human rights news & views

War criminals in business suits

Business suits or pantyhose. Former British PM Margaret Thatcher is said to consult her lawyers before travelling abroad for fear of being arrested for international crimes (for ordering the sinking of Argentine warship the General Belgrano as it sailed away from the conflict during the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982, at the expense of 323 lives).

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unnerved by the 1998 arrest of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet in London.

Why? Because even though former President Pinochet has yet to be successfully prosecuted, an irrefutable precedent has been set: political leaders are not above the law. As far back as the Nuremberg Tribunal, individuals, no matter how augusto, have been tried for international crimes. To claim sovereign immunity for, say, torture or genocide, would be to suggest that these were proper functions of the state (so argued the UK House of Lords when it decided Pinochet could be extradited to face trial in Spain).

A war crime is a grave breach of a Geneva Convention. There are some breaches of Geneva law that do not have the status of war crimes (such as undermining the power of the red cross emblem to save lives in time of conflict by putting it over your pharmacy door). ‘Grave breaches’, however, include "wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial," to quote the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC).

By defining Salim Ahmed Hamdan and, thereby, his fellow Guantánamo inmates, as prisoners of war entitled to the protection of international humanitarian law — an entitlement thus far denied — the recent US Supreme Court case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld exposes a fresh crop of potential war criminals. Those responsible for depriving Guantánamo Bay inmates of a fair trial have committed a grave breach of the third Gevena Convention and a war crime.

Reflecting on David Hicks‘ detention at Guantánamo, Geoffrey Robertson argued in his Kenneth Myer lecture this month,

‘there must come a point at which Australian law officers who wilfully authorise or approve an unfair and irregular trial of an Australian citizen become complicit in a grave breach of international law.’

Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, who has thus far received poor advice on matters of international law ("I would love to see the advice!" says Defence Counsel Dan Mori), may wish to note: War crimes may be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague or, at first resort, in national courts that have the benefit of relevant legislation. Australia does not have universal jurisdiction legislation, and suffers from weak war crimes legislation, but it is a member of the ICC. If Australia is unwilling or unable to try war crimes committed since 1 July 2002 (when the ICC came into being) they may be tried on the global stage at The Hague.


  1. 10 September 2006 | 5:57 am

    SOME OLD NEWS FROM PHILIP RUDDOCK.He has no feeling or empathy for anyone except his stamp collection.

    PHILIP RUDDOCK is now Australia’s Attorney General.Philip Ruddock is also known as the “Walking Cadaver.”


    The following is an article from the “Sydney Morning Herald”September, 17th, 1996.
    The Government will cap and kill applications by Australians to bring their overseas spouses into Australia a move which would see long-term separations of married couples unless the Opposition allows through the Senate tough new measures to curb applications.
    The Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock,said the draconian move,allowable under present law but never used in relation to spouses, would help curb huge increases in applications for spouses, some of which were shams, but others ‘a fraud on Australians’.
    Under present practise,applications for offshore spouses to come are allowed regardless of the quota set.Mr Ruddock wants to enforce his quota by a cap and queue regulation, making applicants after the qouta is reached to wait, possibly for months, until heading the queue for next years intake.
    But in the face of Labor opposition in the Senate, he threatened to use his general cap and kill power to terminate applications made post-qouta.This would force Australians to apply again next year on equal terms with next year’s applicants, causing indefinite separations.
    Mr Ruddock’s threat, which contradicts the Coalition’s strong pro-family rhetoric but is part of a clampdown on migration numbers,was denounced by Labor’s immigration spokeman, Mr Duncan Kerr, as social engineering.
    The Opposition last week knocked off in the Senate one of several changes to regulations to tighten elegibility for ‘preferential family’ migration,available to spouses and aged parents.Mr Kerr told the Herald Labor would also disallow Mr Ruddock’s ‘cap and queue’ regulation.
    Mr Ruddock told the Herald that if people who had already applied were allowed in,the progam would overstep this year’s 36,700 quota by about 13,000.Rather than allow an overshoot, he would use his general power under current law to cap and kill,unless Labor stopped trying to micro-manage his immigration program by disallowing regulations in the Senate.
    Mr Kerr said that ‘Australians have always exercised their own choice on who they’ll marry,and I don’t believe any red-blooded Australian will allow the Government to force couples to queue up to live together.Now he’s saying if he can’t queue them he’ll cut them off.
    ‘If you meet and marry in January,thats OK,but if you’re a December bride or groom you mightn’t be able to get your spouse in for years.’
    Mr Ruddock said he did not regard cap and terminate as the best outcome, but if it is necessary I will be applying it.
    He said Labor had maintained a steady 37,000 quota for four years,before lifting it last year to 50,000.Many people had reported partners ‘walking out the door as soon as they arrive in Australia.’ ‘The fraud is being occasioned on Australians by people seeking to migrate,’ he said.
    Mr Kerr blamed the increase on the wash-up of the Tiananmen Square massacre,under which Labor granted 40,000 Chinese people refugee status.But Mr Ruddock said there rises in applications accross the board, and the percentage increase was as great in England.”
    Article from the Sydney Morning Herald.August, 25th, 1997.

    “reactionary bean counters’ viewed families as a burden and believed the only people who should be allowed to migrate to Australia were individuals with money.
    Australia was simply lucky to get away with those old discriminations but we will not be so lucky again.The world turned on apartheid South Africa.I don’t want Australia to become the new world target because racism is allowed to penetrate our political and administritive systems.”
    [From the outgoing head of the Ethnic Communties Council of NSW.]

    JOHN HOWARD-The Lying Rodent.John Howard wants free trade but not the free movement of people.He thinks Australias biggest assets are its sheep, coal and uranium not people.He says he has the final solution to our problems “Too many people.”

    The Blacklist
    “Philip Ruddock gazetted regulations when he was Australia’s immigration minister[number S241 of 1997] to stop visitors from many countries coming to Australia and among them is Poland.[Israel is also on the list as well as the following countries-Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritius, Nauru, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Yugoslavia].”
    More at

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