New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament, Joe Comartin, spoke at Concordia last Friday. He said his party is currently debating whether or not American President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair could be charged as war criminals for initiating the current war in Iraq.
“That issue is not over with yet, and it’s one that I think this country is going to engage in, internationally, over the next number of years,” said Comartin.
“This is not a legal war,” he said, adding that prior to the attack 14 of the leading international experts in Europe had tried to convince Blair of its illegitimacy.
“After World War II, we said we would never allow people to go to war again unless […] the UN [United Nations] Security Council authorizes,” said Comartin.
The UN charter limits the circumstances under which it is acceptable to go to war. Even in a case where there is imminent threat, the UN has to try to find any other possible alternative to war. Furthermore, even with no alternative, war is not justified if the consequences will be too severe and there is expected to be an overwhelming number of civilian casualties.
“[In Iraq], we didn’t have the imminent threat; we had an alternative in any event and it was being deployed at that point with the inspectors in,” said Comartin.
He emphasized that, despite popular belief, the UN was not weakened by this war. “Because we recognized that we needed an internationals body- we needed something to provide us with the infrastructure of how to deal with a ruler like Saddam Hussein- in fact, [the UN] got stronger.”
Comartin argued that the UN needs to be expanded in order to better deal with dictators like Hussein. He said that there is a social contract of security between government and individuals. “When that contract is broken and, in fact, you as the government perpetuate crime against your own people, then that same principle says that the international community has the right to step in,” he said.
Last week in the House of Commons there was an all-party support resolution to set up an international tribunal to try Hussein. “We have to stop doing it on an ad hoc basis,” said Comartin. “We have to set up an infrastructure that would bring someone like Saddam Hussein to justice without killing civilians.”
The International Criminal Court is a good start, but Comartin said that major superpowers, like the U.S., will have to sign its treaty. He added that a permanent police force, controlled on the international level based on the rule of law and generally accepted judicial concepts, is also needed.
He added that we have to get rid of the power of veto in the UN and redistribute the General Assembly in order to have a more democratic process. Also, the decision of applying the UN charter and deciding whether or not a war is legal should become a judicial decision that the International Court would make. “They would indict the leadership of that country, they would issue an arrest warrant, and the police force would execute it,” said Comartin.