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ICC blowback for blair?

In early February, the Labour Party government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair briefly considered prosecuting Katherine Gun, a former employee of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's eavesdropping agency. Last March, Gun blew the whistle on U.S.-British surveillance operations directed at six rotating members of the UN Security Council. The operations were carried out prior to a vote on a second resolution dealing with war against Iraq. That spying operation was intended to prevent any compromise proposal that would have forestalled an invasion. (It also illustrates the importance that the supposedly unilateralist Bush administration placed on getting the UN's imprimatur for war against Iraq.)

Within a few days of beginning its prosecution of Gun, the Blair government quietly shut down the case. According to conservative British commentator John Laughland, Blair declined to prosecute Katherine Gun because he "will do anything to keep secret the advice submitted ... by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on the legality of the Iraq war. There is a very simple reason why the government would want to do this. If it turns out that the Iraq war was illegal, then Tony Blair could go to prison."

Four years ago, continues Laughland, "the United Kingdom ratified the Rome treaty which created the International Criminal Court. In the run-up to the war, therefore, the government was well aware that an illegal war could spark a prosecution against senior ministers. This is why so much emphasis was placed on weapons of mass destruction: without them, the war had no basis in law at all. With the failure to find any weapons, Tony Blair's chickens may now be coming home to roost."

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether the UN and its version of "international law" can define the legality of war, the Blair government's predicament nicely illustrates one of the dangers posed by the UN's International Criminal Court. Someday the ICC may claim the power to prosecute American officials for conducting a war that (unlike the Iraq debacle) is in our national interest, but not "authorized" by the UN.
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Title Annotation:Insider Report
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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