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Last Thursday, I attempted a citizen’s arrest of Tony Blair for crimes against peace as he was about to present a speech at Hong Kong University about faith. It seems particularly dubious for the ex-British Prime Minister to address the subject of religion, as he has done so much to enrage the Muslim world and thus set back religious tolerance by decades.
My confrontation with Blair came during the deadliest week of violence in Iraq since the US pull-out, and a day after the International Criminal Court prosecutor asked judges to hand down their first sentence to a fellow war-criminal, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga. All current ICC investigations and prosecutions are related to African nations, yet Mr Blair’s status as an ex-Western leader does not exempt him from its founding Rome Statue, to which Britain is a signatory
Some will find the comparison absurd but there is little moral difference when the products of their respective leaderships were mass human rights violations against civilian populations. Blair has requested that people “move on” from the Iraq War yet, with documented civilian deaths now totalling at least 107,013, leading QC Michael Mansfield has confirmed that there now appears to be enough evidence to trigger an ICC investigation. Legally, the type of weaponry deployed in the war (depleted uranium and cluster bombs) can be described as ‘indiscriminate’, thus making him liable for mass civilian causalities.
As I put to Blair personally, he is answerable to the sixth 1950 Nuremburg Principle which forbids ‘wars of aggression’ and gave rise to the Rome Statute – I also stated that he defied articles 31 and 51 of the UN charter. Leaked Downing Street memos from 2002 reveal his determination to follow the US into Iraq despite knowing his government would be violating the two aforementioned UN articles which would permit an invasion. In fact, the later discredited evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was irrelevant to Blair as he admitted during the 2009 Chilcot Inquiry that he would have attacked Iraq regardless as to whether such WMDs were discovered.
Blair responded to the charges I put to him by joking to his audience how he’s “used to” such protests and how “that’s democracy for you.” I do not know whether he believes the incident showcased freedom of speech or whether he was lamenting such political rights, but Britons will be familiar with the erosion of civil liberties he bought about in the UK. His Orwellian legacy leaves fewer effective options remaining in the activist’s toolbox. Neither the coalition nor the opposition harbour much political appetite for a domestic criminal investigation, I therefore encourage members of the public to heed journalist George Monbiot’s call to challenge Blair directly and pursue peaceful citizen’s arrests against him.
Following my action, the public seemed unified across comment sections and social networks, from the left and right, that there is a strong case against him. However, he continues to travel freely around the world earning millions as head of a complex, opaque mix of political, business and philanthropic ventures. He commands huge sums from the financial industry and even accepted £13million to advise brutal Kazakh autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev.
It was improbable that Hong Kong police would uphold local law and frogmarch the ex-PM to The Hague, but there has been some success in renewing awareness of the outstanding legal questions. One day, it is hoped the charges will stick and he may finally find himself in court. In the meantime, it is important that the pressure is maintained, that the media spotlight is constant and that Mr Blair rightly continues to feel the threat of prosecution wherever he goes.
Interviews/coverage: RTHK, The Standard, Time Out and South China Morning Post locally. Huffington Post UK, The Guardian, BBC News, The Independent and The Telegraph in the UK. Democracy Now in the US.
Coverage via AP & Reuters news wires: The Daily Mail, Sky News, ITN, NDTV, TIME Magazine, Fox NYC, Press TV, Guido Fawkes, i4U News, Yahoo, Channel News Asia, Phuket News, B92 , Beijing Cream, Information Clearing House,Shanghaiist, Straits Times, XFM, Stop the War Coalition, Signal1 etc…
I recommend the following documentary about Mr Blair from Britain’s Channel 4…
Article 5.2 of the 1998 International Criminal Court Rome Statute (awaiting adoption).
the Court… “shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.”
“Article 33: 1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.
2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.”
“Article 51: Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
“(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).””
UN agreements therefore uphold:
“The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention.”
“A belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation. It shall be responsible for all the acts committed by persons forming part of its armed forces.”