From WEEKLY MDS No.870, Jan. 14, 2005 issue

Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, speaks to Weekly MDS

Japan Undermines its Integrity, Endangers its Constitution and Damages Respect from the World


Denis Halliday, former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad who has participated in the Trial of the International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq (ICTI) as witness testifying on how the UN-sponsored sanctions on Iraq had devastated life conditions and human rights situations of its people, speaks to Weekly MDS about his first-ever stay in Japan. (December 13, 2004, in Tokyo)

-- How have you found your visit to Japan to attend the ICTI's Tokyo Trial?

It is very unusual to visit a country that has determined through bad experience that war does not pay, a country where in the Constitution people show their belief in non-violence and that pacifism is the way to go. This is very important for me because I come from background of the Irish pacifist movement. I am wearing a badge of the War Resisters International. So for me to be in Japan is very exciting. I am very happy to have made this visit.

Then to find here in Japan now, there is a conflict. Although the majority of people feel that Japan should not be involved in Iraq, nevertheless your government, like my government, is playing games with the United States and wants to be friendly to Mr. Bush for reasons of trade, investment and oil supplies. This compromises the Constitution of Japan. It compromises the will of the people of Japan who do not support the presence of Japanese troops in Iraq. Even though they are engaged in humanitarian work, their presence is a sign of collaboration with the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq by Mr. Bush. That is very unfortunate.

In terms of the Trial, I think the process is important. It is useful to go through the steps of prosecution, presenting the evidence and showing the facts. It is important to have the Amicus Curiae present, because they try to keep the Tribunal honest. They had a very difficult job. And it is very rewarding and encouraging to find on the weekend in Tokyo, where people work so hard for living, that they come and sit there for two days to listen to aN almost academic discussion, knowing that we do not have the authority to actually prosecute. It is very healthy. Some know something about Iraq. But I myself come here and learned something new. I heard new evidence about Falluja, new information about the cLashes between different parts of the Iraqi community. So the Tribunal is a learning process for even those who participate.

Just the presence of a war crimes tribunal here in Japan in regard to Iraq and in regard to the President of the United States, Prime Minister of Britain, Prime Minister of Japan, President of the Philippines is very significant. It is a sign that there are people in the world concerned about international law and its survival, respect for it, and understand that actions taken even by permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council are in fact illegal. It is very important.

-- Few days before the Tribunal our government decided to extend the deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq. Do you have any comments on this?

I believe that Japan has made a mistake because the signal to the world is that Japan supports Mr. Bush. The world knows that Mr. Bush has broken the Charter of the United Nations. He has committed the crime of aggression, the most serious war crime. He has viciously attacked a sovereign member state of the United Nations. There is no justification. There is no issue of defense. There is no relevance to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This is a blatant imperialistic invasion of a country for power, oil and military presence. This attack on Iraq breaks the provisions of Articles 1 and 2 of the United Nations Charter. The Americans have destroyed the human rights of the Iraqi people, undermined their sovereignty, and resorted to the use of force when there were other peaceful means possible. They attacked without the authority of Chapter 7, Paragraph 42. So by association Japan is also guilty of all of these crimes, or whatever the word is. To see Japan associated with human rights abuses is very sad. To see Japan associated with the use of depleted uranium is even more tragic, when we know that the consequences of depleted uranium are similar to those of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By supporting the Americans in Iraq, Japan has undermined its integrity, endangered its own Constitution, and I would say, damaged the respect that the rest of the world has for this country.

There is an alternative. Japan has very good relations with the United States. You have allowed the Americans to stay here in Okinawa. Japanese investments are protecting the US dollar from collapse. The New York Times said last week that they amounted to some US$ 850 billion. Therefore the United States owes Japan, not the other way around. They owe you. Prime Minister Koizumi could have used this special relationship to stop Mr. Bush. He could have threatened, for example, to stop the continuation of yen investment in the United States. There was diplomatic, political and economic pressure Japan could have made on the United States. But it did not. If Japan wants to assist Iraq, that role should begin to convince the Americans to end the occupation. Without the occupation, the Iraqis can begin the process of healing and working out the political balance for the future.

-- The Japanese government has made it clear many times that it wants to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. What do you think is the intention of our government?

I think there are several reasons. One is to have a balance with China. Another is to have the power. A third is to restore the balance of power to the days before the Second World War. Japan and Germany were excluded because they were not victors in the war. And there will probably be one more reason. When the Security Council makes difficult decisions like going into a country to prevent genocide, the countries that make that decision need the resources to make it happen. Japan has such financial resources and may want to be an important part of making those decisions and implementing them.

I believe that the Security Council has got to be reformed. It has to have proper representation from the South. At the moment we have five permanent members, Russia, China, France, Britain and America. They all constitute the North. Even China is a very wealthy country with growth rates of 10%. If you add Germany and Japan, that is two more from the North. Where is the balance?

The panel should recommend that Latin America could have one permanent seat, and within the region they would rotate countries to occupy that seat. For the next five years they would decide, for example, Brazil, then for the next five Chile and then Argentina. In the case of the European Union, we don't need France and Britain. It should be one seat for Europe and they also can rotate. Then we would have one seat for Sub-Sahara Africa, another for the Middle East and North Africa, one for South Asia that will be Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and another for Eastern Asia that will include Japan, the ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand. That would be a more correct way to do it. Of course there should be no veto. The Security Council should adopt what is currently a foreign concept in its work that is called democracy. But the problem is that, in the United Nations Charter, reform of the Security Council has to be approved by five permanent members. The question is: "Will they ever give up power?" Your readers can answer that question.

The reform should apply not only to the Security Council. We should look at other UN organs. One is the General Assembly. It is democratic. It has 191 members. It has to have more power. The relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council should change. You could suggest that the General Assembly should have some oversight authority on the decisions of the Security Council. They need not interfere, but after one or two years, they would look at decisions and impact, and say this must stop. For example, in the case of Iraq, maybe in 1992 or 1993, the General Assembly would have said, "This sanctions regime is unacceptable because of humanitarian crisis and children losing their lives. This has got to end. We have to open dialogue with Baghdad and change arrangements."

Another idea would be to use the International Court of Justice and elevate it into a Supreme Court. This Supreme Court would be there to oversee and adjudicate on the need for changes. It could look at the recommendations of the General Assembly if it felt something was wrong. That is what is missing today. There is no oversight system. The power of the ICJ would be international publicity. They would embarrass Americans, British, French, Russians and others by worldwide publicity, saying, e.g., "You are killing Iraqi children incompatibly with the Declaration of Human Rights. You must stop." That might work.

The last thing is that today the Council has responsibility for peace and security. But I think peace, security and, we could call it, development or poverty removal is equally important. You can't have peace without human well-being. People must have food, housing, education, health care and jobs. So peace, security and poverty should be considered together.

-- Could you deliver your message to our readers and Japan's peace movement?

It is an inspiration to meet Japanese, a peace-loving people and to understand their commitment and willingness to give their time to non-violence. It is very encouraging. I respect their courage to participate in this Trial in their own country, where there may be some Japanese who will be very offended that we have declared your Prime Minister guilty. I would hope that many more Japanese would understand the importance of this work and that working for international peace is in fact an obligation for a citizen of a country like Japan. And I wish many more in other countries had the same level of interest and commitment.

-- Thank you very much.

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