It is necessary in the turmoil of the US force’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the taking over governance by the Taliban to keep in mind the nature and function of the International Criminal Court. International Criminal Court came into existence on July 1, 2002. It will prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes but the we are witnissing how the world’s quest for justice is still in jeapardy.
The human rights violations world over can be tried and punished hereafter. That was how it came into existence. But not what with Afghanistan and all we need it more than that time as the crimes and cruelty of that year have accumulated more and with horrible results.
Two fateful events marked the beginning of July 2002
Early that day American gun-ships attacked four villages of Uruzgan province of Afghanistan at 2 am Monday local time. In the village of Deh Rawud, a wedding party was going on. The Americans brought the village under sustained bombardment for more than an hour, killing forty people (unofficial toll at least 150) including 25 members of a single-family, and wounding more than a hundred others.
Ground reality shows that the victims were innocent. Mostly children and women were victims. A girl was seriously injured and her party dress was heavily soaked with blood, her parents had died in the attack. After the attack, the US soldiers on the ground came to the village and caught a man called Abdul Qayyum and began to tie his hands where his neighbors protested and told them that he was an old man and had done nothing unlawful.
George W Bush is wrong to say that a “friendly fire was responsible for the incident.” The precedent to such a hostile fire is that of January 23, 2002, when the village of Hazare Qadam came under the American attack in which 16 innocent people lost their lives and 27 were taken prisoners later released because they hadn’t committed any crime. What have the Americans and the Afghan authorities done forever the victims? Except expressing condolences and resolve to continue fighting terrorism they have done nothing.
July 1, 2002, will certainly be another unforgettable for a different reason
An event of great civilizational value like December 10, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights as on that Monday the International Criminal Court has come into the existence. It was on July 17, 1998, in Rome that 120 countries voted to establish the International Criminal Court. Since then, 139 countries have signed for establishing and 76 have ratified.
Among the non-governmental organizations, Amnesty International advocated for it most ardently. Some 160 countries have approved the ICC and only 7 have objected and among them are the United States and Israel. The US had earlier had shown great enthusiasm for such a court and then most, unfortunately, has developed cold feet and obviously, the ramification is serious.
International Criminal Court will prosecute individuals accused of genocide crimes against humanity and war crimes. There will be 18 judges and a prosecutor elected by the ratifying countries. This is a great step forward in the protection of human rights and international jurists and justice. Now individuals have a right in the international law that would safeguard their right not to be tortured right to life and dignity. Even such countries as revolutionary Iran and the conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia will have to be cautious of their dispensation of justice.
Every ratifying member country should try any one of its national citizens within its own jurisdiction who is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, like rape or war crimes. If such a country fails in this, a victim is entitled to go to ICC and seek prosecution of the perpetrator of crimes against humanity. This is recognized as the principle of complementarity.
Crimes committed before July 1 2002 do not come under the purview of ICC
This is known as the principle of non-complementarity, the rule of complementarity is a breath of fresh air in the fetid atmosphere of oppression and suppression that is commonly found in countries like Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. This would deter countries where national courts conduct sham trials or fail to investigate such crimes at all.
A close look into the reservations of some countries about the ICC reveals the untoward practices that they are prone to do. The Israelis signed the treaty on the last day of December 2001, the deadline for signing despite the unequal record of occupation of the Palestinian lands and excessive force against civilians. A boy about ten years was cowering in the arms of his father when an Israeli soldier aimed at the head and blew it up in the arms of his father.
On the one hand, the Israelis have abducted former Nazi officials from Latin America, taken them to Israel to stand trial for crimes against humanity and the Israeli courts sentenced them to life imprisonment. They call it with pride as democratic legislation for universal prosecution of war criminals and cite the example of Adolf Eichmann’s trial of 1961, on the other hand, their deadly Apache helicopters (freely given by the US) have spewed death on the ground, in total defiance of the international community. They insouciantly declare it as their acct of self-defense. The UN General Assembly resolutions for censoring Israeli have been vetoed umpteen times. In the most partisan manner by Israeli’s closest ally, the United States. They indifferently call the UN reactions biased.
There are indications that this would continue ever after ICC has come into force
Ariel Sharon and other Zionists believe that the UN is against them and this gives them impunity to carry on their oppression. The Israelis smugly shrugged off the idea of someone making an appeal in Belgium court for trying Ariel Sharon for the massacre of Palestinians in the infamous Sabra and Shatila camps in 1983. They are contemptuous of Germany even entertaining the Palestinians who are going to appeal to the German Court to try Ariel Sharon for crimes against humanity and war crimes and genocide.
However, the setting up of ICC is a watershed in international justice. The existence of ICC will have a sobering effect, it would deter the potential violators of human rights as for East Timor’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose-Harta said about the Indonesian general Wiranto, who was responsible for genocide: “In this day and age you cannot kill hundreds of people, destroy a whole country, and then just get fired.”
Until that really happens Israel would have the comfort of believing that the Palestinian state does not exist and hence the Palestinians cannot be more than passive observers to the ICC. Nevertheless, the occupied West Bank does come under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Israel could continue its reoccupation of Palestinian land and blowing up of the houses and exiling those whom it does not want, conducting house to house search and killing the hapless victims and abducting Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Yasin with impunity.
And brush the world reaction under the carpet of bias. Hence the first loophole of the international court, how to prosecute someone who is a national of a country which has not ratified the treaty of ICC or a country that treats international concern of its record of human rights abuse as bias against it and with which the only superpower now left in the world readily concurs.
The continued torture of Gujrati Muslims also deserves mention here though violence has started before July 1, 2002. Thousands of riot-affected people in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in Gujarat were forced out of the relief camps and this has continued even after July 1; are they not entitled to international justice as their right to life and right to dignity and right to equality is denied? All this despite the promise of rehabilitation! Out in the monsoon rains with no shelter and sans succor! In one such case, a man who lost his house received just Rs 70 as compensation.
A girl took the government cheque from the hands of her father and tore it because her house had cost several lakhs and the government had sanctioned a meager two thousand rupees The denial of human rights constitutes crimes against humanity still continues though the carnage happened several months ago. The riot-affected are from the minority Muslim community which has very few doctors to treat its wounded and burnt and even fewer lawyers to plead their cases in the courts. And all this on account of the boycott of the majority community’s guilds of doctors and lawyers. What about their plight? These unlucky people of Gujarat are also the victims of a Milosevic, albeit a desi one.
Will the Dutch lawyers take up their cases at ICC?
The other and most notable queasy country about ICC is the United States of America. President Bill Clinton had signed the treaty to establish ICC on December 31, 2000, and President George W Bush asked for the withdrawal of the US signature on May 6 2002. Then a week before the ICC came into life the Americans decided to withdraw from the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia unless they are given immunity from prosecution against war crimes.
The Americans are clearly paranoid and their delusion of prosecution is born of the guilt that surrounds such events as the attack on Hazar Qadam and the Uruzgam massacre. Earlier they tried to have immunity for their peacekeepers in East Timor and failed, Noam Chomsky in his book on the rogue state shows that the US soldiers are involved in the genocide of the East Timorians. The Americans are clearly paranoid and their delusion of persecution is born of the guilt that surrounds such events as the attack on Hazar Qadam and the Urusgam massacre.
Earlier they tried to have immunity for their peacekeepers in Timor and failed. Noam Chomsky in his book on the rogue states shows that the US soldiers are involved in the genocide of the East Fomorians. The Americans knew in their hearts that their soldiers cannot have a chance for acquittal in the ICC. Today they may feel protected in the umbrage of immunity of the UN peacekeeping mission. This might be true of the 15 peace-keeping missions of the UN prior to July 1. But there is a clear change now. The UN cannot go against the ICC hereafter.
It may look all too trifle that the US does not want to join the ICC for the sake of immunity for its soldiers involved in peacekeeping missions. It wants the Security Council to give immunity to its forces of peacekeepers. Anyway, the US peacekeepers do have immunity from prosecution and it is extended until the end of the current 15 missions in which the Americans have not threatened to withdraw all the 3100 soldiers from Bosnia. More than half of them are policing the area.
Only a handful are training the local people and the US wants to withdraw them. But it also threatens to drop the 27 percent of the expenditure incurred on the mission in Bosnia. Then what does the action of the US vis-a-vis ICC portends? The US is attacking the integrity of the treaty of ICC. It is now the only superpower left in the world and it does not want to be accountable to anyone.