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The International Criminal Court: The judicial branch of imperialism

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

27 November 2023

The international criminal court in The Hague.

In the context of the Zionist genocide in Gaza, a number of personalities and Palestinian solidarity organisations have asked that Netanyahu and others be put on trial by the International Criminal Court.  This will not happen, that court has been described in vulgar but accurate terms as a stinker.  It is true, its putrid stench is nauseating and the history of international tribunals is full of hypocrisy, even when they judge people who should be tried and punished.

We all know of the Nuremberg Tribunal where the Nazis were put on trial.  A correct decision, but Harris the man responsible for the fire-bombing of Dresden that killed 30,000 civilians was not tried, nor were other Allied criminals.  In Tokyo, the Indian judge, Radha Binod Pal argued that the USA should be tried for the atomic bombs used against purely civilian targets.  But they didn’t.  In more recent times we have seen international tribunals try one group of people but not another.

One of the first tribunals in recent times was the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  That tribunal tried a significant number of war criminals, amongst them people as vile as Ratko Mladi?, the butcher of Srebrenica, where they murdered more than 8,000 men and boys.  In all, 111 people were tried, but there were those who they never ever considered putting on trial.  Following the war, two high-ranking British officials took advantage of their contacts in the Serbian government and in the name of the British Natwest Bank facilitated the privatisation of Serbian Telecom.  It has been said that not only did that save Slobodan Miloševi? but that he used those funds for his later war in Kosovo.  The British officials who collaborated with someone who was nothing more than a war criminal were none other than Pauline Neville-Jones, Britian’s key diplomat in the Yugoslav crisis, seen by many as appeasing Miloševi? and her boss the Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd.(1)  Of course, no one ever proposed trying them for facilitating the war in Kosovo.

Perhaps a clearer example of not trying Europeans is the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  That tribunal decided upon various despicable crimes such as murder, rape and sexual slavery.  It also decided upon another issue, particularly in the case of Charles Taylor, that of what are termed Blood Diamonds.  Though in reality it did no such thing.  The tribunal rightly tried Taylor, but never looked at the role of the Belgians or the South Africans in the trade of Blood Diamonds.  Any black person would do, but no whites, no businesspeople from the sector.  The company De Beers is a key player in the market, not only as far as production is concerned, but also in the sale of diamonds from other companies, controlling 80% of the market.  But in the Sierra Leone tribunal, they didn’t even think of looking at the role of companies such as those.

They also set up a tribunal for Iraq, though it was supposedly set up by the “new government”. They tried various high-ranking officials from the Saddam Hussein regime, amongst them his once upon a time minister of defence, due to his use of gas against the Kurdish people, known as Chemical Alí.  The regime massacred thousands of Kurds, wiped off the face of the earth whole towns, displaced the Kurds and tried to repopulate those areas with Iraqis.  Something similar to what Israel does with the Palestinians.  There can be no doubt about the regime’s responsibility for war crimes and also for the crime of genocide.  But who sold them the gas they used against the Kurds?

Up to 40 German and European companies were involved in supplying the raw materials and know how to Saddam.(2)  Yet this was not an issue for the West.  A Dutch court eventually sentenced one person to 15 years in jail.(3)  However, Frans van Anrat was arrested and tried after the Saddam regime had been destroyed, not before.  No one sought to arrest him and imprison him when the regime was an ally of the West.  In 2023, another Dutch court ordered a Dutch company to compensate five Iranians injured in those chemical attacks.(4)  But the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, so why were the directors of the company not charged?  Previously, in 2013, a group of Iraqi Kurds tried to sue a French company that had supplied chemicals to Saddam.(5)  So far, they have made little progress on that matter.  However, recently the French courts saw no problem in issuing arrest warrants for the Syrian president, Assad over the use of chemical weapons.(6)  US involvement in the supply of chemicals has not been subject to such judicial investigations, nor will it ever be.

The US, however, did not just supply chemicals, it actively participated in their use.  According to Foreign Policy, a magazine that could hardly be described as progressive or opposed to US foreign policy in general, in the war with Iran, Iraq repeatedly used chemical agents, with the US providing satellite imagery to help Iraq target Iranian forces more successfully.(7)

So, evidence is not a key factor in deciding who gets tried by international tribunals and who doesn’t.  Political expediency is the key factor, trumping all others.  Justice is not what is sought, though it may be an unintended consequence in some cases.  Justice would see all those involved being brought to trial.  But many of them pay the wages of the prosecutors and the judges and even pay for the logistics of these tribunals.

The ICC is no different.  Its wages are paid by the states who carry out the greatest human rights violations in the world.  The refusal to arrest Tony Blair or Netanyahu is not an oversight.  They will never bite their master’s hand.  To date the ICC has dealt with 31 cases, including one for genocide.  All of these cases were against black African leaders, some of whom relied on western complicity in their crimes. Their western accomplices will never face charges.  If western generals, politicians and companies don’t face charges when they are directly involved in war crimes and genocide, they are not going to face charges when they are murky figures in the shadows.

It is highly unlikely that Israel will be brought before the ICC, though sacrificing some lower ranking officers is not beyond the realm of possibility, though it is also highly unlikely.  Placing our faith in an international court which has shown itself to be nothing more than the judicial branch of imperialism is a mistake.  In principle there is nothing wrong in taking a case, but believing you will get justice at the court is a criminal level of naivety and gullibility.  It dismissed cases against US allies such as Colombia, but immediately opened a file on Venezuela after the deaths of some protestors.  When the Colombian police murdered over 80 protestors in 2021, the ICC looked on passively, just as it does now in the face of a Zionist campaign of genocide in Gaza.  One day it is to be hoped that the prosecutors and judges of that court are put on trial for their own role in facilitating the repression and murder of people around the world.  But it won’t be the current western regimes that do that.


(1)  The Guardian (13/05/2010) Pauline Neville-Jones: diplomat who did business with Milosevic. Ian Traynor and Richard Norton Taylor

(2)  GfvB (13/03/2008) German and European firms were involved.

(3)  BBC (23/12/2005) Saddam’s ‘Dutch Link’.

(4)  AP (15/11/2023) Dutch court orders company to compensate 5 Iranian victims of mustard gas attacks in the 1980s.

(5)  RFI (11/06/2013) Iraqi Kurds sue French companies for Halabja chemical attack.

(6)  Reuters (15/11/2023) France issues arrest warrant for Syria's President Assad – source

(7)  Foreign Policy (26/08/2013) Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran. Shane Harris & Matthew M. Aid.

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