Jan 31, 2007

Most Leaders Fearful Of War Criminal Tag, Says Dr Mahathir

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 31 (Bernama) -- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Wednesday made a case for people including heads of government found to have committed war-time atrocities by the soon-to-be-launched Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal to be labelled as war criminals.

"I feel that the one punishment that most leaders are afraid of is to go down in history with a certain label attached to them.

"So these people (if found guilty) will always be called war criminals whenever their names are mentioned," the former prime minister said at a briefing on the tribunal initiative in conjunction with the international conference on "Expose War Crimes - Criminalise War" on Feb 5-7 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kuala Lumpur.

Organised by the Perdana Global Peace Organisation of which he is the chairman, the event at the PWTC will see the creation of the tribunal during the preliminary proceedings of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.

Dr Mahathir announced that he would be chairman of the commission while the tribunal would be headed by Datuk Abdul Kadir Sulaiman, a member of the Council of Advisers to the Regent of Terengganu and former judge of the Federal Court.

He said the tribunal would have to resort to conducting trials in absentia if the cases involved heads of government or powerful people.

"We'll have to resort to this because there is no way we can force them to come before the court," he added.

The commission will have to first investigate the veracity of complaints forwarded by war crime victims. And when it feels that there's a prima facie case, then only the matter will be taken up by the tribunal.

On Feb 7, Dr Mahathir is set to receive the petition of war crime victims in violence-hit places like Iraq and Palestine that will put into motion the workings of the commission and tribunal.

"We have been working to set up the tribunal to hear complaints by the victims, particularly those who have been tortured, so that these people can feel that there is some course for redress for their sufferings," he said.

The subjects of the complaints will be given ample opportunity to rebut the charges levelled at them.

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