by Yvonne Ridley
In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the
former US President and seven key members of his administration were
yesterday (Fri) found guilty of war crimes.
Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto
Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried
in absentia in Malaysia.
The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims
of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq
They included testimony from British man Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo
detainee and Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi who was tortured in the
notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously
delivered guilty verdicts against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their key legal
advisors who were all convicted as war criminals for torture and cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment.
Full transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant
material will now be sent to the Chief Prosecutor of the International
Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission is also asking that the names of
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, Addington and Haynes be
entered and included in the Commission's Register of War Criminals for
The tribunal is the initiative of Malaysia's retired Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad, who staunchly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He sat through the entire hearing as it took personal statements and
testimonies of three witnesses namely Abbas Abid, Moazzam Begg and Jameelah
Hameedi. The tribunal also heard two other Statutory Declarations of Iraqi
citizen Ali Shalal and Rahul Ahmed, another British citizen.
After the guilty verdict reached by five senior judges was delivered,
Mahathir Mohamad said: "Powerful countries are getting away with murder."
War crimes expert and lawyer Francis Boyle, professor of international law
at the University of Illinois College of Law in America, was part of the
After the case he said: "This is the first conviction of these people
anywhere in the world."
While the hearing is regarded by some as being purely symbolic, human rights
activist Boyle said he was hopeful that Bush and Co could soon find
themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.
"We tried three times to get Bush in Canada but were thwarted by the
Canadian Government, then we scared Bush out of going to Switzerland. The
Spanish attempt failed because of the government there and the same happened
Boyle then referenced the Nuremberg Charter which was used as the format for
the tribunal when asked about the credibility of the initiative in Malaysia.
He quoted: "Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating
in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit war
crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any person in execution of
such a plan."
The US is subject to customary international law and to the Principles of
the Nuremberg Charter said Boyle who also believes the week-long trial was
"almost certainly" being monitored closely by both Pentagon and White House
Professor Gurdial Singh Nijar, who headed the prosecution said: "The
tribunal was very careful to adhere scrupulously to the regulations drawn up
by the Nuremberg courts and the International Criminal Courts".
He added that he was optimistic the tribunal would be followed up elsewhere
in the world where "countries have a duty to try war criminals" and he cited
the case of the former Chilean dictator Augustine Pinochet who was arrested
in Britain to be extradited to Spain on charges of war crimes.
"Pinochet was only eight years out of his presidency when that happened."
The Pinochet case was the first time that several European judges applied
the principle of universal jurisdiction, declaring themselves competent to
judge crimes committed by former heads of state, despite local amnesty laws.
Throughout the week the tribunal was packed with legal experts and law
students as witnesses gave testimony and then cross examination by the
defence led by lawyer Jason Kay Kit Leon.
The court heard how
- Abbas Abid, a 48-year-old engineer from Fallujah in Iraq had his
fingernails removed by pliers.
- Ali Shalal was attached with bare electrical wires and electrocuted and
hung from a wall.
- Moazzam Begg was beaten, hooded and put in solitary confinement.
- Jameelah was stripped and humiliated, and was used as a human shield
whilst being transported by helicopter.
The witnesses also detailed how they have residual injuries till today.
Moazzam Begg, now working as a director for the London-based human rights
group Cageprisoners said he was delighted with the verdict, but added: "When
people talk about Nuremberg you have to remember those tried were all
prosecuted after the war.
"Right now Guantanamo is still open, people are still being held there and
are still being tortured there."
In response to questions about the difference between the Bush and Obama
Administrations, he added: "If President Bush was the President of
extra-judicial torture then US President Barak Obama is the President of
extra judicial killing through drone strikes. Our work has only just begun."
The prosecution case rested on proving how the decision-makers at the
highest level President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defence
Rumsfeld, aided and abetted by the lawyers and the other commanders and CIA
officials – all acted in concert. Torture was systematically applied and
became an accepted norm.
According to the prosecution, the testimony of all the witnesses exposed a
sustained perpetration of brutal, barbaric, cruel and dehumanising course of
conduct against them.
These acts of crimes were applied cumulatively to inflict the worst possible
pain and suffering, said lawyers.
The president of the tribunal Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus Lamin,
found that the prosecution had established beyond a "reasonable doubt that
the accused persons, former President George Bush and his co-conspirators
engaged in a web of instructions, memos, directives, legal advice and action
that established a common plan and purpose, joint enterprise and/or
conspiracy to commit the crimes of Torture and War Crimes, including and not
limited to a common plan and purpose to commit the following crimes in
relation to the "War on Terror" and the wars launched by the U.S. and others
in Afghanistan and Iraq."
President Lamin told a packed courtroom: "As a tribunal of conscience, the
Tribunal is fully aware that its verdict is merely declaratory in nature.
The tribunal has no power of enforcement, no power to impose any custodial
sentence on any one or more of the 8 convicted persons. What we can do,
under Article 31 of Chapter VI of Part 2 of the Charter is to recommend to
the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission to submit this finding of conviction
by the Tribunal, together with a record of these proceedings, to the Chief
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United
Nations and the Security Council.
"The Tribunal also recommends to the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission that
the names of all the 8 convicted persons be entered and included in the
Commission's Register of War Criminals and be publicised accordingly.
"The Tribunal recommends to the War Crimes Commission to give the widest
international publicity to this conviction and grant of reparations, as
these are universal crimes for which there is a responsibility upon nations
to institute prosecutions if any of these Accused persons may enter their
Yvonne Ridley, British-born, award-winning journalist, made international
headlines when she was captured by the Taleban on an undercover assignment
in Afghanistan. She was a senior reporter for the Sunday Express at the
time, having spent nearly 10 years in Fleet Street working for several
prestige newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Observer, Daily Mirror
and Independent on Sunday.
[If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president
would have been hanged.--Noam Chomsky, "If the Nuremberg Laws
Were Applied...," chomsky.info, 1990]
Enver Masud, "Iraq War: 'Supreme
International Crime'," The Wisdom Fund, June 29, 2005
Tom Lasseter, "Guantanamo Often
Held the Wrong Men'," McClatchy Newspapers, June 15, 2008
Craig Whitlock, "European Nations
May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment," Washington
Post, April 22, 2009
[Professor Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois College of Law in
Champaign, U.S.A. has filed a Complaint with the Prosecutor for the
International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) in The Hague--"ICC Complaint Filed Against
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tent, Rice, Gonzales," democrats.com,
January 19, 2010]
PRESS RELEASE: "Bush and
Associates Found Guilty of Torture," Kuala Lumpur War Crimes
Tribunal, May 11, 2012
"Survivors File U.N. Complaint Against Canada for Failing to Prosecute
George W. Bush for Torture," Center for Constitutional Rights,
November 14, 2012
Erin Dooley, "CIA
Torture Report: The Most Stunning Findings," abcnews.go.com, December 9, 2014
Marcy Wheeler, "This was
Dick Cheney's coup: Why America's torture 'reform' is a total sham,"
salon.com, January 9, 2015