Friday, December 09, 2005

''Campaigners accuse leaders of 'war crimes' ''

"The governments of Tony Blair and George Bush have been charged with war crimes by a distinguished group of anti-war campaigners, who are calling for an investigation by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, into breaches of international law.

Harold Pinter, the playwright, Tony Benn, the former Labour MP, Michael Mansfield QC and Professor Richard Dawkins were among the signatories to 28 charges against the Blair and Bush administrations, covering ministers, officials and generals who were a party to the decisions that led to war on Iraq and the chaos in its aftermath.

The charges were sent to Mr Annan and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, last night, with a demand that the investigation should go beyond the Prime Minister and the US President to all those involved in setting the policy decisions that led to abuses including the ill-treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"These charges are carefully documented and we want those responsible to be held to account," Mr Benn said. "We are talking about the top people, not just Bush and Blair, but ministers, generals, who were responsible for the decisions that led to prisoners being inhumanely treated or sexually abused."

The charges will be read out at the weekend at a London conference, and Mr Benn said his message to the campaigners was that they had succeeded in ensuring that Mr Blair would not be able to support Mr Bush again, if the US took military action against Iran. The charges claim that Britain is a signatory to the Geneva and Hague conventions and the Nuremberg charter of 1945, but had breached them all during the Iraq war in 2003 and its aftermath to the present day.

The use of white phosphorus as a weapon in the assault on Fallujah is also cited as a war crime. This was initially denied by the Bush administration, until US troops boasted on a website that it had been used to flush out insurgents. The charge sheet includes the use of cable ties as a restraint; hooding of detainees which causes mental suffering; the use of dogs as a means of obtaining information, which was authorised by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in December 2002; sexual humiliation of detainees, including rapes; and the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells.

The indictments include: crimes against peace; planning and conducting an aggressive war using deceit; failure to ensure public order and safety by disbanding the army and police of Iraq; extensive destruction of service infrastructure; deliberate damage to hospitals; failure to prohibit looting and arson; failure to respect cultural property; and economic exploitation of occupied territories."-from The Independent (UK).

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