AKI / Turkish Press – 2005-06-28 08:15:32
World Tribunal on Iraq Concludes in Istanbul
For Tribunal Testimony, see:
ISTANBUL (June 24, 2005) — After two years of holding mock trials around the world into the severe violations of international law committed before, during and after the war in Iraq, the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) initiative culminates this weekend, in a final tribunal in Istanbul, Turkey. The three-day Istanbul ‘hearing’, which started on Friday, pulls together all the testimonies from the previous trials to compile a definitive historical record of evidence about the invasion and the occupation.
The WTI began in 2003 and is made up of thousands of people worldwide, including many dignitaries, academics and peace activists.
The final tribunal was launched with a press conference and a concert with renowned artists from Turkey, as well as the Iraqi musician Omar Bashir at the Darphane-i Amire in Topkapi Palace Grounds, Istanbul.
At the press conference, international law professor and UNESCO peace prize holder Richard Falk, who coordinates the Tribunal’s Panel of Advocates, along with the Turkish international law and human rights professor Turgut Tarhanli, said that although the proceedings would be symbolic, “It would show what the results would be if real courts held real sessions”.
“The Tribunal has both symbolic and substantive significance as a step toward the establishment of global democracy. The WTI has been convened to bring international law to bear on America’s aggressive behaviour around the world, with particular emphasis on the Iraq war. This represents an historic attempt by the people of the world to hold states and their leaders responsible for severe violations of international law”, he added.
During the hearings, the WTI will investigate 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, as well as the destruction of the cultural sites and the environment.
The WTI hearing will summarise and present further testimony on the illegality of the US case for going to war and the criminal violations committed.
The expert opinion, witness testimony, video and image evidence addresses the impact of the war on civilians, the torture of prisoners, the unlawful imprisonment of Iraqis without charge or legal defence, the use of uranium weapons, the effects of the war on Iraq’s infrastructure and the destruction of Iraqi cultural institutions.
The Jury of Conscience is chaired by the award-winning author Arundathi Roy, and is composed of 15 experts in different subjects from different parts of the world. The WTI participants around the world include Iraqi witnesses and experts as well as international figures such as Dennis Halliday, former assistant to the UN secretary-general and director of the UN Humanitarian Aid Programme, Souad Naji Al-Azzawi, director of the doctorate programme in environmental engineering in Iraq and Phil Shiner, a human rights lawyer who has uncovered evidence that US troops tortured detainees in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
The WTI say they invited US president George W. Bush and Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair to attend the Tribunal, but neither leader replied to the invitation.
The session in Istanbul will reach a final decision after examining the results of the 20 sessions held in different cities, including New York, London, Seoul, Mumbai and Rome over the past two years. A verdict will be given on Monday.
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Culminating Session Of World Tribunal On Iraq Starts In Istanbul
ISTANBUL (June 24, 2005) — Culminating session of the ”World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI)” started in Istanbul’s historical building of Darphane-i Amire on Friday.
Making opening remarks of the culminating session, Arundhati Roy, spokesperson of the Jury of Conscience, said, ”the testimonies at the previous sessions of the WTI in Brussels and New York have demonstrated that even those of us who have tried to follow the war in Iraq closely are not aware of a fraction of the horrors that have been unleashed in Iraq.”
”The Jury of Conscience at this tribunal is not here to deliver a simple verdict of guilty or not guilty against the United States and its allies. We are here to examine a vast spectrum of evidence about the motivations and consequences of the US invasion and occupation, evidence that has been deliberately marginalized or suppressed. This tribunal is an attempt to correct the record. To document the history of the war not from the point of view of the victors but of the temporarily — and I repeat the word temporarily — vanquished,” she said.
Roy noted, ”let me say categorically that this tribunal is the defense. It is an act of resistance in itself. It is a defense mounted against one of the most cowardly wars ever fought in history, a war in which international institutions were used to force a country to disarm and then stood by while it was attacked with a greater array of weapons than has ever been used in the history of war. Second, this tribunal is not in any way a defense of Saddam Hussein. His crimes against all Iraqi people cannot be written off in the process of bringing to light Iraq’s more recent and still unfolding tragedy.
“However, we must not forget that when Saddam Hussein was committing his worst crimes, the US government was supporting him politically and materially. Saddam Hussein is being tried as a war criminal even as we speak. But what about those who helped to install him in power, who armed him, who supported him, and who are now setting up a tribunal to try him and absolve themselves completely?”
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Panel of Advocates, Richard Falk said, ”the WTI is remarkable for two principal reasons: WTI bears witness to the depth and persistence of the popular mobilization of people throughout the world in opposition to the Iraq War. Such a mobilization against a particular war has never occurred before on such a scale.
It started with the massive street demonstrations before the war on Feb. 15th 2003 in which some 11 million people took part in 80 countries and more than 600 urban communities. The second reason for claiming historical significance on behalf of WTI relates to this initiative of, by, and for citizens to hold leaders accountable for severe violations of international law, especially in relation to matters of war and peace.
”Of course, this tribunal does not pretend to be a normal court of law with powers of enforcement. At the same time, it is acting on behalf of the peoples of the world to uphold respect for international law. The US government told a pack of lies in its feeble attempt to find a legal justification for the invasion of Iraq. The WTI will expose these lies by presenting evidence and testimony,” he stressed.
Falk noted, ”this tribunal differs from a normal court of law in the following main respects: it is an organ of civil society, not of the state, and its essential purpose is to confirm the truth, not to discover it.”
”The United States justifies every abuse by pointing to the September 11th attacks. These attacks, even if they are what is claimed, do not justify aggression against states or the torture of individuals,” he said.
Falk added, ”it should also be observed that Turkey is an appropriate site for this culminating session of the WTI since Turkey stands at the crossroads between the old European geopolitical core and the Third World periphery. It was Turkey’s proudest moment when its parliament refused the request of the US Government to mount the invasion of Iraq from Turkish territory; this represented an expression of an increasingly robust democratic process here in Turkey.”
Speaking at the first session on ”The Role of International Law and Institutions”, Hans von Sponeck, former coordinator of the United Nations Humanitarian Aid Program for Iraq, said, ”the United Nations Secretariat acquiesced when the United States and Britain, two founding members of the United Nations, insisted in the Security Council on an economic sanctions regime that caused a human tragedy.
The United Nations Secretariat remained mute when these same governments dropped out of the international community to unilaterally mount an illegal invasion into Iraq. In the history books of the United Nations the handling of the Iraq conflict by the Security Council will be recorded as a massive failure of oversight responsibility.”
He eulogized the Turkish parliament’s decision to reject deployment of US soldiers in Turkey, and use of Turkish ports and airports by the United States to transport military personnel and equipment to Iraq.
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PRESS RELEASE about JURY STATEMENT
World Tribunal on Iraq – Jury of Conscience
ISTANBUL (June 27, 2005) — With a Jury of Conscience from 10 different countries hearing the testimonies of 54 members of the Panel of Advocates who came from across the world, including Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom, this global civil initiative came to an end with a press conference at the Hotel Armada where the chair of the Jury of Conscience, Arundathi Roy, announced the Jury’s conclusions.
The Jury defined this war as one of the most unjust in history: ŒThe Bush and Blair administrations blatantly ignored the massive opposition to the war expressed by millions of people around the world. They embarked upon one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history.
The Anglo-American occupation of Iraq of the last 27 months has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society.
Law and order have broken down completely, resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system is a mess; the education system has ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological devastation; and, the cultural and archeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated.‚
On the basis of the preceding findings and recalling the Charter of the United Nations and other legal documents, the jury has established the following charges against the Governments of the US and the UK:
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