Goering, Nuremberg Trials, 1946 (Yevgeni Khaldei)
A chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg has said George
W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein. Benjamin Ferenccz,
who secured convictions for 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating
the death squads that killed more than 1 million people, told OneWorld both
Bush and Saddam should be tried for starting "aggressive" wars--Saddam
for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"Nuremberg declared that aggressive war is the supreme international crime,"
the 87-year-old Ferenccz told OneWorld from his home in New York. He said the
United Nations charter, which was written after the carnage of World War II, contains
a provision that no nation can use armed force without the permission of the UN
Ferenccz said that after Nuremberg the international community realized that
every war results in violations by both sides, meaning the primary objective
should be preventing any war from occurring in the first place.
He said the atrocities of the Iraq war--from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal
and the massacre of dozens of civilians by U.S. forces in Haditha to the high
number of civilian casualties caused by insurgent car bombs--were highly predictable
at the start of the war.
Which wars should be prosecuted? "Every war will lead to attacks on civilians,"
he said. "Crimes against humanity, destruction beyond the needs of military
necessity, rape of civilians, plunder--that always happens in wartime. So my
answer personally, after working for 60 years on this problem and [as someone]
who hates to see all these young people get killed no matter what their nationality,
is that you've got to stop using warfare as a means of settling your disputes."
Ferenccz believes the most important development toward that end would be the
effective implementation of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is
located in the Hague, Netherlands.
The court was established in 2002 and has been ratified by more than 100 countries.
It is currently being used to adjudicate cases stemming from conflict in Darfur,
Sudan and civil wars in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But on May 6, 2002--less than a year before the invasion of Iraq--the Bush
administration withdrew the United States' signature on the treaty and began
pressuring other countries to approve bilateral agreements requiring them not
to surrender U.S. nationals to the ICC.
Three months later, George W. Bush signed a new law prohibiting any U.S. cooperation
with the International Criminal Court. The law went so far as to include a provision
authorizing the president to "use all means necessary and appropriate,"
including a military invasion of the Netherlands, to free U.S. personnel detained
or imprisoned by the ICC.
That's too bad, according to Ferenccz. If the United States showed more of
an interest in building an international justice system, they could have put
Saddam Hussein on trial for his 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"The United Nations authorized the first Gulf War and authorized all nations
to take whatever steps necessary to keep peace in the area," he said. "They
could have stretched that a bit by seizing the person for causing the harm.
Of course, they didn't do that and ever since then I've been bemoaning the fact
that we didn't have an International Criminal Court at that time."
Ferenccz is glad that Saddam Hussein is now on trial.
Saddam Hussein. © Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep This week, the Iraqi
government began to try the former dictator for crimes connected to his ethnic
cleansing campaign against the Kurds. According to Human Rights Watch, which
has done extensive on-the-ground documentation, Saddam's Ba'athist regime deliberately
and systematically killed at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds
over a six-month period in 1988.
Kurdish authorities put the number even higher, saying 182,000 Kurdish civilians
were killed in a matter of months.
Everyone agrees innumerable villages were bombed and some were gassed. The
surviving residents were rounded up, taken to detention centers, and eventually
executed at remote sites, sometimes by being stripped and shot in the back so
they would fall naked into trenches.
In his defense, Saddam Hussein has disputed the extent of the killings and
maintained they were justified because he was fighting a counter-insurgency
operation against Kurdish separatists allied with Iran. When asked to enter
a plea, the former president said "that would require volumes of books."
Ferenccz said whatever Saddam's reasons, nothing can justify the mass killing
"The offenses attributable to ex-President Hussein since he came to power
range from the supreme international crime of aggression to a wide variety of
crimes against humanity," he wrote after Saddam was ousted in 2003. "A
fair trial will achieve many goals. The victims would find some satisfaction
in knowing that their victimizer was called to account and could no longer be
immune from punishment for his evil deeds. Wounds can begin to heal. The historical
facts can be confirmed beyond doubt. Similar crimes by other dictators might
be discouraged or deterred in future. The process of justice through law, on
which the safety of humankind depends, would be reinforced."
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