Following up on a lead found in today’s gaggle, I see that the Toronto Star did indeed publish an article Monday that discussed the possibility that the preznit could be indicted for war crimes when he visits Canada later this year under their Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
War Crimes, Bitch!
When U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Ottawa — probably later this year — should he be welcomed? Or should he be charged with war crimes?
It’s an interesting question. On the face of it, Bush seems a perfect candidate for prosecution under Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
This act was passed in 2000 to bring Canada’s ineffectual laws in line with the rules of the new International Criminal Court. While never tested, it lays out sweeping categories under which a foreign leader like Bush could face arrest.
In particular, it holds that anyone who commits a war crime, even outside Canada, may be prosecuted by our courts. What is a war crime? According to the statute, it is any conduct defined as such by “customary international law” or by conventions that Canada has adopted.
War crimes also specifically include any breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, such as torture, degradation, wilfully depriving prisoners of war of their rights “to a fair and regular trial,” launching attacks “in the knowledge that such attacks will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians” and deportation of persons from an area under occupation.
The case for the prosecution looks quite promising. First, there is the fact of the Iraq war itself. After 1945, Allied tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo — in an astonishing precedent — ruled that states no longer had the unfettered right to invade other countries and that leaders who started such conflicts could be tried for waging illegal war.
Concurrently, the new United Nations outlawed all aggressive wars except those authorized by its Security Council.
Today, a strong case could be made that Bush violated the Nuremberg principles by invading Iraq. Indeed, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has already labelled that war illegal in terms of the U.N. Charter.
Second, there is the manner in which the U.S. conducted this war.
The mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison is a clear contravention of the Geneva Accord. The U.S. is also deporting selected prisoners to camps outside of Iraq (another contravention). U.S. press reports also talk of shadowy prisons in Jordan run by the CIA, where suspects are routinely tortured. And the estimated civilian death toll of 100,000 may well contravene the Geneva Accords prohibition against the use of excessive force.
Canada’s war crimes law specifically permits prosecution not only of those who carry out such crimes but of the military and political superiors who allow them to happen.
Then there is Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. says detainees there do not fall under the Geneva accords. That’s an old argument.
In 1946, Japanese defendants explained their mistreatment of prisoners of war by noting that their country had never signed any of the Geneva Conventions. The Japanese were convicted anyway.