Category Archives: Legal categorisation of 9/11

The War In Afghanistan. Talking Points

The talking points, written one month after the events of 9/11, strongly imply that the crime had been committed by Muslim fundamentalists. The War In Afghanistan. Talking Points: 47 Questions and Answers
and additional links for further Information

By Michael Albert
and Stephen R. Shalom
Oct 14, 2001

In the course of our discussions since the bombing of Afghanistan began, we have encountered certain questions over and over. Here we assemble those questions and provide short answers to each. In some cases we also provide a link or two for additional immediately relevant information or commentary. Much more information can be found via: ZNet's Complete Terrorism & War Coverage.
Also, we have ourselves previously offered September 11 Q/A Talking Points and Five Arguments Against War which provide backdrop for this essay.

1. What is Islamic fundamentalism?

The term "fundamentalist" is used in a number of different ways. One definition is someone who interprets the texts of his or her religion in a literal way or who adheres to the original, traditional practices and beliefs of the religion. Another definition is someone who is intolerant of the views of other religions or sects. These two definitions often overlap — traditional religions tend to be authoritarian and misogynist, which lend themselves to intolerance — but they are not the same. (For example, some pacifist religious sects might be fundamentalist in the first sense, but not the second. ) Every religion has its fundamentalists — Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and so on — and some of these engage in terrorism.

Fundamentalists in the second sense have been on the rise worldwide. One reason has been the absence in so much of the Third World of a meaningful Left. Without a left alternative to the oppression and alienation of modern capitalism, many have sought solace in the easy explanations and promises of intolerant religion. Left organizations in many Arab and Muslim nations have either been smashed by right-wing forces (often backed by the major Western states) or discredited by ruthless dictatorships (as in Iraq) or Soviet-style parties. In this void, fundamentalism flourished. Fundamentalism was also supported by the opportunism of various states (for example, the United States backed reactionary fundamentalists, including Osama bin Laden, against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and aided mullahs against the left in Iran; Israel gave early backing to Hamas in an effort to provide a counter-weight to the secular PLO).

The Taliban, the rulers of most of Afghanistan, adhere to a particularly extreme and intolerant variant of fundamentalist Islam. They came to power out of the in-fighting among the various Mujahedeen (religious warriors) groups following the Soviet withdrawal. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the principal international backers of the Taliban

Pakistani intelligence maintained extremely close ties to the Taliban and Pakistani troops assisted their rise to power. Most Taliban leaders and many of its foot-soldiers were trained in the madrassas — religious schools — in Pakistan set up with funding from wealthy Pakistanis, Saudis, and others in the Gulf, which taught a version of the fundamentalist Wahhabism that is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Despite the anti-American and generally reactionary teachings of these madrassas, Pakistan has been a U.S. ally and Saudi Arabia has been one of Washington's closest allies

See also:

  • Ali: Q/A About Taliban and Islam…

  • Said: Clash of Ignorance

2. What is the attitude in the Arab and Islamic worlds to (a) the Sept. 11 attacks, and (b) the current US war in Afghanistan?

Every government in the region other than Iraq condemned the September 11 attacks, and even Iraq sent its condolences to the victims. The enormity of the slaughter horrified many people in the region, and there were many deeply felt expressions of sympathy for those who lost their lives. But a large reservoir of anti-Americanism led many people to feel that the United States was finally getting back some of what it deserved, or to believe one of the idiotic conspiracy theories so common in the Middle East (the Israeli Mossad did it, the CIA did it). Among Palestinians, a poll in early October found that two-thirds considered the attacks to violate Islamic law, while a quarter thought them consistent with it. The poll showed Palestinians angry about U.S. foreign policy, but not at Americans.

But even among those who were horrified by the September 11 attacks, most people in the region seem to oppose the war on Afghanistan. (The same Palestinian poll found 89 percent criticizing a U.S. attack on Afghanistan, with 92 percent believing that it would lead to more attacks on the United States.) Many pro-U.S. governments were tactfully silent when the air strikes began, sensing the popular opposition. The unilateralism of the U.S. response was especially criticized; Iran — which had indicated its willingness to support a UN action — sharply condemned the U.S. attacks

See also:

  • Fisk: Awesome Cruelty

  • Roy: Algebra of Infinite Justice

3. What grievances fuel hatred for the U.S. in the Middle East?

Anti-American sentiment is widespread in the Middle East, not just among Islamic fundamentalists. This anti-Americanism has a variety of sources. Some comes from specific U.S. policies in the region — backing Israeli oppression of Palestinians, enforcing devastating sanctions on the civilian population of Iraq, supporting authoritarian governments, often by deploying U.S. troops on land considered holy by Muslims. Some comes from resentment of Washington's economic and political arrogance more generally. And some comes from religious opposition to the secular world, of which the United States is the leading power, an intolerance fed by sexism, anti-Semitism, and other reactionary doctrines. One indication of the weight of all these factors is provided by the videotape Osama bin Laden released on October 7 — not because it tells us anything about the motives of bin Laden (who is probably totally unconcerned with oppressed or suffering people, hoping only to precipitate a holy war engulfing the entire region) — but because bin Laden is an astute judge of what issues inflame people. In that video, bin Laden referred to 80 years of Muslim humiliation, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Iraqi starvation, and the atom bombs dropped on Japan. America, he warned, "will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine, and before all the army of infidels depart the land of Muhammad…." He felt these were the issues that people hearing him would be moved by, not an attack on Hollywood, much less democracy.

See Also:

  • Shalom: Why Do They Hate Us?

  • Herman: Distaste for Civilization?

4. Does trying to understand/explain the grievances of the people of the Middle East constitute excusing bin Laden, excusing terror, softness on fascism, etc.

When some students killed their classmates at Columbine high school, people of good will tried to figure out the causes for such horrible events. In so doing, they were hardly justifying or excusing the heinous slaughter. The killers may have had some neo-Nazi sympathies (choosing Hitler's birthday as the day for their assault) — but this didn't change our obligation to examine the deeper causes of adolescent alienation, to discover how schools might contribute to that alienation and what they could to do reduce it. No grievance of oppressed people can excuse or justify what happened on September 11. (As a PLO official declared: "It is true that there is injustice, terrorism, killing and crimes in Palestine, but that does not justify at all for anybody to kill civilians in New York and Washington.") But if we want to understand and reduce the widespread anti-Americanism that allows terrorism to find fertile soil, we need to attend to the grievances.

See also:

  • Chomsky, Albert, et. al. Reply to Hitchens

Some international law issues arising from the events of 9/11

Some international law issues arising from the events of 9/11

by Elias Davidsson

9 April 2006

The events of 9/11 are of crucial importance with regard to the current development of international law for various reasons:

(a)  Questions arise about how states designate events such as 9/11. Are such events an "armed attack", domestic mass murder, crimes against humanity?  Each designation  leads to different responses. The US government choose to designate the events as an "armed attack" in order to justify the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan and avoid a criminal investigation.  Are states free to designate acts such as the murder of 3000 people as they wish?     

(b)  How can a legal observer assess whether the designation of 9/11 as an "armed attack" was justified?  What mechanism exists to challenge such determination? Was the response to this alleged "armed attack" commensurate with customary international law and the obligations under the UN Charter?  Are states under the obligation, under international law, to prove that an "armed attack" from another state occurred before invoking self-defense? What are the minimal standards of evidence?  Is secret evidence that an attack emanated from another state, sufficient to invoke self-defense?

(c)  Did the Security Council act in good faith, when it decided 24 hours after the events that the events of 9/11 were an act of "international terrorism"  when at that time the Council did not and could not know who were the perpetrators of this mass murder? [In fact the Security Council was never presented with any such evidence]. Are there any principles in international law which could be invoked to deal with a situation in which the Security Council makes legal determinations on contrived, secret, fabricated or non-existent evidence?  What are the legal consequences of a determination by the Security Council made in bad faith, or as part of a conspiracy of its members?  Can international law, as a set of norms, be used to assess whether the Security Council acts in good faith and on the base of true facts? Are States legally required to presume the good faith of the Security Council?

(d)  Does the duty to protect the right to life under the ICCPR, which the US has ratified,  extend to the obligation of the contracting parties to "adequately investigate" the arbitrary deprivation of life within their own jurisdictions?  If so, what is the exact content and scope of such an obligation? Did regional human rights courts identify and define an obligation to investigate the violation of the right to life?

(e) Does the Security Council possess the right, under the UN Charter, to enforce the investigation and prosecution of crimes against humanity?  What measures can the United Nations take, in he view of the failure by the US to adequately investigate the events of 9/11?

(f)  Does the designation "international terrorism" for particlar acts bring the impugned acts under the realm of international criminal law? If so, are there any appropriate rules of international criminal law applicable to "international terrorism"? If not, what is the appropriate legal regime to deal with such acts?  Is "international terrorism" a criminal offense that should be dealt according to the norms of criminal law?  Is there any base in customary international law that would support the establishment of a sui generis legal regime for "international terrorism"?

Insurance companies will not invoke ‘act of war’ for 9/11


"Act of war" or terrorism? Answer could decide insurance payments


By Brendan McKenna

At 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, shortly after learning about the crash of a second airplane into the World Trade Center in New York City, President George W. Bush called the events an "apparent act of terrorism."

A typical act-of-war exclusion
Standard property/casualty insurance contract forms provided to the industry by the Insurance Services Office contain clauses excluding "war, including undeclared or civil war" and "warlike action by a military force, including action in hindering or defending against an actual or expected attack, by any government, sovereign, or other authority using military personnel or other agents."

Just over a day later, Bush said that "the deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war."

While the President’s words have unequivocally stated the position of the United States, they may have muddied the waters concerning the insurance issues around the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Many property/casualty insurance policies are written to exclude coverage for acts of war, but not for acts of terrorism. If the act-of-war exclusion clause of the insurance contracts is invoked, insurance companies can refuse to pay the benefits on the policies, including payments on businesses, homes, and cars that were damaged or destroyed.

"Every time I hear the President or Colin Powell saying we’re in a war, I wince," says J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. "There are probably discussions going on in every [insurance] company about whether or not to deny claims based on act-of-war exclusions."

Members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee weighed in to make their opinion clear with a Sept. 17, 2001, letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

"Through necessity our government is expressing America’s outrage through words of war," reads the letter. "But this rhetoric reflects the passion and determination of our country, not the legal reality of Tuesday’s destruction."

"Any attempt to avoid coverage obligations by either primary insurers or reinsurers based on such legal maneuvering would be . . . unsupportable and unpatriotic."

The letter, signed by both the chairman and ranking member of the insurance subcommittee, states that "any attempt to avoid coverage obligations by either primary insurers or reinsurers based on such legal maneuvering would be not only unsupportable and unpatriotic ? it would tear at the faith of the American people in the insurance industry."

Despite the strong stand taken by members of Congress, there is still some concern that overseas reinsurers ? notably those based in Bermuda ? might still attempt to invoke act-of-war exclusions on some policies.

Insurance industry representatives were unwilling to speculate on whether or not the attacks of Sept. 11 would constitute an act of war, or on whether or not insurers would pay out on policies ? saying that it would be up to each insurer to examine the language of its policies and make a decision.

Life and health insurers say they won’t do it
Jack Dolan, a spokesperson for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), is quick to offer what reassurance he can. While life insurance policies have included act-of-war exclusions in the past, it hasn’t been a standard part of any life insurance policy since the end of the Vietnam War. The ACLI says, "We are unaware of any suggestions from any quarter of the industry that such exclusions are applicable in this instance. All claims prompted by the Sept. 11 tragedy will be treated in a normal manner: Companies will promptly pay death benefits to beneficiaries of the victims with life insurance coverage."

Further, according to the ACLI, "Life insurance policies typically do not contain ‘terrorism exclusions.’ It is highly unlikely that many, if any, victims of the tragedy had a policy with an exclusion that covered the attacks. Terrorism exclusions generally are written into contracts of those who travel to places where terrorist acts are common. They typically do not apply when the insured is in the United States."

Insurance policies that do usually have act-of-war exclusions:

    * Auto
    * Home or renters
    * Business interruption
    * Commercial property
    * Business auto
    * Commercial crime
    * Workers compensation (varies by state)

Insurance policies that do not usually have act-of-war exclusions

    * Individual life
    * Group life
    * Key person
    * Accidental death and dismemberment

Individual life insurance policies and "key person" policies ? a life insurance policy that names a corporation as a beneficiary if a person vital to the business’ success dies ? generally do not carry act-of-war exclusions.

Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) policies and riders for individual life policies are also safe from act-of-war exclusions.

Some group life insurance policies may have exclusions for war and terrorism on their AD&D riders, but according to Dolan, "We don’t have any indication that those exclusions will be invoked."

Some health insurance policies ? both group and individual ? may have exclusions for war and terrorism. However, all health insurers that belong to the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP) have indicated that they will not invoke these exclusions for those injured in the attacks.

Property/casualty exclusions remain to be seen
Losses to property may be another story, says Donald Griffin, a spokesperson for the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII). According to Griffin, almost every type of business insurance policy, as well as home, renters, and auto insurance policies, has an act-of-war exclusion written into the contract.

Griffin stresses that it is up to each individual insurer to determine whether these clauses, or those like them in other insurance contracts, could be invoked to avoid paying insurance claims. Insurers like Chubb Corp. have stepped forward to say that they will not invoke act-of-war exclusions.

Hunter believes that the companies most likely to deny claims based on act-of-war exclusions, if any actually do so, are those with commercial insurance policies and reinsurers ? insurers that sell policies to help traditional insurers spread the risk of their policies. The public outcry against these denials would be far less than if life or personal auto insurance claims were denied, says Hunter.

Insurers would face some difficult challenges if they did decide to invoke act-of-war clauses, both legally and as a matter of public opinion, says Garrett Moore, a partner at Moore, O’Brien, Jacques, and Yelenak, a Connecticut law firm focusing on airline litigation.

"The public response would be absolutely devastating to insurance companies," says Moore. "And there may be legal barriers even if they did decide they wanted to invoke act-of-war clauses."

Last updated Oct. 3, 2001

U.S. in violation of UN resolutions on 9/11

U.S. in violation with UN resolutions on 9/11

by Elias Davidsson

(Initially published 12 June 2004, revised  on 18 July 2005) 

Demanding that UN member states act with the aim of identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and their accomplices, including potentially members of the US administrations

The URL of this article is:

On 12 September 2001, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1368 (2001) in which the Council condemned “in the strongest terms the horrifying terrorist attacks which took place on 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania and regards such acts, like any act of international terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security.”  

The resolution “calls on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable.”

On 28th September 2001, the UN Security Council adopted another resolution (No. 1373 (2001)) dealing with the same matter, at this time under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which made the resolution binding upon UN member states. In that resolution, which equally referred to the attacks of 11. September 2001, the Council required of all States to:

“(e) Ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice and ensure that, in addition to any other measures against them, such terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the punishment duly reflects the seriousness of such terrorist acts;

(f) Afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or support of terrorist acts, including assistance in obtaining evidence in their possession necessary for the proceedings;

(g) Prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls and controls on issuance of identity papers and travel documents, and through measures for preventing counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents.”

It should be noted that neither of the above resolutions refer to special obligations by the Government of the United States. The obligations listed in these resolutions extend to all states.

While the attacks of 11. September were designated above as acts of international terrorism, there exists no UN accepted definition of “international terrorism.” 

However, the attacks of 11. September fit entirely and without qualification into the definition of crimes against humanity, as established by international customary law and under the Statutes of the various International Criminal Courts.  According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, “crimes against humanity” means “any of the following acts when committed as part of a (…) systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:  (a) Murder; (b) ….”

There is no question that the attacks of 11 September were a systematic, murderous, attack targeting a civilian population.  Such an attack fits the requirements of a crime against humanity under both customary and conventional international law.

The UN General Assembly adopted on 3 December 1973 the Principles of international co-operation in the detection, arrest, extradition and punishment of persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity (resolution 3074 (XXVIII)). In that resolution the General Assembly decided that “States shall co-operate with each other in the collection of information and evidence which would help to bring to trial the persons [guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity] and shall exchange such information [and that] States shall not take any legislative or other measures which may be prejudicial to the international obligations they have assumed in regard to the detection, arrest, extradition and punishment-of persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The question dealt herein is whether UN member states, in general, and the United States, in particular, have complied with its above obligations, namely:

(a) whether the have engaged in good faith efforts “to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks”

(b) whether they have refrained from taking “legislative or other measures which may be prejudicial to the international obligations they have assumed in regard to the detection, arrest, extradition and punishment-of persons guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

We will begin by evaluating the compliance by the US government with the above obligations.

1. No perpetrator, organizer or sponsor convicted

While US judicial authorities detain hundreds of persons in various locations around the world, none of those has been charged as a perpetrator, organizer, sponsor or accomplice of the 911 attacks. One person only, detained in the United States since before the 911 attacks has been formally charged for complicity in the preparation of the attacks of 911.  That person is Moussaoui.  Moussaoui has reportedly admitted membership in Al Qaeda but denies emphatically of any participation in, or foreknowledge of, the 911 attacks.  He has insisted that a testimony of a person [Ramzi Binalshibh] apparently under US custody in an unknown location could prove his innocence. The US authorities have, however, denied to allow such testimony, even at the price of releasing the detainee, or alternatively transferring his case to a military court, where rules of evidence are not as stringent.

Why have the US authorities failed to convict even a single person for any act relative to the 911 attacks?

One explanation is that the FBI is staffed by unprofessional people who are simply no match for clever Muslims. In order to uphold this explanation it must be shown that those responsible for the allegedly dismal record of the FBI have been rebuked or dismissed and that those individuals within the FBI who have taken seriously their professional commitment, have been promoted. The record, however, demonstrates the opposite.  None of those who have been responsible for the unsuccessful FBI investigation of the 911 crimes have been dismissed. On the other hand a number of FBI investigators who have previously warned about terrorist suspects within the US, have been sidelined or even rebuked.

A more plausible explanation is that the FBI is wilfully refraining from investigating the 911 attacks, probably under an order from above. In fact, merely four weeks after the attacks, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller “ordered [FBI] agents to drop their investigation of the attacks or any other assignment any time they learn of a threat or lead that might suggest a future attack.” [Philip Shenon and David Johnston, “F.B.I. Shifts Focus to Try to Avert Any More Attacks,” New York Times, 9 October 2001].  This explanation would fit the policy of the US government of preventing a public and comprehensive investigation of the 911 attacks, and in particular of what happened on that fateful day.

2.  The perpetrators have not been identified

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States has posted on its website the names and photographs of 19 individuals, alleged to have boarded four civilian aircraft on 11. September 2001, hijacked these planes and crashed them in murderous suicide attacks. Various Western media have revealed that at least five of these individuals are living and well. The response of the FBI has been that this might be a case of “stolen identities.” Nonetheless, the FBI has neither amended its list or removed the names of the persons claiming to be living, or provided any explanation for this anomaly.

While the FBI has alleged that the 19 individuals on its website are the “suspected” hijackers of the four aircraft on 11. September 2001, it has refused to reveal the sources of this information. Thus, for example the FBI has refused to release the original flight manifests of the four aircraft, on which one would assume that the names of alleged hijackers would appear.  The FBI has equally refused to release all existing recordings of security videos from the airports from which the hijacked aircraft flew.  One would assume that such recordings could help to identify the alleged hijackers. 

Numerous unexplained anomalies, inconsistencies and bizarre facts suggest that no Muslims boarded the four aircraft on 11. September, hijacked those aircraft and committed murderous suicide operations with those planes. 

It is indisputable that the US authorities have failed to positively identify the direct perpetrators of the 911 attacks.

3. Efforts by US authorities to prevent investigations of the 911 attacks

Under US criminal law, any act of murder would requires a proper investigation of the exact circumstances of the act that led to death.  Similarly, US law requires a professional investigations of plane crashes, regardless of the cause of the crash.  Finally, when buildings, bridges or other major sites crash or collapse, an official investigation is practically always undertaken to study the exact cause of the failing. This would be even more pressing in criminal cases.

Yet, the US authorities have not only failed to undertake such investigations but engaged in deliberate efforts to thwart such investigations.

As investigation is the first step towards prosecution, it follows that the US authorities have failed to comply with the above resolutions of the UN Security Council and of the General Assembly regarding the obligation to ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the 911 attacks.

4.  The obligation of other UN member states

The commission of crimes against humanity is of concern to all States, not only to the state on whose territory such crimes were committed. This can be inferred from the language and spirit of UN resolutions which require international cooperation in securing the prosecution of perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of such acts.  States have recognized, as demonstrated above, their own obligations, under international law, to cooperate in order to secure the prosecuton of perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of crimes against humanity. It is obvious that states must establish lists of suspects before levelling charges and prosecute the suspects.

It should be recalled that nationals of over 60 nations died in the mass murders of 9/11. The international community bears thus an obligation to secure a full and impartial investigation of the crime.

The US authorities have not only failed to secure the identification of perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the 911 attacks and their prosecution, but deliberately obstructed investigations into these crimes and refused to release incriminating evidence.  The US authorities have moreover used these attacks as a justification for acts of aggression against two other states, Afghanistan and Iraq, and for curtailing human rights within its own jurisdiction.

As the United States government has grossly failed in investigating the crime against humanity committed within its territory on September 11, 2001, and refuses to release evidence in its possession regarding alleged perpetrators and accomplices, its conduct establishes probable cause for suspecting it of covering up, or even facilitating the crime.

Should US public office holders be suspected of having covered up or facilitated the 911 attacks, it cannot be expected that US judicial authorities would effectively prosecute such  office holders to whom they often owe their own nomination. In such a case, it would devolve to the UN membership to institute independent criminal investigations into the crimes committed on 911 and attribute responsibilities. These attacks were designated by the UN Security Council as a threat to international peace and security. It follows that the international community must cooperate to bring the offenders to justice.  This obligation rests on the collective membership of the United Nations, regardless of the dereliction or obstruction of one member state.

UN members should therefore

(a) demand that the US government act without delay to secure the identification and prosecution of all perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the 911 attacks, regardless of nationality and status;

(b) release all evidence in its possession regarding the events of 9/11 

(c) denounce legislative or other measures by US and other authorities which may be prejudicial to the international obligations they have assumed in regard to the detection, arrest, extradition and punishment of persons guilty of the attacks of 911.

Should the US government refuse to comply with its international obligations, including the need to disclose incriminating evidence, to positively and conclusively identify the perpetrators, the organizers and the sponsors of the 911 attacks, and to initiate criminal proceedings against persons known to have participated in the crime, the international community would be under the obligation to take further action, as specified in the above Security Council resolutions, including the convening of an international truth commission on the events of 9/11 and measures intended to secure the compliance and cooperation of the United States with UN resolutions relative to 9/11.  



Human Rights Watch: 9/11 is a crime against humanity

September 11: One Year On

A Message to the Human Rights Watch Community

Related Material
Human Rights After September 11
Index of Human Rights Watch Research and Advocacy

Campaign for the International Criminal Court

(NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 9, 2002) ? The September 11 attacks were a crime against humanity that flouted the fundamental values of international human rights and humanitarian law. Human Rights Watch once again expresses our deep sympathy for the victims of the September 11 attacks and their family members. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly expressed outrage at such attacks on innocent civilians and believes those responsible should be held accountable and brought to justice before a court of law.

In the wake of the attacks, the Bush Administration and a broad coalition of nations rightfully pledged to take united action to bring those responsible to justice. But in many respects, the campaign against terrorism has seen the erosion of international law, rather than its enforcement. Human rights have been undermined at the very time they most need to be upheld.

The grip of al-Qaida and the Taliban on Afghanistan was broken and the long-suffering Afghan people were promised a new future under the Bonn Agreement. Although a new government has been installed in Kabul and many Afghan refugees have returned to their devastated country, the United States and its allies have failed to provide adequate security throughout the country for the rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan. This short-sighted U.S. strategy has allowed regional warlords to consolidate their power and undermine Afghanistan’s new government, and seen human rights abuses — particularly against women — continue.

In its handling of alleged Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners, the United States created dangerous precedents by reneging on its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions. Instead of properly determining the legal status of detainees in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and prosecuting those responsible for acts of terrorism, the Bush Administration has toyed with creating special military tribunals of dubious legality. Widespread criticism of this policy, including from the U.S. military, seems to have pushed the Administration in a new and unfortunate direction: forsaking the Geneva Conventions’ requirements in favor of long-term, indefinite detention.

A raft of new initiatives by the UN Security Council, the G8 group of industrialized nations, and many regional groups helped to tighten controls on the financing and operation of groups committed to politically-motivated violence. Seventy-six governments helped bring into being the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court with powers to try crimes of the kind committed on September 11. New commitments were made to address poverty, debt and even the repression that tends to breed alienation and violent extremism.

But in the course of the past year, many governments have adopted sweeping, arbitrary and disproportionate counter-terrorist measures, often directed against foreigners, particularly Arab and Muslim males. These have involved discriminatory policies, arbitrary detention and breaches of due process, arbitrary deportation and refoulement.

Some governments have used the campaign against terrorism opportunistically to justify crack-downs and abuses against their opponents. In India, for instance, the government introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, a modified version of a previous security law which facilitated the torture and arbitrary detention of minority groups and political opponents. In Pakistan, General Musharraf has cracked down on suspected militants, while also consolidating the military’s grip on power and unilaterally extending his term as president for five years. China has also tried to use the international anti-terrorist agenda to justify its broad repression of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang, including peaceful activists and Moslem religious groups.

Other governments, particularly in the west, adopted punitive and restrictive measures against asylum-seekers and migrants. In Australia, the government stoked post-September 11 xenophobia to justify the summary expulsion, in blatant violation of international refugee law, of asylum seekers who had reached outlying Australian territory. In the United Kingdom, a new law authorized the prolonged, arbitrary detention of foreigners suspected of terrorist activity. Even multilateral efforts have seriously eroded refugees’ rights by linking them with terrorism.

In the United States, the Bush Administration used immigration laws and an unjustifiably expansive definition of "enemy combatants" to by-pass the criminal justice system and deny due process safeguards to persons it interrogated and detained as part of its September 11 investigation. The executive increased its powers of surveillance, investigation and detention while seeking to block public scrutiny and limit Congressional oversight and meaningful judicial review.

These actions by the United States set a precedent and gave other countries a green light also to erode judicial safeguards or enact counter-terrorist measures that violate international human rights standards. Around the world, many of the United States’ allies — from Uzbekistan to Israel, Russia to Egypt — took advantage of the war to justify human rights abuses and took heart from America’s acquiescence.

To some degree the Bush Administration came to recognize that the fight against terrorism is undermined by repression because it denies people peaceful avenues to express dissent. It committed itself rhetorically to advancing human rights as part of the long-term struggle against terror. In a few cases, it made good on its rhetoric, linking increases in U.S. aid to Egypt to the release of a leading dissident, and not opposing moves by Congress to condition future aid to Uzbekistan on progress in democracy and human rights.

But like the Cold War before it, alliances forged in the campaign against terrorism were allowed to override other interests and diffuse criticism of or pressure on the most abusive governments. In countries such as Indonesia and Uzbekistan, military training and cooperation were extended or restored without any meaningful improvement in long-standing human rights abuses. In other countries, such as Pakistan and Malaysia, the United States upgraded political relations because of the war against terrorism while downplaying its concerns about democracy and human rights. The United States and European Union, reaching a new accommodation with Russia, largely dropped their criticism of Russian abuses in Chechnya.

Rather than relying on international law as an essential tool in the fight against terrorism, the Bush Administration increasingly treated it as an encumbrance. An increasingly powerful faction within the Bush Administration pursued a radical vision of the United States as above international law. This unilateralist and exceptionalist ideology found its clearest and most damaging expression in attacks against the International Criminal Court.

Looking ahead, there is a need to reconfirm what the campaign against terrorism is really about — upholding human rights and the rule of law. By indiscriminately attacking civilians, terrorism breaches the most basic values of human rights. Combating terrorism requires not only security measures. It also requires a reaffirmation of human rights values, a rebuilding of human rights culture that, by discouraging the supporters of terrorism, must be a key element in terrorism’s defeat.

NATO designates 9/11 as attack on the United States

NATO designates the 9/11 attacks as an attack on the United States emanating from Afghanistan.

Source: Canada and NATO: The Campaign Against Terrorism
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canada.


The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top decision-making body, invoked the spirit of Article 5 following a debate at NATO headquarters on September 12, 2001 ? a clear demonstration of tremendous solidarity within the alliance. The Council decided that if it was determined that the attacks were directed from abroad, they would be actions covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. Subsequently, on October 2, 2001, the U.S. Ambassador at Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism briefed the North Atlantic Council on the results of investigations into the September 11 terrorist attacks against the U.S. As a result of the information he provided to the Council, the Council decided that the U.S. had presented clear and compelling evidence that the individuals who carried out the attacks belonged to the worldwide terrorist network of Al-Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden and protected by the Taleban regime in Afghanistan.

At a special press conference, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson announced that since it had been determined that the attacks had been directed from abroad, they were regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.

Rejecting the prosecution of 9/11 as crime against humanity

Hansard (Canada), 2 October 2001

Mr. Bryon Wilfert (Oak Ridges, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to comment on the motion before the House and indicate that from the beginning the government has condemned and deplored the horrific acts on the United States that occurred on September 11. 

    Former President Clinton identified terrorism as:


–the greatest security challenge of the twentieth century…we cannot have economic security in a global economy unless we can stand against those forces of terrorism. The United States will lead the way and we expect our allies to walk with us hand in hand.


    The Prime Minister stated in the House on September 17:


–so let us be clear: this was not just an attack on the United States. These cold-blooded killers struck a blow at the values and beliefs of free and civilized people everywhere. The world has been attacked. The world must respond. Because we are at war against terrorism and Canada – a nation founded on a belief in freedom, justice and tolerance – will be part of that response.


    A special Senate committee on security and intelligence, the Kelly committee, found that “to be effective the fight against terrorism must be through a united international front”.


    Canada has reaffirmed that it will not be a bystander in this important struggle. We must win the struggle against terrorism both at home and abroad. We must shoulder our international responsibilities in the days ahead.


    The Government of Canada is fully committed to resolution 1373 of the United Nations Security Council, which was unanimously adopted on September 28. The resolution reaffirms the unequivocal condemnation of these terrorist acts on the international community.


    In terms of the existing framework of the United Nations, it is difficult to condemn these horrific attacks as crimes against humanity and bring the perpetrators to justice. The current international system does not have the necessary infrastructure, such as a special tribunal on terrorism or the International Criminal Court to implement this.


    To recognize that international law exists is, however, not tantamount to asserting that it is as effective a legal system as the national legislative systems are. More particularly, it is effective at regulating and retaining the struggle for power on the international scene.


    International law is a primitive law because it is almost completely decentralized. The decentralized nature of international law is inevitably the result of the decentralized structure of international society. Domestic law can be imposed by the group that holds a monopoly of organized force, that is the officials of the state.


    It is an essential characteristic of international society, composed of sovereign states, which by definition are the supreme legal authorities within their representative territories, that no such law giving and law enforcing authority can exist there.


    International law owes its existence and operation to two factors both decentralized in character: identical or complementary interests of individual states and the distribution of power among them. Where there is no community of interest nor balance of power there is no international law. Whereas domestic law may originate in and be reinforced by the arbitrary will of the agencies of the state, international law is overwhelmingly the result of objective social forces.


    Clearly in the fight against international terrorism, there appears to be a strong broad consensus on the need for the international community to respond with one voice.


    In terms of the United Nations it has established two international criminal tribunals in the Hague; one, for the atrocities committed in Rwanda; and the other for the atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia. Canada has clearly indicated to the United Nations that if it establishes a separate international court for terrorism, we will support it.


    Canada signed the 1998 convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism and was one of the first countries to sign it. We will meet our commitment to ratify that.


    We signed all 12 international conventions against terrorism and have already ratified 10 of them. The Minister of Justice has indicated we will ratify the other two very shortly.


    Canada ratified the ICC Statute of Rome in July 2000 and was the first state to adopt a comprehensive implementing legislation; the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act on June 29, 2000. Canada has been a strong supporter of the ICC at every stage of its development and will continue to be involved as the ICC moves closer to becoming a reality. However, It should be noted that the ICC statute, which will eventually establish the ICC, does not recognize terrorism as a crime against humanity.

9/11 as a crime against humanity

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP) moved: 

That this House

(a) condemn the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, as crimes against humanity, and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice in accordance with international law and within the framework of the United Nations;

(b) endorse the objectives of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) and call upon the government, in accordance with this resolution, to deliver a report to the U.N. Security Council Committee, within 90 days, setting out the steps Canada will take to implement resolution 1373, and further direct the government to table this report in the House; and

(c) direct the government to table in the House, within 90 days, a report setting out the steps Canada will take to implement an action plan, including detailed budgets and timetables, to fight the rising tide of intolerance and racism, directed against Arab and Muslim Canadians, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

She said: Mr. Speaker, it is with apprehension and alarm over a new wave of violence that is about to sweep over humanity that I rise today to introduce the NDP opposition day motion, seconded by the member for Winnipeg–Transcona.  

    The motion condemns the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11 as crimes against humanity and we reiterate our call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice in accordance with international law and under the auspices of the United Nations.

    We also call for the government to endorse the objectives of the United Nations Security Council resolution No. 1373, which calls for the Canadian government to report back to the United Nations within 90 days on its progress in implementing a wide range of anti-terrorism measures.

    We ask that our government simultaneously table Canada’s 90 day report in the House.

    Mr. Speaker, I neglected to say at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

    Finally, our motion directs the government to also table within 90 days a report setting out the steps that Canada will take to implement an action plan, including detailed budgets and timetables to fight the rising tide of intolerance and racism directed against Arab and Muslim Canadians.

    The New Democratic Party, along with a wide range of voices, have been calling for the United Nations to be the primary body through which we direct the global response to terrorism.

    Indeed, international law, under the auspices of the UN, is the only legal way that we can proceed. The United Nations charter is clear that no country or coalition of countries, no matter how broad, can take the law into its own hands. Put more simply, for very good reason it is illegal for anyone to act as judge, jury and executioner. Countries that flout international law must be on notice that military intervention is an option open to the international community but how we reach any such decision is critically important.

    As we know, the world is in the process of establishing a world criminal court but the United Nations already has the means to establish international tribunals. We must therefore proceed with the sure moral footing of an independent tribunal, one that can assess the facts and determine the punishment in an open and democratic manner. To proceed otherwise is to descend to the lawlessness we abhor, to risk creating a new generation of martyrs, of terrorist fanatics, and to risk expanding the cycle of revenge that breeds the terrifying violence visited on the United States three weeks ago.

    The United Nations is willing and able to accept its responsibility. The most recent UN Security Council resolution reaffirms its unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks and it unanimously adopts a wide ranging comprehensive resolution with steps and strategies to combat international terrorism.

    The security council recognizes that we need to do more than just talk. We need verifiable action. The requirement that countries report back within 90 days on the progress they have made is something the New Democratic Party supports. Today we call on the government to show the same respect to the people of Canada and table that same report here in the House of Commons.

    We will no doubt have questions. We will undoubtedly have disagreements on some specifics of how the security council resolutions are implemented in Canada but we support its main thrust.

    The third aspect of our motion today is the most immediate to the many Canadians who have felt the backlash of discrimination and scapegoating since the September 11 tragedy. Many are Canadian immigrants and visible minorities from the Arab world and from Central and South Asia.