ISTANBUL — New evidence on U.S. war crimes and violations of international law was presented at the concluding session of the World Tribunal on Iraq at hearings in Istanbul Sunday.
The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is a ‘peoples’ court’ set up by academics, human rights campaigners and non-governmental organisations to take an independent look at the Iraq record of the United States and other occupying powers such as Britain. The tribunal was inspired by the Russel Tribunal of the Vietnam war days.
The three-day tribunal, the 21st in a series of meetings held over the last two years, was held against a background of another spurt of violence that left 41 people dead in bombings Sunday. The dead included four U.S. soldiers, three of them women.
The tribunal says it derives its legitimacy from the fact that a war of aggression was launched on Iraq ”despite the opposition of people and governments all over the world.” It adds: ”However, there is no court or authority that will judge the acts of the U.S. and its allies. If the official authorities fail, then authority derived from universal morals and human rights principles can speak for the world.”
The last sitting took place before a ‘jury of conscience’ that included author Arundhati Roy and Francois Houtart who participated in the Bertrand Russell War Crimes Tribunal on U.S. Crimes in Vietnam. In all 54 persons gave testimony on several aspects of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq.
”The assault on Iraq is an assault on all of us: on our dignity, our intelligence, and our future,” Roy said at the hearings.. ”We recognise that the judgment of the World Tribunal on Iraq is not binding in international law. However, our ambitions far surpass that. The World Tribunal on Iraq places its faith in the consciences of millions of people across the world who do not wish to stand by and watch while the people of Iraq are being slaughtered, subjugated, and humiliated.”
Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations who resigned in protest against sanctions on Iraq said during his testimony that ”the UN silently accepted the totally illegal no-fly zone bombing by the U.S../UK of Iraq culminating in softening up attacks preliminary to the unlawful invasion of 2003.”
Halliday said that ”by these various means, the UN has itself destroyed the basic human rights of the Iraqi people through the wilful neglect of Articles 22-28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN failed to protect and safeguard the children and people before and after the 2003 invasion.”
Thomas Fasy, associate professor of pathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, provided evidence of a seven-fold increase in congenital malformations of Iraqi babies from 1990-2001.
Fasy also testified that childhood cancers and leukemia in children below five in the Basra governorate increased 26-fold over 1990-2002.
Fadhil Al Bedrani, a BBC and Reuters journalist who was in Fallujah during the November siege, provided evidence of collective punishment of civilians by U.S. forces.
Iraqi women’s rights supporter Hana Ibrahim said women suffer 90 percent unemployment, and are often the victims of rape, lawlessness, forced prostitution and kidnappings.
”From the day that the occupation started in Iraq there was a systematic violation of women and their rights,” she said.
Herbert Docena, researcher with the group ‘Focus on the Global South’ who has studied Iraq’s reconstruction and political transition pointed to the economic and political forces behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
”As early as February 2003, the U.S. had finished drafting what the Wall Street Journal called ‘sweeping plans to remake Iraq’s economy in the US’s image’,” Docena said. ”Just as the U.S. bombed out and physically obliterated almost all of Iraq’s ministries, the plan entails the repeal of almost all of its current laws and the dismantling of its existing institutions, except those that already fit in with the U.S. design.”
The jury in its ruling ”recognised the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country.”
It recommended ”immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all occupation forces” and called on ”the governments of the coalition to pay full compensation to Iraqis for any and all damages, and that all laws, contracts, treaties and institutions created under the occupation that Iraqi people deem harmful or un-useful to them be banished.”
Other recommendations included immediate investigation of crimes against humanity by U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and every other president of countries belonging to the coalition.
In addition, the jury called for a process of accountability to bring to justice journalists and media outlets that lied and promoted the violence against Iraq, as well as corporations who have profited from the war.