Cablegate: "World Tribunal" Confab Condemns Coalition

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) Summary: A self-appointed "World Tribunal on Iraq"
(WTI) comprising an international group of academic and civil
society activists met in Istanbul from June 24-27 to charge
the U.S. and U.K. governments with waging an illegal war of
aggression in Iraq, recommend coalition forces' immediate
withdrawal from Iraq, and express support for the right of
the Iraqi people to "resist the illegal occupation of their
country." Turkish press covered the event widely, with
Cumhuriyet giving the WTI final press statement front page
above the fold placement. It is difficult to gauge the
event's effect on public opinion, but with Turkish views on
U.S. action in Iraq already overwhelmingly negative, it may
have had no effect at all. The WTI message was out of step
with two other Istanbul events in late June -- the Democracy
Assistance Dialogue conference (ref A) and an ARI movement
conference on democratization and security. End Summary.

2. (U) A self-appointed "World Tribunal on Iraq" (WTI)
comprising an international group of academic and civil
society activists, and chaired by Indian novelist Arundhati
Roy, met in Istanbul from June 24-27 to hear more than 50
presentations by a "Panel of Advocates" and render a
"verdict" challenging the legality of the coalition invasion
of Iraq, condemning the conduct of coalition governments in
Iraq during the occupation, and charging the United Nations
and the international media with complicity in coalition
actions. (Note: Per ref B, Mission Turkey was notified in
advance about the event, but did not send representatives.
End note.) The culminating session in a series of
approximately 20 such "hearings" which began in Brussels in
April 2004 and continued in cities around the world during
the past 14 months, the Istanbul WTI meeting closed with a
press statement making charges against the USG and
recommendations for future action (see paras 5,6).

Claiming to represent humanity's collective conscience
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. (U) Drawing its legitimacy from what it called the
"collective conscience of humanity," the WTI was inspired in
part by the 1966-67 Russell Tribunal, formed by British
pacifist Bertrand Russell to examine conduct of U.S. forces
in Vietnam at that time. While that tribunal was criticized
for being one-sided and ignoring atrocities committed by the
Viet Cong, it was able to draw big-name tribunal members,
including Jean Paul Sartre, Lazaro Cardenas and Stokely
Carmichael. The current WTI effort, also criticized for
ignoring the illegal actions of the Saddam regime in its
deliberations, has a lesser-known roster of supporters,
outside of Roy, who won the 1997 Booker Prize for her novel
"The God of Small Things."

Turkish participants: no strangers to controversy
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (U) The WTI event had a primarily international, rather
than Turkish, face. The only Turkish member of the WTI "Jury
of Conscience" featured prominently in press coverage of the
event was Ayse Erzan, an Istanbul Technical University
Physics professor who participated alongside Roy in the
group's final press statement. Per the WTI website
(), however, there were other
Turkish members of the "Jury," including mine worker Ahmet
Ozturk, Radikal columnist Murat Belge, and conscientious
objector Mehmet Tarhan, who recently launched a hunger strike
after being jailed for "insubordination toward his unit."
Among the "Panel of Advocates" scheduled to speak at the
hearing, and also among the signatories of the letter
announcing the event (ref B), was leftist professor Baskin
Oran, from Ankara University's Political Sciences faculty.
Oran was a part of the GOT human rights board that produced
an unpopular report urging that Turkey update its concept of
"minority" to make it consistent with Western European
practices. He has also frequently criticized the State's
position on the Armenian tragedy of 1915-16.

The "Charges"

5. (U) The WTI "Jury" charged the U.S. and U.K. governments
with: waging a war of aggression in contravention of the
U.N. Charter and the Nuremberg Principles; targeting the
civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure;
using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon
systems; failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during
military activities and during the occupation period
thereafter; using deadly violence against peaceful
protesters; imposing punishments without charge or trial;
subjecting Iraqi soldiers and civilians to torture and cruel,
inhuman, or degrading treatment; actively creating conditions
under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been
degraded; failing to protect humanity's rich archeological
and cultural heritage in Iraq; obstructing the right to
information; and redefining torture in violation of
international law.

The Recommendations -- Vive la Resistance

6. (U) In a statement preceding its list of recommendations,
the WTI group recognized "the right of the Iraqi people to
resist the illegal occupation of their country and to develop
independent institutions," and affirmed that "the right to
resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for
self-determination, freedom and independence as derived from
the Charter of the U.N." They went on to recommend the
immediate and unconditional withdrawal of forces from Iraq;
reparations by coalition governments to compensate Iraq for
devastation; the immediate closing of Guantanamo Bay prison
and all other offshore U.S. prisons; an investigation of
those responsible for crimes of aggression and "crimes
against humanity" in Iraq; and actions by people throughout
the world against corporations that directly profited from
the war. Examples of such corporations, their statement
said, include Halliburton, Bechtel, Carlyle, CACI Inc., Titan
Corporation, Kellog, Brown and Root, DynCorp, Boeing,
ExxonMobil, Texaco and British Petroleum.

WTI Not the Only Game in Town

7. (U) Both print and electronic media covered the WTI event
extensively. News stories about it on multiple days were
prominently placed and several sympathetic op-ed pieces
appeared in Radikal and other dailies. The "Jury's" final
verdict received front page above the fold coverage in
Cumhuriyet. The WTI conclusions, however, calling for
immediate withdrawal and disengagement in Iraq, were out of
step with two other important events unfolding in Istanbul in
late June that also were featured in the press. The coverage
of the WTI meeting came on the heels of extensive coverage
just one week earlier of a Democracy Assistance Dialogue
conference (ref A) that featured a member of the National
Council for Women in Iraq, who spoke of the freedom of speech
that had come to her country at last, the 31 percent
representation of women in Iraq's National Assembly, and the
efforts being undertaken to provide services to women in

8. (U) The beginning of the WTI meeting also coincided with
a conference on democracy and security in the region
organized by the ARI Movement, a group of young,
politically-minded activists who are looking for ways forward
in the quest for long-term stability and security in the
region, taking into account changes already underway. NEA
DAS Carpenter, who participated in the ARI Conference,
provided an in-depth interview to Zaman newspaper on the same
day the WTI session opened, clearly addressing questions
about the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative,
and underlining the partnerships the U.S. has forged --
including with Turkey -- in promoting reforms. The
symbolism of the WTI and ARI events happening at the same
time was not lost on U.S.-based Iraqi writer Nibras Kazimi,
who, in a June 30 piece in the New York Sun, pointed out that
the two conferences offered dramatically different choices
and directions. Referring to the WTI, he wrote, "This is the
new Turkish left, which together with the grizzled remnants
of the European and Middle Eastern left huddled together in
what used to be the Ottoman Imperial Mint." While this went
on, he implies, the ARI crowd met in a hotel conference room
in central Istanbul and looked for solutions.

9. (U) Comment: Given Turkish views about the Iraq war over
the past two years, it is not difficult to understand why the
WTI project organizers chose Istanbul for their final
session. With Turkish public opinion about U.S. action in
Iraq already so negative, the WTI may not have had any
additional effect, though, and it appears to have come and
gone without making a significant mark on the political scene
in Turkey.

10. (U) Baghdad minimize considered.

© Scoop Media

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