Kuala Lumpur — It’s official; George W Bush is a war criminal.
In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were yesterday (Fri) found guilty of war crimes.
Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia.
The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They included testimony from British man Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee and Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi who was tortured in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered guilty verdicts against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their key legal advisors who were all convicted as war criminals for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
Full transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant material will now be sent to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission is also asking that the names of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee, Addington and Haynes be entered and included in the Commission’s Register of War Criminals for public record.
The tribunal is the initiative of Malaysia’s retired Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who staunchly opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He sat through the entire hearing as it took personal statements and testimonies of three witnesses namely Abbas Abid, Moazzam Begg and Jameelah Hameedi. The tribunal also heard two other Statutory Declarations of Iraqi citizen Ali Shalal and Rahul Ahmed, another British citizen.
After the guilty verdict reached by five senior judges was delivered, Mahathir Mohamad said: “Powerful countries are getting away with murder.”
War crimes expert and lawyer Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law in America, was part of the prosecution team.
After the case he said: “This is the first conviction of these people anywhere in the world.”
Throughout the week the tribunal was packed with legal experts and law students as witnesses gave testimony and then cross examination by the defence led by lawyer Jason Kay Kit Leon.
The court heard how
- Abbas Abid, a 48-year-old engineer from Fallujah in Iraq had his fingernails removed by pliers.
- Ali Shalal was attached with bare electrical wires and electrocuted and hung from a wall.
- Moazzam Begg was beaten, hooded and put in solitary confinement.
- Jameelah was stripped and humiliated, and was used as a human shield whilst being transported by helicopter.
The witnesses also detailed how they have residual injuries till today.
Moazzam Begg, now working as a director for the London-based human rights group Cageprisoners said he was delighted with the verdict, but added: “When people talk about Nuremberg you have to remember those tried were all prosecuted after the war.
“Right now Guantanamo is still open, people are still being held there and are still being tortured there.”
In response to questions about the difference between the Bush and Obama Administrations, he added: “If President Bush was the President of extra-judicial torture then US President Barak Obama is the President of extra judicial killing through drone strikes. Our work has only just begun.”
Read the full article here to read more about the importance of holding such a trial, even if Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the others may never face consequences, and about the relevance of the Principles of the Nuremberg Charter.