RINF.INFO, Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008
By Peter Dyer
Q: What do Radovan Karadzic, former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, and George W. Bush have in common? A: Each lives under the slowly growing shadow of a body of international criminal law.
This law is evolving towards the ultimate goal of holding even the most powerful leaders personally accountable for crimes committed by the State.
It is manifested in international agreements and statutes such as the Geneva Conventions, case law, two ad hoc war crimes tribunals (Yugoslavia and Rwanda), and a permanent International Criminal Court.
Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb President, has been arrested and now awaits trial in The Hague before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (I.C.T.Y.) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Dominique de Villepin is one of 33 French military and political leaders who have recently been accused in a report released by the Rwandan government of arming and advising Hutu leaders in the genocide and crimes against humanity of 1994.
(At the time Rwanda was a French client state and de Villepin was chief aide to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. The 500-page report, based on a two-year investigation, accuses both men of crimes including enabling the genocide by violating a United Nations Security Council Arms Embargo against Rwanda.)
George W. Bush in March 2003 ordered “Operation Shock and Awe” (though officially dubbed “Operation: Iraqi Freedom”) – the unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq – presenting the world with a clear prima facie case of aggression.
Aggression, in the words of the judgment delivered at the first Nuremberg Trial, is “the supreme international crime” because it unleashes all the other devastation and inhumanity of war.
Personal accountability by state leaders for the crime of aggression – initiating an unprovoked war – is the most profound as well as the most difficult goal of the continuing evolution of international criminal law.
For this reason, and because President Bush is head of the world’s most powerful state, clearly the shadow of the law is at present less ominous to him than to Karadzic or perhaps to de Villepin.
But there is no statute of limitations for any of these crimes. Things change over time, often unpredictably. And the international community has been working steadily towards this difficult goal for decades.
No doubt the work will continue.
Tags: Dominique de Villepin, George W. Bush, International Criminal Court, invasion and occupation of Iraq, Nuremberg precedent, Operation Shock and Awe, Radovan Karadzic, Rwanda, the Rome Statute, United States, Yugoslavia