KUALA LUMPUR, 20 November 2011 – The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (Tribunal) entered its second day of hearing war crimes charge of Crimes against Peace against George W Bush (former U.S. President) and Anthony L Blair (former British Prime Minister) in Kuala Lumpur. For the first time a war crime charge has been heard against these two former heads of state in compliance with due legal process, wherein complaints from war victims had been received, duly investigated and formal charges instituted by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (Commission).
The Prosecution is only proceeding with the first charge, Crimes against Peace, in the interest of justice as the duration of the trial for this session has been set for four days. The Tribunal will subsequently set another date to hear the second charge of Crime of Torture and War Crimes.
Today, the Prosecution continued presenting its case with the tendering of public documents and legal arguments supported by international case law authorities and precedents. The arguments were extensive with questions from the Tribunal posed to the Prosecution seeking clarification and dealing with objections from the Defence. Some of the points raised and argued are stated in the following paragraphs.
The Tribunal heard that the UK Attorney General (AG) had reservations, at the relevant time that the UN Resolution 1441 did not permit the use of force against Iraq for non compliance with the said resolution in his advice to the Prime Minister on 7 March 2003. And the AG maintained his stand even years later at the Chilcot Enquiry in January 2011.
However, two days before the invasion of Iraq on 17 March 2003, the AG justified the use of force based on the ‘revival of the authorisation to use force under the earlier UN resolutions 678, 687 read together with 1441. The 678 and 687 resolutions pertain to the use of force for the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait in 1990. These resolutions in no way authorise the use of force to effect disarmament or regime change in Iraq. And there is no accepted doctrine of revival that allows the authorisation in Security Council resolutions.
The Prosecution argued that UK along with the US had also advanced the viewpoint that regime change could be the basis for the use of force. This viewpoint had been expressed as far back as 1998 when president Clinton suggested that Saddam Hussein had to be removed to end his threat. The Iraq Liberation Act passed in 1998 declared that goal of US policy should be to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power. This then became the official US policy. Bush and Blair had on various occasions since then expressed this viewpoint. Two months after 9/11, Bush had asked Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, to review existing battle plans for Iraq. On September 15, 2001 Bush stated ‘once Afghanistan has been dealt with, it will be Iraq’s turn’
Blair had also stated after the invasion of Iraq, that even if there were no threat of weapons of mass destruction, he would still have effected regime change in Iraq. The AG had advised Blair on 7 March 2003 that regime change could not be the objective of military action.
The planning and preparation continued with the use of dubious or faulty intelligence to achieve the objective to effect regime change. This intelligence centred on the existence of weapons of mass destruction that was shown to be false after the invasion. The intelligence was being doctored around the plan and policy of effecting regime change.
The Tribunal heard that the US and UK had commenced a ‘secret air war’ against Iraq in the later half of 2002 and early 2003 wherein 21,736 air sorties resulting in 253,000 pounds of bombs being dropped in Southern Iraq to degrade the Iraqi air defences. This was the beginning of the war.
Such plans and actions continued unhindered while publicly both the accused presented to the world that they were seeking a resolution of the alleged threat Iraq posed with its weapons of mass destruction. The process culminated in the passing of the UN Resolution 1441 to provide a pretext to launch a full invasion.
The conduct of both accused indicated a clear intention to invade Iraq to effect regime change that was never authorised by UN Resolution 1441.
The Doctrine of regime change and doctrine of humanitarian intervention were declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in Nicaragua v US . The US by passing the Iraq Liberation Act went against the decision in the Nicaragua case.
Accountability of individuals including heads of state for war crimes has been well established since the Nuremberg trials after World War Two. The more recent case of Ex parte Pinochet (No 3) (1999) enforces this principal wherein a head of state will be liable to be called to account if he authorised or perpetrated serious international crimes. Waging an illegal war can never be anything but a crime.
The arrogance of both the accused is incredulous in leading their country to war and committing their soldiers to die and to kill others. As of May 2011 1.4 million Iraqis, 4,770 US soldiers and 2,445 personnel from other coalition forces have lost their lives as result of the invasion of Iraq.
The Prosecution asked the Tribunal to return a verdict of guilty against both the accused George W Bush and Anthony L Blair. And for the Tribunal to exercise its powers under Article 31 of the Charter of the KL War Crimes Commission and submit the Tribunal’s findings to the International Criminal Court and other bodies as they deem fit for their further action. And also to include the names of the guilty persons, namely Bush and Blair, in the Register of War Criminals and publicise the same. The Prosecution closed its case.
The Defence requested for time to respond to the Prosecution’s case and the Tribunal granted the request. The matter adjourned till the following morning at 9.30 am.
The trial is being held in an open court from November 19-22, 2011 at the premises of the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW) at 88, Jalan Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.