Friday, October 08, 2010

The Long Road to the Hague: Prosecuting Blair

Lesley Docksey,, Oct 6, 2010

Ex-Prime Minister and post-Downing Street millionaire Tony Blair, to celebrate the publication of his book A Journey, is holding a ‘signing’ session at Waterstones, Piccadilly on 8 September [*]. That this man, responsible for taking us into an illegal war, playing his part in the ruination of an ancient country because he ‘believed he was right’, should advertise himself in this way has caused outrage. Time, I think, to look at where we, and Blair, actually stand in terms of what we can and cannot do to call him to account. Time, I think, to look at where we – and Blair – actually stand in terms of what we can and cannot do to call him to account.

What hope for international law?

We have spent years constructing that body of treaties, statutes and conventions known as international law, only to ignore it when it is most needed. How often has any state – or rather, any powerful Western state – been brought to account for breaching international law? And how many exempt themselves from the laws while insisting others abide by them?

The world’s record at upholding its own laws is poor. The United Nations passes resolutions where states have breached international law, demanding compliance. It imposes sanctions, hoping to force compliance. But beyond that, what is done, except to threaten belligerence? What other routes are available?

When the UN was set up, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also came into being. It can settle disputes between states and it can give advisory opinions on legal matters when asked by recognized bodies or their coalitions. A good example of an ICJ advisory opinion is the one it delivered in 1996 for the World Court Project on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons. However, neither “settled” disputes or advisory opinions really result in accountability.

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