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"We are not judges. We are witnesses. Our task is to make mankind bear witness to these terrible crimes and to unite mankind on the side of justice in Vietnam."

Bertrand Russell

Tribunal constituted in 1967 by initiative of Bertrand Russell, to discuss the accusations of war crimes during the Vietnam war. Unlike the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials, the only antecedents at that time, this tribunal was constituted by and promoted by individuals. They didn't represent any government or party so they couldn't receive orders. A French newspaper said of this tribunal:

"What a strange tribunal; there are juries without a judge!"

They were right, the tribunal didn't have the power to condemn nor to acquit. What the Tribunal Russell was looking for was to set a precedent of a permanent international tribunal against war crimes, and it failed at that. The Tribunal was largely ignored by the worldwide press, except for the French newspapers Le Monde and Liberation. It was also criticised for being biased, which was totally true. In fact, they didn't hide this bias: it was produced by the horror the war caused on them. Notwithstanding, the Tribunal produced some results, mainly in the form of information supplied by some of the defendants.

The Pentagon stated that the quantity of ordnance expended in Indochina was four and a half million tons, just in aerial bombardment. The total of ordnance expended doubled that number. Edward S. Herman, in his book 'Atrocities' in Vietnam: Myths and Realities (Pilgrim Press, 1970), put it in this way:

"Over 70 tons of bombs for every square mile of Vietnam, North and South and about 500 pounds of bombs for every man, woman and child in Vietnam"

The Pentagon admitted that anti-personnel weapons where used against North Vietnamese forces, although they claimed that its objectives were "radar stations and anti-aircraft batteries".

Today, we can't say we've gone any further.


Reports from the sessions of the Tribunal can be accessed online at:
http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/v1tribun.htm

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