The Malaysian government is supportive of the initiative taken by the Perdana Global Peace Organisation, headed by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to organise the three-day War Crimes Conference and Exhibition, which starts here Monday.

“The Malaysian government is supporting. One of the Ministries has donated a considerable sum of money for this conference and I believe that the Prime Minister’s Department too has contributed…I don’t know about other governments, only about the Malaysian government,” the former Prime Minister revealed at a press conference here, today.

He said the conference this time around would emphasise on war crimes, starting with an informal discussion among invited participants on the subject today at the Legend Hotel.

He said participants to the conference would see a good cross-section of people from all over the world including journalists, victims of torture, scientists and various other interested parties.

“We hope that this conference, which is the third in its series of conferences on criminalising war in Malaysia, would one day be held in other countries. We hope that after this conference we would be able to do something towards criminalising war,” Dr Mahathir said.

He said the conference would also set up a commission and a tribunal to try war criminals brought to its attention.

“But that is only one of the things that we wish to do. We will all go back and try to explain the purpose of our conference and try to work among our own people in different countries.

“We have formed a network of people who are interested in criminalising war and they will do their work in their own place in their own circle and we do hope that with the help of the media, this idea that war is a crime, that war is not an option in the solution of feuds between nations would spread among the peoples of the world and that one day we will able to have governments declare that war is illegal and that no nation should go to war,” he said.

Dr Mahathir hoped that the conference would be given its due publicity because “we are trying to convert the thinking of people and we know the media plays a huge role in spreading ideas and perceptions which will affect the objective that we are striving for, and the objective remains criminilising war.”

He said participants to the conference would be those from war ravaged nations, Canada, United States of America, Japan and many other nations of the world.

To a question on the proposed commission and tribunal, the former Prime Minister said setting up such a mechanism would not undermine the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“They are doing their work but there are so many crimes being committed, some are not given the attention they deserve. The concentration is on selected crimes…not much on Iraq or Palestine,” he added.

Dr Mahathir said those to be tried at the commission and tribunal would be based on the accusations levelled at them, with victims being asked to provide a statutory declaration containing details of the alleged crime.

“After that the commission will study to find out whether there is substance to the allegation. It is a legal process done in a proper way. We are not going to have some slipshod kangaroo court. We are going to have people who have been judges on the tribunal and even members of the commission would be those familiar with the process of law.

“We are going to do it very, very properly. We may not get the accused to come to the court but trials in absentia have been done before. We think this court will make real, fair decision,” he said.

On another note, the former Prime Minister refused to be drawn into the nomination by four non-governmental organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to nominate him for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize 2007.

Nominations to the Norwegian Nobel Committee closed Feb 1 and this year’s list includes former US vice-president Al Gore, Finnish peace broker Martti Ahtisaari and Chinese dissident Rebiya Kadeer.

“I don’t know…I don’t know. I think the most important thing is the attempt we are trying to make which is to criminalise war,” he said.

Asked if he would accept the nomination, Dr Mahathir in his usual sarcasm and wit replied:” I don’t know if I have to accept or not but can we have some other more interesting questions”.

— BERNAMA