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Saturday, November 27th - Monday, November 29th

Tribunal Coordinator Ward Morehouse arrested

Corporations are even violating the existing laws - to prove this was the idea behind the Global People's Tribunal on Corporate Crimes against Humanity. Not only this, but also that existing laws are not valid if its against power and money interest, has been proven again on Monday 29th, when Tribunals Coordinator Ward Morehouse was arrested while trying to put citizen warrants on trade ministers.

Endorsed by People's Global Action at its recent conference in Bangalore, and being organized by a small group of human rights, consumer, and trade union activists in the USA and Canada, the tribunal takes place in Seattle, starting on Saturday.

The Tribunal heared testimony and receives written, oral and video taped forms of evidence of crimes against humanity by global corporations as defined under international and Canadian law.

One purpose of the Tribunal was to focus attention on the giant global corporations - now larger than most nation states - the WTO serves. Another purpose of the Tribunal was underscore just how destructive of fundamental human rights, the environment and democratic process the world's largest corporations are.

Is it possible under existing laws to present to the Seattle Tribunal sufficient evidence to sustain an indictment of those corporations being examined?

Such crimes have been defined under Canadian Law C-71 as meaning "...murder, extermination, deportation, persecution, or any other inhumane act or commission that is committed against any civilian population or any identifiable persons ... and that ... constitutes a contravention of customary international law or conventional international law or is criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the Community of Nations". This definition is drawn from the Charter of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg as subsequently reaffirmed and extended to acts committed at any time by the UN General Assembly. And the UN's International Law Commission has asserted that "inhumane acts" become crimes against humanity when they are "committed in a systematic way or on a large scale and instigated or directed by a Government or by any organization or group" which clearly includes non-state actors such as giant global corporations.

The presiding judge had impaneled a grand jury from different countries. The jury was aided in this task by a prosecutor who reviewed the applicability of crimes against humanity as defined above. This Tribunal worked like a grand jury, considering whether or not there is sufficient evidence to sustain charges of "crimes against humanity".

The Tribunal started with a local witness, David Ortman, of the Northwest Cororation Accountability Project ( He accused Cargill - the agromulti that is based in Seattle - of various crimes all over the world. Cargill is the worlds largest privately owned corporation. Cargill is also the worlds largest private grain company controlling over a quarter of all US grain exports and over a quarter of the worlds grain production. In 1993 Cargill made the short list of the Council on Economic Priorities as one of the worst environmental offenders in the US. The CEP sited over 2000 violations of health and safety laws. In 1988 a Cargill plant spilt 40,000 gallon of toxic phosphoric acid into the Alafia River in Florida causing a massive fish kill. In 1991 CEP found Cargill to have the worst air pollution compliance record of any company in its industry. So it was found to have dumped enough animal waste for ten times the human population in the state. More recently Cargill has begun dredging operations at the grain port of Puerto Aquirre in Bolivia. It will alter the natural channel of two major local rivers, in order for Cargill to create a waterway for Soybean barges. Independent studies have found that even small changes to this waterway, the second most important river system in all of South America, may cause massive damage to the largest of the worlds remaining wetlands. (have a look at

More evidence was given by direct affected people, as Caravan participant Parvathi Kalasannavar of the Karnataka State Farmers Association (KRRS). She described how the fundamental right of farmers to produce, use, modify and conserve seeds is under threat from multinational seed companies which see farmers' rights to their own seeds as an obstacle to market expansion through patenting plants and genes. Cargill is one of the worlds leading producers of genetically engineered seeds and biotechnological additives for livestock. Like other corporations specializing in the genetic manipulation of seed stocks maintain they 'own' the rights to the products of these seeds. Though the company admits that the origin of the seeds is often from farmers in developing countries.

Another corporation on trial was Union Carbide, responsible for the worst industrial disaster in the history of the planet - 1994 in Bhopal, India. Over 40 tones of Methyl Isocyanate and other lethal gases including hydrogen cyanide, leaked from Carbide's pesticide factory in the northern end of the city killed over 8,000 people in its immediate aftermath and causing multisystemic injuries to over 500,000 peoples. The number of deaths has risen over 16,000 in the subsequent years and there appears no end to the physical and mental suffering caused by exposure to the poisonous gases. Research findings on chromosomal aeration's suggest that the future generations of the survivors will possibly carry ravages of the industrial toxins.

Doctor Rajiv Bhatia gave evidence on this. He has been working with victims since 1994. 15 years after the disaster there had been no recognizable compensation. Little has changed in the living environment of the survivors, most of whom live in congested slums without facilities for safe drinking water, sanitation and clean air. Judicial systems in both USA and India have failed to ensure adequate compensation and justice for the survivors. (more info:

Well, to make many sad, long stories short: in the end the decision was made that this evidence is sufficient to sustain charges of crimes against humanity. On Monday, the opening day of the Ministerial Meeting, the members of the Tribunal jury and many others marched on the Convention and Trade Center. They wanted to serve citizen arrest warrants on the Trade Ministers of the Group of the largest industrialized countries as accomplices after the fact in the commission of crimes against humanity as determined by the Tribunal.

But again was shown that the existing laws only serve specific interest.

Before people arrived the Conventional Center they got stopped by the police. When Tribunal Coordinator Ward Morehouse insisted in his intention, he got arrested.


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