I could pull out his toe-nails, break his ankles, smash his legs, castrate him, scalp him, puncture his ear-drums, gouge out his eyes, cut out his tongue, slit his throat, stab his heart, impale him, cut off his arms, amputate his hands and desecrate his body.

I could blow up a restaurant full of people to get him. I could massacre a bus of women and children. I could wipe out his family and their families as long as in the end I got Saddam.

Then I could collect my $25 million and appear on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine. They’d wrap me in the Stars and Stripes flag. I would be a hero.

But I would still be a murderer.

What would I be if I hijacked a plane full of just ten or twenty Iraqi civilians – the number you would shoot in the average bazaar or after Friday prayers - and crashed it into Saddam’s hideout? A freedom fighter?

Yes, under the hyperpower that is the USA, where foreign occupation is national liberation, where prisoners have no human rights and can be tried in secret by military tribunal and executed, the world is fast losing its moral compass, the world is a scary place where language has been hollowed of true meaning.

In the twentieth century 86 million people, the majority women and children, lost their lives in 250 conflicts. In recent memory, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million people. Indonesian forces in East Timor killed 200,000 people. Over 200,000 people were killed in the Bosnia war. Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. In the ongoing civil war in the Congo over 1,700,000 people have lost their lives.

It was against this background that a Coalition for the International Criminal Court, made up of over 1,000 nongovernmental organisations, conferred with governments in 1998 and eventually they drafted the Rome treaty, which envisaged the establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague. The jurisdiction of the ICC began in July 2002. Last February its 18 judges were elected.

The ICC has the power to investigate and prosecute individuals including heads of state (responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, rape, ethnic cleansing) both in countries that are party to the treaty and, with the approval of the UN Security Council, those that are not. It has the power to impose large fines, prison terms of up to 30 years, and reparations that could include rehabilitation, repatriation, historical clarification and memorials.

However, from the very first day the court’s most powerful opponent was the USA. It said it feared that its troops (which are stationed across the world) would be vulnerable to arbitrary, politically motivated and malicious charges. Negotiators took on board those fears and included a comprehensive list of due process protections, said to be spelled out in greater detail than those in the US Constitution. It was still not enough. The US threatened to walk away unless a provision – which became known as Article 98 - was added.

To keep the US onboard Article 98 was added. It said that the ICC may not proceed with a request for surrender of a citizen that would require the requested state to act inconsistently with its obligations under international agreements. This was perceived as providing an orderly and rational process for the handling of suspects among states cooperating with the court.

This was still not enough. The US then tried to introduce another provision that a state’s consent would be required before the court could try its nationals. This would, in effect, have given a state overriding power to grant immunity to its nationals responsible for war crimes and would have neutered the court.

The US lost the motion and the Treaty of Rome was signed. Among the seven countries that voted against it were the USA and Iraq! President Clinton reluctantly signed the Treaty but in May 2002 President Bush “unsigned” it. Instead, he signed the American Service Members Protection Act, which authorises the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a US-allied country being held by the Hague court!

He also threatened – and carried out the threat this week – to withdraw military aid from any country that ratified the Rome Treaty and didn’t sign a bilateral impunity agreement with the USA, exempting US military and civilian personnel from being charged with crimes against humanity under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Forty-three of the world’s poorest nations caved in to the bullying tactics and financial might of the USA. Among thirty-five others, which are being penalised, are Caribbean governments, which have been told they will lose hurricane relief for refusing to sign Article 98.

Bush claims that these bilateral agreements are allowed under Article 98 but international lawyers argue that these impunity agreements violate the object and purpose of the Rome Statute.

George Bush’s government doesn’t give a damn. It overlooks human rights violations by its allies when it suits it. Its invasion and occupation of Iraq has no UN mandate. Its policy on sanctions prior to the war killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi infants. It shoots down Iraqi civilians on their own streets with impunity. It drops clusters of ‘freedom’ bombs on playgrounds, fires ‘freedom’ missiles into busy markets and enslaves the people of Iraq and, with them, the terrified people of the USA with a language of lies and deceit. It is an evil administration.

Truly, George Bush is a weapon of mass destruction.

< Prev ... Next >

[ back ]

© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison