60 years ago, US would be guilty of ‘crimes against peace’

This month marked the 60th anniversary of the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, the basic legal document for the trial of the major Nazi war criminals that commenced in November, 1945, wrote York law Prof. Michael Mandel in an opinion piece published in the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 26 and disseminated by US-based Knight Ridder news service.

“One of the great innovations of that charter was the charge of ‘Crimes Against Peace,’ defined as the ‘planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.’ The very minimum legal consequence of the treaties making aggressive war illegal is to strip those who incite or wage them of every defence the law ever gave, and to leave the warmakers subject to judgment by the usually accepted principles of the law of crimes.”

“The crime of aggression is nowhere to be seen in modern international criminal codes and leading the charge against including it has been the United States itself. It’s easy to see why,” wrote the author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity. “The war in Iraq, for one example, constitutes the quintessential war of aggression, falling very far short, rhetoric apart, of any justification in self-defence or authorization by the Security Council of the United Nations, the only two accepted legal grounds for war in international law.”

“Nuremberg prosecutor Bernard Meltzer wrote soon after the Nazi trials that, ‘a modern war, no matter how chivalrous, involves so much misery that to punish deviations from the conventions without punishing the instigators of an aggressive war seems like a mocking exercise in gentlemanly futility.’ Perhaps it is worth pondering, in the midst of the immense suffering unleashed by the Iraq war, whether we are engaged in the same mocking exercise when we prosecute those far down the chain of command for violations of the Geneva Conventions and let the unleashers of illegal wars get away with murder,” concluded Mandel.

Karla needs better PR advice

A respected York law professor says the decisions made by Karla Homolka’s defence team over the past couple of months have been “bizarre” and may lead people to question Homolka’s sanity, reported The Toronto Sun Aug. 26. “Some of the decisions that have been made so far have been very bizarre,” Alan Young, a criminal lawyer and professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said in an interview. “Everybody, even Canadians who don’t really think about this issue, found it perplexing that Karla could ask for a media ban and then run, within 24 hours, to the media to talk,” he said, referring to a recent interview Homolka gave to French language television. The request for a media ban backfired and left the impression with the public that Homolka had a “misplaced sense of entitlement about what her freedom should entail,” Young said. “People really started to wonder about the advice she was being given, and about her own sanity, and that’s not the impression you want to leave with the public,” Young said.

The midway thrill is gone with the hearing

As you get older the rides at the Ex look like a good way to lose your lunch instead of an excellent way to spend a summer afternoon, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 26. It’s all a matter of balance, explains biologist Ian Howard, a professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering who has spent years trying to understand how we make sense of where we are in three-dimensional space. Essentially, we have two systems that do the job – the ocular and the vestibular, the eye and the ear. It’s when those two get out of sync that we start to feel dizzy, queasy and unsettled. As we age, Howard says, the vestibular system becomes less sensitive and “people tend to become more reliant on vision.” And what do thrill rides do? They make it hard to see straight.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics and international business professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, was interviewed about the China National Petroleum Corporation’s purchase of PetroKazakhstan Inc. and selling Canadian resource companies, on ROB TV’s The Wrap with Kim Parlee Aug. 22.
  • In the wake of another shooting in Toronto in which witnesses have remained silent, Toronto police chief Bill Blair wants access to the federal witness protection program, reported “Global News” Aug. 25. Sociologist Margaret Beare, director of York’s Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime & Corruption, told Global she doubts witness protection would increase the chances of an individual coming forward.