Monday, September 30, 2013

The double standard of international law

Charles Taylor will spend the next 50 years (should he live that long) cooling his heels in a prison in England, not because he committed war crimes against the people of Sierra Leone, but because he is from Africa.

Mr. Taylor was the president of Liberia in the late 1990's when a civil war began brewing in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor provided support to the rebels in exchange for a piece of the profit obtained from the sale of so-called blood diamonds. During the course of the civil war the people of Sierra Leone suffered unspeakable atrocities.

In 2002, Mr. Taylor was driven from office and an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court was issued. His trial on war crimes began in 2007 and ended with a conviction in 2012 that resulted in a 50-year prison sentence. Last week his appeal was denied.

During the course of the trial, Mr. Taylor was found to have provided arms to the rebels in Sierra Leone. He was also found to be responsible for murder and rape as well as the recruitment of child soldiers.

I won't argue that Mr. Taylor did nothing wrong. I won't argue that he shouldn't be punished. After all, if we want to live in a world governed by the rule of law, those who attempt to crush dissent by the law of rule must be brought to justice.

But what about George W. Bush? He launched wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan with no justification. He sent in troops who killed innocent men, women and children. He ordered bombs dropped over urban areas that resulted in widespread death and destruction.

Under President Bush we saw the development of secret CIA prisons in which inmates were abused and tortured. We saw suspected terrorists - who had never been charged with a crime - secreted off to third countries whose security forces committed unspeakable atrocities. We operated a prison on US property in which men have been held for over a decade without every having been charged and where they were tortured on a regular basis.

And what of President Obama? He escalated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He escalated the use of unmanned drones to rain missiles down on those suspected of being terrorists - as well as those who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Under President Obama we have used drones to fire missiles into Yemen and Pakistan. The United States was the prime mover in the overthrow of the Libyan government.

Where is the International Criminal Court now? Why hasn't a warrant for the arrest of George W. Bush been issued? Anyone care to guess whether a warrant will be issued for Barack Obama when he leaves the White House?

There never will be, I suppose. And that's the problem with the entire notion of international law. Unless the law applies equally to all nations and people, it will never be anything more than a joke. You will never see a politician from a major western nation standing in the dock facing decades in prison for the death and destruction his or her policies caused. That fate will be left to leaders of the Third World - those who don't have the ability to defend themselves against the powers of the West.


Jeff Gamso said...

As Churchill is alleged to have said, "History is written by the victors."

The Italian courts did prosecute (in absentia, of course) CIA agents for acts of rendition, though it's at least alleged that they wanted to go after Bush and were dissuaded by the folks with real power.

Lee said...

Why hasn't a warrant for the arrest of George W. Bush been issued?

A) Acceptable Double Standard
B) Socioeconomic Considerations
C) Military Power
D) Victims Classified as Subhuman Disposable Casualties
E) Racial & Ethnic Composition of United Nations
Intimidation & Fear of Violence (bullying)
F) All of the Above