UN Human Rights Council Meeting in Geneva: A Summary of the Panel Discussion “Invasion and Occupation of Iraq”

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On March 15, 2018, during the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, a panel discussion took place that featured the words of our founder, Inder Comar. As outlined in the previous post, Inder discussed current threats to modern democracy, including a resurgence of authoritarianism and a growing concentration of economic power in the hands of the few. On the anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a still-unresolved conflict responsible for the loss and disruption of countless lives, our founder’s words focused on the importance of accountability to a sustainable system of international law.

The other speakers on the panel also contributed key points to the primary theme: How international resistance coalesced prior to the invasion, how that resistance was circumvented by the architects of the conflict, the response of the high-ranking government officials in the US and the UK to UN Charter prohibitions, and the resulting violation of international law that the invasion represented. Here’s a brief summary of each contribution to the session.

Mr. Jan Lonn, the Chair of the Swedish Network Against the War in Iraq, served as the first speaker on the panel. Mr. Lonn discussed the initial rise of the International Criminal Court, which clearly defined the illegality of wars of aggression, but at a point too late to prevent the events of 2003. While the ICC arose after the invasion had been set in place, its core precept is now up for ratification and may present an opportunity for the global community to take a step toward accountability. Very little could have stopped the aggressors and instigators of the war in 2003, but lessons of the conflict and the upcoming ratification of this provision may serve to deter similar events in the future.

The second speaker, Mr. Ahmed Al-Quraishi, shared his experiences as a journalist on the ground during and after the initial invasion. He outlined the groundwork for the war, which had been laid out and planned as early as the mid-1990s. Mr. Al-Quraishi described how such conflicts can represent a wide range of profit opportunities for those who stand to buy, sell, provide services, train fighting forces, or engage as intermediaries during times of disruption. Acts of war are inextricably connected to economics and labor trends, and actions often generate unpredictable reactions, as when the disbanding of the well-trained Iraqi army led unemployed soldiers to contribute their skills to insurgent forces.

The third speaker, Sabah Al-Mukhtar, discussed the remote prospect of accountability at any point in the foreseeable future. While the invasion represented a clear violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter, and a clear act of aggression as would later be defined by the ICC, and also a clear and ongoing violation of countless human rights, opportunities for justice and retribution have so far been few. Though education, infrastructure, stability, and transparency in Iraq have been decimated, it’s impossible to turn back the clock, and the only path leads forward.

Please feel free to review the key points of each speaker during the panel discussion. Through careful retrospective examination, we can slowly build a complete picture of the events surrounding this ongoing humanitarian disaster and determine what it can teach us about the future of international justice.