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The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) was a people's court consisting of intellectuals, human rights campaigners and non-governmental organizations, and was active from 2003-2005. Set up following the 2003 invasion of Iraq it sprung from the anti-war movement and is modelled on the Russell Tribunal of the American movement against the Vietnam War. It counted among its supporters Indian Leftist author Arundhati Roy and United Nations Assistant General Secretary Denis Halliday, though consciously avoids a hierarchical structure. The WTI routinely found that the coalition forces in Iraq are guilty of war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions. The Tribunal tended to receive less coverage in the United States and United Kingdom [1] than in the Middle East and Europe, and was frequently described by supporters of the war as a "kangaroo court". Its members were not popularly elected; it claimed of itself that " legitimacy of the World Tribunal on Iraq is located in the collective conscience of humanity".[2]

Between 2003-5 a series of hearings took place under the title of the "World Tribunal on Iraq" with the purposes of:

  • Hearing evidence in respect of any claim that the launch of the war in Iraq was a criminal act.
  • Hearing evidence in respect of any alleged international criminal conduct during and as a part of the war in Iraq.
  • Investigation of the doctrines espoused in the war (by all sides) and the economic connections which some allege are connected with the decision to wage the war in Iraq.
  • To reach a decision based on evidence and expert testimony in respect of these issues and the war in Iraq.

Background to issues

The Iraq War left many people dead or injured, and some sources have identified significant war crimes or crimes against humanity in its conduct; also mainstream media have reported breaches of the Geneva Conventions such as at Abu Ghraib; and the use of depleted uranium was controversial. According to UN estimates, a further million people died during the trade embargo (imposed by the UN following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait), due to malnutrition or lack of medical supplies, and from sanctions targeting domestic water systems (History of Iraq). Many hundreds of thousands of these were children (whose deaths were documented by US military and are available on US military declassified websites). In addition, few commentators believe that under 100-200,000 civilians died as a result of other acts during the 2003 war.

Although other crimes are investigated, such tribunals require a lot of political will and strength to set up and few commentators appear to believe that a formal tribunal such as the Nuremberg Trials or the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will be established. In addition the US has refused to ratify the International Criminal Court established for the purpose of investigation international crime. In the light of perceived growing tendencies to ignore international law, this tribunal was formed to investigate the concerns of other groups and onlookers into Iraq.

Tribunal legitimacy and scope

Legal basis and structure

Being confronted with the paradox that people supporting or participating in the WTI want to end impunity but do not have the enforcement power to do so, they feel that they have to follow a middle way between mere political protest and academic symposia without any judicial ambition on the one hand, and on the other hand, procedural trials in the formal legal system which have no chance of achieving neutral outcomes. Another way of expressing the paradox is:

  1. That people supporting or participating in the WTI are just citizens and therefore have no right to judge in a strict judicial way, but
  2. That they have at the same time the duty as citizens to oppose wars of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other breaches of international law, which should be the starting point and the strength of the WTI.

By approaching the invasion and occupation of Iraq case from as many angles as possible (international law, geopolitical and economical analysis, WTI participants hope to strengthen their common objective. In this way the hearings had a better chance of converging on valid judgments. The findings were brought together in the final session in Istanbul in June 2005. In order to be as inclusive as possible, the WTI claims to support and recognize endeavours to resist impunity. The project will endorse and support the efforts to bring national authorities and warmakers to national courts (like the complaints filed in various state courts under the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction) and to international courts (like the International Criminal Court in the Hague).

Fundamental aims of Tribunal

  • To establish the facts about what happened in Iraq and to inform the public.
  • To continue and strengthen the mobilisation of the peace movement and the global anti-war protest. Anti-war and peace movements, which carried out the mass movements against the attack on Iraq have in principle adopted the idea of indicting the aggressors and of setting up a campaign to support the Tribunal process.
  • The tribunal is to be considered a continuing process. The investigation of what happened in Iraq is of prime importance to restore truth and preserve collective memory against the constant rewriting of history. We are challenging the silence of international institutions and seeking to put them under pressure to fulfil their obligations under international law. In judging the recent past our aim is to prevent illegal wars in the future.
  • To formulate recommendations on international law and expand notions of justice and ethical-political awareness. It can contribute to providing alternatives to 'victors' justice' and give a voice to the victims of war.
  • To be part of a broader movement to stop the establishment of an imperial world order with a "permanent state of exception", which undergoes constant wars as one of its main tools.


  • London, November 2003 - Inquiry into the alleged commission of war crimes by Coalition Forces during the military campaign and occupation.
  • Mumbai, January 2004 - World Court of Women on US War Crimes
  • Copenhagen, March 2004 - Public hearing on the legality of war, legality of putting Iraq's public enterprises and resources on sale, legality of keeping over 20,000 people under arrest in camps and prisons in the absence of any legal procedure.
  • Brussels, April 14–17, 2004 - the BRussels Tribunal hearings focused on the programs and policies of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), its role in the war against Iraq, and the role of the war against Iraq as part of the PNAC's program of military domination of the Earth [1]
  • New York, May 2004 - Session on the legality of the war – violation of international law and the UN – violation of the will of the peoples of the world as manifested on February 15, war crimes and crimes under occupation.
  • Japan, hearings throughout the year in various cities, two courts in July and December 2004 - International Criminal Tribunal on Iraq (ICTI)
  • Germany, series of hearings around Germany starting June 2004 - Focus on violations of international law and complicity of German government—covering sanctions, war and occupation.
  • Istanbul, June 2004 - Symposium on crimes committed against cultural heritage.
  • New York, August 2004 - Session investigating violations of international law and basic human rights by US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair administrations in launching the war against Iraq and instituting the occupation. Findings of other WTI sessions, military families and GI resisters.
  • Hiroshima, October 2004 - Session on depleted uranium and complicity of Japanese government.
  • Lisbon, Fall 2004 - Commission of inquiry to determine the responsibility of the Portuguese State and other entities/individuals in the preparation of the invasion, during the invasion and in the occupation of Iraq; to formulate the accusation of those who perpetrated crimes against the people of Iraq.
  • Stockholm, November 2004 - Session examinign the impact of occupation on Iraqi society, including the social, economic and cultural consequences.
  • Beirut, December 2004 - Arab Court on Iraq.
  • London, February 2004 - A Peoples' Inquiry into the occupation of Iraq by Coalition Forces
  • Rome, February 2005 - Session on Media Wrongs against Truth and Humanity: the politics of disinformation.
  • Genoa, January 2005 - Session on Media and Disinformation
  • Rome, December 2004 - Session on legality of war.
  • Istanbul, 20 March 2005 – Culminating session
The Istanbul session served as the culmination of the WTI process, taking into account the entirety of the above tribunal sessions. Based on this also, the session will take the further step of examining and exposing the implications of WTI findings.
  • Istanbul session 23-27 JUNE 2005: Declaration of the Jury of Conscience (WTI)

"The invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is illegal. The reasons given by the US and UK governments for the invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003 have proven to be false. Much evidence supports the conclusion that a major motive for the war was to control and dominate the Middle East and its vast reserves of oil as a part of the US drive for global hegemony." ..... In pursuit of their agenda of empire, the Bush and Blair governments blatantly ignored the massive opposition to the war expressed by millions of people around the world. They embarked upon one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history.[2]

Also incorporated into the process are the findings of:

  • Spanish Tribunal Against the War in Iraq – May 2003
  • Decision on juridical issues about the war against Iraq and its occupation by Allied powers (with emphasis on the position of the government of Costa Rica) – Costa Rica September 2003

See also


External links

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