FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How It Could Finally Be Possible to Prosecute War as a Crime

War is a crime. The International Criminal Court has just announced that it will finally treat it as a crime, sort-of, kind-of. But how can war’s status as a crime effectively deter the world’s leading war-maker from threatening and launching more wars, large and small? How can laws against war actually be put to use? How can the ICC’s announcement be made into something more than a pretense?

The Kellogg-Briand Pact made war a crime in 1928, and various atrocities became criminal charges at Nuremberg and Tokyo because they were constituent parts of that larger crime. The United Nations Charter maintained war as a crime, but limited it to “aggressive” war, and gave immunity to any wars launched with U.N. approval.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) could try the United States for attacking a country if (1) that country brought a case, and (2) the United States agreed to the process, and (3) the United States chose not to block any judgment by using its veto power at the U.N. Security Council. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all U.N. members to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, and eliminating the veto. But what can be done now?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) can try individuals for various “war crimes,” but has thus far tried only Africans, though for some time now it has claimed to be “investigating” U.S. crimes in Afghanistan. Although the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, Afghanistan is. Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to join the ICC. But what can be done now?

The ICC has finally announced that it will prosecute individuals (such as the U.S. president and secretary of “defense”) for the crime of “aggression,” which is to say: war. But such wars must be launched after July 17, 2018. And those who can be prosecuted for war will be only citizens of those nations that have both joined the ICC and ratified the amendment adding jurisdiction over “aggression.” Desirable future reforms obviously include urging all nations, including the United States, to ratify the amendment on “aggression.” But what can be done now?

The only way around these restrictions, is for the U.N. Security Council to refer a case to the ICC. If that happens, then the ICC can prosecute anyone in the world for the crime of war.

This means that for the force of law to have any chance of deterring the U.S. government from threatening and launching wars, we need to persuade one or more of the fifteen nations on the U.N. Security Council to make clear that they will raise the matter for a vote. Five of those fifteen have veto power, and one of those five is the United States.

So, we also need nations of the world to proclaim that when the Security Council fails to refer the case, they will bring the matter before the U.N. General Assembly though a “Uniting for Peace” procedure in emergency session to override the veto. This is what was just done in December 2017 to overwhelmingly pass a resolution that the U.S. had vetoed, a resolution condemning the U.S. naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

Not only do we need to jump through each of these hoops (a commitment to a Security Council vote, and a commitment to override the veto in the General Assembly) but we need to make evident beforehand that we will be certain or likely to do so.

Therefore, World Beyond War is launching a global petition to the national governments of the world asking for their public commitment to refer any war launched by any nation to the ICC with or without the Security Council. Click here to add your name.

After all, it is not only U.S. wars that should be prosecuted as crimes, but all wars. And, in fact, it may prove necessary to prosecute junior partners of the United States in its “coalition” wars prior to prosecuting the ring leader. The problem is not one of lack of evidence, of course, but of political will. The U.K., France, Canada, Australia, or some other co-conspirator may be brought by global and internal pressure (and the ability to circumvent the U.N. Security Council) to submit to the rule of law prior to the United States doing so.

A key detail is this: how much organized murder and violent destruction constitutes a war? Is a drone strike a war? Is base expansion and a few home raids a war? How many bombs make a war? The answer should be any use of military force. But in the end, this question will be answered by public pressure. If we can inform people of it and persuade the nations of the world to refer it to trial, then it will be a war, and therefore a crime.

Here’s my New Year’s resolution: I vow to support the rule of law, that might may no longer make right.

More articles by:

David Swanson wants you to declare peace at http://WorldBeyondWar.org  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition.

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail