Australian PM could face Iraq prosecution
june16, 2005 – PRIME Minister John Howard could face criminal prosecution overseas for Australia’s role in the Iraq war, an international lawyer says.
Philippe Sands, QC, director of the Centre for International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, says Mr Howard along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair could face charges amid claims the Iraq war was illegal.
United States President George W Bush and US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld could also find themselves in similar predicaments, Professor Sands says.
“Under international law an illegal war amounts to the crime of aggression and in some countries around the world a crime of aggression is one in which they exercise jurisdiction,” Prof Sands told ABC TV.
“So the possibility really can’t be excluded that if messrs Blair and Howard at some point in the future travel after they’ve left office to a country which, for example, has an extradition agreement with another country where you have an independent prosecutor.
“A request for extradition or for investigation or questioning … could happen. There’s precedent for it.”
Prof Sands said it would be easier for foreign countries angered by the Iraq war to chase after Mr Howard given Australia has less political clout in the world than the US or Britain.
“It may turn out to be much easier to go to after John Howard than Tony Blair or, for obvious reasons, George W Bush,” he said.
“He may produce a more easy target in the sense that Australia doesn’t have politically the clout of a country like the United States.
“I’m not saying that it ought to happen nor am I saying definitely that it will happen, but the simple point is that the rules of international law have changed very considerably in the last 50 years largely as a result of efforts by the United States, by Australia and by the United Kingdom.
“A whole new range of international criminal laws has emerged and when you break the rules of international law you pay a price for that and one of the prices that you pay if you are a leader is that you travel with greater care and caution.