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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 12:46 GMT
Allies on trial


By Peter Barron
Newsnight editor

  • MONDAY 5 DECEMBER
  • THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER
  • TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER
  • FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER
  • WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER
  • NEWSNIGHT REVIEW
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    Normally on Newsnight we don't tell everyone what we're going to be doing on the programme next Wednesday.

    The accusations of war crimes are coming thick and fast and not just from those who opposed the war from the outset
    But next week is different - we're going to put the allies on trial.

    The on-going controversy about the United States' use of, and Britain's indirect involvement in, the "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects has taken on a life of its own. And that has come hard on the heels of the allegations about the use of white phosphorous at Fallujah.

    So we reckon it's time to stage a special programme pulling both issues together and asking: have the allies been guilty of war crimes in their prosecution of the war in Iraq and the war on terror?

    Unusual suspects

    Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson

    The accusations of war crimes are coming thick and fast and not just from those who opposed the war from the outset.

    The bloggers are at it of course, as well as Harold Pinter, Professor Richard Dawkins, Tony Benn and others, but when people like the former law lord Lord Steyn and Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former right hand man, start questioning the legality of the allies' actions, something big is up.

    Trial by TV

    In next Wednesday's programme we'll aim to devote the whole show - news events permitting - to an exploration of these questions.

    Jeremy Paxman
    Jeremy Paxman will present the special programme
    The programme, presented by Jeremy Paxman, will be in the form of a trial, with barristers, witnesses and a jury of real people, specially selected by a polling organisation to represent an undecided cross-section of British opinion.

    The human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith will make the case for the prosecution, the criminal barrister John Cooper will take the defence brief.

    I'm sure the old criticism of "trial by TV" will be made in some quarters, but the aim in using this format is to have a scrupulously and transparently even-handed, forensic and detailed examination of both sides of the argument.

    I promise there'll be no wigs or gavels.

    Where's your evidence?

    We're also keen to get as much input as possible from you. Viewers e-mail us all the time saying "why don't you ask him this", or "why don't you cover that?" Now there's the opportunity to play a direct role in our TV trial.

    We've already had masses of e-mails highlighting allegations of illegal actions by the allies and counter arguments questioning those claims. Now we want more.

    We'll make all this material available to our advocates to use in whatever way they wish, and we'll publish as much of it as possible here on the website.

    We've already heard from one serving officer with first-hand testimony of events in Fallujah, so if you have evidence or an argument that can help convict or acquit, we want to hear it.

    Of course it's not a real court or a real trial. The verdict doesn't matter, but surely the arguments do.

  • NEWSNIGHT STAGES 'WAR CRIMES TRIAL' - CLICK FOR MORE



    WATCH THIS WEEK'S OTHER PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS

  • Anti-war campaigner Cindy Sheehan talks to Newsnight
  • Appeals for the release of hostage Norman Kember




  • SEE ALSO:
    Difficult decisions and charm offensives
    02 Dec 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Broadband - like TV only better
    25 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    What is the point of Jeremy Paxman?
    17 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Could you do better?
    11 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home
    Smears, the Sun and squirrels
    04 Nov 05 |  Newsnight Home



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