The American Bear


Opening the other eye: Charles Taylor and selective accountability | Richard Falk (2)

The Western powers have gone significantly further in sculpting international law to their liking. They have excluded “aggressive war” from the list of international crimes contained in the Rome Treaty which governs the scope of ICC jurisdiction. When the defendants were the losers in World War II, aggressive war was treated at Nuremberg (and Tokyo) as the supreme war crime - as it was declared to encompass the others: war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN Charter was drafted to reflect this outlook, by unconditionally prohibiting any recourse to force by a state except in self-defence - narrowly defined as a response to a prior armed attack. But in the decades that followed, each of the countries that sat in judgement at Nuremberg engaged in aggressive war and made non-defensive uses of force - and so the concept became too contested by practice to be any longer codified as law. This reversal and regression exemplifies the Janus face of geopolitics when it comes to criminal accountability: when the application of international criminal law serves the cause of the powerful, it will be invoked, extended, celebrated, even institutionalised, but only so long as it is not turned against the powerful. One face of Janus is that of international justice and the rule of law, the other is one of a martial look that glorifies the rule of power on behalf of the war gods.

Where does this line of reasoning end? Should we be hypocrites and punish those whose crimes offend the geopolitical gatekeepers? Or should we insist that law, to be law, must be applied consistently? At least these questions should be asked, inviting a spirit of humility to emerge, especially among liberals in the West.

I’ve already snipped the hell out this article. Why? Because it’s important (plus it’s quite fun to muddle through Falk’s famous run-ons).

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[A] self-satisfied editorial appear[ed] in the Financial Times (April 27, 2012). It starts with words affirming the larger meaning of Taylor’s conviction: ‘A strong message was sent to tyrants and warlords around the world yesterday. International law may be slow, but even those in the higher ranks of power can be held to account for atrocities committed against the innocent.’ And the editorial ends even more triumphantly, and without noticing the elephant standing in the middle of the room, that leaders “… in states weak and strong - now know that there can be no impunity for national leaders when it comes to human rights.’ Such language needs to be decoded to convey its real message as follows: 'National leaders of non-Western countries should realise that if their operations henceforth stand interfere with geopolitical priorities, they might well be held criminally responsible.' Richard Falk | Opening the other eye: Charles Taylor and selective accountability

[It] might be well to remember that the United States - more than any country in the world - holds itself self-righteously aloof from accountability on the main ground that any international judicial process might be tainted by politicised motivations. Congress has even threatened that it would use military force to rescue any US citizens that were somehow called to account by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and has signed agreements with more than 100 governments pledging them not to hand over US citizens to the ICC. And yet it is international criminal lawyers and human rights NGOs from the US that have been most loudly applauding the outcome in the Taylor case, without even a whimper of acknowledgement that there may be some issues relating to double standards. If international criminal adjudication is so benevolent when prominent Africans are convicted, why does the same not hold for US officials? Given the structure of influence in the world, there exists more reason for Africans to be suspicious of such procedures than for Americans who fund such efforts, and who are so influential behind the scenes. Richard Falk | Opening the other eye: Charles Taylor and selective accountability

War crimes court finds Charles Taylor guilty | Al Jazeera English

A UN-backed international court has convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of war crimes - the first African head of state to be found guilty by an international tribunal.

Taylor, 64, was charged 11 counts of war crimes including murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery during intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which more than 50,000 people were killed.


The former Liberian president was found guilty of aiding and abetting the following 11 war crimes:

- Acts of terrorism
- Murder
- Violence to life, health or physical well being of persons
- Rape
- Sexual slavery
- Outrages upon personal dignity
- Violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of persons
- Other inhumane acts, a crime against humanity
- Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces
- Enslavement
- Pillage

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, in the Hague, the Netherlands, found him guilty of all of the charges on Thursday.