Thursday, January 22, 2009

Consequences of sorts

Juan Cole sez:

Israeli politicians and military commanders are being urged to consult counsel before they travel in Europe, where some courts assert universal jurisdiction and where war crimes cases are being filed against Israeli leaders. In 1998, a London court ordered the arrest of Chilean dictator Gen. Augustino Pinochet, who had butchered thousands of community activists, asserting universal jurisdiction. Governments have attempted to reduce the prerogative of courts in this regard, but apparently there are loopholes in the current British legislation that would allow an Israeli leader or officer to be arrested if they journey to the UK. Ynet observes, "The Israeli. . . claim that Hamas has been using women and children as human shields never really took, said a source. Whenever it was used the response was the same: If you know that . . . women and children [were] there – hold your fire."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is setting up a legal defense of Israeli troops from potential war crimes prosecutions. Barak pledged that Israeli soldiers would not have to worry about prosecution: "The soldiers did not embark on a private operation . . .We will give them out full support." It is ironic that an Israeli defense minister seems unaware that the Nuremberg trials established the principle that following orders is no defense for a soldier charged with atrocities.

Even as Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Brussels, human rights organizations in Belgium were (wholly unrealistically) petitioning a court to have her arrested. However impractical the legal move, it was a humiliation for Tzipi.
Reminds me that there are also some US war criminals who would do wise to remain out of Europe, as at bare minimum they can end up feeling mighty uncomfortable. As I stated previously regarding the architects of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am not one to hold out much hope that the architects of the war crimes against the people of Gaza will really be held accountable. If nothing else, they can get the message that it is simply too "hot" outside of the confines of Israel and the US, and avoid places where they risk arrest.

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