World Law and Order

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S massacre of the Kurds and recent dimmed hopes for serious Israeli-Palestinian talks have created cynicism about a ``new world order'' emerging from the Gulf. Fuzzy US policy and political and emotional forces in the region have taken a toll. Yet it is not too late for constructive new world order outcomes from the Gulf crisis. The door is open for such outcomes. The active use of United Nations resolutions in the Gulf, and particularly Resolution 688, which that allows for UN intervention in a sovereign nation in order to give humanitarian aid, set a number of important precedents.

With patience, the kind of creative diplomacy shown during the prewar phase of the Gulf operation, and appeals to common justice, it may still be possible for the US, coalition members, and the UN to take some significant strides towards establishing the rule of law in and among nations.

In this vein, the US and the world community should not let Saddam Hussein's war crimes be forgotten. These are crimes under any reading of codified and customary international law - from the Nuremburg Principles to the Geneva Convention. Both Saddam and his Revolutionary Council are guilty of crimes against peace, of war crimes, and of crimes against humanity. When fully assessed, the indictments against Saddam and the council will be numerous. And the killing of Kurdish and Shiite civilians should be included in the counts since they are an outcome of the war Saddam started when he pushed into Kuwait.

The postwar genocidal response to rebellion in Iraq was ugly, dispiriting, and unforeseen in the West. But it can become the basis for an international consensus that gives teeth to laws against genocide, within nations or beyond their borders - whether they are at war or not.

UN Resolution 688 could open the way for the Security Council to vote for intervention in countries such as Ethiopia and the Sudan, where current governments have blocked food relief and become responsible for the deaths of millions. These are unspeakable crimes - but at the moment unpunishable because sanctioned by sovereignty.

Whether Saddam should be tried in absentia is still an open question. Certainly he and his council deserve to be tried. As David Scheffer of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes, Saddam remains at risk of prosecution for the rest of his life. The trial may occur in Iraq one day, in the region, or in a special tribunal.

The Gulf war may show the need for a permanent tribunal that can independently hold leaders or governments responsible for crimes of the magnitude of genocide. Currently, no such court exists. A new world order may demand an institution that can readily put tyranny on trial.

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