Pakistan’s new Parliament passed a unanimous resolution yesterday asking the United Nations to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. According to the New York Times, the government will soon request that the United Nations establish a tribunal in order to investigate the case: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/15/world/asia/15pstan.html?_r=1&oref=slogin.
Previous UN tribunals have been established to deal with widespread atrocities involving perpetration of the core international crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone). But in 2005, the Security Council opened the floodgates when it took steps to set up a tribunal to deal with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, in Lebanon. Preparations for the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon are nearly complete, and the appointment of the Prosecutor and the judges should take place very soon.
But the Lebanon Tribunal only has jurisdiction over ‘ordinary’ crimes, as defined by Lebanese law. In any event, fitting a single terrorist assassination within the legal framework of crimes against humanity involves considerable judicial acrobatics.
Of course, the Security Council is hardly driven by questions of pure principle, and will not set up a tribunal for Pakistan simply because it did the same for Lebanon. Rather, it is obedient to the political priorities of its permanent members. In the case of the Lebanese assassination, it seems that the French were particularly interested in seeing the establishment of a tribunal. It will be interesting to see if any of the permanent members takes up the cause of Pakistan.
And where will it all end? Maybe we should call for a UN international tribunal to finally determine whether there was a gunman on the grassy knoll when Kennedy was shot?