As we all should know, one of the first significant acts of the infant United
Nations Organisation was the setting up of the Nuremberg Tribunal
to try former Nazi high officials.
Everyone agreed, as they now do, to say that we should oppose terrorism, that
something had to be done about such vile crimes, but it was necessary first
to define the offences which were alleged to have been committed.
The Nuremberg Principles
These definitions had been framed to serve as the foundation for the Tribunal
which was to be set up in Nuremberg (in German, Nuernberg), a highly significant
choice of place since it had served as the site for some of Adolf Hitler's biggest
popular triumphs. It was at Nuremberg that Hitler managed to persuade the German
people to follow his criminal path. As a result, the rules were called the "Nuremberg
Principles" (hereinafter each individually called a "Principle"
together with its number). They remain valid as the simple basis for our understanding
of what are the most serious crimes under international law.
We now have to oppose terrorism, including massive state terrorism, which makes
one ask whether or not the old definitions, dating from 1946, would apply to
today's circumstances, with particular reference to the behaviour of the leaders
and high officials of nations which are members of the United Nations.
Three particular crimes are defined in Principle VI, namely:
(a) Crimes against Peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war of aggression or a war
in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances ;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of
any of the acts mentioned under (i).
(b) War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited
to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labour or for any other purpose
of civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment
of prisoners of war, of persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of
public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages,
or devastation not justified by military necessity;
(c) Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done
against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious
grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution
of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.
Principle VII adds:
Complicity in a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity
as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
There we see what are considered to be crimes against international law unanimously
accepted by the United Nations Organisation, but we also want to know who can
be considered to have committed such crimes and this point is covered in Principles
I to IV, which state:
Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international
law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.
The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes
a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed that
act from reponsibility under international law.
The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under
international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official
does not relieve him from reponsibility under international law.
The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior
does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a
moral choice was in fact possible to him.
Dealing with persons accused of such crimes is dealt with in Principle
V which provides :
Any person charged with a crime under international law has the right to a
fair trial on the facts and law.
The Record of the Bush Administration
There are insistent voices raised around the world regarding potential criminality
among the present administration in the United States of America (hereinafter
referred to as the "USA"), and we therefore have to go back over the
history of this administration which has been in power, after a very dubious
election and with certain fairly minor modifications, since January 2001.
This administration team (to which I shall hereinafter refer as the "Bush
Administration") came to power in the USA with aims which had previously
been drawn up by an amorphous group of persons and interests commonly and conveniently
known as the "neo-conservatives", or "neo-cons" for short.
The Bush Administration still holds absolute power over the finances, the armed
forces and the liberties of the USA.
Among the aims for the Bush Administration, prepared well in advance of the
election, the neo-cons had made detailed plans to invade Iraq, which they saw
as being the place where there were enormous reserves of oil, and with whose
unpleasant ruler the USA, under Mr George H.W. Bush, had fallen out for reasons
which remain unclear. This disagreement can be the subject of further study,
but we are here considering the present Bush Administration, and must not go
off at a tangent.
We await with some impatience a future full and careful investigation into the
events leading up to the horrors of 11th September 2001, but what is certain
is that the Bush Administration showed weakness and stupidity in its reaction,
even if it did not, contrary to the belief of some, fully understand what had
happened. For those of us living in countries where violent terrorist activity
had for many years been financed and armed either by the government of the USA
or, with its benevolent permission, by highly organised groups of persons based
in the USA, this seems odd, but this did not lessen our sadness and sorrow at
the hideous waste of innocent life in New York and elsewhere. Although ordinary
citizens in the USA and their successive governments seem to have allowed such
activities to continue against others for so long, we are not so vicious as
to look upon their being visited upon the USA as a just retribution.
However, after a few days of vacillation, the Bush Administration decided to
use these attacks by persons unconnected with Iraq, where they were ruthlessly
kept powerless, as an excuse to carry out their long-planned war against the
Country. They used dubious Iraqi exiles, including the infamous Mr Ahmed Chalaby,
still sought by Jordan for an affair of bank fraud, to persuade influential
people to believe that invading troops would be received with flowers. They
deliberately ignored the expert advice and opinion which was available in order
to obtain the agreement of doubting fellow members of the Administration and
almost every legislator in the USA to their schemes.
We now come to the question of possible criminality on the part of leading members
of the Bush Administration, including the President himself, and we have to
examine what happened and which provisions apply to them. I have many years
experience of criminal law in both France and in England and also of international
law, but none whatever of the internal law in the USA, whether Federal or in
any individual state, since I have never crossed the Atlantic. I propose therefore
to limit myself to the Nuremberg Principles, as a touchstone of what is a crime
under international law, and leave matters of municipal law to lawyers qualified
in the USA.
I have taken a handful of those involved as specimens rather than examining
the record of every person within the Bush Administration, for the simple reason
that I do not know enough about so many of the persons under general public
accusation, so I have limited these comments to the following:
George Walker Bush
Mr Richard Cheney
Mr Colin Powell
Mr Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Paul Wolfowitz
Dr Condoleezza Rice
Taking first the offences defined in Principle VI, the known facts as reported
(even by their supporters in the media) lead to the inevitable conclusion that,
although there is doubt about the guilt of Mr Colin Powell, the others were
all involved in :
(a) Crimes against peace, in that they planned, prepared, initiated
and waged a war of aggression against Iraq in violation of the international
agreement as contained in clearly worded Security Council Resolutions
(b) War crimes, in that they were party to the ill-treatment and deportation
of civilians, and prisoners of war, such as those who were, and still are, sent
to Guantanamo Bay from Afghanistan and elsewhere - they were also all involved
in the destruction of cities, towns and villages in Iraq. It is probable that
this also includes the use in Abu Ghraib of methods applied at Guantanamo Bay
to break down the morale of prisoners.
(c) Crimes against humanity, in that they were involved in the the
murder and extermination of civilians in Iraq, as in Fallujah, and the deportation
of civilians from Afghanistan and elsewhere to Guantanamo Bay.
It seems unnecessary to go into further details of their crimes, since they
have even boasted of what they have done and taken full responsibilty for them.
It is then appropriate to turn to their possible guilt under Principle VII,
where things look even worse. Here even Mr Powell seems to have become as guilty
as the others, perhaps out of misguided loyalty - but that could only be the
basis for a plea in mitigation rather than for a defence as to guilt.
All the suggested defendants have colluded in the crimes committed in Iraq and
against people captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and are thus guilty under
In addition, over a much longer period, they have all been guilty of complicity
in the crimes committed by the Zionist invaders, with whom Mr Wolfowitz is perhaps
the most closely implicated, against the indigenous people of Palestine.
GWB has even gone so far as to describe the well-known criminal, Mr Ariel Sharon
(who is guilty of almost every crime defined in Principles VI and VII), as a
"man of peace", which would in the case of a man of normal intelligence
require a great deal of explanation on his part. In mitigation, it would no
doubt be pleaded that he never understood that there was a difference between
a war of aggression and peace, but that would be on the basis of diminished
responsibility since it would be virtually impossible to argue on behalf of
GWB a total lack of guilt.
In other words, I consider that the persons listed are all guilty of very serious
crimes as defined in the Nuremberg Principles, and I would be happy to see them
brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which the USA
quite understandably refuses to recognise. Among their accomplices outside the
USA, it would be appropriate to include both Mr Sharon and Mr Anthony Blair,
neither of whom appears to have any conscience when it comes to giving massive
support to state terrorism by the USA or the Zionists.
For the sake of clarity, I would confirm that I cannot see any reason not to
include the actions of all these persons in the definition of the terrorism
against which the United Nations have agreed to fight.
I therefore leave it to any who are so kind as to read these lines to judge
whether or not these persons as criminals under international law.