ICC Should Consider Designating NATO a 'Criminal Organisation', Says Former UN Expert
On 19 March 2003, the US launched Operation Shock and Awe against Iraq under a false pretext. The operation was just one in a string of illegal NATO invasions which still remain unpunished, says retired UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas.
Sputnik: You say that no violation of the Nuremberg Principles has been graver than the invasion, occupation and devastation of Iraq in 2003. What do you mean?
Alfred de Zayas: It was a veritable revolt against the Nuremberg Principles, international law and the international order, the cumulation of the crimes of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity - and all this with total impunity. The vastness of the operation, the viciousness of the bombardment, the destruction of world heritage sites and museums, the use of white phosphorus and cluster bombs, widespread torture at Abu Ghraib and other prisons including Guantanamo, the “extraordinary rendition” program - all this constituted “shock and awe” upon Iraqi victims, a demonstration of imperial power intended to convince the world of America’s hegemony.
It was not only the incompetent President George W Bush and his hawkish neo-con advisers who were behind this atrocity. Bush pulled in a “coalition of the willing” - 43 countries ostensibly committed to international law and human rights, Bush made them into accomplices in the assault against a hapless country and its population. The purpose was “regime change”, to topple the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, to steal Iraqi oil and strengthen NATO’s geopolitical presence in the Middle East. It was indeed “shock and awe” in the collective devastation of a country that was not threatening anyone.
Let us not forget that the UN Security Council had been seized of the Iraqi situation since 1991, that there was no reason, no urgency to do anything against the government of Iraq that was already cooperating with the UN. Two United Nations inspectors were performing their job on the ground - systematically searching for weapons of mass destruction - and not finding any. Hans Blix and Mohamed el-Baradei were both threatened by the United States to make a false finding that Saddam Hussein was in “material breach” of the relevant Security Council resolutions. This would have provided an “excuse”, a mantle of legality, for the US to invade Iraq with the blessing of the Security Council.
But Blix and el-Baradei never delivered the magic words “material breach”, and the UN had to withdraw its inspectors, because it became apparent that the US would attack with or without approval by the Security Council. The whole operation was criminal and deliberate. It is a disgrace that 90 percent of the West's media supported “shock and awe” and disseminated the fake news and intelligence coming from Washington and London.
Clearly George W Bush and Tony Blair should have been sent before an international criminal tribunal. But no. There was total impunity for them and for the other 'leaders' of democratic countries who participated in the bombing and looting. Only a Peoples’ Tribunal at Kuala Lumpur could be convened, and the judges did convict both Bush and Blair.
Sputnik: According to the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, western media played a great role in whitewashing the illegal US campaign. What's your take on the role western media played in world affairs, given that it still remains mute about eight-year genocide of Russian-speakers in Donbass, and peddling untruthful and distorted narrative of Russia's special operation today?
Alfred de Zayas: The western media has been complicit in NATO’s crimes not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. Our corporate media (I am an American citizen) engages in flagrant war propaganda and incitement to hatred – in 2003 against Iraq and the Iraqi people who supported Saddam Hussein, and today against Russia and Russians, who are depicted as aggressors and gross violators of human rights. This Russophobic propaganda did not start in 2022 - it has a long history going back to the Fifties and Joe McCarthy, going back to the demonisation of Brezhnev and Andropov, and more recently of Vladimir Putin.
The media systematically violates article 20(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits war propaganda, and article 20(2) which prohibits incitement to racial hatred and violence. Of course, our corporate media are in the service of whoever is in charge and their job is to act as echo chambers for whatever the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, M15 want to sell to the public.
They participated in the demonisation of Saddam Hussein and in the hysteria that accompanied the run-up to the invasion, which UN Secretary General Kofi Annan labelled an “illegal war” several times. Our media does not only disseminate “fake news” and bogus arguments, it also suppresses inconvenient facts, including the massive violations of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk Agreements by Ukraine, the savage shelling of Lugansk and Donetsk, the destruction of hospitals and schools. Anyone who wants to be informed about what is happening in Ukraine must also consult RT, Sputnik, CGTN, Asia Times, Telesur, Prensa Latina and “alternative media” such as Greyzone, the Intercept, Consortium News and Counterpunch.
Sputnik: Could one qualify NATO as a "criminal organisation" for purposes of Article 9 of the Statute of Rome of 8 August 1945 - the statute of the Nuremberg Tribunal? Is there ample evidence and necessary preconditions for it? How could this be done?
Alfred de Zayas: I would like to see Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch come out and call a spade a spade. I would like to see the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights engage in more than just “peace” rhetoric, but to formulate an implementable plan that guarantees a security architecture for all countries in Europe and the world. I would like to see the Secretary-General vindicate the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including the sovereign equality of states and the right of self-determination of all peoples, including the peoples of Crimea and Donbass.
It is time to demand an end to impunity for the crime of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity
. It is time to demand that the International Court of Justice declare in an Advisory Opinion that the eastern expansion of NATO entailed a “threat to international peace and security” for purposes of article 39 of the UN Charter and constituted a violation of article 2(4) of the Charter, which prohibits not only the use of force but also the threat of the use of force. How else can we describe the continuous expansion of NATO in violation of the assurances given to Gorbachev in 1989, 1990 and 1991?
How else can we describe the massive rearmament of Ukraine with only one purpose
– to intimidate Russia? NATO is certainly not a “defensive alliance” – at least not since the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991. NATO has been trying to usurp the role of the UN Security Council, which has exclusive responsibility for keeping peace and security in the world.
Of course, since the Security Council will never agree to impose a “Pax Americana” on the rest of the world, NATO unilaterally assumes the role of imperial policeman over the globe and establishes hundreds of military bases intended to encircle not only Russia, but China as well.
It should be the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by NATO countries in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. These crimes are documented not only in the publications of Wikileaks, but also in United Nations reports and countless eyewitness and victim testimonies.
An Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice could look into the question whether the number and magnitude of these crimes qualify NATO as a “criminal organisation” for purposes of Article 9 of the London Agreement of 8 August 1945. Of course, there are serious problems with the concept of a “criminal organisation”, because we all believe in individual justice and not in guilt by association.
It would be necessary to ensure the presumption of innocence of all members of a “criminal organisation” and guarantee due process as provided for in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. But questions concerning the crimes committed by NATO and NATO countries must be raised.
Bearing in mind that NATO has such a long track record of war crimes and crimes against humanity, it is important that history record this sad reality, and that civil society the world over reject the propaganda narratives and demand more transparency and accountability from the leaders of the US and all NATO countries. Here is a task for the International Criminal Court – to examine whether the violations of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of Rome by NATO countries justify calling NATO a “criminal organisation". Bottom line: International law is by definition universal, and it must be enforced not only against little countries, but against all members of the international community, objectively and without double-standards.
Alfred-Maurice de Zayas is the author of "Building a Just World Order" (2021).