June 1, 2004
U.S. OPPOSITION TO ICC LINKED TO PRISON ABUSE
Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq abuses make U.S. objections to ICC
Critics say immunity from ICC gives U.S. soldiers "carte
blanche" to flout international law.
Washington is "again ostracizing itself" by seeking an
extension of immunity.
'Now we understand why U.S. opposes ICC'-- Editorialists linked U.S. interest in a
continuation of immunity from ICC jurisdiction for its soldiers to revelations
about the "gross misconduct" at the Abu Ghraib prison, as well as the
handling of prisoners in Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay. By violating "the very values and rule
of law for which America was supposedly fighting," said a center-left
British broadsheet, U.S. policy was "both wrong and disastrous for
America's reputation." The
"atrocious, inexcusable" treatment of Iraqi prisoners constitutes
"a classic example" of a case for the ICC. Dailies chided the U.S. for its
"hypocrisy" and said that following the revelations of abuse, U.S.
arguments for immunity from the ICC look "ever more hollow." The U.S. position, said Nigeria's independent
This Day, "holds up the U.S. as lacking in respect for
ICC opposition 'part of a policy' that includes
torture-- Some papers concluded "in
hindsight" that "the radical hostility of the Bush
administration" to the ICC "is revealed under a new light" after
the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Germany's
left-of-center Berliner Zeitung charged that U.S. opposition to the ICC
is "not simply part of a general superpower behavior," but "was
and is still part of the preparation for...a clearly planned war of aggression
in Iraq." Jordanian papers asked
why the U.S. would ask for immunity unless it knew its soldiers "were
committing crimes against humanity" and wanted to "protect them from
the consequences." Immunity from
the ICC, a Saudi paper contended, "encouraged U.S. soldiers to think that
they are above the law." Jamaica's
conservative Gleaner tied the "dehumanization and degradation"
of Iraqi prisoners to "an ethos developed by the Bush administration in
its hysterical reaction" to 9/11.
Abu Ghraib makes extension request 'immoral'-- "In light of the torture in Afghanistan
and Iraq," a leftist Italian newspaper said, calls to take a second look
at the U.S. request for an extension of immunity from the ICC are
"perfectly legitimate." Though
the request was granted in previous years, argued Spain's center-left El
Pais, "the context has changed" after Abu Ghraib and the U.S.
request has become "a challenge to the raison d'etre" of the
ICC. Left-of-center papers in Italy and
Germany urged a no vote on the U.S. request, declaring this "would not
only be a clear signal" to the U.S. to mend its ways but also encourage
"the smaller, non-permanent UNSC members to withstand pressure from the
Bush administration" and turn down the request. Another German daily worried that renewed
immunity would result in "permanent immunity for U.S. soldiers,"
damaging the ICC. A Hungarian paper
added that European allies should "force the U.S. ally to subject
itself" to the ICC.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media
Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a
representative picture of local editorial opinion. This report summarizes and interprets foreign
editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S.
Government. This analysis was based on
47 reports from 32 countries May 3-27, 2004.
Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent
The independent weekly Economist observed
(5/4): "The decision to detain
combatants caught in Afghanistan for an indefinite period, with no access to
lawyers and no legal redress, was understandable as a short-term response to
the threat of terrorism and to ignorance about who might actually be
terrorists, but it was nevertheless both wrong and disastrous for America's
reputation. It was wrong because it
violated the very values and rule of law for which America was supposedly
fighting, and soon produced evidence of double standards: some American citizens captured in
Afghanistan were allowed to stand trial in American courts in the normal way,
but such rights were denied to mere foreigners, every single one of whom was
labeled as a dangerous terrorist by Mr. Rumsfeld, regardless of any
evidence. It has been disastrous for
America's reputation because of that hypocrisy but also because it has become a
symbol of a 'we'll decide' arrogance.
The Geneva conventions that have governed the treatment of prisoners of
war for decades were waved aside. And the argument used to justify America's
rejection of the new International Criminal Court--that its soldiers would be
vulnerable to unreasonable persecution, with necessary military actions defined
as crimes--looked ever more hollow.
Thanks to Guantánamo, critics could argue that America really does need
the check of the ICC, and that its claim that abuses would readily be dealt
with in domestic courts was also hollow."
"War Crimes, But Not Responsible"
Pierre Hazan commented in left-of-center Liberation
(Internet version, 5/12): "Among
legal experts, the description of these abuses is almost unanimous: 'These are war crimes. The forces of occupation violated the third
and fourth Geneva Conventions,' stated Theo Van Boven of Liberation, UN
rapporteur on torture. Marco Sassoli, an
expert on international humanitarian law at the University of Geneva, believes
that 'it must be described as a war crime.
In fact, the Americans do not seem to dispute this. The question is who, apart from those who
actually carried out the acts, is legally liable?'... With hindsight, the radical hostility of the
Bush administration to the International Criminal Court...that has been in
business since July 2002, is revealed under a new light given the violence at
Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ICC would have been able to prosecute the
perpetrators of these war crimes, even if the U.S. does not punish them. This is a serious calling into question for a
nation that depicts itself as the champion of democracy.... The Blair government, on the other hand, is
not protected from possible ICC proceedings, especially as Amnesty
International has just made new accusations on the behavior of British
soldiers. The British government signed
and ratified the ICC regulations, Great Britain claiming to pursue an 'ethical'
foreign policy. London is under an
obligation to punish soldiers who may have carried out these reprehensible
acts, and if not it risks one day finding itself hauled before the court in The
"War Crimes Are Not War Crimes"
Roland Heine argued contended in left-of-center Berliner
Zeitung (5/25): "Everything
fits together: while we are confronted
with new cruel details of torture by the U.S. military in Iraq, the Bush
administration has almost given the UNSC an ultimatum to guarantee its soldiers
immunity from the ICC.... At the same
time, the United States has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council
that ensures its power even after the formal transfer of power to an Iraqi
transition government. It is unclear
when the UNSC will vote on the U.S. Iraq resolution. In view of the dramatic development in the occupied
country, the United States only has limited possibilities to exert pressure. But the special rule for U.S. soldiers could
be adopted quickly.... Of course, many
nations are afraid that the United States could really withdraw its soldiers
from UN missions...but experts are afraid that a renewed decision in
Washington's sense could result in an 'established international right' and
permanent immunity for U.S. soldiers.
This would damage the International Criminal Court.... But one thing is obvious right now: the campaign waged by the Bush administration
against the ICC is not simply part of a general superpower behavior. It was and is still part of the preparation
for and the support of a clearly planned war of aggression on a UN member
state: Iraq. The warfare of the occupiers in Iraq, the
torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib, and the brutalities
towards civilians could fall in the responsibility of the ICC if the Washington
had not refused to sign the by-laws....
But in the case of Iraq, an appropriate prosecution of the ones who are
politically responsible in Washington cannot be expected by U.S. justice."
Volker Zastrow editorialized in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (5/22): "For the
time being, the U.S. has asked the UN to guarantee its soldiers immunity from
international prosecution. This must
also be seen as one reason why Washington attached so much importance to the
international legitimacy of a war that was agreed upon long ago.... It was based on the thesis that the U.S. also
pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for others.... The conclusion is that the superpower, which
is swinging between paternalism and autism, between joviality and arrogance on
a global scale, must free its soldiers from prosecution. It has pursued this policy with the support
of bilateral agreements that are signed through a carrot-and-stick diplomacy,
and, at the same time, in the UN framework aiming at permanent
dispensation. Those who do not
understand this, should only leaf though the digital picture book."
"Germany Should Vote 'No'"
Andreas Zumach noted in leftist die
tageszeitung (5/24): "What must
happen before Germany clearly rejects a U.S. motion that clearly violates
international law? During today's vote
in the UNSC on the U.S. motion to extend the immunity of U.S. soldiers, the German
representative is only allowed to abstain from voting. And this in spite of the torture and war
crimes of U.S. soldiers and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and in
other exterritorial prison and interrogation centers. These are crimes, whose full investigation
cannot be guaranteed by national U.S. justice authorities contrary to all
statements.... The German government
knows this. Its 'no' in the UNSC would
not only be a clear signal in the direction of Washington but also an
encouragement for the smaller, non-permanent UN Security Council members to
withstand pressure from the Bush administration that it wants to use to get the
necessary nine votes for its motion."
"Torturing Prisoners Has To Be Punished As
International War Crimes"
Frank Herold wrote in left-of-center Berliner
Zeitung (5/5): "The photographs
from the prison in Baghdad document violations against one of the fundamental
pillars of international law, the Geneva Conventions, which demand humane,
dignified treatment of prisoners.
Without any exception or restriction, they forbid retaliation, torture,
humiliation, and display. These pictures
show war crimes. Apart from genocide and
crimes against humanity, war crimes are up to the International Criminal Court
in The Hague. But the Baghdad torturers
will never wind up there. Washington did
not sign the court's statutes; Washington is evading the controls of this new
international authority. Nevertheless,
the Court would have trouble intervening at all in the Baghdad cases. The key word in the statutes is
'complementary.' The Criminal Court only
intervenes in a 'complementary' way, if national justice proves incapable or
unwilling to investigate and to punish the guilty. Thus, in any case U.S. courts are the first
recourse. But what standards will they
apply? Unlike the Bush administration,
will they feel bound to traditional international law? Or do they agree with the government's
recently often stated view that the end, the fight against terrorism, also
justifies means outside of the legal understanding prevalent up to now?"
"International Criminal Court -- The First
"Sin" commented in leading, financial Handelsblatt
(5/4): "The U.S. president wants to
see the henchmen punished who wreaked havoc in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib
prison. But he still could not help
saying that war obeys its own laws, a more than hypocritical apology. Because what is banalized gruesomely as collateral
damage are crimes against humanity and war crimes. And it is the International Criminal Court
that should be responsible for punishing them, whose statutes entered into
force just under two years ago. Just as
the overwhelming majority of the international community, the United Kingdom
also joined the statutes. It is true
that the United States signed, but it did not ratify the statutes. It was George W. Bush who, at that time, had
the Senate quash the necessary legislation.
His reason was that GIs who fight for peace in many regions of the world
must never be called before the Hague Tribunal on the suspicion of
misconduct. The danger of arbitrary
hostility and political abuse would be too great, which primarily U.S. soldiers
could be the victims of. But of all
things, in the first case, in which the still young Court could become
relevant, it is U.S. soldiers and their accomplices who are just not in the
role of victims. They are the
perpetrators! Obviously, they will have
to do penance in the United States. But
for the first time, it is proven in practical terms that the
institutionalization of international human rights, which was supposed to be
served by the Hague Tribunal, is not supposed to work. We have to ask the question of cause and
"The Absurd Demand"
Antonio Cassese, former president of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia wrote in moderate
left-of-center La Repubblica (Internet version, 5/22): "As soon as the Statute of the International
Criminal Court had been passed in July 2002, the United States reacted to
prevent the court, which it bitterly opposed, from being able one day to try
U.S. servicemen or politicians. Among
other things, it got the Security Council to pass a resolution placing a
one-year moratorium on any proceedings before the court in connection with
crimes committed by countries, such as the United States, contributing military
forces to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The other members of the Security Council could not but comply: the previous month, the U.S. had placed its
veto on the peace mission in Bosnia and was threatening to pull out of all
peacekeeping missions unless American servicemen were granted immunity before
the court. The Security Council renewed
that immunity in 2003. However, China
entertains misgivings and five countries (including Ireland--on behalf of the
European Union--Canada, and Switzerland) have called for a public debate....
"It is a perfectly legitimate call. Indeed, although many countries have
unwillingly given in to U.S. pressure in the past, the American demand looks
even less justified in light of the torture in Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN Security Council had, nevertheless,
specified in the previous years' resolutions that, albeit exempt from the
Criminal Court's jurisdiction, the United States (and all other countries that
are not members of the court) was required all the same to try the perpetrators
of international crimes before its own courts.
However, the first steps taken by the U.S. military justice system in
Iraq do not seem to be embarking along the right road: for the time being, the intention is to try
only the small fry, turning a blind eye to the military and political top
brass's criminal liability. In other
words, the United States seems to be using the pretext whereby only the
national state is entitled to try and punish its citizens to claim de facto
impunity for many of its citizens....
This absurd claim would be even further met if it is true that both the
United States and Britain intend to force the Iraqis, after 30 June, to exempt
the Americans and British from standing trial for war crimes committed in Iraq
(although Britain has, luckily, accepted the International Criminal Court
Statute, so its courts will be required to try all perpetrators of serious
crimes, otherwise the Criminal Court's jurisdiction will kick in). It is to be hoped that our authorities, which
have fought hard for international criminal justice, will oppose these
Path Paved With Lies"
Sarajevo's oldest daily, and noted critic of
U.S. policy, Oslobodjenje editorialized (5/14): “Bush promised peace and order in Iraq while,
in reality, the chaos of war still exists in that country, accompanied by
routine executions of Iraqis--armed and unarmed--without investigations or
court trials, as well as the killing of civilians, including children. Bush promised safety and democracy, and got
only one thing, horrific evidence of systematic torture and sexual harassment
of prisoners approved by high military authorities. The introduction to these bloody orgies was
the antiterrorist measures introduced in the U.S. which violated human rights,
particularly those experienced by prisoners in the concentration camp at
Guantanamo. The U.S. refused to
recognize the ICC. BiH, contrary to its
own Constitution, deported the 'Algerian
group' to the U.S., and exempted all Americans from the ICC’s
jurisdiction. By deciding to send its
troops to Iraq, BiH supports the illegal occupation of Iraq and, by not
reversing that decision, BiH offers support to the invaders regardless of what
"American Cruelty In Iraq Seems To Be The Norm, Not The
Center-left Sega declared (5/12): "The published photos are only the tip
of the iceberg. The awful cruelty is
characteristic for the U.S. military and its special services.... It has become clear from the videos and
photographs that the torture were systematic on instructions from above and
perpetrated by a large number of people....
Lately, we've heard compliments, praising America's democracy for not
hiding the scandal.... However, the scandal
could not have been hidden, because Rumsfeld had no way of stopping the release
of the footage. In fact, we have just
received an answer to several questions we have been asking all along: why doesn't the U.S. allow its citizens to be
prosecuted by the ICC and why the Third World War will not end soon. Al-Qaida could not have asked for a better
"Are Bush And Blair Parting?"
Bruno Lopandic commented in Zagreb-based
government-owned Vjesnik (5/5):
“Even though the U.S. is known for its large care for protection of its
own soldiers, the rule of law has occurred despite the fact that they would
probably prefer that everything could have been covered up. The Pentagon immediately relieved one of its
high officers and an additional 14 officers.
They will all be put on trial.
Such a development, since everything that has happened, is very
instructive for all those who like to relativize things in order to find
justification for their own failures and mistakes. Because of the important rule of law
principle, everyone left for Iraq as heroes.
Some of them will return as criminals.... Bush’s ally, Tony Blair, is experiencing even
larger problems. The scandal regarding
the abuse of prisoners will have hard repercussions on the British soldiers’
morale in Iraq, but also for their reputation in the world. Blair himself, as time goes by, has more and
more problems, the same ones his ally Bush has.
With one addition: Blair has
signed that he recognizes the International Criminal Court.”
"Criminals, Even (If They Are) Heroes"
Inoslav Besker observed in Zagreb-based,
mass-circulation Jutarnji list (5/4):
“The military has, this time, been faster than journalists and has
initiated not just an investigation, but criminal procedure before military
court, even before the information had reached journalists. It had, maybe, even believed that everything
would remain covered up, at least outside of Iraq. In the disgusting story about tortures which
American soldiers subjected Iraqi prisoners to, that, in a way, is good news....
That’s one of the results of NATO’s London Protocol, which allows every member
to put its soldiers on trial--thus Americans, the most numerous and the most
powerful, and frequently also the most ‘prankish,’ can count on their
colleagues’ benevolence. That’s exactly
the reason why the United States of America is refusing to recognize the
International Criminal Court. Which, for
horrors committed in Iraq, can now incriminate Tony Blair, but not George W.
"A Legion Of Liars"
Branko Mijic noted in independent Rijeka Novi
List (5/4): "Will British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, because of his command responsibility, end up before the
International War Crimes Tribunal after his soldiers abused and humiliated
captured Iraqis and then threw them out of speeding vehicles?... Despite media reports that coalition soldiers
photographed plenty of similar material, the focus of the British authorities'
investigation is on challenging the authenticity of the damning photos. Because Blair, unlike his colleague Bush,
whose 'liberators' did similar things, is in a significantly worse
position. After all, Washington has
never signed the Rome Statute and agreed to cooperate with the ICC and has also
persuaded countries that are dependent on the United States to commit
themselves to the nonextradition of U.S. soldiers, regardless of what they are
suspected of. In this way, Bush has
become the most candid upholder of the doctrine espoused by the right wing of
the HDZ [Croatian Democratic Community], which once tried to hold up as
truthful the theory that 'crimes cannot be committed in a defensive war.' Since the United States defends itself
wherever it wants around the world, even the latest massacre that has horrified
the world is not subject to justice."
International lawyer Petra Jeney wrote in
prestigious political and economic weekly Heti Vilaggazdasag
(5/22): “From the international
community’s point of view, it would be fatal if the appearance were reinforced
that the United States, the country that possesses the world’s most powerful
army and in its foreign policy, fights for human rights and democratic values,
uses double standards. After World War
II, the United States forced the allied powers to take the perpetrators of war
crimes to court, but today with those kept on Guantanamo it neither wants to
apply the Geneva Convention, nor has it created a judicial forum for them. In its foreign policy and foreign trade
conducted with other countries, it has so far observed respect for human
rights; today the fight against terrorism overwrites that, and the countries
providing only a lower level of protection for human rights, 'for the good
cause', even help [the United States]....
Was it really an isolated incident in Iraq, and not that the current
American leadership’s anti-terrorist policy is introducing a culture in which
each suspect is, at the same time, also blamed for the events of September
11? Does it not reveal a world where the
only superpower does what it pleases:
one day it is a peacekeeper in the UN, and on the other, forgetting
about its international obligations, it brutally enforces its national
interests? These fears can only be
dispersed if taking to account takes place in the appropriate way and on the appropriate
level.... From the point of view of the
suspicious international community it would be more reassuring if the
International Criminal Court, that the U.S. has taken pains to avoid so far,
would be dealing with the issue--sending the signal that democracies are not
perfect, either, and that no separate rules apply even to the biggest one.”
Daniel Antal noted in Budapest's influential, center-left Magyar
Hirlap (Internet version, 5/21):
"The humiliation and torture of Iraqi prisoners and trampling their
rights underfoot have rightly created indignation throughout the world. European constitutional states have long
urged the establishment of the International Criminal Court to examine and
punish such crimes. On our part, the
correct response is to force the U.S. ally to subject itself to this
institution of international law, rather than to isolate ourselves and leave
the U.S. ally alone. However, it
definitely does not follow from the events that we must withdraw from Iraq
because this is a similar absurdity one year after overthrowing the
totalitarian regime, as if someone had demanded the withdrawal of U.S. troops
in 1946 from Germany, which was struggling on the ruins of Nazism, or from
Japan, which was vegetating on the ruins of the racist-imperialist regime. By doing this, we would punish the Iraqis
rather than the criminals."
MACEDONIA (Former Yugoslav Republic Of): "Amnesty For Violence"
Dimitar Tanurov wrote in independent Vreme
(5/4): "Having in mind the
atrocities during the Vietnam War; the Gulf War; and the mistreatment,
violence, and rampage by U.S. soldiers in Japanese bases, Washington made quick
efforts to obtain immunity for its heroes from the jurisdiction of the
International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Using its dominant position in the anarchic structure of international
politics--whoever is bigger and stronger is right--the U.S. applied silent
economic pressure on weaker countries, as well as on former communist
countries, so that they would sign bilateral agreements. Thus, these agreements enabled U.S. soldiers
and officers who have committed atrocities in the signatory countries,
including Macedonia, to be prosecuted (that is, to hide away) in the United
States.... In case you wonder why the United
States asked the Balkanites to sign agreements that grant U.S. soldiers
immunity from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the answer
is simple. It is hardly because of an
'infinite love' for the Balkans and an intention to 'protect us' from all kinds
of oppressors. The only reason is the
selfishness and egoism of the United States!
The events in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison have upset us. As a matter of prevention, should we request
changes in the immunity agreement, although in that case we would have to forgo
the military aid and protection that the United States guarantees us? Or should we remember the saying 'A sword
will not strike off a head that bows?'
Actually, there is not much need to think and ponder what to do. Everything is as clear as daylight. 'Big Brother' would not deploy in this
country rude and uneducated soldiers who have no idea about human rights
conventions, would he?"
SERBIA & MONTENEGRO: "What After An Apology?"
Dragoslav Rancic commented in Belgrade's
influential Politika (5/15):
"Secretary Powell compared the impact of the photos from the Iraqi
prisons with photographs of the My-lai massacre in...Vietnam. It is hard to find a more reliable person to
comment, because he fought in the Vietnamese jungles; as a former Chief of
Staff he knows the military only too well; he knows the security situation, and
as Secretary of State he has the knowledge of American foreign policy. Until his statement, Washington assessed that
any similarity between Iraq and Vietnam was superficial and not true. Not any more.
Shame has fallen on the American military, Bush's administration and on
America. Under public pressure...Bush
and Rumsfeld apologized for the
humiliation Iraqi prisoners and their families suffered.... And now what?
The photographs remain as unforgettable evidence. The ICRC and other international humanitarian
organizations assessed that the Geneva Convention has been seriously
violated. Now it is clearer why the U.S.
hasn't accepted the ICC and why it has asked that American soldiers be excluded
from international justice."
Top-circulation Vecernje Novosti stated
(5/6): "Serbs have frequently been
accused of torture and humiliation of POWs during the civil war in Bosnia. The public was shocked over stories of witnesses
who explained their [Serbs'] monstrous behavior. These days, we are witnessing the same kind
of crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq. The photos circled the globe, but officials
from the U.S. administration qualified it simply as a 'violation.' Their names and disciplinary measures will
remain out of the reach of the public.
What has happened and what has been revealed in Iraq is a classic
example for the ICC case. However,
meanwhile the U.S. has secured itself with bilateral agreements with many
countries that its soldiers cannot be handed over to the ICC if they commit
crimes. The U.S. president is even
entitled to free them by force if required....
The public got used that justice is only what the U.S interests are, and
what is the American perception of
life. In crime, as in everything else,
there are 'good and bad guys.' The
Americans are of course good and the rest of the world is bad."
"CIA, Capital, Special Units"
Zare Rojc opined in left-of-center, independent Vecer
(5/5): "The world has only recently
learnt about the infamous and inhuman acts performed by the soldiers of the
countries which justified their intervention in Iraq with needed deposition of
Saddam Hussein's inhuman and dangerous to the world regime.... It is characteristic that the U.S. did not
ratify the Rome Statute on the ICC. Thus
American boys have nothing to fear.... Those [individuals] who are directly
responsible for the humiliating treatment of prisoners transfer responsibility
for torture...to the military police, intelligence and representatives of
American private companies and hirelings.
It seems that the old story about the cruelty of American liberators and
intermediaries in some South and Central American countries and Asia will also
repeat itself in Iraq. The CIA, private
corporations, and marines...have become known for their cruel and inhuman deeds
despite the fact that they usually hide them behind statements about
inevitability of their acts.... Bush and
Blair will try to incorporate this activity into the framework of the war
against terrorism in which the Americans have, been for a long time,
deliberately ignoring all international rules and agreed rights of
"I Order And Command"
Antonio Gala opined in independent El Mundo (5/27): "The U.S., that, in its arrogance is not
part of the International Criminal Court, is asking now for an extension of the
legal immunity of its soldiers in Iraq.
The Security Council...conceded it in 2002 and 2003. Things have changed since then. U.S. soldiers have spit on the human rights
of the prisoners in Iraq and there are other war crimes that we don't even know
about. It's a judicial disaster which
benefits the U.S. With total guarantee,
the 'civil servants and the personnel' of a state that doesn’t belong to the
ICC, are out of danger, something that, on the other hand, excludes civilians
from responsibility. If such an abuse were
allowed, after June 30, the barbarous U.S. forces would go from occupiers to
guests. That is farce enough."
Center-left, national El Pais declared
(Internet version, 5/24): "The
scandal that is shaking the entire world over the torture and maltreatment of
Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail makes the request by the Bush administration
for an extension of the international legal immunity of its soldiers in Iraq
immoral. The Security Council has
already granted it that advantage, in 2002 and 2003. But the context has changed and the U.S.
request becomes a challenge to the raison d'etre of the recently constituted
International Criminal Court (ICC): to
put an end to impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and what
happened between the walls of the prison of shame falls into those
categories. Neither the USA nor Iraq are
signatories to the ICC, a court which would only intervene in the event of the
countries in question being unable to try these crimes under their own judicial
systems--something for which the U.S. courts are perfectly qualified. But the USA wants a total guarantee, which it
has already achieved through the exemption obtained in Resolutions 1422 and
1487. These resolutions, subsequently
extended, safeguard 'officials and personnel'--which in principle, in this
privatization of wars, does not cover civilian contractors--from a state which
is not a signatory to the ICC and which contributes to operations 'established
or authorized' by the UN. And the new phase
the USA wants to enter, with the new resolution it is backing, would mean,
after 30 June, a change in the description of the forces deployed there from
occupying to invited. And their presence
would have the blessing of the possible provisional government that is set up
and of the UN, albeit for a year, which could also be extended. Seven abstentions by the 15 states on the
Security Council would be enough to block this extension. Such a number is unlikely to be reached. But in 2003, France, Germany and Syria
abstained. The Spain of Aznar and the
United Kingdom of Blair--both supposedly ardent supporters of the ICC--voted in
favor. Will the government of [current
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero change its instructions to
its new ambassador on the Security Council? It ought to."
"Images Of Evil"
Left-of-center El País stated (Internet
version, 5/12): "With the
broadcasting of these pictures, the USA is becoming dangerously isolated on the
Iraq issue, while there is a growing feeling of humiliation and hate among
Muslims around the world. All this
provides abundant ammunition for the propaganda and proselytizing of the
terrorist groups. There is no doubt
about their description: they are war crimes.
Those who have committed and ordered or allowed them must be punished,
at the highest level, even if the USA has not recognized the International
Criminal Court [ICC]."
Left-of-center El País opined (5/8): "What has happened in Iraq and
Afghanistan began in fact in Guantanamo two years ago, when Washington started,
on Rumsfeld's initiative, to build a military prison system protected against
legal and international scrutiny. The
harm caused now to the superpower's credibility is proportional to the proclaimed
doctrine that its foreign actions are based by definition on the principles of
ethics and common good. On such a false
argument is based, at the end, the U.S. refusal to submit to international
"Above All Laws"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized
(5/12): "American immunity against
international accusations of criminal practices during war has become the norm
in the Security Council. This is what
encouraged U.S. soldiers to think that they are above the law. U.S. soldiers believe that they have the
right to do whatever they want without being questioned about their
actions. No matter what crimes they
commit in the countries to which they have been sent they are the soldiers of
the country that has guaranteed them immunity.
Will the events in Abu Ghraib prison unite the rest of the world in the
Security Council to lift the American immunity next July?"
"What Would Satisfy The Humiliated Iraqi Soul?"
London-based independent Iraqi daily Al-Zaman stated
(5/3): "What would satisfy the
Iraqis who are tasting humiliation? The
least that should happen is the immediate release of all the prisoners.... They should be released unconditionally for
the possible violation of their dignity with the exception of Saddam's narrow
circle that participated with him in committing crimes against Iraqi dignity
and those that committed such crimes against Iraqi prisoners or that tortured
and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. All the
criminals that committed these crimes should be immediately referred to
international and Iraqi judges so they would be a lesson to any sinful criminal
that may transgress against humanity anywhere and at any time. They should be subjected to the harshest and
strongest punishment. Perhaps that would
heal part of the wounds inflicted on the Iraqis whose fate has been oppression
in the past and oppression in the present."
JORDAN: "Deeds That
Can't Be Nullified By Words"
Daily columnist Fahd Fanek wrote on the
back-page of semi-official, influential Al-Rai (5/10): "President Bush’s message to the Arab
world to ease the inflammation and hatred that were fired by the horrific
scenes of torture of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American forces did not
achieve its purpose.... The president
says that the perpetrators of these mistakes will be tried and punished. If this were true, then why did the
administration wait so many months before it arrived at this decision when the
information was available since last January.
They did not move until after the scandal was exposed. The U.S. president adds that the American
soldiers, officers and interrogators who perpetrated these shameful actions do
not represent the American people. Who
do they represent, then? Why would the
American president ask the international community to exclude Americans from
trials at the international criminal court unless he knew that they were
committing crimes against humanity and he wanted to protect them from the
"A Different Set Of Rules"
Musa Keilani commented in the elite, partially
government-owned, English-language Jordan Times (5/3): "No doubt, Washington had foreseen
situations similar to those of Iraq and hence its effort, from day one, to
exclude American soldiers from the jurisdiction of the newly formed International
Criminal Court and thus give them protection against trial on war crimes or
crimes against humanity."
"The Bush Administration Restores The Ugly American Image"
Muhammad al-Sayyad declared in Sharjah's
independent, pro-government Al-Khalij (5/22): "The horrible lies and false claims of
the U.S. administration were crowned with their allegations that they had not
known anything about the crimes that their soldiers perpetrated against
humanity at the Abu Ghraib jail. It has
transpired later on that the International Committee of the Red Cross in
November last year and in January this year informed U.S. officials and the
occupation authority that there were 'serious violations' of human rights in
Iraqi jails and in the U.S. military bases where thousands of Iraqis were
detained. Abd-al-Bassat Turki, the
resigned Iraqi minister of human rights, revealed that in December he
personally informed Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional
Authority, that there were 'atrocious violations' of human rights at the Abu
Ghraib prison, including the raping and torture to death of Iraqi women
prisoners. This means that the U.S.
administration officials knew of these crimes, that for four months they failed
to make any moves to prevent them until the scandal came into the open.... Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted
that those who carried out torture operations were carrying out their command's
order with a view to extorting confessions from the detainees. He alleged that these shameful torture
methods were in line with the Geneva conventions related to the treatment of
prisoners of war.... Now you know why
the United States firmly refused to join the agreement on the International
Criminal Court, which was established by the international community to try
those who commit war crimes, including torture."
YEMEN: "Now, The
'Screw-All' Axis Is Here"
The pro-government, English-language Yemen
Times editorialized (Internet version, 5/3): "The recent disclosure of the absolutely
atrocious, inexcusable, gross treatment of Iraqi prisoners clearly shed more
light on the mischief and intentional evil that overshadow the whole American
misadventure in Iraq. The samplings of
the 'coalition' atrocities that have finally entered public domain are surely
not the whole story. Even the British
could not help but also follow the footpaths of their allies in the 'liberating
coalition' and so they came out with a few tortures of their own. Is this really how the Bushies intend to 'win
the hearts and minds of the Iraqis'?....
One can be sure that the gross misconduct in Abu Ghraib is not the
exception but the rule in all 'coalition' prison camps in Iraq, and this calls
for an independent international investigation, with a view towards bringing
the culprits and their masters in the Pentagon and Whitehall to justice in the
International War Crimes Tribunal.... As
for our leaders, what have they done to insure that we are protected against
seeing hundreds of Abu Ghraib and Al-Khiyam prisons in every capital of the
Arab World? Make no mistake about it;
the real axis of evil intends to screw us all!"
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
"Don't Dub Inmate Abuse An Isolated Case"
Liberal Mainichi editorialized
(5/24): "A first special court
martial involving a U.S. serviceman charged with abuse of inmates at Abu Ghraib
prison has been opened to the media. The
step represents a gesture of sincerity and remorse on the part of the U.S.
government and U.S. military over the acts of abuse. But, this act alone will not dispel rising
anti-American sentiment in Iraq and growing international distrust of the
U.S. Severe punishment of those
responsible and the full unraveling of the scandal, plus appropriate
compensation and apologies, is necessary.
The real issue is whether the mistreatment of prisoners was a number of
'isolated' events as claimed by the U.S. government. The U.S. must conduct a thorough probe in
order to make a credible account of what happened at the jail.... Behind international doubts about U.S.
attitude toward the prison abuse is also the fact that the U.S. has refused to
join the International Criminal Court.
The refusal reflects Washington's unilateral position concerning war crimes
and the treatment of prisoners of war.
Concern over U.S. handling of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq has also
undermined America's credibility across the world. From this perspective, the scandal must not
only end with the punishment of individual soldiers. 'Structural problems' must be addressed and
"Swimming In The Iraq Quagmire"
The government-influenced, English-language Sunday
Star observed (5/9): "It came
as no surprise that Iraqi detainees have been bullied, humiliated and killed by
U.S. soldiers. If the occupying force
has the power of life and death over local inhabitants, while boasting a record
of ugly behavior contrary to its pious claims, what else can be expected? In the process, the Washington of Donald
Rumsfeld and George W. Bush can do little more than fudge, spin and deny the
crucial issues of the day. Thus U.S.
unilateralism is called a 'coalition', prisoners-of-war are just 'enemy
combatants', and torture is no more than 'abuse'. Given such a formidable workload just to
address issues of military misconduct, shouldn't the U.S. fully support the
proposed International Criminal Court (ICC)?
Isn’t the case for U.S. participation in the ICC now clearer than ever? In practice, what is the real lesson
here--preventing prison abuses and torture in future, or preventing the release
of photos of such acts?"
THAILAND: "Laws For
The Others, And Laws For The U.S."
The lead editorial in the moderately
conservative, English-language Bangkok Post read (5/25): “The United Nations Security Council meets
today in New York to consider a request from the United States for a further
exemption for its peacekeepers from international prosecution for war
crimes.... But with the world exposed
almost daily to further revelations of abuse by U.S. troops in Iraq, and now
charges by former detainees in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, it is
unlikely an exemption this year will be approved so emphatically.... The underlying principle of the ICC is that
no man or woman should be exempt from punishment for war crimes. The U.S. exemption flies in the face of this
principle.... The Bush administration
was able to hold a gun to the UN's head by threatening to stop providing
peacekeeping troops to far-flung operations established or authorized by the
United Nations if it did not receive an exemption for its peacekeepers. The UN had little choice but to agree as it
needs U.S. troops. Therefore, the
Security Council is expected to begrudgingly approve another extension.... Washington again is ostracizing itself from
world opinion, with Britain and all the major European Union members having
ratified the Rome Treaty. Hopefully a
time will arrive soon when the UN can do without U.S. peacekeepers and their
carte blanche to flout international law, and provide a trustworthy
peacekeeping force which will fulfill its obligations legally and
"This Is Why The U.S. Refused To Join ICC"
Viet Trung commented in official Communist Party Giai Phong
(Internet version, 5/13): "The U.S.
is well-known for exercising extreme leniency on crimes that U.S. soldiers
committed outside its soil, and for covering scandals. That is also the reason why the U.S. refused
to join the International Criminal Court and arranged to sign a series of
bilateral agreement with many countries so that they will refrain from
extraditing U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court. Will the U.S. repeat what it used to do,
which is to bring a few scapegoats to court, in this particular case a few
soldiers directly involved in the maltreatment of prisoners?"
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Brutes Called
English-language pro-militant internet site
concentrating on political and military news from Kashmir Greater Kashmir
editorialized (5/12): "Britain has
launched an inquiry after photographs apparently showed British soldiers
abusing an Iraqi detainee, although, the allegations against the British
troops, if proved, could supposedly mean serious criminal consequences for
Britain, which has signed up to the new International Criminal Court having the
power to launch war crimes charges on its own, the U.S. forces have no reason
to deter for the U.S. being the non-signatory of the ICC. Although Bush, has 'apologized' for the
abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American soldiers
terming it 'abhorrent', his standing by his Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
saying that he had full confidence in him has rendered his apology a mere
Blatant Extortion At the Security Council"
Tehran's state-run Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1
observed (5/24): "Despite the
shocking reports concerning the torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners by the
American troops, the U.S. administration has--for the third time--asked the
UNSC to renew Resolution 1487 which gives another year of exemption from
prosecution for American troops at the International Criminal Court. In 2002, America threatened that if the UNSC
were to refuse to grant immunity from prosecution to the American troops, it
would veto all peace-keeping resolutions of the council. In the wake of this threat, America managed
to obtain immunity for its troop for a period of one year. The same threat was repeated last year and
America succeeded in renewing the resolution for another year. The latest American request to obtain
immunity for its troops in Iraq is made at a time when the occupiers of Iraq
have even refused to grant political immunity to members of the Iraqi Governing
"America's argument for such blatant extortion at the
Security Council is that it is concerned about prosecution of its troops in
various regions of the world. That is,
it is concerned that the ICC might be politically motivated to bring lawsuits
against American troops. However, in
view of the regulations of the ICC, such an argument is baseless, because the
ICC only investigates the cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of local and
national courts in each area. Moreover,
the trial procedure in the ICC is written in a manner which makes it
practically impossible to exploit political motives. The ICC began its work in [June-July 2002] and
is quite qualified to prosecute criminals."
"Kangaroo Court Martial And Demos Against U.S."
Yasmin P. wrote in conservative English-language
Keyhan International (5/20):
"Apparently Washington hopes that the court martial of the soldiers
in Iraq will demonstrate the speed of U.S. justice to the abused prisoners and
help offset the grave damage caused to the U.S. administration, particularly
President Bush and his Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.... However, in the kangaroo court martial...it
is not likely that true justice will be done to the Iraqi prisoners. Since the prisoner abuse issue has taken on
international dimensions with widespread condemnation across the world and
doubts whether the higher-ups in the outrageous incidents will be brought to
book, the trial appears to be a big farce....
In fact the heinous actions of the U.S. soldiers should have been
treated as war crimes and the trial conducted by an international jury, but as
the U.S. is not a member of the international criminal court, or rather it has
declared itself and its people serving in war zones immune from the laws of the
global criminal tribunal, ultimately it will be 'justice of the American kind'
for the U.S. military for any crimes committed in Iraq."
"Afghan Scholar Accuses U.S. Troops Of Violating Human
Tehran's state-run Voice of the Islamic Republic
of Iran's External Service in Pashto broadcast (5/12): "A prominent member of the Afghan
academy of sciences has said that U.S. troops brutally tortured Afghans captured
in the country earlier, and that the International Criminal Court [ICC] in the
Hague should take notice of this issue.
Habibollah Rafi, who is also a famous writer of Afghanistan, in an
interview with Iranian radio Dari [service] by telephone, confirmed the
torturing of Afghan prisoners in an inhumane and brutal way by U.S. troops in
jails in Afghanistan. He said that the
torture was so severe that an Afghan prisoner died during torture a few months
ago. Moreover, U.S. troops have violated
all international laws by abusing and torturing prisoners who are over 80 and
some minors under 13 in Guantanamo prison, the prominent Afghan writer
PAKISTAN: "You Too
Irfan Siddiqui wrote in the second-largest Urdu
daily, Nawa-e-Waqt (5/23):
"America has tabled a draft of a resolution before the UN, which
says that the Security Council Resolution 1487 be extended for one more year
and American soldiers be given immunity from the proceedings of war crimes
court (ICC). The day the photos of the
torture and abuse being published America again said in the Security Council
that its soldiers may do anything, but they would not be subject to a sentence
by any international court. We will do
it ourselves. America wants to have
permanent immunity from the ICC....
Observers believe that despite tales of savagery at Abu Ghraib, the
American resolution will be passed with heavy majority.... When America talks about 'human beings' its
means 'Americans' and when it cites 'human rights' it means 'rights of
SOUTH AFRICA: "Let’s
Have More, Not Less, Of These Pictures"
Pro-government, Afro-centric Sowetan
"‘Bush...and...Blair...have expressed horror at these images and
have promised full investigations (and no justice). It is hardly surprising that both men seem
incapable of promising justice. The word
and the concept do not seem to feature in their vocabulary of the misguided war
against terror.... Neither of the two
men have mustered enough decency to apologize to the world for misleading
it. Now, their soldiers and innocent and
unarmed Iraqi women and children are being slaughtered on a daily
basis.... It is no surprise that (some
in) the allied forces should have the guts to torture their detainees. The only surprise is that these practices
have been kept away from the public for this long. When Bush rescinded a signature by his
predecessor...Clinton...endorsing the creation of the International Criminal
Court, he was in effect giving a green light to such crimes too.”
"The American Muddle In Iraq"
Lagos' independent This Day editorialized (Internet
version, 5/22): "This unfortunate
incident raises a lot of issues about the place of the U.S. in the contemporary
world. In the first place, it casts a
thick pall on the U.S. sense of entitlement as the custodian of what is right
and just in the world. Secondly, it
holds up the U.S. as lacking in respect for international law. That itself underlines the increasing
hypocrisy of the U.S. in the international arena. In major theaters of conflict where human
rights abuses have occurred, the U.S. has been the most consistent advocate of
deterrence through the trial of culprits by the international criminal
court. That is why, for instance, former
President Charles Taylor of Liberia in exile in Nigeria is wanted by the United
States. It is, therefore, mind-boggling
that the same self-appointed defender of human rights would turn around and
allow its troops to commit crimes worse than those for which it is hounding
people all over the world. This double
standard accounts for why the U.S. has refused to agree that its soldiers face
the international criminal court....
Contrary to the U.S. desire to try the offending American troops, we
call for an international inquiry into the treatment of war prisoners not only
in Iraq but also at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. From the revelations in Iraq, we have reasons
to suspect that abuses are taking place in that facility as well."
"Iraq, United States' Loss Of Moral Authority"
Lagos' independent, English-language New Age
editorialized (5/20): "The
atrocities committed by the U.S. forces in Iraq have again thrust to the fore
the lack of wisdom in the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States
and its allies and which they were warned against not least by this
newspaper. The abuses also expose the
hypocrisy in the United States' withdrawal of its signature from the Rome
Statute that set up the International Criminal Court [ICC], as well as further
steps taken by the United States to undermine the commencement and
effectiveness of the court. This court
was set up to try grave international crimes, including torture."
"This Savagery Deserves Condemnation"
weekly tabloid An-Nuur editorialized (5/7): "Today, we have extensively reported
about the torture and savagery meted to the people of Iraq by American forces,
and the horrifying pictures that have gone around the world. Anyone who reads these reports and sees the
pictures will understand why America is opposed to the establishment of the
International Criminal Court (ICC).
America knows very well what type of soldiers it has in its armed forces
due to the kind of training it gives them, the morals in that country, and the
dirty work they are sent out to accomplish.
America knows very well that they will rape, kill innocent people
indiscriminately, torture, mishandle prisoners by urinating on them, etc.... America has been attracting enemies on a
daily basis and has now made the issue of its being hated an international
problem. It is calling it the war
against international terrorism.... But
are these the kind of people we want to come and train our security forces?
People who invade a country, kill, torture, rape and do all sorts of evil
things and then refuse to be answerable to the International Criminal Court?”
CANADA: "For The
Apology To Ring True"
Montreal-based Moroccan human rights activist Jawad Skalli
commented in an op-ed in liberal Le Devoir (5/14): "The entire United States policy
converges on the ideology that claims that whites of European descent and
Judeo-Christian culture are the only humans that matter on the planet. The Arab
and Muslim populations are then at the bottom of the human ladder and no lie,
no stereotype is too strong to disseminate images that will be used to justify
any violation of their humanity....
American policy in the Middle East is based on an eminently racist
approach and also constitutes a powerful racism generator the victims of which
are Arabs and Muslims. To convince
anyone who is not a devotee of anything Americans do that any credit can be
given to the apology of the chief torturers, from Guantanamo Bay to the International
Criminal Court, from anti-terrorism laws to the diktats of globalization
fanatics, from the position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to that on UN
mechanisms related to the promotion and defense of international peace and
justice, a strong wind of change must come from the United States."
"Barbaric Scenery In Iraq"
The lead editorial in nationalist El
Universal (5/22) read: "The
indisputable graphic evidence of torture and inhumane acts by the Coalition
forces which invaded Iraq last year offends the dignity of any human
being.... It is time for the
international community to abandon its complicit silence and the attitudes of
fear and indifference towards these events.... The evidence behind the torture
shows that this was all part of a policy adopted by the Coalition and it
explains Washington's opposition to giving any authority to the International
Court of Justice at the Hague regarding war crimes--from which the United
States has always expected its armed forces to remain immune.... The government of Mr. Bush has limited its
action to bringing to trial low-ranking soldiers who are responsible for these
criminal acts, but who were evidently following orders from a long chain of
command that surely reaches the highest levels of the Pentagon."
"Boot Bush! For The World's
Sake, Dubya Must Go"
Columnist Ian Boyne wrote in the conservative Sunday
Gleaner (5/9): “The dehumanization
and degradation to which the Iraqis were subjected were not the result of the
actions of a few sadistic...youth taking glee in subjugating the enemy. It is the result of an ethos developed by the
Bush administration in its hysterical reaction to September 11, and the
constant demonization of Iraqi forces opposed to their illegal occupation. Rumsfeld has publicly shown disdain for the
Geneva Conventions and gives the impression that almost anything is justified
in the ‘war against terrorism.’ Whatever
can be done to ‘soften’ witnesses and to wring ‘actionable intelligence’ from
suspects is acceptable in the war against terror.… No wonder this same Bush administration has
failed to ratify the International Criminal Court and would go further to
punish nations that seek to use the provisions of the court to sanction the
illegal actions of U.S. military. The
Bush administration knew the kinds of human rights abuses it intended to allow
in its self-righteous war on terror, which has become the war of terror.”
PANAMA: "Now We
Understand Why Bush Administration Opposes The ICC"
A front page editorial in government critic La Prensa declared (5/10): “The coalition that invaded, under the flag
of liberty, now subjects its enemies to the same tortures that they suffered
under Saddam’s regime: how ironic.....
Those deviations committed by U.S. soldiers...just feed the hateful feelings
towards the Western world.... When
seeing the horrendous images we understand the reason why the Bush
administration opposes ratification of the Rome Statute on the International
Criminal Court, created specifically to judge those people that commit war
crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Grace Jaramillo wrote in Quito’s leading, centrist El Comercio
(5/17): “Now we all understand why the
U.S. refused to be part of the International Criminal Court. There is an anthropological reason--Americans
are ethnocentric and isolationists by nature.
There is also a political reason--they know they are powerful and undefeatable,
the best commercial partners on earth and also the biggest producers of weapons
in the world. But there is also an
ideological reason, at least for neo-conservative Republicans, for whom the
goal of the U.S. is to build an empire--and empires do terrible things in order
to maintain their leadership. The war
crimes in Iraqi territory are a fact and there is no International Criminal
Court that would dare to punish them due to U.S. supremacy.”