For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq

For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq

For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq

For the Love of Humanity: The World Tribunal on Iraq


On February 15, 2003, millions of people around the world demonstrated against the war that the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies were planning to wage in Iraq. Despite this being the largest protest in the history of humankind, the war on Iraq began the next month. That year, the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) emerged from the global antiwar movement that had mobilized against the invasion and subsequent occupation. Like the earlier tribunal on Vietnam convened by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, the WTI sought to document--and provide grounds for adjudicating--war crimes committed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allied forces during the Iraq war.

For the Love of Humanity builds on two years of transnational fieldwork within the decentralized network of antiwar activists who constituted the WTI in some twenty cities around the world. Ayça Aubukçu illuminates the tribunal up close, both as an ethnographer and a sympathetic participant. In the process, she situates debates among WTI activists--a group encompassing scholars, lawyers, students, translators, writers, teachers, and more--alongside key jurists, theorists, and critics of global democracy.

WTI activists confronted many dilemmas as they conducted their political arguments and actions, often facing interpretations of human rights and international law that, unlike their own, were not grounded in anti-imperialism. Aubukçu approaches this conflict by broadening her lens, incorporating insights into how Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Iraqi High Tribunal grappled with the realities of Iraq's occupation. Through critical analysis of the global debate surrounding one of the early twenty-first century's most significant world events, For the Love of Humanity addresses the challenges of forging global solidarity against imperialism and makes a case for reevaluating the relationships between law and violence, empire and human rights, and cosmopolitan authority and political autonomy.


Is not the setting up of a neutral institution standing between the
people and its enemies, capable of establishing the dividing line
between the true and the false, the guilty and the innocent, the just
and the unjust, is this not a way of resisting popular justice? a way
of disarming it in the struggle it is conducting in reality in favor of
an arbitration in the realm of the ideal? This is why I am wondering
whether the court is not a form of popular justice but rather its

—Michel Foucault, “On Popular Justice: a Discussion
with Maoists,” February 1972

Before the testimonies begin, I would like to briefly address as
straightforwardly as I can a few questions that have been raised
about this tribunal. the first is that this tribunal is a kangaroo
court. That it represents only one point of view. That it is a
prosecution without a defense. That the verdict is a foregone
conclusion…. Let me say categorically that this tribunal is the
defense. It is an act of resistance in itself.

—Arundhati Roy, “Opening Speech on Behalf of the Jury
of Conscience of the World Tribunal on Iraq,” June 2005

It was February 15, 2003. Millions of people around the world were demonstrating against the war the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies were planning to wage in Iraq. Marching in New York City, I was one of them. Despite the largest protest in human history, the war on Iraq began rapidly on March 19, 2003. That summer, I was twenty-three. I recall the night . . .

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