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The Bertrand Russell Tribunal
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A well-planned, politically solid session of the World Tribunal on Iraq took place April 15-17 in Brussels, Belgium. The hearings showed that key Bush administration members planned aggression against Iraq starting years before the war was launched.
Key organizers and activists from throughout Europe attended the full event, with representatives from other continents. This hearing was the first major step in a growing international effort by organizations in many countries to consolidate charges against the Bush administration for war crimes.
The idea for a war-crimes tribunal was raised a year ago and took shape in Istanbul last fall. There have already been public meetings or hearings in Mexico, Japan, Denmark and this three-day hearing in Brussels. There will be a hearing on May 8 in New York City at Cooper Union and on June 19 in Germany.
The Brussels Tribunal held the rapt attention of the audience through two solid days of testimony. With the auditorium packed, an overflow audience followed the proceedings by video camera in an upstairs theater. The discussion focused on the programs and policies promoted by the "Project for the New American Century," or PNAC.
This neoconservative think tank has advocated global U.S. hegemony, primarily through the threat or use of military power. Prominent supporters of PNAC include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfo witz, who are now leading members of the Bush gang. Their public advocacy of preemptive war, their use of overwhelming military force and their focus on reshaping the entire Middle East through regime change and occupation in Iraq began long before Sept. 11, 2001.
Lieven de Cauter, a Belgian professor who played a key role in organizing the tribunal here, wrote, "In the New American Century politics, military logic, economics and organized crime have become a seamless continuum, one large global casino."
Testimony included 30-minute presentations by Michael Parenti, Michel Collon and Hans Von Sponeck, among others. A special panel of three Iraqis--Ghazwan Al Mukhtar, Haifa Zangana and Abdul Ilah Al Bayaty--gave first-hand testimony on the impact of the war. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, unable to travel because of an injury, testified by video.
Following each presentation, two people acting as prosecutors and two as defense cross-examined the presenters. The panel of jurists then asked additional questions.
The defense of PNAC was made by two specialists in politics of the militarist "neo-con" grouping--Jim Lobe and Tom Barry. Karen Parker and Jean Bricmont were the prosecutors.
The final ruling of an impressive panel of jurists reflected the seriousness of the event. The following are some excerpts from the ruling.
"According to a clear majority of States and a large consensus of legal experts, the invasion of Iraq constitutes an act of aggres sion, a breach of one of the most fundamental norms of the international legal order. ...
"Far from bringing stability and peace in Iraq and the region, the invasion and occupation have created instability and chaos. Moreover, the deliberate destruction of Iraq has effectively promoted the Israeli government's policies of further unlawful expansion and de facto annexation of territories as well as further annihilation of the rights of the Palestinian people. ...
"The United Nations should avoid complicity with--let alone legitimize in any way--the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Any such action would further discredit this world body. ...
"Finally, the Tribunal calls upon the peoples of the world to demand that their governments deny military, political, financial or any other support to the occupying powers; and oppose the illegal implementation by occupation forces or their surrogates of any plans for the wholesale privatization of the Iraqi economy. The Tribunal also expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi people and its support for their attempts at recovering their full sovereignty."
The panel of jurists was headed by Francois Houtart, who participated in the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal on U.S. Crimes in Vietnam in 1967. The panel included Denis Halliday, formerly head of the UN Oil for Food Program; Nawal el-Sadaawi, a well-known Egyptian author and doctor; Salah Al-Mukhtar of the Arab Lawyer Association of Britain, Pierre Klein, Samir Amin and Ludo Abicht.
In the United States, the ANSWER Coalition plans to promote the work of the World Tribunal on Iraq by calling a hearing on Aug. 26 in New York as the world media gathers there on the eve of the Repub lican National Convention. This hear i ng in late August will offer tribunal organizers from around the world an opportunity to report their most important findings and conclusions. Because of its proximity to the convention, the hearing will connect the work done around the world with the mass struggles expected there.
More information on the tribunal movement can be found at www.iacenter.org .
Sarah Flounders, co-coordinator of the International Action Center, testified at the Brussels tribunal.
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