Sunday 2 September 2012

Desmond Tutu and Tony Blair

London media is buzzing today with reports that Desmond Tutu has called for Tony Blair to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court for the invasion of Iraq. For the record, here is Archbishop Tutu's statement. It was apparently prompted by a conference in South Africa where Blair was being paid GBP 150K to speak and where Tutu was speaking free of charge. Tutu walked out because he refused to be associated with Blair.
When I heard the news of this on BBC4 this morning, I was curious at what appeared to be a misunderstanding of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Tutu was angered about the invasion of Iraq. Although I share his feelings on this, I also know enough about the legal framework of the Court to realize that Blair cannot be prosecuted for the crime of aggression. Regrettably, the Court cannot exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression until the Kampala amendments are adopted and, in any case, not before 2017, so there is no question of it prosecuting a crime of aggression perpetrated in 2003.
But in fact, despite the comments in the press, Tutu did not call for Blair to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. He merely made a very important and valuable point.
It is sheer hypocrisy to prosecute African leaders for various violations of international law while people like Blair continue to be feted as distinguished statesmen on the international lecture circuit. Although Blair cannot be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, there are very strong reasons to believe that he perpetrated the crime of aggression in 2003. This is the act described by the International Military Tribunal as 'the supreme international crime'.
Blair can perhaps be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by British troops in Iraq. On this, there is no doubt about the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Proving his liability as the leader may be challenging, although the recent conviction of Charles Taylor sets out legal principles that make this simpler.
To date, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has chosen to give the British a get out of jail free card for their conduct in Iraq. It is an unfortunate exercise of prosecutorial discretion. But in any case Blair cannot be prosecuted for aggression before the International Criminal Court as the law now stands.
The point Desmond Tutu is making is that there is a terrible double standard at work. We have an International Criminal Court that is focussed on Africa. Yet perhaps the most serious crimes of our time are committed outside Africa, by non-Africans, as Desmond Tutu explains. He is fed up with hearing talk about international justice and accountability when it is one-sided. His eloquent and principled voice deserves our attention.


Nalliah said...

Gerge W Bush and Barrack Obama have doubled the US debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. The US military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the government that US established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the US military does not control Afghanistan. Huge sums of US taxpayers’ money have flowed into the US armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping its citizens of wealth and liberty.

The organizers and profiteers of war and death - the past four generations of Bush family - Samuel P Bush, Prescott S Bush, George H W Bush and George W Bush along with a group of international investment bankers and corporate executives, have been instrumental in creating and profiting from extremely costly and destructive wars. Four generations of Bush family have reaped tremendous profits from the wars they orchestrated. The war profiteers of Wall Street are now pushing the US towards a nuclear war with Iran.

On New Year's Eve, with almost no mainstream media attention given to it, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, or NDAA, into law codifying indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history. The NDAA’s dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president — and all future presidents — to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.

Obama's administration, and all future administrations can now use the military to detain individuals, including political dissidents - even American citizens on US soil - without trial or formal charges. Without court involvement or a jury deciding you are actually guilty. And "detain" is really a euphemism for IMPRISON, of course, in a semi-secret military black site, without access to an attorney, potentially for life.

Obama also signed into law something which attacks American's First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, or Trespass Bill, signed into law by Barack Obama on March 9, 2012, "potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the US a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison." More specifically, peaceful protest within proximity to those protected by the Secret Service, including presidential candidates and the President, may be a federal felony now.

Nalliah Thayabharan

Ben Schiff said...

I very much like the suggestion that the Charles Taylor trial provides precedents for a potential Blair trial.

The double standard of the ICC's treatment of Africans as opposed to non-Africans is glaring; perhaps Africans' willingness nonetheless to engage with and be subject to the ICC is thus more admirable and some of their dissatisfaction with the Court understandable.

I wonder whether a different application of prosecutorial discretion, pursuing situations and cases that would garner major power opposition because lodged against targets such as the UK would strengthen principle but weaken the court (by undermining support) or whether the payoffs in wider (non-major power) support would offset the costs in the longer run.

CSB said...

The news reports here in the U.S. were equally inaccurate. Archbishop Tutu should be thanked for pointing out the impunity enjoyed by U.K and U.S. leaders responsible for the war of aggression in Iraq and the countless crimes against Iraqi civilians, while the small-fry in Africa are hauled before the ICC to stand trial for crimes that while serious, hardly compare to those of Messrs. Blair and Bush. Sadly, it is becoming more and more difficult to take seriously the idea that the ICC will bring about a new era in international criminal justice.

Harry M Rhea said...

Luis Ocampo would disagree that he gave Tony Blair a free stay-out-of-jail card. There was an investigation into war crimes (unsure about crimes against humanity) committed by British troops in Iraq when Blair was prime minister, but Ocampo ultimately decided that the crimes did not meet the threshold to fall within the ICC's jurisdiction. However, Ocampo's decision on the threshold was the free stay-out-of -ail card.
Regarding the hypocrisy of the International Criminal Court: I think there is an argument that excluding Kenya and SC referrals (Sudan, Libya) the ICC is left with self-referrals. It's bit unfair for people to criticize the ICC for pursuing investigations into situations where the countries concerned (State Parties) invited the Court to trigger its jurisdiction. It's also hard to criticize the prosecutor for initiating investigations into situations referred to it by the Security Council.
I'm not saying a hypocrisy does not exist in the ICC one does I'm saying that it is not as extreme as Desmond Hutu and others claim. If so, it' not completely the ICC's fault.