In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after two years of investigation by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC), a tribunal consisting of five judges with judicial and academic backgrounds found George W Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War. The decision was unanimous. (Aljazeera)
The judges gave their verdict after four days of hearing, on 22 November 2011. Both defendants were absent during the proceedings as they had declined an offer to present a defence or send a representative. The court appointed a defence counsel for them in their absence.
Although the verdict was not enforceable in a normal manner associated with a criminal court operating within a sovereign state or as constituted by international agreement, the tribunal nevertheless hopes that its recommendations will have a legal weight expected to extend beyond a moral condemnation of the defendants.
The tribunal added two Orders to its verdict in accordance with the KLWCC Charter that controlled its operating framework:
1) Report the findings of guilt of Bush and Blair to the International Criminal Court in The Hague;
2) Enter the names of George W Bush and Tony Blair in the Register of War Criminals maintained by the KLWCC.
The tribunal and its verdict brings into the public domain once again the idea of "universal jurisdiction" whereby states claim criminal jurisdiction over persons whose alleged crimes were committed outside the boundaries of the prosecuting state.
In the celebrated Filártiga v Pena-Irala case, a US court awarded over $10million to the Filártiga family because of the horrific torture of their son Joelito by Inspector General Americó Pena-Irala in Paraguay. In this case however both the Filártiga plaintiffs and Pena-Irala happened to be in the US jurisdiction at the time the family sued the torturer.
As Bush and Blair were absent from Kuala Lumpur, they may escape punishment but the Tribunal could be a precedent for other such tribunals. At least it's a start.