EARLY-MORNING-CANTER-473-
Bluebells-in-West-Woods-10-05-09------30
Civic-Service-18
Torch-2012-05-23093-
Marlborough-under-snow-from-above---Pete-Davies
Animals06
Marlborough-2013-04-18StPeters
Remebrance-18-3
IMG9097
Brooks-Williams1
JazzFestSat572
D4S0472
Mop-Fair---10-10-09------08
Landscape
Sunset
White-Horse
Brazier
1stXV-and-others-with-Mayor
IMG8472
FROSTY-MORNING-
George-Wilding-301
D4S9273
Inbox-1
Inbox2
Christmas-Lights15-11-20097
Sunset2
MYFC005
Hares017cropped
Camilla-MSM
Musical-Time-Machine5
TdB-Pewsey044
Duke-of-Kent086
Camilla-2012-10-19152
Gordon-and-Sam
YELLOWHAMMER-473-
BABRURY-XC-JUMP-473
D812668
Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08-----07
4MI-2013-11-28030
Tina-May5
Ogbourne
Turin-Brakes6
Scouting-for-Girls7
MBORO-HOCKEY-YOUTH-473
Inquisitive-sheep-in-West-Overton
SBJ
Pete-Gage-Band1
Town-Hall-2011-05-0308-
Roving-Crows1
Remebrance-18-1
Big-Bull
Snowy-High-Street
Remebrance-18-2

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Red lines ....and blurred lines

 

Before the centenary of the First World War gives way to the eightieth anniversaries of the Second World War, we should stop for a moment and consider how far we are regressing in the fields of law and human rights as careful internationalism is elbowed out of the way by heedless nationalism. 

In 1918 the issue of trying 'war criminals' raised its head. In Britain, calls to 'hang the Kaiser' infected the General Election called immediately after the Armistice - the vote was 14 December 1918.

Eventually, in 1921, some war crimes trials were held with charges against military men of the defeated nations. It may seem bizarre to us now, but the trials were held in the German Supreme Court - in Leipzig.   

One of the war crimes considered by the court was one of several instances of U-boats sinking hospital ships.  This case concerned the British hospital ship Llandovery Castle and the loss of 234 lives.  It is fair to say that the trials were not very successful - they were later referred to in terms of 'farce'.  

But they were a start - the German court ruled unequivocally "Any violation of the law of nations in warfare is...a punishable offence."  They advanced international law - an advance that may seem small from this distance in time, but that became significant.

These trials were instrumental when politicians and lawyers were establishing war crimes trials after the Second World War - including the Nuremberg Tribunal.  And those war crimes trials set the foundations for modern international military and criminal law.

One hundred years on from the identification of the sinking of the hospital ship Llandovery Castle as a war crime, and hospitals are still seen by some regimes as legitimate targets - for instance in Syria and in the Yemen. (The latter case almost certainly involving British supplied armaments.)

Why is that possible? Did we think that the careful Geneva Conventions and all the laws of war had got us beyond that?

In Syria the state has been targeting hospitals its own hospitals and its own people.  One British surgeon guiding a complex surgical operation in a 'rebel held' hospital via Skype (and similar digital connections) is certain that hospital was targeted when the Syrian authorities traced where the Skype signal was being received.  

Other hospitals have been hit during the Syrian civil war.  They may not have had Red Cross/Red Crescent symbols on their roofs, but hospitals do feature on town plans.

(Incidentally, it has recently been revealed that the Syrian regime targeted and killed the journalist Marie Colvin by tracing signals from her satellite phone.  The French photojournalist she was working with was also killed.)

Part of the problem is, of course, that much of the law of war was drawn up to regulate wars between state armies.  Civil wars and a-symmetrical wars involving non-uniformed and often untrained and not appropriately commanded forces, do not yet have their rules and laws.  They may never get them.

However, it is obvious that 'war crimes' are still being committed by both sides in such wars whether terror organisation against terror organisation or state versus terrorists. And have been committed by both sides in Syria. 

Now we come to those 'red lines'.  Chemical weapons are forbidden by a straightforward, uncomplicated international convention - so in some ways they are the most straightforward war crimes when it comes to punishing those who use them.  

They are also a uniquely vile and cruel way of killing your enemy and they are indiscriminate - they kill civilians.  They have become a convenient 'red line'.  But, sadly, one that implies that any method of killing except chemical weapons is to be tolerated.

Why, it is pertinent to ask, was there not a 'red line' held to by western nations and other Arab nations, which said that use of 'barrel bombs' dropped from the air will automatically bring down punishment?  They too are weapons of terror - if terrorists could deliver them they would do so. They too are indiscriminate - they kill civilians.  

Indeed, 'barrel bombs' are almost certainly designed, built and delivered to kill civilians - as are chemical weapons - and as such, they are forbidden by the laws of war.

We know that war crimes charges could be brought.  Syrian leaders - including Assad - should end up at the International Criminal Court (ICC). They could be charged with crimes against humanity - the jurisprudence of which began during the Second World War and were first given some substance by the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Instead we are simply regressing.  We have a Prime Minister who told electors she would dilute human rights laws that hindered the pursuit of terrorists - who apparently finds the phrase 'international law' hard to utter - who stated her government would withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights who is now overseeing the re-writing in secret of British rules on the use of torture.

Great Britain signed the Convention against Torture in 1985.  Torture is - or ought to be - a 'red line' for British politicians.  Why do they behave as though they are, when it suits them, above the law and beyond the reach of international law?  Are they taking lessons from Syria's dictator?

Or are our politicians simply following our closest ally and its President - who calls for more waterboarding and puts in charge of the CIA a woman who apparently oversaw a secret U.S. 'Black site' - or torture centre.

 

Print

SBJ
Gordon-and-Sam
Marlborough-2013-04-18StPeters
Landscape
Brazier
Remebrance-18-3
Marlborough-under-snow-from-above---Pete-Davies
White-Horse
Brooks-Williams1
4MI-2013-11-28030
ARKManton-2012-01-1449-
Duke-of-Kent086
Civic-Service-18
Camilla-MSM
Pete-Gage-Band1
Ogbourne
1stXV-and-others-with-Mayor
CivicSelfie1
Mop-Fair---10-10-09---08
Big-Bull
Bluebells-in-West-Woods-10-05-09---30
Torch-2012-05-23093-
IMG8472
Remebrance-18-1
JazzFestSat572
Remebrance-18-2
Scouting-for-Girls7
IMG9097
Camilla-2012-10-19152
Christmas-Lights15-11-20097
Animals06
Musical-Time-Machine5
Sunset2
D4S9273
Snowy-High-Street
Sunset
Turin-Brakes6
Inquisitive-sheep-in-West-Overton
Town-Hall-2011-05-0308-
MYFC005
Silbury-Sunset---10-06-08---07
Tina-May5
George-Wilding-301
D4S0472
D812668
TdB-Pewsey044
Roving-Crows1
Hares017cropped