Saturday, May 12, 2012

Trying Kissinger, the Charles Taylor Precedent

Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch writing in The Nation magazine argues that the recent conviction of the former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, provides an important precedent for bringing the Henry Kissinger and other officials to justice.
"In April a United Nations–backed special tribunal in The Hague convicted Taylor of “aiding and abetting” the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone as they committed horrific abuses against civilians. The rebels’ crimes, which included their signature atrocity of cutting off victims’ arms and legs, as well as forcing children to execute their parents, were among the most heartless I have ever investigated.
"The verdict marked the first time since the post–World War II Nuremberg trials that a former head of state has been convicted by an international tribunal of war crimes and crimes against humanity. What may be of more lasting significance, however, is that Taylor was not convicted for oppressing his own people—though he did that as well—but for his material support to abusive forces in another country. In that respect, the decision speaks not just to tinpot dictators but to leaders of countries who fight proxy wars by knowingly giving client states or rebel allies the means to commit atrocities. 
As Reed writes: "very same legal reasoning could apply to those in Washington, Moscow or elsewhere who provide military assistance to abusive forces half a world away. Take, for example, the case of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and East Timor."

Kissinger gave the green light with then-President Ford for Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor. He then worked to make sure - as did his successors and many other U.S. officials - that the flow of weapons and training continued to flow to the Indonesia military, ignoring its abuses and human rights violations.

Long before Taylor's conviction ETAN and others had been pressing to hold Kissinger accountable for his role  in multiple crimes against humanity in Timor, Vietnam, Chile and elsewhere. These efforts must continue.

May 30, 2011, New York City protest against Kissinger appearance at 92nd Street Y .

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