UK Human Rights Group Criticizes Government Over Selective War Crimes Investigation


Britain's Attorney General's decision to refer the investigation of an alleged war crimes case against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to the Scotland Yard drew harsh criticism from the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).

The UK-based organization accused British authorities of failing to champion the cause of many more victims around the world, dubbing the investigation as "selective, biased and inconsistent".

One of IHRC's primary concerns, according to a press release issued by the group late last month, is "the fact that his (Saddam Hussein's) more serious record of acts of genocide, atrocities and human rights abuses...is conspicuously missing from the current war crimes probe."

IHRC raised the question, If "Saddam Hussein [is a] war criminal, what about Sharon?"

The brewing controversy came only days following orders by Attorney General Lord Williams of Mostyn to the British police to further investigate the hostage-taking by the Iraqi authorities of an estimated 4,500 British citizens and thousands of others from various nationalities during the Gulf crisis in 1990-91.

The investigation is considered a triumph for Indict, a London-based organization, which has spent five years compiling a case aimed at indicting both Saddam Hussein and his deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.

At the time that Williams perceived evidence provided to actualize such a case as insufficient, Indict's chairwomen, Labor MP Ann Clwyd told the BBC that chances are great in convicting the Iraqi president.

"Our lawyers tell us that we have got sufficient evidence, more than sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz on charges of hostage taking...so we are very optimistic," said Clwyd.

But although IHRC welcomed the "important step", it also held the West accountable for much of the Iraqi government's "crimes against its own population".

"The materials, technology and know-how to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction were siphoned to the regime by the West throughout its crimes against its own population, as well as during its war with Iran."

The group's chairman, Massoud Shadjareh went as far as describing the nature of the investigation as racist, asserting that "if the new investigations are rooted in genuine regard for justice, then they should be applied consistently not only to the taking of British hostages, but also to the other horrific war crimes committed by Saddam's regime as well as other regimes".

"This selectivity is a disregard to the memory of all those men, women and children who were brutally killed by Saddam's forces," Shadjareh added, "one can only see signs of racism in this".

While calls to investigate the conduct of Third World countries leaders are often raised in various Western capitals, atrocities committed by influential countries are often overlooked.

Efforts to investigate the Iraqi leadership's "war crimes" were preceded by similar attempts to try Libyan president Mu'ammar Qadhafi in France and an earlier decision by Britain to strip former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet of immunity, a needed step to prosecute him.

But Western governments are also criticized for being themselves direct perpetrators of war crimes, acts that often pass by without being seriously confronted.

IHRC used Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon as an example of what they perceive as the West's double standard.

"War criminals such as Ariel Sharon, the new prime minister of Israel, who masterminded the invasion of Lebanon killing thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese...must also be tried for their crimes," the group's news release stated.

Muslims in the United States and Europe have repeatedly objected to their government's apathy regarding Sharon's past crimes and present assaults against Palestinians. Human rights groups and UN records say that Sharon has committed and orchestrated major war crimes in which thousands of unarmed civilians were slaughtered.

Shadjareh said "failing to apply standards of justice to other perpetrators of war crimes, and to all such crimes permitted by war criminals, is evidence of a gross double standard among those who claim to advocate human rights."

"Unless international law is applied consistently, the perception that the United Kingdom as well as the international community-at-large is willing to tolerate atrocities against innocent civilians as long as they are committed by leaders of friendly regimes will continue to be vindicated."

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Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance writer living in Seattle, Washington and a regular contributor to iviews.com.


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