Saddam Hussein may stand a better chance of a fair trial in Iraq, where he will face trial, than in the International Criminal Court, into whose clutches the Bush administration has decided the former Iraqi dictator won’t fall.
A body similar to the ICC, set up to try such offenses as “genocide”and “human rights abuses,” is well on the way to outlawing actions—including speech—that are not criminal, and the ICC itself may soon do the same.
Last month, when Saddam was still huddled in his hiding place, the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, seated in Tanzania, convicted three Rwandan media executives for their role in causing the mass slaughter of the Tutsi tribe in 1994. What they did to “cause” the genocide was simply talk about it.
Two of the Rwandan defendants—Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze—were sentenced to life imprisonment; the third, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, got 35 years in the pokey. Not one of them ever lifted a finger to commit violence, as the court’s judges readily acknowledged.
“You were fully aware of the power of words, and you used the radio—the medium of communication with the widest public reach—to disseminate hatred and violence,” intoned the presiding judge, Navanethem Pillay. “Without a firearm, machete or any physical weapon, you caused the death of thousands of innocent civilians.”
What the defendants really did was run radio stations sponsored by the Rwandan government under the dominant rival tribe of the Hutus called “Radio Machete” and “Radio Hate,” as well as a weekly newspaper that devoted itself to urging the extermination of the Tutsis.
No doubt what the stations broadcast and the newspaper published was not very edifying. But as a serious act of law and morality, the sentences they received are preposterous.
They’re preposterous because, contrary to what the judge pronounced, words do not and cannot “cause” murder, let alone “thousands” of murders. There are legitimate laws that circumscribe irresponsible speech (shouting fire in a theater is the classic case) or inciting violence, but merely advocating murder is not the same thing.
Even if it falls under incitement, it’s still not the same as murder itself, which is what the three were punished for. The people who do the actual killing make their own decisions to carry it out, regardless of what they’ve read in the newspapers or heard on the radio. You punish the killers, not the people who wrote or spoke the words, let alone the managers who ran the stations or the papers.
Nevertheless, “human rights advocates” hailed the verdicts as a giant step toward the Global Reign of Virtue they are licking their whiskers to set up and run.
“This is the first time that journalists have been convicted for their participation in genocide, and I think it’s a wake-up call to hatemongers everywhere that they can’t incite people to commit genocide or ethnic cleansing,” gloated Reed Brody of the Human Rights Watch. “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.” [Hateful words a war crime, By Betsy Pisik, The Washington Times, December 4, 2003]
The Tribunal’s verdict comes right out of the law that set it up. The U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a signatory, explicitly outlaws “hate speech”: “Any advocacy of national racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
We now know that covers advocating genocide. What else does it cover?
There are many people who say each and every one of these incites “discrimination, hostility or violence” and constitutes “national racial or religious hatred.”
What the ICC does is not necessarily law in the United States, but one danger of the court’s verdict is that it could be used to enact such laws and sets a precedent for the International Criminal Court itself.
In this country, there are lots of people who would like to outlaw any expression of dissent on racial, national or religious matters. Several otherwise law-abiding people who express such dissent have already been victims of police crackdowns, mainly for their views and associations.
The criminalization of dissident speech and thought in race, ethnicity, nationality and religion is a basic pillar of the New World Order now taking shape under American bayonets in Iraq and across the planet.
The masters of the New Order can’t expect to run it harmoniously if the different races, religions and nations they manage are free to think and say what they want about each other.
Therefore, freedom has to go.
The power of the planet’s new master class will stay.