I.P.O. Information Service

 


Call for establishment of International War Crimes Commission for Iraq
 

Vienna, 14 May 2004/P/RE/18712c-is

 

 

In a message delivered to the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the International Progress Organization has called for the establishment of an International War Crimes Commission for Iraq.

Referring to the Memorandum on the legal implications of the Iraq war 2003, including measures of criminal justice of 12 August 2003, the President of the I.P.O. explained that the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by personnel of the occupying powers in Iraq cannot be investigated in an objective manner by the military justice system of the involved countries. This is proven by the fact that serious breaches of the respective Geneva Conventions and other international crimes have been committed in the territory of Iraq since over a year without the authorities of the occupying powers having initiated proper legal proceedings. Prosecutorial measures have been taken only recently after the release of photos of abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad.

The international crimes that have been reported so far include crimes against humanity and war crimes, in particular grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, committed mainly by personnel of the United States and the United Kingdom. The alleged crimes crimes against humanity such as murder, torture, rape, and other forms of sexual violence; war crimes such as willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, and unlawful confinement are international crimes for which there exists universal jurisdiction on the basis of the provisions of the respective Geneva Conventions (Art. 129 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and Art. 146 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War) and, where applicable, Arts. 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

For international crimes committed by personnel of the United Kingdom and other European member states of the "coalition of the willing" the International Criminal Court possesses complementary jurisdiction which will come to bear if those countries do not investigate or prosecute the alleged crimes or do not carry out their judicial responsibilities in a genuine manner. (No such jurisdiction exists for crimes committed by U.S. personnel because of the non-ratification of the Rome Statute by the United States and Iraq.)

In view of the grave nature of the alleged international crimes, the respective regional intergovernmental organizations the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference should have undertaken to document those crimes on the basis of the member states' obligations under the charters of these organizations and under the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, with a view of initiating prosecution by the competent judicial authorities. However, because of several member states of those regional organizations having supported the U.S.-led war of aggression against and occupation of Iraq, these organizations have been prevented from undertaking their responsibilities in support of the basic rights of the citizens of Iraq.

In view of these facts, the General Assembly of the United Nations should consider to establish, on the basis of Art. 22 of the UN Charter,  an International War Crimes Commission for Iraq with the mandate of documenting the crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by personnel of the occupying powers in Iraq. This task will not and cannot be undertaken by the authorities of the occupying countries themselves in an objective manner. As evidenced in recent media reports, the International Committee of the Red Cross, acting in conformity with the regulations of its confidential reporting system, could not bring about an end to the commission of international crimes in Iraq. International non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, though having reported serious abuses in Iraqi prisons since over a year, have proven not to have the necessary leverage in order to stop the systematic commission of those crimes.

A commission established by the General Assembly of the United Nations will alone have the legitimacy and international authority to bring the violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity committed in Iraq to the attention not only of international public opinion, but of the States Parties to the Geneva Conventions and, where applicable, of the International Criminal Court. (The United Nations Security Council does not possess the legal authority under the Charter to establish such a commission nor would it be in a position, should it possess such authority, to act objectively because of the veto power of the United States and the United Kingdom, the two principal occupying powers in Iraq.)

The International Progress Organization has issued a series of legal memoranda and recommendations related to the war against and occupation of Iraq some of which are accessible through the website of the I.P.O. (see the links below).

  • I.P.O. documents on the Iraq crisis

  • Memorandum on the legal implications of the Iraq war 2003, including measures of criminal justice  

  • The Iraq Crisis and the United Nations. Documentation by the I.P.O.

  • Global Justice or Global Revenge? International Criminal Justice at the Crossroads

  • END/Call for establishment of International War Crimes Commission for Iraq/2004-05-14/18712c-is