Musa Bin Ismail
I much preferred it when popular geo-political discourse involved writing “FUCK BUSH” on your tits or “impeach Blair” on your MySpace profile, rather than today's endless stream of lazy “GOBAMA” tweets. Which is why I was gratified to find a group of people on the other side of the planet who are refusing to let the political bogeymen of my teenage years slink away into lucrative speaker-circuit careers or take up completely inappropriate positions as peace envoys without getting some kind of hassle for it.
Those people are the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War, who run the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission—a sort of upstart alternative to the Hague. At a tribunal earlier this year they one-upped George Monbiot by declaring Tony Blair and George Bush as war criminals. And why not? It's still relevant. NOFX are still playing “Franco Un-American” on tour, after all. Last month, the Commission heard evidence from some alleged Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes, which basically coincided with a new wave of violence in that perpetually screwed part of the world, so I thought I’d call Musa Bin Ismail, Commissioner of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, for a chat.
VICE: How did the Kuala Lumpur War Foundation to Criminalize War get started, exactly?
Musa Bin Ismail: His Excellency Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, and a group of eminent personalities—mainly lawyers—started the foundation in 2008 with a view to condemn war as a crime in resolving conflicts between nation states or belligerent groups.
Sounds admirable. But there’s already an International Criminal Court. What’s the difference between the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and the Hague?
The outstanding feature of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal is that no one is favored and everyone is treated equally. No one will be spared from prosecution if he commits any act relating to war crimes because of his high position.
Why did you feel the need to set up a second war crimes tribunal?
Remember Sabra and Shatilla, the gristly genocide? Countless Palestinians were butchered and slain in the refugee camps. What did “the learned gentlemen of the international community" do? What did the judges of the International Criminal Court do?
Well, that massacre was condemned by the UN.
In our view, the UN's condemnation is not enough. Those culprits must be brought to justice, otherwise no one is safe in his home. Justice must be the tree of shelter for everyone and its canopy shall cover everyone.
That’s very poetic, but it’s not really the “official” war crimes tribunal, is it? What legitimacy does it have?
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal owes its legitimacy to the souls of over a million Iraqis killed at random by the Allied bombings all over Iraq, to the tears of mothers who lost their children, the agony of orphans who lost their parents, the lifetime of heartbreak of wives who lost their beloved husbands and all those who lost their limbs, not to mention those who lost their eyesight forever.
I can’t argue with that.
There are many incidences of war crimes committed especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, Gaza, and the West Bank. The victims are ignored by the International Criminal Court. They are left in the cold and their cries for justice are given a deaf ear. In these circumstances, close your eyes and ask your soul, don't you need a second tribunal for the sake of justice and fairness for everyone, not only for the favored and powerful?
Fair enough. Does the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission have any relationship with the International Criminal Court?
No. Who wants to associate oneself with a body that's incompetent and fails miserably to hold the scale of justice evenly like some kind of blindfolded Lady of Justice?
I see. What happened at the recent sitting of the Commission?
We heard evidence from ten victims of war crimes from Palestine. We’re now preparing a report about whether the state of Israel should be tried for war crimes at the tribunal.
What has the Commission ruled in the past?
Past tribunals have found that George Walker Bush and Tony Blair were responsible for crimes against peace, in that they have planned, prepared, and invaded the sovereign state of Iraq in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. Other convicted war criminals include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee, and John Yoo.
But none of those people were at the trial. Isn’t due process an important part of international law?
I agree that it's unfair to declare someone a war criminal when he's not there to defend himself. As lawyers, we make sure that the trial is not riddled with injustice. We serve the written charges on the person, we invite him to be present to defend himself and give him the liberty and choice to engage lawyers of his choice. When the trial proceeds in his absence, we engage amicus curiae to act as their defence counsel.
The judges are learned men from the legal fraternity—some are retired superior court judges whose wisdom is respected. The trial procedures are kept closely to those rules of law as practiced by any court and the records are kept for anyone to peruse.
Okay, but George Bush is still at large and Tony Blair is Middle East “peace envoy.” Doesn’t this show that your tribunal doesn’t have any power?
The hard fact that George Walker Bush is a war criminal has been circulated to all the countries of the world. If George Walker Bush has any conscience at all, he will feel the strange feeling of being the prisoner of conscience until his death. He will feel that his hands are soiled with the blood of those who were killed in his personal vendetta campaign against Saddam.
Do you have any plans to bring these people to justice, just in case they don’t have consciences?
We have no plan to arrest them. They will be haunted all their lives by the fact that they're war criminals who have murdered countless people and affected countless lives through their acts and policy while in office. Their lives will be unsettling, full of regret and the feeling of guilt, punctuated with long stretches of sorrow and unabated sadness. They will die with disgruntled souls.
I’m not convinced those guys have souls. I think that was part of the problem in the first place. Anyway, thanks!
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