FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

John Howard and War Crimes

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The International Criminal Court, active since 2002, is getting busier, though much of its activity still remains buried in preparatory paperwork.  It has begun fielding petitions on a growing list of war criminal suspects with some regularity. The first sign that more work would be coming its way came in March 2003 when the invasion of Iraq took place.  The war crimes dossiers in the hands of activists and non-government groups began thickening. 

Such activity was given a push by a collection of outraged and eloquent statements on the invasion by a few prominent people, none more distinguished than Harold Pinter.  Pinter’s speech on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Prize of Literature in 2005 bears remembering.  ‘The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.’  The lie of emancipation came packed in the forms of cluster bombs, depleted uranium and torture networks.

The candidates as potential bench warmers for the Hague dock are of course, President George W. Bush, and ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair (Britain) and John Howard (Australia), an Anglo-centric, some might even say Anglospheric cabal that is now receiving the attention of innovative jurists and enterprising activists. 

The latest update in the prosecution machine lies in a brief compiled by activists based in Australia on the subject of charging John Howard with an assortment of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.  This should not come as a surprise to Howard.  As early as  March 20,  2003, he was put on notice by 41 affiliates of the Victorian Peace Network, acting through the Australian firm Slater and Gordon, that government ministers would, in the event of an invasion of Iraq, be ‘investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for being complicit in excessive and unjustifiable loss of civilian lives and devastation of non-military infrastructure.’

Howard is more used to regarding the ICC as an acronym of cricket rather than crime.  But a legal brief to a body more versed in punishing crimes of politics than code violations of a one-time imperial sport was lodged (June 14) by Melbourne-based activist Tim Anderson and John Valder, former Liberal Party National President.  Other members of this eclectic group backing this move are Senator Lyn Allison of the now defunct Australian Democrats, prolific cartoonist Michael Leunig, renowned classical guitarist John Williams and American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan. 

The alleged war crimes, noted in the brief to the ICC, centre around ‘the unwarranted and excessively lethal armed attack and invasion of Iraq’ with specific war crimes against specific persons detailed in various annexes to the document.  Pictures are appended, and the names of victims attached.  John Howard, through his ‘express personal executive decision and action’ is alleged to have perpetrated ‘war crimes by ‘the conduct’ of such an unwarranted, excessive and disproportionate use of force.

Anderson and his colleagues had been active in compiling a list of petitioners to back a series of charges against the former prime minister.  The charges in one specific petition are hefty.  Complicity in the killing of civilians in Baghdad, Basra, Khormal, Babel, Nassariya, Najaf, Karbala and Anbar in March 2003 through an assortment of weapons comes first, followed by complicity in the killing of ten members of the Sabri tribespeople in Afghanistan in May 2002 and the killing of prisoners after the US-led ‘Anaconda’ operation in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot in March 2002.  Involvement in the attacks on the civilian population of Fallujah (April and November 2004) is also alleged; as is Howard’s connections with the international torture network established under the directives of the ‘war on terror’.

Such a process of investigation is necessary, if for no other reason than to overcome the vicious normality such acts as the Iraqi occupation have assumed.

The ICC is, however limited in how it can reach into the throes of politics.  While the days of state impunity are seemingly numbered, much international law remains a creature of contract and diplomacy, rather than civics and morality.  It is, for instance, curtailed by the ratification process – countries reluctant to participate don’t have to, and the Bush administration is a notable absentee, amongst other countries, from the process.  We are then left with the heroic, if vain antics by concerned citizens, who cite the violation of local laws as the basis of their actions.  But if the ICC does, as the Nuremberg trials were intended for, put forth a record, to indelibly memorialize the uncatalogued dead, to not merely unearth the mistakes but the crimes of a conflict, then it would have gone some way to achieving its purpose.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com.

    

 

 

 


February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail