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by Benjamin B. Ferencz
Thursday, Sep. 20, 2001 at 5:46 PM
Instead of war: "The United States should draw up an indictment against Osama Bin Laden and all of the terrorist groups known to the FBI, alleging the commission of crimes against humanity, details of which should be specified.... The US indictments should be submitted to the governments of Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and any other nations where such terrorist groups may be operating."
After September 11: Thoughts on What Can Be Done
Web Posting, September 18, 2001
Perhaps some of the tears have dried and people can begin to think rationally about the horrors of the past week and what we can do to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies. As one who has witnessed such atrocities and who has looked into the unrepentant eyes of mass killers, please allow me to share some thoughts that I hope may help move us toward a less violent world where all may live in peace and human dignity. The basic thrust of my thinking is that we should try to rely more on law than war.
Hijacking passenger planes and deliberately and intentionally smashing them into large buildings, thereby causing the death of thousands of innocent civilians is clearly a crime against humanity. With origins going back to antiquity, the judicial punishment of such crimes at the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War was affirmed by the United Nations and in many courts since that time. The United States played a leading role in establishing that as a universally binding legal principle.
Any person, without regard to nationality or the capacity in which he acted, is deemed to have committed the crime if he was a principle or accessory, took a consenting part therein or was connected with any organization or group connected with the commission of the crime. Under common principle of criminal law, anyone who aids or abets a crime, before or after its commission, thereby becomes an accessory to the crime and is liable to punishment.
The United States should draw up an indictment against Osama Bin Laden and all of the terrorist groups known to the FBI, alleging the commission of crimes against humanity, details of which should be specified.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368 of 12 September 2001 called upon all States urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators and organizers of these terrorist attacks and stressed that those responsible for aiding or harboring the perpetrators would be held accountable. The US indictments should be submitted to the governments of Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and any other nations where such terrorist groups may be operating. The US should request that all persons believed to be connected with the crimes should be held hold for interrogation by US officials. A 10-day time limit should be adequate
The Security Council, acting pursuant to its UN Charter authority, should be called upon to create an international military force (as envisaged by the Charter) to help carry out the SC mandate. The force can be composed of volunteers from NATO or other nations, similar to the force used in the Gulf War.
Should, as expected, Afghanistan refuse or fail to cooperate, the United States should withdraw its recognition of the government in power and recognize the opposition groups as the legitimate government. Economic and military aid should be provided to the opposition to help them gain power over their country. The US can also use economic sanctions as a persuasive carrot and stick to obtain cooperation from all nations.
In the unfortunate absence of any permanent international criminal court, the Security Council, following its own precedents, can quickly set up an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to try the accused - as was done with US support - for the crimes against humanity committed in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The trials should be absolutely fair. I would have no objection to fair trials in the US, but the world would doubt that it would be possible under the prevailing circumstances. If found guilty, the defendants could be incarcerated in the US - and we could throw away the key!
I have experienced the horrors of war and I cannot bear to see the destruction and the pained eyes of those digging in the ruins or the helpless relatives refusing to accept what they know is now inevitable. I have flashbacks of riding over the ruins of St. Lo in Normandy where the sky was black with American bombers and the earth rocked as a French city was reduced to rubble. I smell the smoke of Wurzburg burning when we dropped incendiary bombs that burned every house to the ground, leaving only ghostly walls standing. I recall the emaciated corpses at Buchenwald and Mauthausen and a host of other charnel houses. And I remember Berlin when the Russians got through with it. I see my remorseless Nuremberg defendants who killed over a million people, including the murder of 33,771 innocent men woman and children at Babi Yar on Sept. 29 and 30, 1941 - the Jewish High Holy Days. All this may help explain the trauma that drives me to try to prevent war.
We must try to understand the causes of the violence and try to diminish the hatreds that encourage people to kill or be killed for their particular cause. This requires new thinking, a willingness to compromise, compassion and tolerance, a greater respect for the goals set down in the UN Charter and infinite patience. I am now approaching 82 and I have not given up hope. To those of all faiths, I extend my best wishes for peace and happiness.
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