By Hans Vogel
The Dutch town of The Hague, seat of the Dutch government, Europol and the International Court of Justice, likes to regard itself as the world capital of Justice. It has since become the seat of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY, since 1993), the International Criminal Court (ICC, since 2002), and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (2007).
Whereas national justice is often another name for unbridled "class justice", the practice of international justice shows it is hardly different in essence. In the US, class justice is evident from the fact that the vast majority of convictions, death sentences and the jail population is black. In relation to their demographic weight in the national population, blacks are vastly overrepresented as victims of the US justice system. In Britain, the Irish have traditionally been overrepresented among prison inmates, just as muslims today in continental Europe. Back in the old days, it was just the members of the indigenous lower classes (or "dangerous classes") that filled the prisons to overflowing. At any rate, it is safe to say that across the board, as opposed to "white collar crime", it is "blue collar crime" that has a disproportionate chance of getting investigated and punished.
However, in Western Europe, for a brief period (roughly from the late 1960s to the early 1980s), the justice systems made an apparent effort to redress the most glaring imbalances, to humanize the penal system and the treatment of prisoners. This was in line with an overall appreciation among the public that such changes were called for. The egalitarian society that most people wanted entailed a different "moral economy," to borrow a useful expression from the shrewd English historian E.P. Thompson. According to this concept, there always exists a broad, silent consensus as to what is right and wrong and what constitutes a just punishment for infractors.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Western European nations have become more and more authoritarian, while maintaining the appearance of democratic societies. Basically, those in power feel free to do anything they please and if by some slim chance criticized or caught, they just say "I'm sorry" and go back to work as if nothing had happened. The media no longer exert any fundamental criticism and have become mere extensions of the powers that be. European national justice has also become less transparent and more arbitrary by the day. Though independent in name, in fact in most Western European nations the justice system has become just another branch of the state bureaucracy, carrying out its tasks in line with directives from higher up.
With respect to this background, one could hardly express surprise at the shocking arbitrariness of the recenty established tribunals at The Hague. The extradition order against Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir is a case in point. Why this man? True, he has come to power in 1989 with a coup d'état. True, he has been ruthlessly suppressing domestic rebellions, leading to the killing of hundreds of thousands and millions made homeless. True, he once gave sanctuary to Osama bin-Laden and, yes, he is an enemy of Israel and has often taken an anti-US stance in international politics. The man is sought for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mean charges indeed! Moreover, he is the first head of state to be prosecuted by the ICC.
If the ICC's prosecutor had worked a little harder, he might still have prosecuted another head of state, namely Bush II, before Obama took over. And who would not agree that Bush II would have been a much more significant person to prosecute than al-Bashir? To begin with, Bush II has started wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq. He has killed 1.4 million Iraqis, made three millions of them homeless and struck the remainder of the Iraqi population with misery, unemployment, diseases and other hardships. A prosecution of Bush II would have given off a much more powerful signal than that of al-Bashir. Besides, it would have been much more productive in establishing the authority of the ICC as a truly impartial tribunal. But perhaps the explanation is not so much a lack of energy on the part of the prosecutor but rather the skewed state of mind of the ICC and its personnel. Or perhaps the ICC takes its cues from higher up, like the courts in Western European nations. At any rate, the prosecution at this very moment of al-Bashir, seems absolutely out of place and arbitrary.
If the US is not an adherent to the 1999 Rome Statute that calls for the establishment of the ICC, nor is Sudan. Yet this was no impediment for prosecuting al-Bashir. Nor is al-Bashir the only "Third-World" leader that is a candidate for prosecution. However, al-Bashir is president of a country with enormous oil reserves and an impressive oil production. It is about thirtieth on the world list of oil-producing nations, but the oil is not pumped up by a US oil company, but by the Chinese. The US does not like foreign nations to close their doors to its oil companies and therefore does all it can to punish such behaviour. For instance, by declaring them to be supporters of terrorism, to blockade them, to attack their leaders, or to stir up civil unrest and trouble. Even pro-Western Nigeria, where most oil is produced by Shell (not a US company!), trouble is being stirred up and NGO's such as Amnesty International are used to influence public opinion. The purpose of such actions is always to gain access for the US oil business. If all else fails, "regime change" or outright military assault (like against Iraq) is the answer.
In fact, whichever country dares challenge Washington is subjected to terrible punishment. It is attacked, its infrastructure completely destroyed, its government deposed and its leaders prosecuted and tried by Kangaroo courts. After Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, it now seems to be Sudan's turn... There is only one way to escape this fate: completely humiliate oneself, beg for forgiveness, and cooperate with the US by satisfying their most outrageous demands, as did Libya's Khadafi. Since the news about his prosecution has come out, however, al-Bashir has only been defiant. Perhaps his Chinese friends will protect him this time.
If the US is not directly involved with, or connected, to the ICC and if, therefore, the ICC's actions cannot be explained on these grounds, indirectly they are certainly supportive of longstanding US policies vis-à-vis Sudan.
That other The Hague Kangaroo court, the ICTY, is entirely an instrument of US imperialist policies. Structurally in arrears in paying its membership fees to the UN, the US nonetheless was quick to support the creation of a special court for the former Yugoslavia, providing the bulk of its funding. Careful not to appear in the foreground, the US permitted nationals from other nations to take the main positions of the ICTY. This court is actually a travesty of justice, since it is explicitly bound not to prosecute any nationals from the US and its NATO clients. Instead, it can only prosecute Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Sovenians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Kosovars. Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia, was considered to be the court's most significant defendant.
But Milosevic, educated and trained as a lawyer and eager to do his defense himself, was denied this basic privilege by the ICTY's corrupt judges. When it became obvious none of the charges against Milosevic could be proven, he was "suicided" in his cell. Several other ICTY defendants have also died under mysterious circumstances while in the court's custody. Only during the postwar Nuremberg trials have so many defendants died before verdicts were issued.
The newly created Special Tribunal for Lebanon is as phony as the ICC and the ICTY. Entrusted especially with the prosecution of terrorist crimes in Lebanon, it is hoped that this court will eventually evolve into one for international terrorism. Its first case concerns the 2005 assassination of the prominent Lebanese political leader Saad Hariri, a presidential hopeful, supported by Israel and the US. Two months after the act, acing upon request from the UN, the German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis investigated the murder and suggested-as he was expected to do-Syrian involvement. There are, however, strong indications Hariri was murdered by US and Israeli secret services with the intent of blaming it on the Syrians. Like the other cases under investigation by The Hague kangaroo courts, the Hariri case has already been decided beforehand. There can never be an open trial when mercenary media all over the "West" have been preparing both public opinion and court judges and functionaries with propaganda bombardments! You will of course remember that Syria is another of those nations continuously targeted by the US with the most outrageous accusations, insults and demands.
Given the current developments, whoever believes in international justice is either benighted or naïve. Now, it looks as if "international justice" will at best be a faithful replica of the US justice system. We all know what that means! Almost 7.5 million people, most of them black and low-income, in prison, on probation or on parole. With 5% of the planet's population, the US has 25% of the world's prisoners. One could almost say the US is one giant penitentiary nation, one giant prison! We in the rest of the world do not want to be like the US. Their economic domination has now given us the worst and most devastating crisis in history, in addition to decades of continuous wars, trash TV, the McDonald's hamburger and Coca Cola's carbonated sugar water. But enough is enough.
The US and its clients should be prevented from turning the world into a US-style prison. Luis Moreno Ocampo, the controversial Argentinian prosecutor of the ICC has already stated he intends to prosecute Africans in the first place. Racists have never been short of pretexts when it comes to hide their true intentions.
Instead of al-Bashir, Milosevic, Karadzic, and the poor, innocent devil that will no doubt be indicted with the murder of Hariri, there are hundreds or rather, thousands of real criminals running about freely. They are guilty of unleashing, facilitating, supporting, and sustaining the wars of aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush II is one of them, so are Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Bill Clinton, Richard Holbrooke, John Major, Tony Blair, José María Aznar, Helmut Kohl, Gerhard Schröder, Joschka Fischer, Angela Merkel, Javier Solana, Wim Kok, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Jan-Peter Balkenende, Nicolas Sarkozy, Bernard Kouchner, Silvio Berlusconi...
And this list is still growing. Only recently, together with his cabinet members and aides, Barack Obama has joined it.