Friday, March 13, 2009

This morning, one of BBC Radio's headlines was that the Sri Lankan government had been accused of war crimes by an international body.

War crimes are defined in the statute that established the International Criminal Court (July 2002), which includes:

A. Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, such as:
1. Willful killing, or causing great suffering or serious injury to body
or health
2. Torture or inhumane treatment
3. Unlawful wanton destruction or appropriation of property
4. Forcing a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of a hostile power
5. Depriving a prisoner of war of a fair trial
6. Unlawful deportation, confinement or transfer
7. Taking hostages

B. The following acts as part of an international conflict:
1. Directing attacks against civilians
2. Directing attacks against humanitarian workers or UN peacekeepers
3. Killing a surrendered combatant
4. Misusing a flag of truce
5. Settlement of occupied territory
6. Deportation of inhabitants of occupied territory
7. Using poison weapons
8. Using civilians as shields
9. Using child soldiers

C. The following acts as part of a non-international conflict:
1. Murder, cruel or degrading treatment and torture
2. Directing attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers or UN
peacekeepers
3. Taking hostages
4. Summary execution
5. Pillage
6. Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution or forced pregnancy

However the court only has jurisdiction over these crimes where they are "part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes".

Scrutinising the items above, I conclude that "war crimes" is pervasive world-wide, unpreventable, and - alas - the Geneva Convention and such other well-meaning treatise are quixotic at best.

As the saying goes, "all is fair in love and war."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

All is NOT fair in war-as the consequences are permanent and devastating.And to equate love and war is absurd,to say the least.Modern warfare unlike in the past is done by weapons of `mass` destruction.
Even if atrocities are committed they must be brought out in the open and hopefully the perpetrators face justice one day -in history books if not in this life.
Govind

Subodh said...

It looks to me there are some political forces trying to stop quickly the total defeat of LTTE. Bringing this charge may stop the Sri Lankan army from doing just that - totally defeating the Tigers. However, more the conflict prolongs, more people are going to die. LTTE is finished so it has to be totally annihilated for good. Other moderate Tamils will take up the leadership and negotiate a respectable peace with the central government.

HORATIO said...

Pardon my cynicism. Bringing out atrocities into the open, after the fact, will not prevent any war crimes; and history is usually written by the victors and may not be a reflection of reality.