Bill C-19, the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Act: “An explicit Canadian government plan to provide a haven in this country for Israeli war criminals.” GARY ZATMAN*
Considering the deafening silence from the Martin cabinet about the Sharon government’s announced plans, and actions already taken, to make provision for an additional 3,500 “settlers” in the Maale Adnumim bloc in illegally-annexed “East Jerusalem,” the recent appearance of Prof. Michael Mandel’s reminder, via the CanPalNet website, that the entirely illegal Zionist colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute war crimes under Canadian law is indeed timely.
The implication left by Prof. Mandel’s material as presented over CanPalNet is that Canada’s silence is part of a pattern of “complicity.”.. but: is that indeed all there is?
In Article 8 [“War Crimes”], Section 2 [“ ‘war crimes’ means…”], subsection (a) [“Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts…”], part (xvii) of the Rome Statute, the following specific act is explicitly described and included in the catalogue of “grave breaches”:
“xvii) The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;”
On 13 June 2000, the Canadian House of Commons held Third Reading debate on Bill C-19, the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Act. This legislation enacted the Rome Statute as part of Canadian law. Then-Liberal Party backbencher and McGill University Law School professor Irwin Cotler – today’s federal Minister of Justice, very involved personally at that time behind the scenes in drafting this bill – addressed the House at 1:10 pm that day, stating inter alia:
“I will turn now to the basic principles underlying Bill C-19 itself. …
“Principle number 11 is with respect to the forced transfer of civilian populations into an occupied territory. The prohibition against forced transfer of a civilian population into an occupied territory by an occupying power will adhere to the intent and scope of the offence as set forth in the Geneva Conventions Act of 1949, as per the footnote to the ICC, and to protect against the politicization of this offence.”
Cotler was thus affirming only that part of 8.2(a)[xvii] after the “or” (‘or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory’, i.e., “forced transfer”). He deftly ignored – indeed, vested with impunity – the ‘transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies,’ i.e., the war crimes of Israeli government officials and their designates and associates involved in the entirely voluntary, unforced, witting and willing establishment and expansion of the Zionist colonies, aka “settlements,” throughout the West Bank.
Talk about putting one’s “or” in: this was the part in front of that “or.” Clearly, as far as the government is concerned, any labelling – as war criminals – of the politicians, generals, businessmen and others from the Israeli government and supporting Zionist circles in Canada involved in the “settlements” will be dismissed as “politicization of this offence.”
Cotler, near the start of these same remarks, had just stressed how impunity for war criminals and other international criminals would be eliminated by incorporating the Rome Statute in domestic Canadian law – and with it the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Cotler said:
“Principle number two is to end the culture of impunity. Despite the Nuremberg and Tokyo principles and precedents, impunity has been the national and international practice. The ICC will presage a culture of accountability as an antidote to a culture of impunity.”
Closely linked with the political-legal concept of impunity is the concept – more narrowly legal, but behind which stands a massive apparatus for stripping individuals of their freedom of movement through extradition – and on this point Cotler assured his fellow MPs that:
“Principle number 14 is a particularly important one, the principle of non-immunity, the Pinochet principle and beyond. In a word a person who is the subject of a request for surrender by the ICC, pursuant to clauses 48 and 70 of the bill, will not be able to claim immunity under common law or statute from arrest or extradition under the Extradition Act.”
What this amounts to in reality is an explicit Canadian government plan to provide a haven in this country for Israeli war criminals.
This entire position, which the Canadian government has cemented firmly in place for the past five years, shows that the government’s silence about Maale Adnumim is far more than, and goes way beyond notions of, complicity. The close personal connections, for example, between Cotler and his former client (as a so-called Soviet Jewish dissident, back in the 1980s) Natan Sharansky are in line with it, but do not account for it. What this amounts to in reality is an explicit Canadian government plan to provide a haven in this country for Israeli war criminals. Effectively, under the arrangements put in place by this legislation, General Pinochet might continue to be hounded anywhere and everywhere but, by golly, Ariel Sharon, Natan Sharansky and company could happily and comfortably retire along the banks of the Rideau, the condo alleys of North York or any other part of Canada that suited their fancy. In this extremely twisted and perverse form of a disputatious and deliberately provocative dispensation and exception within legislation enacted nominally to make the war crimes provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention part of Canadian law, that is exactly what has been executed.
* Gary Zatzman is co-editor of the Dossier on Palestine.
TML Daily, April 26, 2005 – No. 68