Following the reported arrest of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, and the proposal of a criminal tribunal presided by Iraqis to prosecute Iraqis accused of having committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, I permit myself to make the following observations and suggestions.
In 1945 the Allied Forces set up two victors' tribunals, one at Nuremberg and one for the Far East. These tribunals possessed only jurisdiction regarding crimes committed by the Axis forces and their leaders. No leader or members of the Allied Forces, regardless of their deeds, was indicted and prosecuted by these tribunals nor by other international tribunals. While few mourned the hanged Nazi criminals, the unilateral prosecution by the victors raised ethical and legal questions. The crimes committed by the Allied forces, including the senseless nuclear attacks of Japanese cities and the fire-bombing of German cities and by the Soviet forces, were among the most odious war crimes committed by the Allied forces. Yet no person was prosecuted for these crimes. The rights of innocent German and Japanese victims were not vindicated. The international community has yet to repair these crimes, more than half a century after the crimes.
Today, the United States and its Iraqi proxies, wish again to establish a victors' tribunal that is incompatible with principles of justice. In order to do so, the proposed tribunal will not have jurisdiction over crimes committed against the Iraqi population, but over Iraqi citizens who committed international crimes. This means that non-Iraqis who might have committed crimes against Iraqi citizens, including those defined as crimes under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, would not be prosecuted by the ad hoc tribunal. These non-Iraqis include US and UK leaders who presided over the relentless destruction of Iraqi infrastructure with 88,000 tonnes of explosives in 1991, the use of depleted uranium and various prohibited weapons; the killing over 100,000 young Iraqi conscripts, many of whom were not given quarters, and many hors combat; the bulldozing of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the sand; economic sanctions that caused the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, and deliberate measures to deny the Iraqi population drinking water with the aim of causing epidemics and deaths. The tribunal will not, either, possess jurisdiction over non-Iraqis who provided Iraqi leaders with lethal weapons, weapons of oppression and weapons of mass destruction, with the knowledge that such weapons have been used for acts defined as crimes under international law.
In order to restitute a modicum of equity into the prosecution of individuals who committed international crimes against inhabitants of the Middle-East, including in Iraq, it is proposed, that in parallel with the initiation of an international peace conference for the Middle-East to deal with all outstanding political conflicts that endanger peace and security in the region, an international criminal tribunal be established under UN auspices to prosecute individuals, regardless of nationality and official position, who instigated, planned, ordered or committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide against any resident of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Kuwait, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, between 1980 and the date at which the tribunal is established. Such a tribunal is necessary because the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over nationals of some of these countries who may have participated in such crimes, and cannot try crimes committed before the Court began to function in 2002. The victims of international crimes in these countries cry for true justice.
I urge readers to disseminate this proposal, if necessary with appropriate amendments, and urge human rights organisations and governments to prevent the perversion of international criminal law by a victors' tribunal.
Elias Davidson, Reykjavik, Iceland
14 December 2003