeric on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:20:15 PM EST

why not just have 50 separate states?

[ Parent ]
States and Nations (5.00 / 3) (#20)
by Pseudoephedrine on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:56:45 PM EST

Actually, I'm not that fond of a strong federal government in the first place. Originally, if you've read the Consitution, the purpose of the FedGov was pretty simple - coordinate defense, encourage free trade and exchange by getting rid of barriers to trade, and prevent the individual states from trampling on their citizens' rights, as specifically enumerated in the Consitution. Nothing else. I'm pretty fond of that model, as it gives individual states a lot of lee-way. If Utahans want to allow polygamy, while Arizonans want to ban sodomy and Oregoners don't want to be taxed, that's their business, not the FedGov's. If you don't like where you're living, you seriously could move somewhere with a different set of laws, rather than being forced to simply move from one set of bureacracy to another, as we are in the modern day.

As well, the advantage America has over the United Nations is that it is a relatively homogenous population in terms of culture. Sure, there are a lot of minorities each of whom celebrate their ethnic origins and there's even a lot of variation between individual states, but they're part of an overall "American" culture that most Americans buy into.

The United Nations and the world are not so fortunate. The differences between a Louisianan and an Oregoner are nothing compared to the differences between say, an American and a Saudi, or a Pakistani and a Japanese person.

What I want my government to do is totally different than what a Frenchman or Swede wants. So why should we both be governed by the same set of laws? Let their government give them cradle-to-grave protection, and let mine give me freedom, and let both of us be happy. There's no loss there.

In the same vein, let the rest of the world sort out their problems without America dropping bombs on them, assasinating their leaders and training the military forces of dictators. "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations--entangling alliances with none", to quote Thomas Jefferson.


"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
[ Parent ]
Who shall judge who... (none / 0) (#38)
by vefoxus on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 04:47:59 AM EST

International law is not law because it is not enforcable. If I break the Geneva Convention, no one can do a damn thing about it if I am powerful enough.

True enough, but just remember that among the greatest virtues of Justice are patience and persistence. Large-scale crimes can be judged 50 years after it was commited. See my message about the ICC about where these judgements should-and will- take place.

The only way to get around this is to set up a world government

Wrong: Justice does not require a democratic process on the same scale. There were courts long before democratic governments. Unperfect because they tended to protect more the powerful, but in case of important crimes nobody was totally immune.

Frankly, it is an individual country's business what it does on the international scene. If that means invading Kuwait, or attacking Bosnia-Herzegovinia, international law isn't going to change a thing, while bombing very quickly will.

True, but an intervention of some "international law enforcement" does not mean that a trial is not necessary, quite the contrary. First you attack and defeat the robbers, then you judge them. Without a trial there is no justice.

If we're going to put Bush on trial, let's do it. Not because 'international law' says we have to, but because we find his actions abhorrent. And if we aren't, we shouldn't turn him over to an international tribunal.

I don't believe Bush qualifies for a trial, but rhetorically, you can't judge anyone by its own, the meaning of 'its own' depending on the context.
So: would you want anyone in your family to be judged because he is accused of a crime ?
Me neither. However we all know that this is not a basis to refuse the existence of a judiciary system in our country, while pretending that "we will judge him in our fmaily. Trus us to be fair".
The same applies, or will apply eventually, for international crimes: once only countries would judge their own, but now it is very clear that if that involves foreign affairs, no fair trial could happen in the originating country. So an independent court must exist, and it is possible.

we shouldn't turn him over to an international tribunal composed of judges just drooling at the chance to take a swing at America.
This is precisely why the ICC would be a good thing as a new institution, because it would ensure that no 'special' tribunal would ever be formed, and therefore would be able to judge without a priori. Of course one may always have doubt about the judiciary system, but on such important trials you can expect the judges to be very carefully chosen, and that they will be (or should be) among the most respected of their profession.

[ Parent ]

k5 Words of the Day! (4.08 / 12) (#11)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:55:56 AM EST

Since the author of this piece ignored them:

- instigator

- aggressor

If you want to know why Milosevic is on trial, Hussein is under embargo, and Bush, Major, Blair and Clinton walk free -- all you have to do is realistcally apply our two Words of the Day.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt

You are missing the point. (3.66 / 3) (#16)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:55:30 PM EST

If any of the people you mentioned commited any crime like the ones mentioned, there is no way for an agravated entity to take them to a court that would be perceived to be fair.
---
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
[ Parent ]
"if" (4.20 / 5) (#18)
by gibichung on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 01:22:07 PM EST

It's true that if the leaders of the US needed to be brought before an international court, noone could force them to (and the American people didn't support it). Fortunately, that's a big "if." The governments of the United States and Great Britain have systems of checks and balances that prevent any minor concentration of our leaders from taking such actions directly*, without the consent of the rest of the government (and the people). What country would you rather see in such a position? No nation in history with such a position of influence and power has been more just than the United States of America is today, despite the all the threats we've faced.

*The word "directly" used to avoid the cliched "proxy war" allegations that always surface during these discussions.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

If? (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by Rand Race on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:34:17 PM EST

How 'bout Henry Kissenger?

I guess if your idea of justice is having one's robots shoot quarter million dollar missles at 'some tall guy' then bombing 600,000 nuetral Cambodian peasents to death isn't a war crime.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Freedom everybody, a freedom of the mind (2.66 / 3) (#23)
by medham on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 03:35:41 PM EST

You yourself are a war criminal, for your complacency in your government's crimes.

Since you can only be held responsible for the predictable consequences of your action (or in this case, non-action), you are as guilty as Milosevic or Clinton.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

As are you... (none / 0) (#35)
by MiddleFunger on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:53:47 PM EST

Cinci, huh? Well sir/madam/other, I submit that you are a war criminal as well. As a resident/tax payer/drone of these Divisive States, you are just as responsible as any other USian in these forums. Therefore, despite your rhetorical flame bait, blame rests on your shoulders too. Oh, and calling people names is not going to get you anywhere.
I don't mind other people's ideological biases, just don't be so damn pushy about it.
-4.37x.5.32
Every day is a good day, when...
-Neil Swaab
[ Parent ]
I reside (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by medham on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:34:31 PM EST

In a Cincinnati of the soul.

Did you ever consider the possibility that I meant exactly what I said in the "flame bait" you cited? That I believe that all, non-dissident, citizens of oppressive regimes are themselves war criminals?

You should revel in it rather than deny it, if you lack the courage to change.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Moral Highground (none / 0) (#43)
by MiddleFunger on Sat Feb 16, 2002 at 02:26:03 PM EST

medham, you misunderstand the purpose of my statement. A basic lesson in trying to change people's minds: if you preach to people who are not converts, they shut you out, and any message that you potentially want to get across is lost. You have a good point. People in general, and Americans in particular, are relatively complacent. However, it is incorrect to assume that everyone, especially the people in this forum, are non-dissident. Again, don't call people names, even if they are true, if you want to get your point across. Otherwise, you are just a troll.
-4.37x.5.32
Every day is a good day, when...
-Neil Swaab
[ Parent ]
Still missing the point. (none / 0) (#39)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 05:44:21 AM EST

The system of check and balances exitss only inside the US and the UK. In the international arena there are not such checks.

It could be the case that a given goverment by means of its armed forces commited war crimes and that the people and any other federal powers would fully agree with those actions. There are plent of examples of that.

That would not make things less wrong and such actions as things are today would go unchallenged.

A villager in a 3rd world country whose family is indiscriminately killed by a foreign army should be able to challenge those actions and to reclaim compensation if those actions are found to be illegal.

The only way for this to happen is to have an International Court that is imparcial.

A court of a country that allegedly commited a crime abroad by definition does not have jurisdiction and can't be seen as impartial, no matter how wonderful the legal system of the alleged criminal country is.





---
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
[ Parent ]
Another phrase of the day (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by Robert S Gormley on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:13:31 PM EST

Carte blanche

Something not granted just because "the other side" has been "a bad boy".

[ Parent ]

Yes, but ... (5.00 / 5) (#25)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:08:54 PM EST

Institutions like the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are necessarily somewhat arbitrary, being necessarily post-facto, and therefore inevitably set up by the victors, and having no firm basis in law from which to work (international law governs the behaviour of states, not individuals). Such institutions, being on legally shaky ground anyway, and dependent on the victors to arrest and contain suspects, cannot realistically be expected to treat their leaders in the same way as the leaders of the losers.

I am uncertain about the principle of putting the leaders of democracies on trial for the behaviour of their armed forces. The conduct of the Gulf War and Operation Allied Force had overwhelming public support, as did the Afghan campaign, and probably even the isolation of Iraq that continues to this day. Given that, it seems unfair to hold our presidents and prime ministers responsible for the decisions as indviduals, in the same way as it does seem reasonable to hold dictators or generals who issue orders that are direct violations of international law.

It would seem more reasonable to hold responsible only those who gave orders to violate international laws, or contributed to its violation through direct negligence. Most western leaders are too little involved in military tactics to take those kinds of decisions, although I suppose if the overall military policy where found to be negligent, they might be responsible. The attempt to indite western leaders at the Hague tribunal looks to me more like a publicity stunt than a serious effort to have the prosecuted for specific crimes. The point should be taken, but there's no reason to take it more seriously than that.

But what kinds of institutions should be set up to prosecute war crimes ? A permanent international court would have more legitimacy than the current ad-hoc tribunals, though it possibly should not look very like the ICC currently proposed. The issue of what basis in law it would work from worries me, though. National courts are controlled by democratic legislatures that make laws, and democratically elected politicians who appoint their judges. An international legislature strikes me as something the world is not ready for. That implies that whatever laws an international court enforces must be very carefully defined and much less vague and woolly than current conventions on human rights and the conduct of war.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
What do you mean? (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by Khedak on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:32:04 PM EST

I am uncertain about the principle of putting the leaders of democracies on trial for the behaviour of their armed forces. The conduct of the Gulf War and Operation Allied Force had overwhelming public support, as did the Afghan campaign, and probably even the isolation of Iraq that continues to this day. Given that, it seems unfair to hold our presidents and prime ministers responsible for the decisions as indviduals, in the same way as it does seem reasonable to hold dictators or generals who issue orders that are direct violations of international law.

I don't understand the difference. It would be unfair because they have popular support? So now fairness is determined by how popular you are made in your own country during the war. Are you saying that while Hitler had popular support in his country, he was not guilty of any war crimes? Or are we saying that we should only abide by international law when it would be popular to do so?

How exactly is it unfair to hold our leaders responsible for their war crimes "in the same way" as it is fair to hold the leaders of third world countries responsible for their war crimes? This is non sequitur, unless I'm missing something.

I guess your attitude is pretty typical, to tell the truth: As long the public will support you, you can ignore the United Nations, the Geneva Convention, and any other international agreement you like. After all, it's our national interest we're concerned with, who cares about foreign civilians being killed by us poisoning their drinking water, right?

[ Parent ]
Sigh (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:07:53 PM EST

You're missing the nature of democracy. If we're going to get into trading slanders, I think this is deplorably typical of people in the modern west. Its fine to hold our leaders responsible, as long as we, who conspired to put them in power, don't have to take the rap. Now, you don't believe that (I hope) any more than I believe foreign civilians are dispensable, so lets just leave off the unwarranted slanders, OK ?

Criminal responsibility belongs with those who took a decision. In constitutional democracies, most decisions are taken not by the leaders of the executive acting alone, but by some combination of military officers, the executive, legislature and the people.

Now, if George Bush personally authorises the massacre of a camp of Serbian refugees, then that is easy. He is personally responsible for a war crime. However, very few cases are that clear cut. Before the bombing of Serbia, there was a massive public outcry in Britain for intervention (probably there was in the US too). That bombing led - foreseeably - to civilian deaths. Arguably that is a war crime, and equally arguably the public and the press bare a degree of responsibility for it. Now, go and read what I *wrote* rather than what you felt like reading. I did not say that Bush or Blair should not be put on trial for these kinds of things, but I do think thats rather imperfect justice. The decision was taken by the body politic as a whole, not by an individual. Its rather hard to punish as body politic as a whole, of course, but that doesn't weaken the point.

The situation is rather different for countries where all significant power is wielded by an individual (Iraq) or a very small clique (Serbia). In those cases, those individuals can be held directly responsible. Note its not the "third-worldness" of these countries that make this possible. Its the fact that they are dictatorships. Incidentally, you might like to note that neither pre-war Iraq or Serbia was even remotely close to a third world country.

On a rather different, but related, point, national leaders are usually only put on trial for policy decisions that were in and of themselves violations of human rights or international law. Usually that means genocide, or its baby cousin "ethnic cleansing". Where individual civilian deaths in military action are concerned, most tribunals have chosen to prosecute military leaders, because their culpability is clearer. In the case of the bombing of Serbia, if someone really wanted to acheive a prosecution, rather than merely to get on telly, that might be a better course of action to persue.

If someone really wants to prosecute Bush and Blair, the Iraqi bombings and sanctions would seem to be a better case, but of course there isn't a court governing that.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
responsibility: personal, political, military (none / 0) (#33)
by fhotg on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:18:45 PM EST

In constitutional democracies, most decisions are taken not by the leaders of the executive acting alone, but by some combination of military officers, the executive, legislature and the people.
The people are usually not involved anymore. It should not matter, if and how much popular support the already elected leaders were able to drum up to support their crimes.

If war crimes are comitted by military leaders, without the politicians knowing, then only the military is personally responsable and to be punished. The politician however is politically responsible, her job would have been to know what his military does and prevent it. So she might not have to go to jail, but loose his job.


~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

Executive Power (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by Khedak on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:07:37 PM EST

I understand your point. It is difficult to know who to punish for the acts of a body politic when compared to a military dictatorship. And perhaps prosecuting Bush or Blair isn't the best solution. However, that said, my main concern is that someone take responsibility, for two reasons.

Firstly, if someone is taking human lives, there must be a clear and direct line of accountability, right from the soldier firing the bullets to where the buck stops. In the computer industry, copious documents are kept on software requirements so that everyone knows who has decided what for what reason. It seems appropriate that an activity that involves killing human beings, we should be at least as careful. There needs to be way to determine accountability for these war crimes, or else what is the point of us having treaties to prevent war crimes in the first place?

Secondly, the current situation is that a large proportion of the people are unaware that such crimes are occuring, or if they are aware, they do not beleive them to be wrong. If these crimes were brought to trial, it would serve to increase awareness, which is an integral part of any functional democracy: an accurate feedback loop from the government to the people. By avoiding accountability, the government is sending the message to its people that it's okay for us to do these things, that it is not our fault, when in fact this is far from the truth.

I agree with you that we, too, are responsible as we are represented by our government. But my central contention is that as long as our government can continue to avoid admitting our collective guilt, our people will continue to support a policy that includes comitting war crimes.

[ Parent ]
First things first (none / 0) (#31)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:59:14 PM EST

their actions were unavoidable, then they should explain it to a court of law.

Doesn't someone have to bring a charge that will stick, before a trial can begin? Perhaps the tribunal should bring in a board of judges from Iraq, like they did with Scottish judges for the Lockerbie flight?

It is worth pointing out (3.00 / 3) (#34)
by wji on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:36:47 PM EST

That the US already stands condemned by the World Court for their terrorist war in Nicaragua. Oh, and their diplomatic point man in that conflict is now U.N. Ambassador. Have a nice day.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
About those sanctions... (4.33 / 6) (#37)
by seebs on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:14:12 AM EST

So, out of curiousity, how much did Iraq's government spend on military equipment last year?

Dictators have starved their people to feed their armies for thousands of years. This is not the fault of the people who deny them even greater funds; it's the fault of the people who put their military ahead of their people.


The courtroom live - link (none / 0) (#42)
by karjala on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 05:22:31 AM EST

This ought to have been posted in the story: http://www.un.org/icty/ (RealMedia + Windows MediaPlayer)

Transcripts and video archives here (none / 0) (#45)
by karjala on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 04:41:33 AM EST

http://hague.bard.edu/video.html

[ Parent ]
Justice for ALL Concerned? | 45 comments (38 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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