Malaysia’s Mahathir Announces War Crimes Tribunal & US Soldier Faces Murder Trial in Italy

February 8th, 2007 - by admin

Agence France-Presse & Phil Stewart / Reuters – 2007-02-08 23:30:48

KUALA LUMPUR (January 31, 2007) — Malaysia’s ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad announced Wednesday the creation of a war crimes tribunal that would focus on victims of abuse in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

He said the tribunal — and an investigating commission linked to it — was necessary as an alternative to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which he accused of bias in its selection of cases to cover.

The court does not have government backing and Mahathir admitted he needed money to set it up and that it would be hard to persuade heads of government accused of wrongdoing to attend.

“There will be people who take this thing seriously,” he said. “This is not a show.”

“The one punishment that most leaders are afraid of is to go down in history with a certain label attached to them,” he added at a press conference.

“In history books they should be written down as war criminals and this is the kind of punishment we can make to them. __”We cannot arrest them, we cannot detain them, and we cannot hang them the way they hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mahathir, who played a high-profile role on the international stage before stepping down in 2003, has seized on the issue of conflict in the Middle East during his retirement.

He did not specify who would be targeted by the tribunal, but said it would focus on abuses in Iraq, Palestinian territories and Lebanon — indicating it was aimed at United States and Israeli military actions.

“We think that it is time we set up a body, a tribunal, which will give an opportunity for these people to bring up their complaints to be heard.”

Mahathir also plans a war crimes commission which would first investigate allegations of abuse. He will sit on its panel along with five Malaysian legal experts, including one from the nation’s hardline Islamic opposition party.

The tribunal would be staffed by former judges and law professors from home and abroad, including a Malaysian former chief justice, he said.

However he conceded it would be difficult to obtain the evidence needed to conduct a thorough trial and that the proposal was short on funding.

“We are asking for donations from interested people,” he said. “It’s not been easy.”

Mahathir will next week host a war crimes conference attended by some 17 Palestinians, Iraqis and Lebanese who allege they are the victims of abuse and torture.

The new commission will then begin investigating their cases. The tribunal itself, provided its judges have been appointed, would operate as soon as the inquiry panel has referred its first dossier upward.

Mahathir did not specify if the court would have a defence and prosecution, saying the accused would be invited to send their representative, but vowed it would not be like the “kangaroo court” that tried Saddam.

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Italy to Try US Soldier for Agent’s Iraq Death
Phil Stewart / Reuters

ROME (February 7, 2007) — A Rome judge ordered a US soldier to stand trial for killing an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq in 2005 while he was escorting a freed hostage to safety, court officials said on Wednesday.

Mario Lozano, of the US Army’s 69th Infantry Regiment, was charged with voluntary homicide for shooting Nicola Calipari at a checkpoint near Baghdad airport.

Lozano will almost certainly be tried in absentia. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said it was “a fair assumption” the US military would not hand over Lozano for trial.

“As far as the Defense Department is concerned, we and the Ministry of Defence in Italy consider this a closed matter,” Whitman said. Both countries have called the death an accident.

Italy’s independent prosecutors disagreed and Judge Sante Spinaci granted their request to charge Lozano also on two counts of attempted murder — one for the other Italian agent driving the vehicle and the second for the freed hostage inside.

Calipari became a national hero in Italy for securing the release of kidnapped left-wing journalist Giuliana Sgrena. He died trying to shield her from gunfire at a U.S. checkpoint shortly after her release.

His widow Rosa, now a member of the Italian Senate, said at the hearing in a criminal court she was “satisfied”.

“This is the first step in a long process. I hope we will eventually have justice,” she said.

Sgrena told reporters: “We don’t want to make Mario Lozano the scapegoat, but we want to find out who was responsible and have justice.”

The trial will begin on April 17. Lozano, of the New York Army National Guard, was the gunner at the U.S. checkpoint on the road to Baghdad airport.

Twin Cases
The case is running parallel to another high-profile Italian judicial probe threatening to embarrass Washington and Rome.

A Milan judge is considering whether to put 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents, on trial on charges of kidnapping a Muslim terrorism suspect in Milan in 2003 and flying him to Egypt. The prisoner says he was tortured by authorities there.

The Calipari shooting and Milan kidnapping are the biggest cases involving U.S. personnel here since a low-flying U.S. Marines jet cut an Italian ski lift cable, killing 20 people in 1998. The United States later cleared the pilot of manslaughter.

The shooting increased the unpopularity of then premier Silvio Berlusconi’s decision to support the United States in Iraq. He eventually decided to withdraw Italian troops but was ousted from office after losing a general election last year.

Rosa Calipari has denounced Washington for exonerating Lozano and Berlusconi’s government for accepting that it was an accident. Rome did, however, criticise the U.S. military for placing inexperienced troops at a poorly organised roadblock.

Lozano’s Italian defence lawyer Fabrizio Cardinali said the decision surprised him: “He (Lozano) was carrying out his duty, which is something that the judge did not consider relevant.”

After Lozano tried to signal to Calipari’s car with a spotlight, then by aiming a green laser pointer at the windshield, the US report said he fired warnings shots before opening fire on the vehicle.

Sgrena, who was wounded in the shooting and spent 24 days in hospital, said she was seeking damages from Washington.

Additional reporting by Andrew Gray in Washington