Towards the tail end of the Today Programme (2:54:42) Clive Baldwin from the dreadfully partisan organisation known as Human Rights Watch was brought in to opine on the plight of Shamima Begum.
I wondered what he would have to say. He began thus: (Note. None of the following transcriptions is guaranteed 100% verbatim)
“As you said, John, ISIS committed very serious crimes; crimes against humanity [..] the key element is collecting all the evidence of war crimes in Syria and we should be focussing on those found to have been responsible for helping, assisting prosecuting and committing war crimes especially at the most senior level.
That sounds promising, I thought - he’s more interested in “The most senior level” than picking off the low-hanging fruit, so to speak.
The other guest, Yvonne McDermott Rees @Swansea_Law, has an unmistakably Irish accent. What can we expect from her? Well, she agreed with Clive.
Y McD R
“It’s going to be domestic countries - Germany is going to be prosecuting for crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
(Humph to Clive)
“What about Shamima Begum?”
“She has the right to enter Britain as a British citizen, if she does she should be investigated for anything she’s done to assist any crimes in Syria and Iraq and also security measures taken, taking into account that she was a girl when she went out there, um 15, and on a wider scale as well, and for the UK as a whole to know that this is a global problem; and her case has also highlighted what’s happening in Syria is also happening in Iraq as well, with the end of the war against ISIS, is you have these very large camps of internment, which are effectively open-air prisons, where lots of people are detained…previously people talk about the displaced people in Iraq, and it’s important that these camps close down as quickly as possible - again those most responsible for those crimes are prosecuted but everyone else has the right to return home.
I don’t know that “everyone else” should have the right to return home, wherever ‘home’ might be. Some of them may not have homes to return to. But it would be nice to think that these two commenters realise that this idiotic girl is but a drop in the ocean and that our fundamental problem goes deeper.
Humph to Yvonne McDermott Rees:
“How does one distinguish between those who carry out terrible acts and those who don’t actually wield the knife or pull the trigger, but support them, give them help?”
Y McD R
“Yes, this has always been a challenge in the prosecution of these international crimes.
We want to go after those who are most responsible. It’s not always the person who’s holding the gun, the weapon is the person who’s higher up in the chain of command the architect of these policies, to commit these crimes, so going after those most responsible is always going to be a huge challenge.
In this context we’ve got a brand new world in the sense that we have a wealth of citizen evidence, so people have been gathering evidence on their mobile phones for example, but the challenge with using that kind of evidence in prosecutions is that if we’re going to prosecute those who are most responsible it’s still very difficult to find the evidence that links higher up to the chain of command.”
Precisely. Never mind small fry like Ms Begum - let’s go for the bigwigs. But which ones? The daddy of them all, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi? Or one of those Imams that have so much influence on their followers in the West?
Humph, (who hasn’t really been listening)
But the idea of citizen evidence is very attractive Clive?
Indeed, and my organisation as well, HRW, has been documenting crimes in Syria and Iraq for years now. It’s just making sure that evidence can be used in court, and that’s why this mechanism in Geneva is important, for its wide exchange of information and particularly the commanders, and what we’ve seen in Iraq is that when they’ve been prosecuting in Iraq is that they’ve only gone after very low-level people and it’s important now that we go after the most senior.
These answers pose another question. We know that HRW takes a left-wing, agenda-driven approach to morality as far as war crimes are concerned, so we have to wonder, is the desire to focus “on the most senior” war criminals just an excuse to let Ms Begum off the hook on “humanitarian grounds?” Are they saying she’s just a drop in the ocean, so let’s just go for the big guys?
Or, on the other hand, was it a belated realisation that we face a far bigger battle than can realistically be won simply by imprisoning hundreds or maybe thousands of the fanatical individuals who’ve been captured red-handed on smartphones during the act of beheading some unfortunate infidel. (To be used later in court as evidence that the accused has literally acted out the fantasy of a better world in the shape of a global Islamic caliphate) (and not the one who has incited the whole damned business from some God-forsaken pulpit.)
I doubt it. Personally, I don’t think they’ve realised anything of the sort. I think they really do believe that they can defeat ISIS and various yet-to-be-invented off-shoots thereof, by inadvertently creating another gigantic Guantanamo Bay, while being very careful not to appear Islamophobic.
As they say, good luck with that.