The Next Wave – Call It Red Collar Crime
20 Corporate Crime Reporter 32(1), August 3, 2006

The next wave?

Call it red collar crime.

That would be white collar crime that results in injury or death.

Think – state reckless homicide prosecutions for death on the job.

Or the criminal investigation in Massachusetts of the death of the woman who was driving her car through the Big Dig tunnel in downtown Boston last month when a concrete ceiling panel fell on her car – crushing her to death.

The Boston Globe reported last week the safety officer for the I-90 tunnel contractor warned his superiors during construction of the tunnel that the bolts could not support the heavy concrete panels, and feared for his conscience if someone died as a result. (See “Memo Warned of Boston Tunnel Ceiling Collapse,” 20 Corporate Crime Reporter 31(3), July 31, 2006).

The Massachusetts Attorney General is looking to bringing homicide charges in connection with death of the woman.

And in recent days, a growing number of international law professors and human rights groups are calling for a criminal prosecution for war crimes in Lebanon and Iraq.

Human Rights Watch released a report today titled “Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon,” alleging that Israeli forces launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military objectives but excessive civilian cost.

“In many cases, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target,” the report found. “In some instances, Israeli forces appear to have deliberately targeted civilians.”

In some cases, the attacks constituted war crimes, the report found.

Human Rights Watch called on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate reports of such violations, including possible war crimes, and to “formulate recommendations with a view to holding accountable those who violated the law.”

“That commission should examine both Israeli attacks in Lebanon and Hezbollah attacks in Israel,” the report recommended.

Francis Boyle, a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois last week called on the UN to “immediately establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI).”

Boyle said that such a war crimes tribunal would organized along the lines of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY).

“The purpose of the ICTI would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the peoples of Lebanon and Palestine – just as the ICTY did for the victims of international crimes committed by Serbia and the Milosevic Regime throughout the Balkans,” Boyle said.

In an interview with Corporate Crime Reporter this week, John Quigley, a Professor of Law at Ohio State University, said that Israel’s attack on Lebanon was legally “unprovoked.”

What about Hezbollah’s killing of the three soldiers and kidnapping of two that Israel claims started it?

Quigley said that would be considered “a border incident” and not an “armed attack” under international law.
“Now, if I’m wrong about that, if one were to say that what was done by Hezbollah constitutes an armed attack on Israel, you still have in the law of self-defense the notion of proportionality,” Quigley said. “You act in self-defense, but you can only act in a way that is proportional to what has been done to you. So, even if one could say that Israel was subjected to an armed attack and could act in self-defense, it would be limited in its reaction.”
Quigley has a nuanced view of criminal prosecution of war crimes.

He is the author of a number of books on international law, most recently The Genocide Convention: An International Law Analysis (Ashgate, 2006).

“There is a serious issue with regard to criminal prosecution,” Quigley said. “If in principle, someone has done something that would subject him or her to criminal prosecution, you have to ask – does it make sense to do it?

Does it achieve a purpose? And that is the kind of issue that one would consider as a prosecutor as well.”

“There are some who are strongly of the view that aggressive prosecution is appropriate,” Quigley said. “And there are others that are less optimistic that prosecuting people for these kinds of acts is going to achieve anything in terms of preventing warfare in the future. I see criminal prosecution as desirable in principle, but often in practice it turns out not to be feasible, and in some situations it is certainly not helpful.”

(For a complete transcript of the question/answer format Interview with Professor Quigley, see 20 Corporate Crime Reporter 32(10), August 7, 2006, print edition only.)

(As far as we could determine, the term “red collar crime” was first used in this context by a California activist who calls himself “The Toxic Reverend.” It has also been used by Chinese activists in referring to crimes committed by their government.)


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