‘Aiding and Abetting’ Crimes is Unlawful, Sometimes

John Glaser, May 30, 2012

The International Criminal Court has sentenced Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia “to 50 years in prison over his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s,” reports the New York Times.

As is common for heads of state, Taylor did not physically carry out these crimes himself. Rather he did by proxy, which is why the court convicted him on charges of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes.” Prosecutors introduced evidence, for example, of communications Taylor had with rebel forces while he was in Liberia and they were in Sierra Leone. Other testimony “focused on arms and munitions shipments to those rebels.”

The court’s mandate “covered only those crimes in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002, wherein up to 50,000 people were killed.” Those were some interesting years. It just so happens that America was “aiding and abetting, as well as planning” what would become incredibly heinous and brutal crimes which would in many ways surpass what happened in Sierra Leone. But the leadership in Washington didn’t aid and abet these crimes against humanity sitting in a poor nation in Africa, so their crimes aren’t within the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction.

Throughout the 1990s, the Clinton administration provided the Turkish government with the bulk of its arms. As this was happening, the atrocities committed by Turkey against the Kurdish population in the southeast was at its peak. “In the single year 1997 alone,” writes Noam Chomsky, “U.S. arms flow to Turkey exceeded the combined total for the entire Cold War period up to the onset of the state terror campaign.” Under the pretext of suppressing Kurdish separatist rebels, Turkey unleashed a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the southeast, forcibly displacing more than 400,000 impoverished Kurdish villagers. Torture and extra-judicial killings and disappearances were rampant, and the bombing and attacks by security forces led to the deaths of up to 40,000 people. Such a vast and coordinated campaign would have been very difficult without critical U.S. support.

Indonesia had been committing crimes against the people of East Timor from 1975-1999. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the terrible President Suharto the green light to invade East Timor, an event which led to tens of thousands of deaths and major army atrocities right off the bat. The U.S.-backed state terror – “the United States was then supplying Indonesia’s military with 90 percent of its arms,” writes Reed Brody of the Nation – lasted through to the Clinton administration and by 1999 the dead totaled somewhere around 200,000-250,000 people. “This shows every sign of being planned and coordinated beforehand,” said Sidney Jones of Human Rights Watch in 1999. “The Indonesian army may be trying to teach a lesson not only to the East Timorese but to the people of Aceh and Irian Jaya. The lesson is: if you seek separation from Indonesia, even if support for separation is overwhelming, we will destroy you, and no outside power will come to your aid.”

In 2002, the last year in the ICC’s mandate for conviction of Taylor’s role in aiding and abetting the murder and torture of over 50,000 people, the Bush administration had already begun the sales campaign that would become the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Prior to this, throughout the 1990s, the U.S.-led sanctions regime directly contributed to a dramatic increase in child mortality rates and notoriously resulted in the death of over 500,000 children (that’s ten times more than Taylor has been convicted of helping kill). But very soon after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, the Bush administration began to construct fallacious and distorted justifications for an aggressive, unprovoked war on Iraq. Every initial justification for the invasion has since been conclusively falsified, and the invasion and occupation of the country led to the deaths of well over 600,000 Iraqis. As this was being needlessly carried out, the Bush administration also had set up a worldwide system of torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial, also serious international crimes.

Nobody is saying Taylor isn’t a criminal that deserves to go to jail. But why is America’s leadership sitting comfortably in early retirement after “aiding and abetting” and “planning” crimes that far surpass anything Taylor did? Washington considers itself above the law, which is probably the reason for its refusal to ratify the statute authorizing the ICC, and why it would almost certainly veto any UN Security Council referral to the ICC. When the World Court held in 1984 that the Reagan administration had committed international terrorism – or rather, aided and abetted international terrorism – in Nicaragua through its terrorist proxies in the Contra rebel militias (who committed atrocities from torture to mass murder of tens of thousands of people), Reagan merely dismissed the case and refused to have anything to do with the court. And that’s how to commit massive crimes with impunity (i.e. have the power to ignore the victims). Easy as pie.

101 Responses to “‘Aiding and Abetting’ Crimes is Unlawful, Sometimes”

  1. This short article misstates international law and the level of proof required that was required to demonstrate Taylor's guilt at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. By trying to point out the wrongs of the United States it implies by analogy that Taylor applying weapons to the RUF in Sierra Leone is what he was convicted for. It was not, and implying that it was cheapens international justice. Similarly, the vague allusion to International Court of Justice's case concerning military and paramilitary activities in Nicaragua did not find that the United States aided and and abetted international terrorism (while citing wikipedia). The United States was never charged accused of and certainly not found responsible for terrorism in Nicaragua. Furthermore, the ICJ found (in 1986 when the judgment on the merits was released) that violations of international law were directly (as opposed to indirectly though aiding and abetting) attributable to the United States.

    This piece reflects lazy writing and research to try and twist a true development in international law into what it is not. While the author may be correct that the United States should be held responsible before some court of the crimes committed by the Bush Administration, any cogent argument is lost in the authors utter failure to even attempt to understand the workings of international law or international criminal law. Instead the author attempts to cheapen the Taylor sentencing by creating out of whole cloth a ridiculous low standard for attribution, which was rejected, ironically enough given the author's reliance on the case, by the International Court of Justice in ¶114 of its Nicaragua judgment.

  2. Other testimony “focused on arms and munitions shipments to those rebels.”

  3. Charles G. Taylor was most defiantly a accessory to this horrible crime. An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal.

  4. There is talk of friendly games, but there cannot be anything friendly by the Albanians when they and the Americans are deliberately slandering another the innocent Serbian People in order to continue the genocide of all Non Albanians.

    Increasing numbers of People realize that the friendliness of Albanians consists of land theft, murder, lies, crime, slander, racism, genocide, blaming their victims, and Only a few Albanians are Ignorant of these Facts.

    The Decent Countries of the World must leave FIFA of Fiendish Individuals’ Football Association, and join HIFA or Honest International Football Association.

    This must be the subject of a United Nations General Assembly Motion, and the numbers of Countries joining HIFA will increase with time, and Europeans will learn about Albanians, and Economic Genocide for Albanians may be the consequence of this, because Actions have Consequences.

  5. We know that President George Bush ordered Britain and France to Vote with America and Russia and China to pass the United Nations Six Point Plan for Kosovo.

    The reason was not because Euro-America would respect it, but because Kosovo could be the way for the American Republicans to regain the Presidency.

    If the Republicans win the Presidency, then America’s Policy concerning Kosovo will not change, but the Democrats and the Republicans know that they both have used and will use hypocritical and dirty tricks to win Elections, both Congressional and Presidential.

  6. I think that HIFA should be started, even if FIFA is doing everything properly according to their Constitution and Charter.

    This is in protest of the Illegal and Immoral War in Kosovo, that began in 1999, and that is continuing to this day.

    Even if a dozen Countries begin HIFA, then the numbers will increase, because dissatisfaction with Euro-America can only increase, and this will help accelerate the decline of the West.

    A Kingdom divided cannot stand, and FIFA and HIFA will be that division, always be a constant reminder to almost Every Citizen on this Planet, on what the issues are.

    American Citizen should send a copy of this to their Congressperson who represents them, and tell that Americans do not want to waste Money on Evil Causes.

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  8. All this is well and good, but- darn it- Dancing With The Stars is almost on and I can't be bothered with things that don't affect me. Look, its not happening HERE so what do I care? It's just a bunch of dirty rag-heads anyway- you know, the very same ones who attacked us- so good riddance. Don't talk to me about Africa, either, that's just a bunch of blacks killing each other and you know that's just what they do everywhere. Those people in Indo-whatever, well they're all a bunch of gooks anyway- you know, the same ones who attacked us in Vietnam?

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  9. The very fact that we are having this dialogue about the US role in committing, and or "aiding and abetting" war crimes speaks volumnes. The most egregious crime in the opinion of many is that the US invaded two countries that had no role in 9/11 yet continues to use this as justification for "war of aggression." What is generally not known or understood is that the Taliban made many overtures to the Bush Administration to be rid of Osama bin Laden, their unwelcome house guest. While in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was under virtual house arrest by the Taliban who feared he would cause trouble for Afghanistan if left to fend for himself. The Bush Administration ignored Taliban offerings for his extradition.
    But the fact of the matter is that powerful nations with a UN vote capability are not tried for war crimes, that is hackneyed justice for less-powerful nations who are not dues-paying members of the UN and therefore have no vote.

  10. […] Western powers are intent on establishing international rules of governance they have no intention of applying to themselves, and, in this instance, are utilizing the United Nations as their chosen […]

  11. […] Nazis accountable for the atrocities they committed during World War II. Taylor was convicted of crimes against humanity, violating the Geneva Conventions, specifically: “directing or controlling […]

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