By Dabet Castañeda
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) joins U.S. President George Bush, Jr. and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in facing an indictment planned to be brought before an international people’s tribunal for the war against Iraq launched on March 20 last year. Filipino lawyers will join international prosecutors in the trial slated this year.
A group of Filipino and foreign lawyers plan to sue President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr., British Prime Minister Tony Blair and outgoing Spain’s President Jose Maria Aznar who led and supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20 last year.
One of the Filipino lawyers, Edre Olalia, told Bulatlat.com March 20 that Macapagal-Arroyo, Bush and other heads of state involved in the war will be charged before an international people’s tribunal that is expected to be held this year. The charges will be filed for violations of the 1998 Rome (or the International Criminal Court) Treaty, the United Nations Charter and other international treaties and covenants.
Bush launched the war to rid Iraq of its “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) and to topple the Saddam Hussein government. But no WMD has been found one year after the invasion that killed, according to independent estimates, 50,000 people and Iraqi soldiers.
Joining Olalia in the Filipino lawyers’ team are Marie Yuviengco and Jayson Lamchek. All three are from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) headed by UN Ad Litem Judge Romeo T. Capulong. Also expected to act as prosecutors are lawyers from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Brazil, Turkey, Brazil and Afghanistan. All the lawyers belong to the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL).
Olalia made the announcement as the world commemorated the first anniversary of the bombing of Iraq. The U.S.-led invasion took place 18 months after its bombed Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government and hunt down Osama bin Laden.
In a statement released to the press March 20, IAPL joined the international community in condemning the U.S. “war on aggression” against Iraq and its people.
The inclusion of Macapagal-Arroyo in the coming suit is based on her declaration of full support for Bush’s war against Afghanistan and Iraq and allowing the Philippines as the U.S.’ “second front” in the “war on terror.” A Philippine police contingent is now in Iraq as part of the coalition peacekeeping forces.
Olalia said the decision to file charges against Bush et al was reached in a meeting of the IAPL in Istanbul, Turkey November last year.
He told Bulatlat.com that the international people’s tribunal will be composed of a multi-disciplinary group of judges and jury with the IAPL lawyers acting as prosecutors. He also said that the international peoples’ tribunal was formed in response to “the inadequacies and inutility of other international legal forums.”
No venue has been decided for the holding of the tribunal, Olalia said however.
The IAPL suit will be the second to be filed in connection with the war on Iraq. Last year, a group of Belgian doctors charged the U.S. commander of the coalition forces in Iraq with war crimes before a Brussels court.
In its indictment emailed to Bulatlat.com, the IAPL accused the governments of the United States, Great Britain and their heads of state with having committed crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, aggression, violation of international humanitarian law and the crime of undermining peace and of having acted against national and international law as a result of their embargo, aggression and occupation waged against Iraq and its people.
Olalia, however, clarified that the indictment, which was presented to the AIPL congress in Istandul, is expected to be finalized before the groups’ next meeting this year. He also said that the group will push through with its plan to file a case against Bush regardless of the results of the U.S. elections in November this year.
In particular, the IAPL’s indictment charges the prospective respondents with violating: the United Nations Charter, the Resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1907 The Hague Convention, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its supplemental protocols, the Treaty against Genocide, the UN Environmental Convention, the Paris Convention on the Safeguarding of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of the World and the 1998 Rome Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (in the case of Great Britain).
Specific violations cited by the AIPL included:
Undermining the UN and preventing it from carrying through its professed role of establishing and maintaining peace in the world;
Imposing a food and medicine embargo on the Iraqi people, affecting especially children, elderly, sick and women and causing the death and suffering of hundreds of thousands of civilians;
Concentrating its military forces in the countries and seas around Iraq, threatening Iraq and world peace by declaring openly that this was preparation for war and carrying through its threat;
Taking control of Iraq’s oil wealth, redrawing the borders of the countries of this region and hiding the real reason for this war from its own people and the world secure the borders of Israel, which is the only country in that region to have nuclear weapons;
Making false statements and deceiving its own citizens and the other nations of the world with the aim of spreading fear and hatred and thus neutralizing opposition to its own policies of aggression and occupation;
Ignoring the will and liberty of the Iraqi people by appointing a governing council and using this council as a means to impose its own decisions from the top after having overturned by military means the Iraqi government, attempting to destroy the historical values and cultures and the liberty and freedom to govern their own faith of the Iraqi people;
Bringing about the death of thousands of innocent civilians, making millions of them homeless and refugees in their own countries;
Creating wide-ranging and long-term environmental damage with its bombing and missile attacks towards Iraq. Even the excessive number of military flights has created air pollution over the usual amount. The thousands of tons of explosive materials have polluted the air with dangerous chemicals and the explosions have created clouds of dust and fires which lasted for days;
Destroying basic foodstuffs essential for the people of Iraq. Carrying through missile attacks that systematically destroyed fundamental manufacturing, stocking, distribution, health and irrigation facilities related to the provision of food, water, electricity, medicines and health services to the people of Iraq;
Destroying or seriously damaging the buildings of the economic, social, cultural, health provision, diplomatic and religious institutions of Iraq. Organizing destructive and harmful attacks with the aim of destroying the economic and social structure of Iraq;
Looting and permitting the looting of the museums, libraries and ancient artifacts in Baghdad and Basra;
Using banned weapons analogous to weapons of mass destruction that cause mass killings. Threatening with aggression, imposing economic pressure and sanctions and offering bribes, with the aim of gaining individual and governmental level support to its policies of aggression and occupation;
Arresting, kidnapping, murdering people in extra-judicial ways and subjecting them to physical and moral torture;
Preventing people that have been detained from sleeping, obliging them to stay in painful positions, keeping them for a long time with their heads covered, firing on detainees, damaging or confiscating objects found in houses during searches, keeping people in prisons under unacceptable conditions or in excessively hot tents, keeping them in camps without water and sanitary facilities;
Initiating bidding processes regarding the oil wealth of Iraq and taking other decisions about this, even though it has no right or authority;
Refusing to ratify the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court based in The Hague with the aim of escaping prosecution for the crimes its military troops and civilian authorities committed and are going to commit, including crimes against humanity, the crime of genocide, war crimes;
Using international media under its control to depict the Iraqi people as a primitive society requiring modernization and made up of potential terror supporters and murderers, with the aim of gaining support for its aggression. Bulatlat.com