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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

No escaping justice

Last week we learnt this:

"[Israeli] General (res.) Doron Almog, former head of the Israel Defence Forces' Southern Command, escaped arrest Sunday by the London police's anti-terrorist and war crimes unit, when he remained on an aircraft that had landed in Heathrow airport and returned with it to Israel several hours later."

Amnesty responded:

"Amnesty International today deplored the failure of the United Kingdom (UK) authorities to arrest Israeli army General Doron Almog when he arrived at London’s Heathrow airport yesterday, describing this as a clear violation of the UK’s obligations under both national and international law. A warrant for the general’s arrest for alleged war crimes had been issued by an English court the previous day.

"The organization is now calling on the UK authorities to urge Interpol to circulate the arrest warrant and on other states party to the Geneva Conventions to cooperate with the UK in carrying out the arrest and handing over General Almog to the UK's court."

Switzerland based journalist Shraga Elam - a Gold Walkley winner - explains that individuals like Almog may find international travel increasingly challenging:

"Gen. Doron Almog will confront legal difficulties in Switzerland as well and not only in the UK. In September 2003 "the Swiss attorney Marcel Bosonnet, and Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Raji Sourani, submitted two complaints to the Swiss Military Attorney General in Berne on behalf of Palestinian victims. One complaint is in respect of Palestinians whose homes were demolished by Israeli occupying forces; the second complaint is in respect of Palestinians who were subjected to torture and ill treatment in detention by the Israeli security services. The complaints call for investigation and prosecution of those responsible for these acts. In particular, the complaints call for investigations of former Israeli Minister of Defence, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer; former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military, Shaul Mofaz; former head of Israel's General Security Services, Avi Dichter; and former head of the Israeli military Southern Command, Doron Almog.

"The Swiss Military Attorney General accepted the complaints. In December 2003 he replied that as long as the accused persons are not in Switzerland he is not able to do anything. Of course once these persons will come to Switzerland the whole situation will change…

"After the Palestinian complaints were submitted the Swiss parliament changed as a reaction in an unusual hurry the law and decided that only war criminals with a connection to Switzerland might be sentenced in this country.

"The lawyer Bosonnet considers this change itself as illegal and argues that besides it has no relevancy to the complaints he tendered, as the law correction was ratified after the complaints submission.

"Other law experts criticize as well the parliament's decision and accordingly a new change is to be expected. Considering the special connections between Switzerland and the Geneva Convention it will be very difficult for the Swiss law makers to make an exception for Israel. Bearing in mind that the Israeli policy towards the Palestinian since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 should be described as an escalating ethnic cleansing a total new legal approach, not only in Switzerland, should be considered. Taking this situation into account, complaints against an escalating "silent" genocide should be considered by legal experts."

Western leaders are learning that victims are neither faceless nor legally mute.

11 Comments:

Blogger msnada said...

This is how Pinochet was indicted and convicted . It would seem that political leaders the world over, will have to be increasingly cautious about their travel plans(particularly once they leave office). Of course, the possibility of convicting Bush et al on war crimes might be slim, but it may be within the realm of possibility to convict minor leaders who have much less protection....like say our PM.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:19:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

Almog should be tried, and the British legal system is perfect for a fair trial.

The Brits, after-all, will ensure Almog wont be convicted on (so-called) witnesses alone and if there is reasonable doubt.

Assuming he were tried, What happens *if* he gets off? Will that be the end of it, or would you want to see him tried in the worlds 300+ states until he's found guilty?

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:20:00 pm  
Blogger msnada said...

No, I'm not advocating the 'shop around for justice' approach. And while 300+ may be able to indict and prosecute this person(or any other)...I think you need to have the political will of govt onside to really succeed.

My point is that there is a precedent for citizens bringing action against their leaders, so that they can be accountable for their actions. While the success of these actions may be slim or even thought of as folly, they are possible and certain former leaders like Kissinger are actually very careful about where they fly to.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:38:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

*Thoughtful 'Hmmm...'*

While i disagree with your concept of convicting bush and howard, forget that for a second- How can you convict the PM on, say, war crimes?

Check the Constitution- he is not the head of our armed forces (which i imagine would be responsibile for any crimes, in the case you make) nor our Chief executive- therefore not responsibile for authorising the invasion of Iraq.

... Some points to ponder, no msnada?

Thursday, September 15, 2005 6:24:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

Was Hitler head of the German military?

What isn't in dispute is that Howard and other members of the Cabinet made the decision to illegally invade Iraq which puts them into the legal firing line along with the then Chief of Defence Force and the three service chiefs, none of whom seem to have queried the legalities unlike their UK peers!

Thursday, September 15, 2005 6:45:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

Hitler combined the posts of Chancellor and President (to Fuhrer), he was unquestionable Head of State and chief executive in Germany, appointing various officers to military posts.

The head of the Defence forces in Aus. is the Governor General, exercising his power on advice from the Federal Executive Council.

You will have trouble placing federal Cabinet on trial for the invasion of Iraq, when such an invasion could not have been authorised on Cabinet's say-so alone.

In any trial, Westminster convention will not be looked at. The true power of the PM & C as the federal executive is hard to argue when virtually all executive decisions are by the Governor-General, as the Queens representative (rubber stamp here is the wrong word, as the GG clearly has the power to reject actions such as bills and dissolve parliament, something he could have done in the case of Iraq)

Indeed- this would be an interesting question in the British context, although i am unfamilar with the exact role of the Queen as chief executive in Britain...

When you say; "What isn't in dispute is that Howard and other members of the Cabinet made the decision to illegally invade Iraq"- you are wrong. Clearly, the decision is made by the Governor General, after recieving advice from the Federal Executive Council, advice the GG can reject.

What you then want to do, is prosecute the Howard Government for offering incorrect advice.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 7:10:00 pm  
Blogger msnada said...

Yes..the GG can reject the advice....but generally speaking doesn't.....but let's indict him and the Queen....if the constitution permits.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 9:56:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

Sounds like a good theory, Anthony, but it doesn't stack up.

Hitler, being dead of course was never faced trial. His successor Goering did, and was found guilty on all counts. But he wasn't the only one.

Also indited, tried and convicted on Count Two - Waging Aggressive War were the military chiefs plus the Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick, Hitler's economic adviser Walther Funk (note not a member of the Reichstag), Nazi Party chief Alfred Rosenberg, Minister of Security Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Foreign Affairs Minister Konstantin von Neurath and Hitler's foreign policy adviser Joachim von Ribbentrop (again no official government ministry). Rosenberg and von Neurath were also found guilty on Count 1 - Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War.

Somehow I don't think the International Criminal Court would have any trouble concluding where the real power lay, though possibly the G-G, and in the British context, the Queen may also attract some penalty.

While the issue of war crimes hasn't, AFAIK, received any media attention here, it has been often raised in Britain, and most legal sources there are of the opinion that Blair and his cabinet could have a case to answer.

Friday, September 16, 2005 6:04:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

"Somehow I don't think the International Criminal Court would have any trouble concluding where the real power lay, though possibly the G-G, and in the British context, the Queen may also attract some penalty."

How will the ICC do this? I don’t think this and your rantings about Hitlers ministers alone is enough to reach the conclusion that my theory just “doesn’t stack up”.

It's not much of a fair trial if it's going to be based on assumptions about our political system and citation of non-codified Westminster conventions, rather than hard facts.

Firstly, it hasn't even been resolved domestically exactly how powerful the Governor is.

Secondly, any trial would have to cite documents authorising the invasion, and authorising the military to act, whose name or names are on these documents? At best you could review the PM’s media appearances and use this as evidence against him, but that wont mean much when he can simply defend himself by saying- “we provided advice to the Federal Executive Council, and Michael Jeffrey acted on this advice.”

What I’m pointing out is that it’s like making a case against Rodney Adler's financial advisors (I’m only guessing he had such advisors) for the collapse of HIH. Or, trying to confiscate Adler's wife's house, simply 'because we all know' that he paid for it with money from HIH and investors.

International law is also so weak that the GG can simply withdraw recognition of any international bodies seeking to indict him or members of the Howard cabinet.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 8:39:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

The problem you have is that the G-G can only act on the advice of the Government Ministers. Nor has he the means of self funding a war.

As I've written previously, the question of Blairs criminality is much discussed in Britain and I've yet to see a legal opinion suggesting that it would be the Queen in the Hague dock and not him (if Kenneth Clarke wins the Conservative leadership next weekend we may well find out).

So I doubt that Dr Hollingworth, the G-G in March 2003, not Major-General Jeffery, would be loosing any sleep over his role, but mention "war crimes" to Howard or, as I've done, to Downer and they become very aggitated.

BTW-I suspect Howard would have had a rougher ride if Jeffery had been G-G. At the very least I believe he would have sought assurances about the legalities, just as the British General Staff did. They even held up the invasion by some days, before accepting Goldsmith now discredited legal opinion.

Given the silence on the issue, it seems our top brass didn't. But then Cosgrove wasn't rapidly promoted to CDF because of a tendency to stand in his mate Howard's way.

Sunday, September 18, 2005 4:25:00 pm  
Blogger anthony said...

(Yes, should have said Hollingworth, not Jeffery)

I sense a story on the Downer issue....

On another note, isn't Cosgrove writing his memoirs?

Sunday, September 18, 2005 5:09:00 pm  

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