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Gadaffi should have been tried



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

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October 26, 2011

If only Muammar Gadaffi were still alive…We need him in the court room just as, after World War 2, at Nuremberg, Goring, Hess and the rest of the surviving top leadership of the Nazi regime were tried.
The world that had been through hell and back got some idea who these men really were, what their characters were, how they came to be what they were and what they thought they were doing, waging a terrible war to expand German rule and eliminating those they hated, the Jews, the gypsies and the homosexuals. What sort of men could provoke and pursue a conflict that took 78 million lives? (Compare this with Iraq where 150,000 have died.)
There was a similar court for the Japanese war criminals. The victorious powers said “never again” and swore that a new era of international justice had been born in the courtroom.
It was not to be. Nuremberg and Tokyo receded into history. There were no international courts to deal with Korea, Kenya, Malaysia, Vietnam, Central America, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Liberia and the other “post war” wars. The Cold War froze the Soviet/Western cooperation that had given the allies victory in the war and propelled them to establish Nuremberg. (Actually, Churchill wanted to take the captured Nazis out into the prison yard and shoot them without more ado but Roosevelt and Stalin persuaded him that this was not a good idea.)
After Nuremberg what trials there were of German war criminals and collaborators from other countries, later captured, were carried out in domestic courts, principally German. Some like Adolph Eichmann, who ran the concentration camps, fled to sympathetic regimes in Latin America. He was tracked down by Israeli intelligence after they had received a tip off from the girl friend of Eichmann’s son. He was smuggled out of Argentina, tried in Israel and hanged.
Only when the Cold War ended was the way open to think of the subject of international law again. Even then it was slow in coming. I recall a column I wrote that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other papers in which I argued for an international court. I received but one letter- from a University of California professor who said he had been working on the same idea but to no avail. And then a year later in 1993, in the wake of the atrocities in the Yugoslavian civil wars, international opinion woke up and the UN Security Council passed a resolution to set up a special court for ex-Yugoslavia to try war crimes. The ex-president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, was tried there and only escaped conviction because he died whilst the proceedings were under way. There followed not long after the setting up of a court to deal with the pogroms in Rwanda and Burundi and later with the war in Sierra Leone.
In 1994 the nations of the world voted into being a permanent International Criminal Court to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Most of the world’s countries signed up. So did the US under President Bill Clinton despite a rear guard action from the Pentagon which argued that it didn’t want to see its soldiers prosecuted. However, when President George W. Bush came to power, he immediately rescinded the signing. Russia, China and India also refused to sign.
Despite the hold outs the ICC has steamed ahead, gaining confidence by the year and streamlining the laborious procedures of the preceding courts.

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It has pursued war criminals in the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Liberia and Sudan. Many Africans have accused it of an anti-African bias. But in most cases it is governments who have invited the ICC in and for a period (thankfully no longer) Africa was the scene of multiple wars. The first person to be convicted and sent to jail was a Congolese warlord. Under Bush, to the surprise of everyone, the US began to cooperate with the court. After the early years of threatening those countries that signed with a cut off in aid Bush came to realize the value of the ICC. When President Barack Obama took office the US willingly voted in the Security Council to order the ICC to indict Gadhaffi. However, the US has still not applied for membership.
Gadaffi was on the run but the ICC made it clear that he should be detained not killed. One of Libya’s free roaming militias captured him and then shot him dead. This was a great opportunity missed. The world, not least the Libyans, needed to see him in court and his evil deeds spelt out. And those too of the countries from both west and east who at various times with trade and political support propped him up.


Copyright © 2011 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
"His is a powerful and comprehensive statement of ways to make the world better.
Is that worth the Nobel Prize?
I say, why not?"


Jonathan Power's 2001 book

Like Water on Stone
The Story of Amnesty International

Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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