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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
War View: 'Prepare a court now for Bin Laden'
Bob Marshall-Andrews, MP for Medway, says the bombing of Afghanistan should stop and an international criminal court set up in readiness to try Osama bin Laden.

There are, one perceives, three leaders in the world who believe that the bombing of Afghanistan is in the interests of their cause and should be a part of their strategy.

Those three leaders are first, of course, the President of the United States; secondly, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and perhaps those in Nato who support him; and thirdly, Osama bin Laden himself.

No one should doubt that that psychotic international criminal knows full well that with every single bomb that drops on a defenceless enemy from 30,000 ft, we sow the dragon's teeth.


We began by announcing a war, first, on terrorism - one cannot make war on an abstract noun

As in classical mythology, from the Afghan soil will emerge not our warriors, but warriors who will fight for Bin Laden and al-Qaeda and whose numbers will multiply.

Above all, they will be armed with the hatred of the United States which brought them into being.

We began by announcing a war, first, on terrorism. That is an absurdity, as one cannot make war on an abstract noun, although it is possible to make war on most types of syntax, as has occurred since 11 September.

As one cannot make war on abstract nouns, we were told that we were at war with Bin Laden, which endows him with the precise status he seeks.

'Poisonous embrace'

From being a criminal, he has become a warrior, and he will move on to become a martyr. Having said that we were at war, we then waged it from 30,000ft.

Such action creates a precise equation: it removes risk from combatants in the air and imposes it on civilians on the ground. That is what we did in Kosovo and our enlistment of the Northern Alliance has echoes of our poisonous embrace of the Kosovo Liberation Army.


We should signal that we expect and desire a judicial end to the conflict

During those dark 78 days in Kosovo we created 500,000 refugees by the unleashing of the Serb army.

While all this was happening the largest army force mustered by the west and Nato stood on the borders in Macedonia and did precisely nothing.

That is why those of us who remember Kosovo so well blanch at the idea that it is being held up as an example of the current war. We believe that history is repeating itself and we will see bombing for days but no intervention to save those it is affecting.

But I do wish to be constructive and to this end I believe we must create an international criminal court - one that is comparable to those that were established to deal with the atrocities in the Balkans and Rwanda.

International community

We should signal to the world that we expect and desire a judicial end to the conflict.

I can think of many reasons why Bin Laden should not be tried in America. We are told the attacks were an assault not on America, but on civilisation.


If I were asked how we should go into Afghanistan I would say I did not know

As an assault was made on the international community, it is to that community that the criminal who is responsible should be answerable.

No one would doubt the international court should have an American president. But it should also include Islamic jurists, so that we can say to the Islamic world: "This man will be tried in a court of fairness and justice."

Having established the court, we must get the criminal, and I am not suggesting that that will be easy. If I were asked how we should go into Afghanistan or wherever Bin Laden is and get him out I would say I did not know.

But if we continue into the spring the bombing of civilians, the international support that we have will disappear like the Afghan snows.

If that happens, we can stop parroting the idea that we are not at war with Islam, as Islam will be at war with us.


This is one of a series of differing opinions on the War on Terror which we shall be publishing in the coming days. You can send your view about this or other articles by using the form below.

I fully agree with Bob Marshall-Andrews. I thought I was one of the few asking for a fair trial. Now that one MP is openly saying it I am hoping the proposal will snowball and reach the hearts and ears of Tony Blair and President Bush.
Yusuf, UK

The idea of an international trial is in itself an interesting one. But such a trial should be not only of Bin Laden but also of other members of al-Qaeda and the Taleban leaders. The best court to hold such a trial would be, of course, the International Criminal Court. It is a pity that the United States have not yet ratified the Rome Treaty. Things would have been so much simpler. That means, either an ad hoc tribunal - a solution no one really likes -- or an American court. Perhaps the Americans can find some Muslims to sit on the jury.
Peter, Netherlands

Good sensible thinking - unfortunately no one is listening. The dragons teeth will indeed rise, and the ultimate winner in this war will not be the west.
Mike Turnbull, SA

I hope Bob's comments have been aired in Parliament too, as I haven't heard this much sense spoken by Tony Blair yet. Presumably Tony Blair does listen to the rest of parliament before making a decision; that's what democracy is all about. Bin Laden is a suspected criminal; nothing more and nothing less. Treat him as such, and if the evidence proves his guilt, he can be sentenced the same as any other mass murderer.
Jon, UK

Putting Hitler on trail in the 1920s only bolstered his popularity and gave him the opportunuity to espouse his crazy right-wing beliefs to anyone who owned a radio.
Graham Hughes, UK

I endorse the views expressed by Bob Marshall-Andrews. I cannot believe that the West exhausted all possible ways to get Bin Laden by diplomatic means before the bombing started. In failing to do so, the US has not capitalised on the genuine and unprecedented global sympathy generated by the atrocities which would in the longer run have been of far greater value in the war against terrorism than the bombing.
Robert Caplehorn, UK

Bravo to Mr. Marshall-Andrews. Someone who has to guts not to jump on the war-mongering bandwagon and stand up for justice and fairness. The US thinks they can bomb the hell out of any country to get their way and not even think that what they are doing will only cause more hatred towards us and more pain.
Nicolas Udu-gama, USA

I think US should prove their muscle by sending their ground troops to chase Mr Bin Laden. At least the groups of people targeted will be precise, and military targets. The current war strategy of US and its allies has proved nothing but killing more Afghan civilians, which perhaps this is what taleban and Bin Laden want. I think it is better for US and its allies to listen more on the views of the people like Mr Andrews. Bravo.
Rambun Tjajo, Indonesia

Which country will volunteer to hold Osama bin Laden before, during & after his trial? I doubt many countries would want to open themselves up to the security problems bin Laden's incarceration would surely bring them.
B. Lamb, USA

While I understand and respect your opinion no one I know or have spoken to over here across the pond would stand for a simple "trial" of Bin Laden. Let alone an "International Court".
John T., U.S.

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