|The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is a worldwide civil society undertaking to reclaim justice. The project consists of commissions of inquiry and sessions held around the world investigating various issues related to the war on Iraq, such as the legality of the war, the role of the United Nations, war crimes and the role of the media. On June 23rd to the 27th 2005, at the start of the third year of the occupation of Iraq, the culminating session took place in Istanbul, Turkey. Richard Falk, Chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Board of Directors, delivered the opening remarks to the tribunal. Below is Falk’s statement at the WTI press conference. For more information, visit their website at www.worldtribunal.org.|
The World Tribunal on Iraq is an undertaking of historic importance. It is the culmination of a process of tribunal sessions on the legal dimensions of the Iraq War that have been held in all parts of the world. This kind of spontaneous initiative of concerned people around the world has never taken place before. It represents an expression of what might be called “moral globalization,” acting on the belief that no state and no leader is above the law when it comes to matters of war and peace. And it expresses the overwhelming sentiments of peoples throughout the world that the Iraq War was against international law and morality. This initiative here in Istanbul has a quality of urgency as people are dying and suffering every day in Iraq as we speak. This is not an academic gathering of experts to find out the relevance of law. It is primarily an expression of popular democracy, of ethical conscience about what is right and wrong in world politics, and an expression of resistance to what is understood around the world as an American project to achieve world domination. The Iraq War is the eye of the storm at the moment. But the wider concern of the WTI is with America’s hegemonic global ambitions that is bringing danger, violence, and exploitation to many parts of the world at present.
The idea of a tribunal to judge legal responsibility of a state and its leaders for war is not new. After World War II the victorious governments convened tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo, and held the German and Japanese leaders responsible. The Nuremberg Judgment, a celebrated document, called aggressive war, that is, Crimes Against Peace, as the greatest of all crimes. The UN Charter has carried forward the idea that all wars that are not fought in self-defense or with the approval of the UN Security Council are illegal wars, and hence a Crime Against Peace. The WTI has been initiated by citizens of many countries who share the belief that the Iraq War is such an illegal war, and that the leaders of the USA and United Kingdom are individually and criminally responsible for its initiation and for the violations of the Law of War that have accompanied the occupation of Iraq.
The work of the Tribunal is divided into a Panel of Advocates and a Jury of Conscience. The role of the Panel of Advocates is to document these charges through analysis and witnesses in a persuasive manner, and to appeal to a Jury of Conscience, composed of distinguished moral authority personalities from around the world, to pass judgment on the actors and their actions from the perspective of international law. We understand that the WTI is not a court of law with powers of enforcement. It is rather an informed inquiry by concerned, independent, non-partisan, and honest persons into the relevance of international law that is designed to discredit any claims by the governments who have supported the Iraq War that their action is somehow legal and morally and politically acceptable. It is designed to tell the truth as clearly and powerfully as possible with respect to all aspects of the Iraq War. In the end if democracy is to be the true basis of political authority, then leaders must be made accountable, especially if they fail to uphold the Rule of Law in the area of war and peace. If governments and the United Nations are unable and unwilling to discharge this responsibility, then citizens acting on behalf of civil society have the duty to challenge and oppose an illegal war and practices that violate international humanitarian law. It is after all, in the famous words of the UN Charter, “We the peoples of the world” who are “determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
The WTI takes these words seriously as a call to action. We who are participating in this Tribunal are speaking here in Turkey as ‘citizens of the world’ who are part of a global movement to oppose aggressive wars and to resist the wider ambitions of the United States Government to override the sovereignty and independence of states. And we of the WTI are calling on others in every country who seek global peace and justice, including the protection of human rights, to join us in doing this vital work. It is time to understand that aggressive war has become something more than a struggle between particular states. It is an assault on the well being of people everywhere, and must be opposed everywhere. Aggressive war is not only a Crime Against Peace, it has also become the greatest Crime Against Humanity.
The WTI is opposing aggressive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It is not opposing the governments or the United Nations. Indeed it hopes to create pressure from below that will encourage law-abiding governments and the UN to do their proper job of protecting weaker countries and their populations against such illegalities. And beyond this protection we are promoting a world movement of peoples and governments to realize a humane form of globalization that is equitable with respect to the world economy, legitimate in upholding the human rights of all, and dedicated above all else to creating the conditions for sustainable peace based on justice for every nation on earth.