O'Toole: when murder is a war crime…

Fintan O’Toole’s attention these days rarely wanders north of the border, but Mitchel McLaughlin’s performance on Questions & Answers the other day led him to consider the concept of crime (subs needed) and more specifically war crime in today’s Irish Times.

The fact is that even by the IRA’s own standards, the murder of Jean McConville and hundreds of other acts of violence it has perpetrated are crimes. The IRA justifies itself by claiming that it was engaged in a war, and that wars inevitably involve the infliction of violence on others. Along with Mitchel McLaughlin, it conveniently forgets that there is also such a thing as a war crime.

And by all accepted definitions of war crimes, the murder of Jean McConville was an illegal act. The International Criminal Court, of which Ireland is a member, clearly states that war crimes do apply to “an armed conflict not of an international character”, a category which obviously applies to the Northern Ireland troubles.

Under this heading, it defines as crimes a number of acts against non-combatants that the IRA perpetrated against Jean McConville, including “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture”, and “the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all judicial guarantees which are generally recognised as indispensable.”

The IRA’s refusal to disclose Jean McConville’s fate or produce her body also constituted a war crime, that of “enforced disappearance of persons”, defined as “the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons.”

  • Jimmy Sands

    O’Toole’s exposition of the law is simply incorrect. There was no armed conflict in the sense in which humanitarian lawyers use the term. One can of course choose to refer to a “war” as a rhetorical device,and many do, but technically it is meaningless.

  • Henry94

    Under this heading, it defines as crimes a number of acts against non-combatants that the IRA perpetrated against Jean McConville

    If she was a spy then she was a combatant.

  • smcgiff

    ‘If she was a spy then she was a combatant.’

    Using that logic, Henry, why have SF said it was wrong?

    However, as is the common cry of the moment, where is the proof she was a spy?

    BTW, this is the first time I’ve heard it implied she was a spy. And for you to bring it up here I very much hope you are either in the IRA’s army council or at the very least have evidence that she was a spy.

    Pure speculation on this matter leaves a very bitter aftertaste.

  • Steve

    Henry94,

    The IRA have openly admitted that they were wrong to murder Jean McConville as they later discovered she was not spying on behalf of the British Army. They IRA have stated she is completely innocent.

    Hence, its a war crime!!

  • Steve

    Henry94,

    The IRA have openly admitted that they were wrong to murder Jean McConville as they later discovered she was not spying on behalf of the British Army. They IRA have stated she is completely innocent.

    Hence, its a war crime!!

  • Henry94

    Steve

    Have you a reference for that. I read a book about the IRA by a guy called Ed Moloney which claimed she was a spy who had been warned once and kept spying.

    Of course it was still wrong to kill her as much as it’s wrong to kill any human being.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    As a recent libel case showed, sometimes Ed doesn’t always get it right.

    …but that’s another story.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry, surely Moloney then becomes a credible source for a few other things? 🙂

  • Davros

    Henry – Did Moloney agree that she was a spy or did he report that that was the excuse used to kill her ?

    Look at the claim. A widowed mother of ten kids -oh aye, she would have had all the time in the world to go out spying. She was at home most of the time with her kids. Add to that that she was an outsider in an enclosed community and that as a convert would have been viewed with suspicion – wow , what a catch that would be for the Brits.
    Almost as useful as Scap.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Of course it was still wrong to kill her as much as it’s wrong to kill any human being.’

    Nice try Henry, but thatÂ’s the same as saying killing of the likes of Hitler would have been no less wrong than the murder of Jean McConville.

  • Fobo

    “If she was a spy then she was a combatant.”

    Does that mean you support her murder Henry?

    “Have you a reference for that. I read a book about the IRA by a guy called Ed Moloney which claimed she was a spy who had been warned once and kept spying.”

    I take it you also agree with Moloney that Gerry Adams had a role in her murder?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Mick,

    Moloney has already been used as a source ad nauseum on this site, his book was used as ‘evidence’ by many contibutors. It was certainly used to aim a few brickbats in the direction of Adams.

    Surely it is only right to highlight the fact that he alleged that the British Army had taken advantage of such a pathetic figure as Mc Conville who was subsequently murdered by the IRA.

  • JD

    You have to love Moloney’s book if only for the way it cuts both ways.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I don’t think it cuts both ways. Statements by members to Moloney about Adams’ involvement are against interest, those about McConville are essentially self-serving. There is a fundamental difference therefore in the weight to be attached to each.

  • JD

    I do think it cuts both ways. There are things in the book that lie outside of everyone’s comfort zone. You can explain that away however you like.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I’m not trying to explain anything away. If find that passage less plausible than others for reasons which I’ve explained. I wasn’t there, but I suspect the radio story is untrue. It does not follow logically from this, for example, that Gerry Adams was never in the IRA. Of course I may have misunderstood your point in which case I apologise.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    Henry, surely Moloney then becomes a credible source for a few other things?

    I don’t know how credible he is. Fintan O’Toole claimed McConville was a non-combatant. That is disputed in Moloney’s book. Innocent victim or British spy? I don’t know what the truth is. Neither do most people. But I think her death is being exploited for political purposes by peope who are promoting the exclusion agenda.

  • JD

    Jimmy

    I was just pointing out that Moloney’s book is ripe for cherry picking. There are passages that people can use to support their take on things. That form of reading usually goes hand in hand with disbelieving (for whatever reason) other bits that don’t quite fit. That’s why I said it cut both ways.

  • DessertSpoon

    “It was wrong but not a crime…” – That’s right up there with “The money was just resting in my account.” for integrity and believability. Of course it was a crime is the Sinn Fein PR team on an extended holiday??