International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

June 1, 2004

June 1, 2004





**  Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq abuses make U.S. objections to ICC "hollow."


**  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 international law." 


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:  Steven Wangsness


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 date.




BRITAIN:  "Resign, Rumsfeld"


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."


FRANCE:   "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 Hague." 


GERMANY:  "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."


"Lex America"


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 Case?"


"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 effect." 


ITALY:  "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 unacceptable demands."


BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA:  "A 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 they do.”


BULGARIA:  "American Cruelty In Iraq Seems To Be The Norm, Not The Exception"


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 enemy."


CROATIA:  "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. Bush.”


"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." 


HUNGARY:  "Prisoners’ Dilemma"


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.”


"Isolationism, Now?"


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."


"American Standards"


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."


SLOVENIA:  "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 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 prisoners."


SPAIN:  "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."


"Immune Soldiers" 


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]." 


"Zero Credibility"


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 criminal courts."




SAUDI ARABIA:  "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?"   


IRAQ:  "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 consequences?"


"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."


UAE:  "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!"




JAPAN:  "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 corrected."     


MALAYSIA:  "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 diligently.” 


VIETNAM:  "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?"




INDIA:  "Brutes Called Americans"


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 political expediency."


IRAN:  "America's 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 Council....


"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 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 Rights"


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 added."


PAKISTAN:  "You Too Pakistan"


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 Americans.'"




SOUTH AFRICA:  "Let’s Have More, Not Less, Of These Pictures"


Pro-government, Afro-centric Sowetan (5/3) commented:  "‘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.”


NIGERIA:  "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."


TANZANIA:  "This Savagery Deserves Condemnation"


Pro-Islam Kiswahili-language  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."


MEXICO:  "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." 


JAMAICA:  "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.”


PERU:  "War Crimes"


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.”


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