George Monbiot – A Step Towards the Dock
When Desmond Tutu wrote that Tony Blair should be treading the path to the Hague, he de-normalised what Blair has done(1). Tutu broke the protocol of power – the implicit accord between those who flit from one grand meeting to another – and named his crime. I expect that Blair will never recover from it.
The offence is known by two names in international law: the crime of aggression and a crime against peace. It is defined by the Nuremberg Principles as the “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression”(2). This means a war fought for a purpose other than self-defence: in other words outwith articles 33 and 51 of the UN Charter(3).
Without legal justification, the attack on Iraq was an act of mass
murder. It caused the deaths of between 100,000 and a million people,
and ranks among the greatest crimes the world has ever seen. That Blair
and his ministers still saunter among us, gathering money wherever they
go, is a withering indictment of a one-sided system of international
justice: a system whose hypocrisies Tutu has exposed.
That the invasion of Iraq falls into this category looks indisputable. Blair’s cabinet ministers knew it, and told him so. His Attorney-General warned that there were just three ways in which it could be legally justified: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UN Security Council authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.”(4) Blair tried and failed to obtain the third.....
But while the case against Blair is strong, the means are weak. Twenty-nine people have been indicted in the International Criminal Court, and all of them are African(15). (Suspects in the Balkans have been indicted by a different tribunal). There’s a reason for this. Until 2018 at the earliest, the court can prosecute crimes committed during the course of an illegal war, but not the crime of launching that war(16)....Though the Nuremberg tribunal described aggression as “the supreme international crime”(17), several powerful states guiltily resisted its adoption. At length, in 2010, they agreed that the court would have jurisdiction over aggression, but not until 2018 or thereafter. Though the offence has been recognised in international law for 67 years, the international criminal court (unlike the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, which hear cases from before they were established) will be able to try only crimes of aggression committed beyond that date(18).