The International Criminal Court (ICC) decided, on December 9, to abandon its inquiry into war crimes committed by British forces during the Iraq war, despite its investigation having concluded that there were reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were in fact committed.
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, announced in a public statement that she had decided to close the preliminary examination and not pursue an investigation into war crimes committed by the British Armed Forces in Iraq. The Chief Prosecutor also confirmed in her statement that despite closing the case, the report had found “…that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the British armed forces committed the war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence.”
In her statement, Bensouda defends the ICC decision to close the case prior to opening an investigation, due to the International Body not having found that the UK legal system had actively engaged in shielding individuals from being prosecuted. She also proclaimed in the statement that it is due to “technical” reasons and upholding the ICC’s founding charter, the Rome Statute, that the seemingly ridiculous reasoning behind dropping the case had been decided upon.
Disagreeing with the decision, Mathew Cannock, Head of Amnesty International’s Centre for International Justice said that “the Prosecutor’s decision to conclude the examination provides a road-map for obstructionism. It rewards bad faith and delays brought about by the failure of the UK military and authorities to conduct independent and impartial investigations into allegations in the immediate aftermath of the conflict in Iraq.” Giving more weight to the words of Amnesty’s Mathew Cannock, is the fact that the British Parliament is currently looking to pass the ‘Overseas Operations Bill’ into Law, which will make it even tougher to prosecute British soldiers for war crimes.
Despite thousands of cases having been examined, and the ICC concluding that in countless cases there are reasonable grounds to believe the most despicable crimes have been committed, there have been no convictions. Which begs the question as to whether Western Countries are just above International Law altogether. The Iraq war was not legal to begin with and neither was the occupation of Iraq, for which there has been no punishment dealt to the coalition forces involved.
It has also been pointed out that the ICC’s conclusions seem to battle against reality when they claim that British Authorities had not been found to be unwilling to pursue justice. Earlier this year in fact, British independent investigators told the BBC that of thousands of cases assessed, all but one had been dismissed.
The ICC has never indicted anyone in the West; its 45 public indictments all being of those in African countries or Georgia. The fact that the ICC seems to almost solely pursue investigations in Africa, has sparked much criticism and has earned it the nickname of the ACC, or the African Criminal Court. Upon the ICC’s announcement that they were abandoning the the idea of launching an investigation into the case, Clive Baldwin, a senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch said that the “prosecutor’s decision to close her UK inquiry will doubtless fuel perceptions of an ugly double standard in justice, with one approach for powerful states and quite another for those with less clout.”
Australian Special Forces were also revealed earlier this year to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan, due to the leaking of a series of documents which revealed the carnage. Again, in this case, the Australian Authorities, who had done nothing about these crimes until the documents were leaked, are yet again left to properly punish their own soldiers, which seems less and less likely. In fact the Australian Prime Minister became more outraged, over a Chinese official tweeting an image depicting the crimes committed by Australian forces, than he was over the actual war crimes themselves.
The problem with leaving the UK to deliver justice to the Iraqi victims of British terrorism is simple to comprehend. Halting this ICC investigation is like halting an investigation into a serial killer and asking his accomplice to discipline him, it’s beyond ridiculous.
I believe the origin of this mess that we see today, is in the inaction of world powers upon the conclusion of the Cold War, to discard of the biased double-standards which created the environment for such a multi-faceted universal state of conflict.
Following the second World War, there seemed some hope that the world was heading in a more positive direction, yet we failed to implement many of the changes that were intended to set that course. The fact that right now International Law is only a tool at the disposal of the world’s most powerful States and alliances, is a testament to the fact that we need change.
The reason so many countries are hostile toward the United States, British and Israeli governments, is the pain and suffering created at the hands of these regimes. This is why we see such hostility and popular movements which are in opposition to the West, and this is why groups such as Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Ansarallah (in Yemen) and Hamas (in Palestine) exist as armed resistance movements; for if International Law was to truly live up to its name, groups like these would have had no need to have taken up arms.
When people in the Global South feel as if they are undermined and forgotten by the world, as they are suffering at the hands of Western governments, it is no surprise many choose to fight back using physical violence.
In the case of Iraq, this sort of injustice has led to the catastrophe we still see in the country today. For ordinary Iraqis hate felt towards the West does not come from an irrational jealousy of “freedoms,” it comes from what was done to them. If you as a Westerner put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary Iraqi, effected by the war crimes committed by British soldiers, wouldn’t you lose faith in the Law and the so-called International Community?
Amnesty International Statement-
Overseas Operations Bill-