The Defendants Are Absent

Istanbul is hosting the final meeting of the "World Tribunal on Iraq" which is made up of NGOs and aims to hold to account the US and its allies for the invasion of Iraq. Dorian Jones reports

from Istanbul

photo: &copy
"World Tribunal on Iraq" activists in front of the US embassy in Brussels are calling US-President Bush to the final session in Istanbul

​​Leading academics, writers and NGOs from around the world are convening in Istanbul for three days to discuss the legitimacy of the invasion of Iraq. In the view of US Professor Richard Falk, who is an expert in international law and a coordinator of the world tribunal, the meeting is of historic importance.

An expression for "moral globalisation"

The three days of hearings deal with a variety of issues, from the legal legitimacy of the invasion to the role of the media. Professor Falk stresses that it's more than just a gathering to condemn the invasion of Iraq:

"It represents an expression of what might be called moral globalisation, acting on the belief that no state no leader is above the law when it comes to matters of war and peace," Falk says.

The tribunal invited both the US and the UK to provide a defence for the invasion, but the offer was declined. A suggestion to appoint a representative to defend their actions was rejected by the organizers. While Professor Falk acknowledges that the tribunal should not be considered as a formal court of law, he says it does have legitimacy.

"If institutions of state and international society do not perform their role in upholding law then those who represent civil society have the right and duty to convene a tribunal of this sort," Falk argues.

The tribunal organizers claim a historic precedent was set during the Vietnam war when a similar meeting was held known as the "Russell tribunal". The Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes courts are also being cited as a justification to hold countries to account.

A worldwide undertaking to reclaim justice

In the last twelve months the tribunal has held meetings in more than 20 countries, as far apart as Indonesia and Germany. But the choice of the Turkish city of Istanbul for the final hearing was no coincidence according to Falk.

"Turkey was the country which refused to allow the invasion of Iraq through its territories, and Turkey being a neighbour of Iraq feels the bad effects of the war quite directly," Falk says.

While there are no formal sanctions that the tribunal can use against the US and the UK, the tribunal organizers will be seeking to take the moral high ground arguing that even the most powerful countries in the world should at least be held morally to account for their actions.

Dorian Jones


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'World Tribunal On Iraq' Website