Nearly two years have passed since the International Criminal Court (ICC) began investigating war crimes committed in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. But the ICC has yet to take concrete steps to move the investigation forward. Frustrated with the glacial pace of the ICC’s investigation and the lack of clarity about how and when the investigation will proceed, three Palestinian human rights organizations issued a joint statement to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (the management body of the ICC) on December 6, saying, “We have not seen any concrete step in this investigation, no action by the Prosecutor to break the vicious cycle of impunity.” They added, “The situation on the ground is deteriorating year after year, month after month, day after day.
The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) released its first annual report on July 28 titled, “Continuous war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Moroccan occupation against Saharawi civilians. What future for the decolonization process in Western Sahara?” According to Mahjoub Maliha, head of CODESA’s external relations, the report reflects “the gravity and scale of the violations committed by the Moroccan occupation forces against Saharawi civilians.” It records human rights violations and war crimes committed in the occupied Western Sahara in the period between September 2020 and December 2021. Morocco claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara after Spain withdrew its colonial control from the territory in 1975.
I was in Nuremberg during the war crimes trials which followed WWII. My father, Brig. Gen. Telford Taylor, was Chief Prosecutor during the second, American phase. The French, Russian and British staffs had gone home to continue trials at home, but the US stayed longer, and scheduled about 400 additional defendants. They were divided into twelve categories: judges, doctors, industrialists, etc. There were 142 convictions and ten death sentences. I remember the high spirits of the occupying troops and tribunal staff, The joy of triumph and victory. I danced with them in the ballroom of the Grand Hotel, where the officials and court lawyers spent their evenings. I scared myself by looking into seemingly-bottomless bomb craters, played in the war-shattered wreckage of our commandeered townhouse, and listened to stories told by the servants, who were tearfully glad to be fed and sheltered during the hunger-stricken post-war years.
Although the United States has tried mightily to undermine the International Criminal Court (ICC) since it became operational in 2002, the U.S. government is now pushing for the ICC to prosecute Russian leaders for war crimes in Ukraine. Apparently, Washington thinks the ICC is reliable enough to try Russians but not to bring U.S. or Israeli officials to justice. On March 15, the Senate unanimously passed S. Res 546, which “encourages member states to petition the ICC or other appropriate international tribunal to take any appropriate steps to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian Armed Forces.” When he introduced the resolution, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said, “This is a proper exercise of jurisdiction.
The US State-Department-sponsored media apparatus is declaring that there were war crimes committed by Russian troops as they left the town of Bucha, just west of Kyiv. Soon After the Ukrainian army retook the town, there were published reports of bodies with bound hands and feet and of mass graves of civilians in international media, all with accompanying pictures and presumed satellite imagery of those bodies. I am not going to say that Russian troops committed no atrocities. I do find the accusations dubious and opportunistic since the very same media outlets demanding war crimes charges and tribunals for Bucha have completely ignored the war crimes committed by Ukrainian forces in the 8-year civil war in the country.
Americans have been shocked by the death and destruction of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, filling our screens with bombed buildings and dead bodies lying in the street. But the United States and its allies have waged war in country after country for decades, carving swathes of destruction through cities, towns and villages on a far greater scale than has so far disfigured Ukraine. As we recently reported, the U.S. and its allies have dropped over 337,000 bombs and missiles, or 46 per day, on nine countries since 2001 alone. Senior U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency officers told Newsweek that the first 24 days of Russia’s bombing of Ukraine was less destructive than the first day of U.S. bombing in Iraq in 2003. The U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria bombarded those countries with over 120,000 bombs and missiles, the heaviest bombing anywhere in decades.
The gruesome atrocities, posted on social media by groups like the Nazi Azov Regiment and the Georgian Militia, are a direct result of the UK and US pushing for more militarism in Ukraine, endorsing hostility towards Russians and extending the conflict by pouring the arms into the hands of these very groups. The long standing US/UK/NATO project of destabilising the region with the purpose of bringing down the Russian state has actually brought about conditions in which these horrific incidents can occur. I see clearly that no-one can support the West in the Ukraine conflict without supporting the war there and the ghastly consequences of that war. It is not good enough for liberals and so called socialists to bleat the “aid” mantra when part of that package is “lethal aid”!
The United Nations General Assembly voted 93-24 with 58 abstentions to drop the Russian Federation from membership on the UN Human Rights Council, based on allegations and grisly videos and photos appearing to show execution-style slayings of civilians in Ukraine by Russian troops. While there are calls for independent investigations into those allegations, the US and NATO member state governments have been pushing the claim that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine including the major war crime of invading another country, the unasked question in the US media is: Why hasn’t the US been kicked out of the Human Rights Council for similar war crimes that aren’t at all allegations, but are well documented fact?
The Bucha 'Russian' atrocities propaganda onslaught may have worked well in the 'west' but it lacks evidence that Russia had anything to do with it. The former Indian ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar calls it an outright fake: An indignant Moscow has angrily demanded a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday over the allegations of atrocities by Russian troops in areas around Kiev through the past month. Prima facie, this allegation is fake news but it can mould misperceptions by the time it gets exposed as disinformation. A Tass report says: “The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that the Russian Armed Forces had left Bucha, located in the Kiev region, on March 30, while “the evidence of crimes” emerged only four days later, after Ukrainian Security Service officers had arrived in the town. The ministry stressed that on March 31, the town’s Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk had confirmed in a video address that there were no Russian troops in Bucha. However, he did not say a word about civilians shot dead on the street with their hands tied behind their backs.”
The branding of Vladimir Putin as a war criminal by Joe Biden, who lobbied for the Iraq war and staunchly supported the 20 years of carnage in the Middle East, is one more example of the hypocritical moral posturing sweeping across the United States. It is unclear how anyone would try Putin for war crimes since Russia, like the United States, does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But justice is not the point. Politicians like Biden, who do not accept responsibility for our well-documented war crimes, bolster their moral credentials by demonizing their adversaries. They know the chance of Putin facing justice is zero. And they know their chance of facing justice is the same.
The Progressive International (PI), in collaboration with several like minded organizations, will organize the second Belmarsh Tribunal in New York on February 25. It announced the decision in a press release on February 14. The Tribunal seeks to hold the US government accountable for its war crimes in the two decades of the so-called war on terror and also push for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s release. The first Belmarsh Tribunal was organized in London during Assange’s extradition hearings in October last year. It is named after the infamous prison in London where Assange has been kept for almost three years. The upcoming Belmarsh Tribunal in New York coincides with with the date of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by the US in occupied parts of Cuba 20 years ago.
Imprisoned Wikileaks founder, journalist and free speech champion Julian Assange today faces life imprisonment for telling the truth about U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the U.S. torture base in Guantanamo Bay. Assange faces charges under the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act. Prosecution under that WWI anti-democratic law placed thousands of antiwar activists in prison for exercising their free speech right to protest WWI. Ironically, the Dec 19, 2021 New York Times front-page two-part series entitled, Hidden Pentagon Records Reveal Patterns of Failure in Deadly Airstrikes, follows in Assange’s footsteps in reporting U.S. war crimes, yet The Times staff writers remain free. Some 100 Times reporters evaluated Pentagon confidential document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
A report by The New York Times (NYT) earlier this month revealed that at least 1,400 innocent civilians were killed in numerous airstrikes, mostly drones strikes, carried out by the US forces since 2014 in Afghanistan and some countries in West Asia. The civilian toll of the US drone strikes has already been widely reported, with several other sources such as Airwars citing a larger number of civilian casualties. The NYT report also revealed the extent of the failure of the international community to ensure accountability and justice for the victims of these war crimes. The impunity enjoyed by the US is a key factor in such atrocities continuing to take place.
Samuel Moyn’s vicious and unprincipled attack on Michael Ratner, one of the finest human rights attorneys of our time, was published in the New York Review of Books (NYRB) on September 1. Moyn singles out Ratner as a whipping boy to support his own bizarre theory that punishing war crimes prolongs war by making it more palatable. He disingenuously claims that enforcing the Geneva Conventions and opposing illegal wars are mutually exclusive. As Dexter Filkins noted in the New Yorker, Moyn’s “logic would favor incinerating entire cities, Tokyo style, if the resulting spectacles of agony lead more people to oppose American power.” Moyn takes Ratner—the long-time president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who died in 2016—to task for filing Rasul v. Bush to give people indefinitely detained at Guantánamo the constitutional right to habeas corpus to challenge their detention.
For decades the U.S. has been murdering innocent civilians, including U.S. citizens, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali and who knows where else. Not one person in the military has been held accountable for these criminal acts. Instead, drone whistleblower Daniel Hale is sitting in prison with a 45 month sentence. The August 29, 2021 deaths of ten innocent civilians, including seven children, in a family compound in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan by a hellfire missile fired from a U.S. military drone has brought the U.S. assassination program into massive public view. The photos of the blood-stained walls and the mangled white Toyota in the family compound in densely populated Kabul have gotten incredible attention compared to the 15 years of drone strikes in isolated areas in which hundreds of people attending funerals and wedding parties were killed.