Report on Soleimani assassination suggests US committed war crime

By: Rachel Marsden

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Congratulations to President Donald Trump on a setting a new global benchmark. Heíd better just hope that it doesnít land him in The Hague.

In January, Trump ordered the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Soleimani had been a U.S. ally against the Taliban in Afghanistan ó that is, until he felt that America had overstayed its welcome in his neighborhood. More recently, Soleimani had become known as an effective liquidator of ISIS jihadists.

So how did Trump repay the general for his efforts? According to an NBC News report, Trump got the idea to kill Soleimani seven months earlier by listening to the dulcet warmongering tones of national security adviser turned disgruntled employee John Bolton. Before Trump decided that Bolton might end up dragging him into World War III, he apparently thought it wise to adopt Boltonís personal kill list.

So on Jan. 3, while Soleimani was in Iraq, Trump let íer rip. Soleimani was killed by a drone strike. Trump declared on Twitter: ďGeneral Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more Ö but got caught!Ē

Itís illegal for a world leader to extrajudicially execute an official of a foreign country on the soil of a third country, particularly if your country isnít at war with the targeted officialís nation. Letís remember that despite a war of words, Iran and the U.S. arenít actually at war with each other. And Iraq, a supposedly sovereign nation, hadnít given either country permission to use its territory to settle scores as if it were a parking lot behind a dive bar at 2 a.m.

Agnes Callamard, a United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made the point in a new report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that Trumpís decision was exceptionally inappropriate.

ďThe targeted killing of General Soleimani in January 2020 is the first known incident in which a state invoked self-defense as a justification for an attack against a state-actor, in the territory of another state,Ē the report says. ďNo evidence has been provided that General Soleimani specifically was planning an imminent attack against U.S. interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified.Ē

Trump didnít offer any evidence of threats to the safety of Americans as justification for Soleimaniís assassination. The president even used clashes in Iran between protesters and authorities as an excuse for unilaterally deciding to eliminate the general ó as if you can just blow away a foreign official because you think that heís mean to protesters back home. Imagine the precedent that would set. The whole world would be a battlefield.

What if the shoe were on the other foot and an Iranian drone strike killed U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper during an official visit to Turkey? Now imagine that Iranís justification for the targeted killing was self-defense against some future U.S. hostility, and the Iranian president tweeted about saving peaceful protesters who had been tear-gassed by authorities during the recent U.S. protests.

In her report, Callamard writes that the U.S. assassination of Soleimani qualified as an arbitrary killing and violated both international human rights law and a law prohibiting threat or use of force in international relations. The danger for Trump lies in a footnote. Callamard notes that such violations may constitute an act of aggression over which the International Criminal Court at The Hague has had jurisdiction since 2018.

The Trump administration has taken the same position as previous administrations: that international law doesnít apply to the U.S. This administration has even taken the notion a step further by recently sanctioning International Criminal Court officials and even their family members as punishment for investigating possible war crimes by U.S. personnel without consent from Washington.

The U.S. canít have it both ways. It canít sanction or criminally charge foreign entities as it sees fit in the interests of defending humanitarian values and the rule of law, all while insisting that it can do whatever it wants everywhere in the world ó including unjustified murder.

The U.S. originally helped to usher in the International Criminal Court when it signed the Rome Statute in 1998, and it invented the very concept of international criminal proceedings and consequences with the Nuremberg Trials. So itís not inherently opposed to the idea of international criminal justice ó at least not as it applies to everyone else.

If American leadership is guilty of arbitrary killings abroad that risk eventual retaliation, U.S. citizens deserve to know.