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April 18, 2015
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
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Current Concerns  >  2008  >  No 8, 2008  >  How just must a Global Court be? [printversion]

How just must a Global Court be?

Open Letter to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo

by Jurgen Todenhöfer*

Dear Mr Moreno Ocampo,
Like many who believe in the universal validity of human rights, I welcome your intention to investigate  the actions of the Sudanese President Omar Hassa al Baschir in court. Crimes against humanity must in any case be prosecuted. As you have correctly made clear, it does not make a difference if the perpetrator is an acting head of state. Once you have the evidence you must indict.
As a former justice, however, I have to ask why you are not exercising the same perserverence and the same demand for justice against those who are responsible for the Iraq War – namely US President George W. Bush or the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The justifications for the Iraq War were untrue and therefore the war itself, according to the then General Secretary of the United Nations Kofi  Annan was “illegal”; it was a violation of international law. It was apparent to everyone that there were no issues of national security involved. There was no resolution of the UN Security Council. Even the Federal High Court in Germany declared the Iraq War a violation of international law in 2005.
According to the results of an independent American-Iraqi “Lancet Study” more than 600,000 civilians have died from this war aggression – the majority killed by US troops. In 2008 the independent British institute ORB has likewise determined that over one million people have lost their lives so far in this conflict. One million have been wounded, nearly five million are refugees. Their suffering and their deaths must not go unpunished.
The International Criminal Court needs to ask itself if it wants to be a court for the entire world based on laws that apply to all, or whether it shall choose just to be a Criminal Court of the West against the rest of the world – a court of the most powerful against weaker nations. The fact that so far only political leaders of smaller nations have been prosecuted raises some doubts.
You could make the formal argument that the US, in contrast to Great Britain, never ratified the law establishing the International Criminal Court, and that therefore it is not possible to bring charges against the US president. But in that case you also couldn’t charge the Sudanese president, since his country also does not recognize the International Criminal Court.
In the court opinion of the Nuremberg Trials it was stated that “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
The American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson – your predecessor to some extent – stated then “We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. [...] Justice in war does not only apply to criminals of the vanquished nations.”
A young Muslim woman recently asked me how many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians a western head of state could kill with impunity. How should any believer in universal values such as human dignity and justice answer this question? I would be grateful if you could tell me on what grounds you refuse to bring charges against George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
Jurgen Todenhöfer


*Jurgen Todenhöfer is the manager of a German media group and for 18 years was a Christian Democrat representative in the Bundestag. He has studied the situation in the Middle East extensively and has traveled frequently throughout the region.  His book on Islamic extremism - Warum tötest du, Zaid? (Why do you kill, Zaid?) - will shortly appear in English translation.
His open letter to Luis Moreno Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor to the International Criminal Court, appeared in the Berliner Zeitung on July 19, 2008.