Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Noble action, likely to fail, shouldn't prevent alternative action

From The Australian, by Dennis Shanahan, Political editor May 14, 2008:

THE Rudd Government is preparing a case to take Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice for "inciting genocide" and denying the Jewish Holocaust. Australia is the only nation pursuing Iran's despotic leader, who has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", through international laws.

...The Labor leader said it was "strongly arguable" that Mr Ahmadinejad's conduct - statements about wiping Israel off the map, questioning whether Zionists were human beings and a conference that he convened on the veracity of the Holocaust - amounted to incitement to genocide, which was criminalised under the 1948 genocide convention.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who pushed the campaign against Mr Ahmadinejad when he was Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, confirmed yesterday the Government was seeking legal advice on taking Mr Ahmadinejad to the ICJ. "The Government considers the comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the existence of the Holocaust, to be repugnant and offensive," Mr McClelland told The Australian yesterday. "The Government is currently taking advice on this matter."

Mr McClelland had argued that taking legal action was better than other alternatives.
"The alternative to not using these international legal mechanisms is considering wholesale invasion of countries, which itself involves, obviously, expense but more relevantly, of course, the potential for significant loss of life," Mr McClelland said....

...When Mr Rudd committed a Labor government to pursuing Mr Ahmadinejad through international laws, the Coalition government labelled the promise a "stunt" that would fail.
Brendan Nelson, then defence minister, said Mr Rudd was raising expectations that "cannot be achieved". The Opposition Leader said the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court - the body that hears cases against individuals, as opposed to the ICJ, which hears cases against countries - had found it would fail. Individuals of countries that don't recognise the ICC, such as Iran, can be charged if the UN Security Council agrees.

Alexander Downer, then the foreign minister, said Mr Ahmadinejad would have to be taken before the ICC, and only on the agreement of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Mr Downer accused Mr Rudd of knowingly misleading the Australian public and the Jewish community with a "ghastly stunt" that he knew could not be carried out and would only undermine Australia's diplomatic standing....

This action is very commendable, but if the government sees it as an alternative to other very necessary action against Iran, we're in big trouble. See this opinion from an ANALYSIS in The Australian, by Greg Sheridan May 14, 2008:

THE Rudd Government's effort to bring a legal action against Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide is almost certain to fail. Nonetheless, it is a noble endeavour worthy of every support.

Merely bringing the action, or attempting to, increases the moral and political pressure on the Iranian President. It also should help those people within the Iranian leadership who regard Ahmadinejad as not only extreme but dangerous to Iran's own interests....

...Of course, the Rudd Government's action also displays a profound solidarity with Israel - a solidarity that is just in itself and that will be much appreciated in Jerusalem. It will also, incidentally, have the effect of identifying Canberra as an antagonist of Iran, which is just what it should be while Tehran's leadership is so dangerous and extreme.

However, it is extremely unlikely to succeed as a legal action and contains one small danger. It is unlikely to succeed as a legal action simply because Iran is too powerful a state, and its oil too important to others....

...Moreover, anything which requires UN Security Council approval will be vetoed by China, which protects Iran and numerous other tyrannies from any serious consequences at the UN.

The very small danger involved in taking the legal action is that it must not be seen as a substitute for the main game of denying Iran nuclear weapons, if necessary by punitive economic sanctions.

This is why the Israeli has not taken up the charge of incitement to genocide against Ahmadinejad. Israel's overwhelming priority is the physical safety of its citizens from the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.

It does not want to invest big diplomatic and political resources into a process that will probably fail, or even if it has some partial success will probably produce only a slap on the wrist for Ahmadinejad.

Israel does not want its priorities confused.

Nonetheless, for the civilised world to tell Iran that its President's statements are indeed uncivilised is a righteous act.

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