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UK bid to arrest Kissinger fails

Kissinger's scheduled visit to London later this week is the subject of two legal bids
Kissinger's scheduled visit to London later this week is the subject of two legal bids  

LONDON, England -- An attempt to have former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes has failed.

British human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell applied to London's Bow Street Magistrates' Court on Monday for a warrant for the arrest of Kissinger under the Geneva Conventions Act.

Tatchell alleges that Kissinger's direction of the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 1970s amounted to a breach of British laws requiring people of all nationalities to observe the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war.

It is the latest legal bid made against Kissinger.

According to a copy of a court order obtained by CNN, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon issued an order last week asking British authorities to permit the questioning of Kissinger when he arrives in London on April 24. (Full story)

Garzon is believed to want to question Kissinger over his alleged involvement in "Operation Condor," a scheme by former military dictatorships in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to persecute and eliminate their opponents during the 1970s and 1980s.

Tatchell told Monday's BBC's Radio 4's Today programme: "The basic case against Henry Kissinger is that while he was National Security Adviser to President (Richard) Nixon from 1969 to 1973, he effectively oversaw and was the chief architect of U.S. war policy in Vietnam.

"He had a hands-on approach. He was the person who authorised and even proposed and supervised the indiscriminate bombing of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

"As a result, he bears direct responsibility for the mass deaths and displacement of civilian populations.

"These are crimes under British law. The Geneva Conventions Act 1967 says that failure to distinguish between military and civilian targets and pursuing military operations which endanger and kill civilians are war crimes.

"There is no limit of time and anybody who commits these crimes anywhere in the world, whatever their nationality, can be tried in Britain.

"If justice should prevail, which I hope it will, I will be granted a warrant, because the law of the land says these actions are war crimes.

"At the very least, the court ought to give the opportunity for the case to be heard."

Mugabe arrest bid

But at the court hearing, District Judge Nicholas Evans told Tatchell that he needed the UK Attorney General's consent to proceed and that "there is nothing I can do."

Tatchell said he would seek "clarification" on the matter.

Kissinger is expected in London on Wednesday to address the Institute of Directors at the Royal Albert Hall.

Outside the hearing Tatchell said: "I expect the Attorney General to enforce the Geneva Conventions Act by agreeing to prosecute Henry Kissinger.

"If he is unwilling to do so I am seeking his permission to bring a private prosecution. It will cost many thousands of pounds but we will find some way to sort that out.

"There are no immunities from prosecution. No one is beyond the law."

In March last year, Tatchell accosted Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as he emerged from a lunch in London.

Tatchell, protesting about Mugabe's anti-gay rhetoric, called him a "murderer" and "torturer," and tried to make a citizen's arrest.

In 1998, Tatchell again caused controversy when he mounted the pulpit in Canterbury Cathedral during the archbishop's traditional Easter Sunday sermon.




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