UN Human Rights Council

Inder Comar Speaks to The United Nations Council on Human Rights

The Iraq War is by no means over, and during the fifteen years since its launch, the initial invasion and its aftermath have taken thousands of civilian and military lives, left a trail of ongoing civil and political chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, and left power vacuums and spheres of disputed influence across the middle east. On the 15-year anniversary of the invasion, our founder Inder Comar spoke to assembled audience at a March 15th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Inder’s words began with a discussion of the 2003 events surrounding the invasion and placed these events in a context, an era of ongoing encroachments on international law that may signal an existential threat to modern democracy. 

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Accountability and the Rule of Law

The rule of law exists in perpetual conflict with the rule of might, and in functional democratic societies, the rule of law defines criminal behavior and holds perpetrators accountable. The concept of international criminal law is not new, but the possibility of borderless accountability for the most grievous crimes against humanity—including genocide, torture, and human trafficking—took a significant step forward during the trials of Nuremberg. It was at this point that the global community named and began to define the crime of “aggression”, an illegal, unjustified act of war or invasion. 

The jus cogens prohibition against aggression does not permit any derogation and must be upheld by all member nations of the global community. The UN Charter prohibits violence against one state by another under all circumstances with only two exceptions: Acts of self-defense and acts granted explicit approval by the UN Security Council.

Since the Iraq war involved neither of these exemptions, the initial invasion and lack of accountability for the proceeding actions and events (including human rights violations and attacks against non-combatant civilians) represent disregard for the UN Charter and violations of international law.

To date, no high-ranking US government employee involved in this act of aggression has been prosecuted for war crimes, a circumstance that undermines the strength of the United Nations and grants a foothold to an increasing global threat of despotism and tyranny.

A functioning world order is made possible by a fundamental principle: no person stands above the law. If this principle is undermined or threatened, the door opens to a cascade of abuses that have historically altered the fates of otherwise thriving nations and peoples. These abuses include pernicious propaganda, a concentration of economic power in the hands of the few, and violations of civil and human rights, often in the name of security.

At our current moment in history, due to the abuses above and a growing lack of accountability for those in positions of power, we appear to be entering—or rather returning—to an age defined by humanitarian crises. Not since the days of ancient Rome have so many been controlled by the actions and self-interest of so few. 

But as Inder makes clear in his statement to the United Nations, one solution to this growing crisis may lie in creating accountability for the Iraq War.

Holding high ranking American officials responsible for their participation in an illegal invasion-- an act of aggression built on propaganda, false intelligence, and disregard for international law and order-- can potentially accomplish three important goals that can slow our current global trajectory toward a dark and chaotic future. This accountability may:

Restore international order based on the rule of law

Reset a bias in international law against impoverished nations

Provide justice to the victims of the Iraq War.

Those who abuse the United Nations to further a harmful and self-serving agenda must face appropriate censure and consequences in order to preserve a global future founded on the rule of law and safe from the allure of empire and authoritarianism.

The primary points of Inder’s speech align with the goals of Just Atonement: We seek to protect global justice and respect for international law. The Iraq War and its aftermath present us with a concrete opportunity to take action on our core principles. Read the text of the speech by clicking the link above and please consider joining our mission.

Our Official Recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council

Just Atonement has succeeded in publishing a series of recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council, and we’re proud of this small victory and incremental step toward reducing immunity for high ranking government officials who commit war crimes, engage in acts of aggression, or test the boundaries of nascent international law related to the sanctity of human rights. Read the text of our paper here, and skim the question and answer session below.

Why do government leaders rarely face legal penalties after committing acts that violate human rights?

We are often asked why government leaders are rarely held accountable for war crimes and acts of international aggression, and why  these leaders are protected by domestic laws that separate personal accountability from “official actions”, or actions they engaged in for the presumed good of the nation while holding public office.

The answer is that many times these officials are presumed to be acting at the behest and in the best interest of their electorate, judges and courts oftentimes hold that government leaders are entitled to immunity, even when they  for example, commit acts of torture, aggression, or violations of international treaties and charters.

When do human rights violations become subject to trial and punishment?

According to international law, immunities of government leaders are weakened or removed after the perpetrator leaves office. At that point, an act of aggression may become subject to penalty depending on the motivation behind the act. For example, a government leader may be accused of acting in a personal, or non-official, capacity if he or she exploited a government resource to enrich a family business while in office. Any act that cannot be connected to the benefit of the state may—after the governing period ends—be considered a personal action.

Are there some real-life cases in which the boundaries between the personal and professional have been tested?

Yes! These cases and precedents are the subject of our short paper. In these four pages, one of the cases we summarize is the case of Saleh v. Bush, in which the plaintiff and litigant intended to hold individual members of the Bush administration accountable for the actions of the Iraq War.  

Why did we submit this paper?

Our paper presents a list of recommendations to the UN Human Right Council based on the implications of the cases we describe (Saleh v. Bush, Congo v. Belgium, the Pinochet Case). Just Atonement believes that government leaders must be subject, as individuals, to the statutes of international law forbidding war crimes and acts of aggression. Immunity from such crimes must be lifted in order to protect the rule of law and give merit to treaties and international charters forbidding these actions.

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Saleh v. Bush at the UN!

We are so thrilled that the Saleh v. Bush case was explained and submitted in a written statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva!

Saleh v. Bush was the case that was the genesis for Just Atonement Inc. ("JAI"), and in collaboration with Witness Iraq, we at JAI are dedicated to continuing the fight for accountability for those people who illegally invaded Iraq.

As part of those efforts, JAI was able to submit this written statement to the UN Human Rights Council, explaining the importance of the case, and urging the United Nations to take action.

Click here to read our submitted statement to the United Nations about the Saleh case.

 

Headed to the Human Rights Council 33rd Session in Geneva!

We're thrilled to be head to Geneva in a couple weeks to attend the 33rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council!

Our Executive Director will be giving a side lecture on discrimination in the United States, with a particular focus on religious and racial discrimination.

We'll be posting materials through then, and will post the discussion as well once it goes down!

More exciting news to come!