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  • For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq by Ayça Çubukçu
  • John Quigley (bio)
Ayça Çubukçu, For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), ISBN 9780812250503 (hardcover), 224 pages.

For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq is a first-person account of a citizens' tribunal, authored by one of the tribunal's organizers, and held in twenty public sessions across the world between 2003 and 2005 to assess the 2003 military actions that brought the overthrow of the government of Iraq.

As Ayça Çubukçu explains, political activists from various countries convened in Istanbul in fall 2003 to plot the course of sessions to be organized on the model of court hearings that would shine a critical spotlight on the invasion of Iraq of earlier that year. The organizers were reacting to the fact, as indicated, that despite a widespread understanding that the reasons given for the invasion were invalid, the international community as represented by the United Nations was not expressing condemnation.

Çubukçu is an anthropologist by train ing, and she took upon herself the task of chronicling the process by which the tri bunal was conceived and implemented. She describes tension in the formulation of the tribunal between those who saw it as challenging the legality of the inva sion, and those who adopted what she calls a "political" focus. The "legalists" [End Page 769] anticipated a tribunal that would take existing norms of international law as the lodestone and measure against it the action of the United States, Britain, and their allies. This approach, asserted its proponents, would ensure the credibility of the tribunal's findings, based, as they would be, in a universally shared frame work for assessing military actions. The "legalists" mentioned the International Criminal Court as an institution they could call upon to prosecute the leaders of the invading powers.

Adherents of the "political" approach focused on what they saw as resistance being offered by the Iraqi people against the invasion. This resistance, they said, was what showed the illegitimacy of the invasion. They wanted to show the Iraq war as illegitimate in a sense deeper than simply an unlawful invasion; they wanted to focus on structural issues in the international community that allowed for invasions like that of Iraq.

A practical problem emerged for the "legalists." If the tribunal were to act to measure the legality of the invasion, the views expressed by the organizers revealed that they had already decided on its illegality. The organizers could not credibly begin, as a judicial court would begin, with at least a stated position of neutrality. There was little doubt, as stated by one of the organizers, what the result of the tribunal's deliberations would be. The allies would certainly be condemned.

Çubukçu describes tension over set ting up the structure of the tribunal. The concept was to have separate sessions in various cities; each was to have au tonomy. Yet if the project was to be a "world tribunal," there needed to be some coherence. Again, the divide on resolving this dilemma was between the "legalists" and the "politicos." The former saw international law as the unifying element. All the sessions would focus on the norms of law that apply to the situation, thereby maintaining unity. For the "politicos," a unifying element was less clear.

Controversy swirled on how broadly to examine the role of the United Na tions. Some wanted to concentrate only on the 2003 action, while others wanted to bring into the picture the sanctions the United Nations had approved against Iraq after the first Gulf war in 1990 to 1991—sanctions that had been widely criticized for imposing harsh conditions of life on the population. In the end, con siderable leeway was given to organizers of individual sessions to decide on the scope of inquiry.

Sessions were held around the world over the next two years. In 2005 a session was convened in Istanbul as a summa tion. The "legal" orientation was promi nent in the structure of the proceedings. A "panel of advocates" would present evidence...


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pp. 769-772
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