Sadly, I suspect the US and its allies are going to expand military activities to an all-out war in Syria.
Here’s why I think that.
July 2 Australian election
July 18 US Vice president, Joe Biden meets winning Prime minister Turnbull.
August 29 Malcolm Turnbull brooches 25 legislative changes on the day before parliament opens. Hidden amongst them is a never-before-mentioned change to war crimes legislation.
Here’s the original legislation.
268.70 War crime–murder
(1) A person (the perpetrator ) commits an offence if:
(a) the perpetrator causes the death of one or more persons; and
(b) the person or persons are not taking an active part in the hostilities; and
(c) the perpetrator knows of, or is reckless as to, the factual circumstances establishing that the person or persons are not taking an active part in the hostilities; and
(d) the perpetrator’s conduct takes place in the context of, and is associated with, an armed conflict that is not an international armed conflict.
Penalty: Imprisonment for life.
(2) To avoid doubt, a reference in subsection (1) to a person or persons who are not taking an active part in the hostilities includes a reference to:
(a) a person or persons who are hors de combat ; or
(b) civilians, medical personnel or religious personnel who are not taking an active part in the hostilities.
(Under Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, non-international armed conflicts are armed conflicts in which one or more non-State armed groups are involved.)
Australian troops never had any problem with the existing legislation in Afghanistan. But now that we are in Syria….
Turnbull wants to add to the legislation that: war crime offences of murder and attacking civilians in a non-international armed conflict do not apply to protect members of an organised armed group not engaged in fighting.
In effect, it gives immunity to Australian troops who attack civilians, captives, slaves, hospitals, schools, infrastructure and religious communities because it is impossible to separate them from ‘members of an organised armed group not engaged in fighting’.
Turnbull mentions Isis when he refers to an organised armed group, but doesn’t mention them in the legislation which could just as easily mean the Syrian government, the Kurds or anyone else anywhere in the world.
This smacks of a major US change in strategy.