International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Obama Faces Decision Regarding Victims of 9/11 and Saudi Arabia

On Friday, September 26th President Obama faces an important decision regarding the families of 9/11 victims. A bill, passed earlier this month by the senate and the house of representatives, would allow the families of victims to sue Saudi Arabia for the attacks. If President Obama does not veto the bill, it will become law by midnight September 26th.

Obama has been hesitant about the legislation, and is expected to Veto the bill. Passing the bill could “the bill would open up the US and its diplomats to legal retaliation around the globe”, and could worsen relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, a strong US ally in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has threatened to sell of US debt holdings worth billions of dollars if the US were to pass the bill. Many efforts were made the past summer by lobbyists for Saudi Arabia to gain support for vetoing the bill.

If President Obama is to veto the bill, Congress could over ride the bill with a two thirds majority vote.

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President Obama with Saudi Arabia’s Prime Minister, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

 

 

Refugees to Detroit?

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Considering the large number of refugees that are coming from Syria, the worlds biggest power, the United States, should be doing something to help. But what it the question? Where do we put them? Back in February former President Bill Clinton sat down with the Kurdish founder of Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya. In this conversation Clinton mentioned an interesting idea, take Syrian refugees and put them into the 10,000 homes available in Detroit. Without getting too political, this seems like a good idea on the outside. It sounds like a nice solution for some of the refugees out there waiting for someplace to go. But I just don’t see how something this large scale will work out. We have seen in countries like German and France how having large number of refugees in one area has led to quite a bit of crime. Now all refugees obviously not all refugees are going to go around committing crimes, that’s ridiculous. Still I like John Layfield’s, otherwise known as pro wrestler JBL, idea of trying to fill some of these homes with some of the countless homeless veterans that we have in this country. We can find better places to work in refugees than just dropping 10,000 of them into one city. If you want to fill 10,000 homes, most of them should be from those already in this country that need help. Whatever your opinion may be and whichever side you agree with, this is a very interesting idea.

Start conversation at 10:00 for refugee topic.

 

The White House tolerates an atrocity in Syria

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Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reported that the United States acted illogically in response to the attack on UN humanitarian aid trucks in Syria the day prior. Although the Red Cross and UN officials suggested a war crime had been committed, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to give up on the US’s tentative relationship with Russia ― one of the parties suspected to be responsible for the horrific bombing. The State Department recorded Kerry declaring that the previously discussed cease-fire agreement, clearly violated by this vicious act, was “not dead” and that talks with Russia should continue. There is abundant evidence that the aid convoy, distinctly marked “humanitarian”, had not deployed before those parties involved in the conflict had been notified of its incoming presence. Russian and Syrian officials deny any and all responsibility for Monday’s attack, but contrary to their unconvincing testimony, there is little doubt about their involvement at this point. How alarming is it that our government is willing to show an overwhelming level of tolerance for such abhorrent atrocities for the sake of protecting a proposed alliance with Russia, the alleged perpetrator of this attack?

When will the ‘blame game’ in Aleppo end?

57e12b8fc46188a4178b45e4-1It is clear from the crisis in Syria over the past five years that no significant progress is being made to end the violence. In fact, matters have gotten increasingly worse. Despite a cease-fire being put in place between the Syrian government and the rebel groups (excluding Isil), attacks continue to inflict havoc in Syria. Just this past Monday an attack occurred in Aleppo, which is located in the northwest corner of Syria. A UN aid convoy carrying flour and other emergency supplies for 78,000 citizens in Aleppo was destroyed by a series of bombs. Residents described that “the bombs were falling like rain”. More than 20 people were killed. This attack is a major issue because it destroyed the cease fire causing the UN to suspend all aid convoys to Syria, a detrimental consequence for civilians. Fingers are being pointed at who is responsible for the attack; the US is blaming Russia and Assad while Russia is blaming rebel terrorist groups. Furthermore, Russia’s defense ministry referenced drone footage stating that terrorists were driving a truck carrying a heavy mortar alongside the convoy before it was bombed. However, monitors in Aleppo captured footage of more than 35 bomb strikes in the area. Innocent civilians are dying and no has the audacity to take responsibility and provide reparations. 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/19/un-aid-convoy-hit-by-airstrike-in-aleppo-minutes-after-end-of-ce/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23849587

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/suspends-syria-aid-convoy-bombed-160920080213025.html

War Crimes in Syria

The civil war in Syria that is still going on today has created many problems in the country including a countless number of war crimes that have been committed. The government is to blame for a lot of these war crimes. They deliberately target innocent civilians and they use illegal weapons to do so. They specifically drop bombs called cluster bombs. These bombs are devastating as they release a number of tiny projectiles that go all over the place. The government cannot possibly say that they were only targeting soldiers because they have no control over what these projectiles hit. War crimes are also being committed by the people of Syria who are fighting against the government. The most well known war crime that they are committing is the killings of soldiers who they have in custody. It is an international law that you are not allowed to unlawfully execute enemy soldiers who are in your custody as your prisoners. These Syrian rebels  have also been accused of treating captured government officials very poorly. These war crimes are a serious problem as they put the lives of so many innocent civilians in jeopardy.

 

https://www.amnesty.org.nz/war-crimes-syrian-conflict

Banality of Evil

“The Banality of Evil”

I remember first hearing this phrase and thinking how can evil be ordinary? It gives many great comfort to think that people are born inherently evil, that your neighbor, friend, colleague, would never be this caricature of evil. But that is not the truth, and the truth is a terrifying reality. Normal people can do more damage than the person holding the gun, The Nazis proved that. The bureaucratic officials of Nazi German were a well-oiled machine where one signature at the bottom of an insignificant piece of paper could send thousands to their death. It was so easy to blame the figurehead of the movement, Hitler, but he never pulled a trigger (except on himself). The power behind Hitler was the fire he ignited with his rhetoric and promises, and to a severely economically depressed Germany, his words sounded like salvation. People still question why anyone would follow a man like Hitler, but they didn’t follow the man, they followed the promise of a future that Hitler promised. Hitler made the masses proud to call themselves German once again after humiliation in WWI. People could have felt they had an obligation to the man who raised their country back up, they could have whole-heartedly believed in his rhetoric. The important thing to remember is that without the support of the masses, the ordinary people, no dictatorship or genocide would ever happen; they would have no army, no followers to fill their ranks, no support for their cause.

Human Rights Watch Reports on Unaccompanied Minors Detained in Greece

Between June 27th and July 6th 2016, Human Rights Watch commissioned a report regarding unaccompanied minors in Northern Greece. In the first 7 months of 2016, over 3,300 unaccompanied minors, primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, were registered by Greek Authorities.

Greece is largely unprepared for the substantial flow of migrants that have crossed its borders over the past year, and lacks a comprehensive system for child asylum seekers. However, this does not excuse the Greece’s abuse and neglect of unaccompanied minors

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Moria Detention Center, Greece

within the current system. In the system currently at use, all unaccompanied minors experience prolonged arbitrary detention. Detention centers are police operated,  and children sleep in cells. Extensive reports of  abuse include unsanitary conditions, abusive treatment, and a lack of critical care and services; including medical treatment, phycological counseling, legal aid, interviews and explanations in a language that is understood by the child, education and recreation, and awareness and familiarization with state assigned legal guardian. Despite  violating international and national law regarding separation of minors and adults, children have been reported being forcibly held in the same cells as adults, heightening the risk to minors of sexual violence and general abuse.

Under International and Greek Law, detention of unaccompanied minors is an option only in exceptional cases. Greek authorities have blamed their violations of the law, claiming arbitrary detention is for temporary protection within the child’s best interest. Prolonged detention has become practice, on average, children are being held for one to two months within detention centers, striped of their basic rights, and prone to many forms of abuse.

Human Rights Watch has called on Greece to change their protocol, stating that “unaccompanied minors should not be detained based solely on immigrant status.” Detention should only occur in exceptional circumstances, and for a far shorter maximum period of time then is and has been in practice. HRW demands that Greece invest immediately in sufficient and sustainable alternatives to detaining unaccompanied minors. HRW suggest that Greece ends the practice of automatic detention and assess each case individually based on need. HRW also states that Greece needs to urgently improve conditions within detention centers to include interpretation services, information about purpose of detention for minors, counseling, legal aid, and education and recreation materials. HRW calls for an alternative to detention, and that all children are familiarized with their given legal guardian. HRW calls on the EU and European Commission to make the asylum process for unaccompanied minors more urgent, and to speed up processes regarding family reunification. HRW calls on the EU to allocate sufficient funding to NGO’s working specifically with displaced children, urgently support reunification, and amend a more intensive emergency relocation plan for unaccompanied minors.


 

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Two of my good friends, both unaccompanied minors posing as adults, who would assist our NGO with construction every day.

This past summer I spent 8 weeks in Thessaloniki, Greece working in Syrian refugee camps. During that time, I met many unaccompanied minors. In many cases, I heard stories of families that could not afford to leave their country together, and had a “Sophie’s Choice” type of situation; they would have to choose one person to go. Often times, they would send their oldest son, or the child who could speak english.

While some were young children who had traveled with friends or relatives, many  were boys between the ages of 15 and 18 who were posing as adults. They would do so to avoid detention centers, the exploitation of unaccompanied minors, and in hopes of maintaining their dignity and little freedom they had left. They would often times group up with other unaccompanied minors doing the same thing, to share a tent, food, and for general companionship and protection. Instability, the effects of trauma, and depression were particularly high within these groups. These boys are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, police brutality, and to physiological/emotional issues.

Torture or Trickery in Guantanamo Bay

The early 2000’s were filled with a great amount of speculation surrounding the circumstances of the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Questions of torture tactics and classified messages between top FBI officials over the legality of the treatment of prisoners filled the media. Many agents working at Guantanamo Bay say tactics used by interrogators and other officials were certainly forms of torture violating international law; however, interrogators responded that they were following orders and their officers told them the prisoners were not protected by the Geneva Convention. Officials working at the prison did admit to their awareness of international laws, but many claimed they used trickery, not torture, as a way to get prisoners to give up information. While speculation still remains about the events that took place at Guantanamo Bay, a few things are for sure. First, the prison most certainly must follow international laws and is covered under the Geneva Convention. Next, the definition of torture is one that should be defined in broad enough terms to encompass all forms of mistreatment or ‘trickery.’ Lastly, if the question needs to be asked whether torture is taking place, it most likely is.

CBS

Why ISIS Needs to be Stopped

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Many people see ISIS as just a terrorist group with their main focus on randomly killing innocent civilians. This however is not what their main intent is, their main intent shows much more cause for concern. ISIS is a religious group that disagrees with the Yazidis beliefs and has been exterminating these citizens for years now. Genocide is a term that can sometimes be thrown around loosely in today’s society, but in this instance ISIS is committing genocide on the Yazidis group. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro says “ISIS permanently sought to erase the Yazidis through killing, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm.” It is clear that ISIS has one motive behind their actions and that is to completely destroy the Yazidis people. This is why ISIS needs to be stopped immediately to prevent this genocide from becoming worse.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/17/world/middleeast/isis-genocide-yazidi-un.html?_r=0

Native American Genocide

As Genocide was discussed during class it was apparent that the actual definition written for the crime is quite vague. This leaves the crime’s circumstances up for some interpretation, which can allow further discussion top take place about what genocide really is and what events embody the crime. One of these events is the genocide of Native Americans. Before the European settlers arrived to America is it estimated the American population consisted of over 10 million people. The 2010 consensus confirmed that there were only about 5.2 million left of that population today. The rapid colonization along with the rush to find gold and other natural resources by white settlers resulted in blatant racism and oppression towards the Native Americans. Along with the social hardships the Native Americans were also subject to mass illness and the forceful loss of their land. Although civil rights have bettered since the early 20th century for the Native American population, they still face hardships due to the history of attacks from their fellow citizens and even their own government.

Syrian War and its Impact on Human Trafficking

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We have seen plenty of coverage about the ongoing situation in Syria. After all there is fighting going on between President al-Asaad and Syrian government, rebel groups, and the terrorist group ISIS. There is also intervention with outside nations like the United States and Russia. On top of all this there is the believed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on its people. This isn’t the violation of human rights I want to discuss. I want to talk about the mass displacement of Syrian refugees, and how many of them are getting caught up in the human trafficking world. This is largely due to the number of refugees that have nowhere to go and no way to make money. They end up in the hands of groups who take complete advantage of them, and violate the rights all people deserve. Since this crisis started we have also seen an increase in the slavery market. Terror groups ISIS and Boko Haram can be blamed for this as they have taken many prisoners and turned them into working and sex slaves, including many children. They are selling them off and making a large profit on this increasing market. This is a scary thought, and something serious needs to be done.

http://www.irinnews.org/news/2016/09/12/time-get-tough-human-trafficking-and-sex-slavery

http://www.carbonated.tv/news/syrian-refugees-child-slavery-prostitution-survival-sex-lebanon (including image)

Darfur: The First Genocide Of The 21’st Century

Claiming over 300,000 lives and displacing over 3 million people, the genocide in Darfur is one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has ever faced. The most devastating reality is that the killing continues till this day.

Omar AL Bashir, the president of Sudan rose to power during a military coup in 1989. He inherited the long running war with the rebels of South Sudan. This conflict stemmed from “northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab, southern Sudanese.” The need for resources played a big role in this conflict, which led to two civil wars one in 1972 and the second in 1983. Even after the civil wars the government continued to neglect the people and have left them poor and without voice. In 2003, a group of non-Arab rebel group decided that they have had enough and launched an uprising against the Khartoum government. The response from the government was the beginning of the genocide campaign. The government decided to enlist the help of an Arab militia in Darfur called the Janjaweed to carry out this task. This dispute is not religious but an ethnic one.

Rape, murder, torture, etc.. The international community promised “never again” to allow a destruction of a particular ethnic, racial, or religious group. The United States carried its promise in 2004, when congress passed a resolution labeling Darfur genocide. This however did not foster a strong reaction from the international community, instead the community spent most of the time arguing about what constitutes as genocide. The UN only went as far as threatening to sanction Sudan’s growing oil industry. This did not stop the killing. The African Union also sent 7,700 troops by April 2005, but the uncooperative government proved to be a stronger force.

The International Criminal failed to bring justice to this crime when an arrest warrant for Al Bashir came in 2009, the judge claimed that there was not enough sufficient evidence to support charges of genocide. In 2010 though, a warrant for Al Bashir came for three counts of genocide, the GoS , the Arab League and the African Union denounced the warrants. thankfully though the UN has not placed any action against these warrants so they are still in place. Yet Many countries have failed to their obligation to act on these warrants. Al Bashir is still in power and cannot leave his country. What I question is how ineffective the international community has been. I believe it is because many of these governments commit some of the same crimes, and other countries do not actually care. How can one man escape justice leaves me flabbergasted. This massacre just proves how ineffective the international community is when it comes to large scale killings (cough Syria).

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Failure to Protect

 

Donate to help end this genocide.

Genocide in Ukraine

In the 1930s, Ukraine was in a major famine caused by russia. It was caused because Ukraine wanted their independence and they tried to get it in starting in 1917. When they lost the civil war, Ukraine was owned by different countries in europe. The Soviet Union started to take large amounts of their grain, which was how they made their money and got their food. This led to a famine, where according to The history place, then led to 7 million deaths. To me this should be considered genocide because Russia unreasonably took all of the citizens supply, thus targeting citizens.There has not been much done to hold Russia accountable or to give Ukraine the justice they deserve.

Is Prevention Possible?

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Genocide is often a result of prejudiced beliefs and ideas that are passed down generations or have been misinterpreted by powerful people. This built hatred, which is then passed down to populations, seems justifiable and acceptable for societies. When genocide occurs, it is not something abrupt or accidental and because there is so much thought and careful planning put into this by the groups committing the crime, it is not easy to stop this overnight.

There is no limit of deaths at which officials can term the mass killings as a “genocide.” Therefore, it is usually wise for international organisations to be cautious of the situation at a conflicted area/region and then intervene, before the death tolls rise. Genocide is greater in conflicted areas or countries where there is active war and a powerful dictator/government ruling and controlling the civilians. Global peace organizations and other countries need to address this while the discrimination and intolerance of a particular group is not as widespread. This can be done through taking swift action through the use of military forces, setting up warning systems that help detect the early signs and take action. If civilians are already being targeted, organizations can create plans/locations to provide them with safety and resources. These changes will not only lead to faster peace but could also prevent these atrocity crimes from occurring repeatedly.

Cluster Munition Coalition Convenes for 6th Annual Meeting

On September 7th, the 6th annual meeting of the Cluster Munition Coalition convened in Geneva.  Human Rights Watchcmc-syria-graphics2, a co- founder of the international Cluster Munition Coalition published a report on the convention the following day. The 55 states in attendance condemned the use of cluster munition in Syria. Reports of at least eight cluster munition attacks came out during the three day time period in which the meeting was held. Civilians, including children, were victims of the attacks.

The 55 states in attendance devised  a declaration that would “condemn the use (of cluster munition) by any actor.” The 119 states have signed the treaty, and 100 have ratified it. The United States is not one of them. During the three day convention, President Obama visited Laos. He announced that the US would supply $90 million to assist in clearance efforts of cluster munition in Laos over the next three years. On August 30th the last US producer of cluster munitions, Texron Systems, ended its production of the weapons. Although the president did not confirm the end of US production and storing of cluster munitions, this decision “clears the path” for the US to halt further engagements with the weapon.

The Cluster Munition Conventions on September 5th “outlined key elements” for any legislation regarding the treaty. Although only 27 states have succeeded in “national implementation measures, including legislation, to carry out provisions of the treaty”, other advancements, including the US’s commitment to Laos, exemplify the growing influence of the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Turkey’s Request for US to Arrest Gulen

France International News released a report today stating that the Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, formally requested President Obama to arrest Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in Philadelphia since 1999. The failed military coup that occurred back in July 2016 in Turkey is the event that lead to Erdogan’s request of the US government. The failed coup targeted parliament and infrastructure in the name of the Gulen movement.  The Gulen movement has Turkish-Muslim ties, but is not related to politics.  Their main focus is to push for positive changes in society including democracy.  Turkey has already found and suspended thousands of police and soldiers linked to the failed Gulen coup. President Erdogan has gone so far as to say that, “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.” Despite Turkey’s request for Gulen’s arrest, US lawyers have stated that the process could take years to finalize if the US government decides to follow through with the Turkish request. 

Atrocity Crimes

In response to Helen Fein.

Genocide, as a word, has not been around for a particularly long period of time. The word has only come into existence after the genocide that we are most familiar with, the Holocaust (alternately, The Shoah). Yet the crime of genocide is as old as civilization. There has always been hatred between groups of different religion, ethnicities, and nationalities. But genocide is only a small part of the spectrum of crimes against humanity, and like how laws change with the time, definitions and must change and include more. The article goes into the broader class of Atrocity Crimes; which, based on the article, is an all-encompassing class of crimes against humanity, but these crimes must fit within a set of guidelines to be atrocities. This classification, I believe, makes these crimes much more likely to be tried in court and have some form of justice be a possibility. With guidelines that have been agreed upon by an international council, the crimes will be more likely to be tried if they fit the requirements. But, there must still be change, and more importantly, steps towards prevention of atrocity crimes.

 

Welcome Endicott Students!

This will be our course blog for the Fall 2016 semester. Stay tuned for updates….

Anti-Police Protest in Israel Turns Violent

The New York Times reported Sunday that violence broke out in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, after thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis took to the streets to protest police brutality and discrimination. The uprising mirrors the protests which took place in Ferguson, New York City, and most recently Baltimore, which erupted after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The demonstrations started peacefully—with Ethiopian-Israelis and their supporters marching past government offices and shutting down traffic—however, violence erupted when protestors hurled rocks and overturned a police vehicle and clashed with police. Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu’s message to protestors was that “All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances.”

The unrest was triggered by a video that depicts a police officer beating an Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform for no apparent reason. Among the demonstrators, two interviewees reported having undergone similar experiences in which they were unjustly beaten by police. The police chief announced that the officer caught on tape beating the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier has been fired. A similar, small-scale demonstration took place in Jerusalem last Thursday, which also ended in violence.

Similar to the sentiment felt by blacks in the United States, an associate professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev reported that “Ethiopian-Israelis perceived themselves, much like blacks in the United States, as subject to “overpolicing,” including racial profiling; being stopped and arrested more often than other, “white,” Israelis; and being treated with a tougher hand.” The Israeli government has responded to the protests, and violence which has resulted, at a much quicker pace than the United States, taking measures in an effort to improve the system. It will be interesting to see what Ethiopian-Israeli protestors can learn from African-American protestors and vice versa, as well as what the Israeli government can learn from the US government and vice versa.

Buffer Zone in Syria

One possibility that has been considered by several major powers with regards to the Syria crisis has been a “buffer zone” to protect Syrian refugees that have made it to Turkey. As we discussed in class on thursday, the problem with Syria is sovereignty, as long as the Assad regime stays in power. A foreign affairs article discusses the possible buffer zone through the context of R2P. ISIS attacks on unprotected civilians qualifies under R2P as needing some form of humanitarian intervention. However, the problem remains with R2P that Russia could veto it at the Security Council. Furthermore, what would the creation of a buffer zone entail, and what would it look like? It would certainly need the backing of countries like the US and other powers to supply troops and air support. If western powers did intervene in some degree, the blame could easily be passed on to them if ISIS attacks continue. Also as the article notes, a buffer zone could exacerbate the crisis in that more Syrians might try to flee the country for safe haven.

Ultimately, this sort of intervention under R2P would not be a peacemaking endeavor. As the article notes, it wouldn’t be a “blank check” for western intervention to provide justice and end the conflict. On the contrary, the success of a buffer zone would depend on the volatility of the crisis in Syria, in terms of both ISIS and atrocities committed by the Assad regime. Yet the fact remains that “Syria’s humanitarian crisis is quickly becoming Turkey’s national security issue”. As Turkey has to handle an increasing amount of refugees, more pressure will be put on the UN, and it will be harder to ignore for countries like the US.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2014-11-12/better-safe-sorry

Amnesty International in Baltimore

After the funeral of homicide victim, Freddie Gray due to the  alleged severing of his spine from multiple Baltimore City police olead_largefficers, some protests in Baltimore turned violent. While there was criminal activity including looting, vandalism, and destruction of public and private property, the Baltimore City Police department and Government over reacted using riot shields, semi-automatic weaponry, armored vehicles, tear gas and other military grade weapons to control the city when only a small fraction of the protestors were actually violent. In addition to the Baltimore City Police department, the national guard also called in troops to help ‘control’ the situation in Baltimore resulting in even more excessive weaponry. Although much of the media justified this use of force by labelling the protesters as “Gang bangers”, “Thugs”, “Animals” and a host of other names, Amnesty International stood up for the people’s right to protest without the excessive pushback from police. Amnesty International’s United States chapter sent in a team to observe the protests in Baltimore and hold the officers accountable for protecting citizens’ rights to assemble peacefully and restrain officers from using excessive force in reaction to protestors who are for the most part peaceful and simply emotional over the issues that plague their communities.

Amnesty International released several statements to show support of Baltimore protestors and summarize their own stance on the situation,

1. “We are calling on the police in Baltimore to exercise restraint, and to ensure that peaceful protesters can assemble and the media can do its job without undue interference”

2.“Confronting protesters in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put law enforcement in the mindset that confrontation and conflict is inevitable rather than possible.”

3. “Excessive force, such as tear gas, should not be used to curtail the rights of a non-violent majority in order to quell the acts of a few”

While Amnesty International is not weighing in on the politics of the situation, their presence will surely put pressure on law enforcement to treat all citizens as law-abiding protestors rather than “criminals” or “thugs” unless given probable cause.

UN Report Accuses French Soldiers of Abusing Children in Central African Republic

A recently released UN Report detailed a plethora of crimes allegedly committed by French soldiers in the Central African Republic (CAR) that spanned from December 2013 through June 2014. Staff from UNICEF interviewed six children from CAR to testified that French soldiers coerced them into engaging in what ranged from oral sex to full intercourse with them, in exchange for meager amounts or food or money. Some of the children also reported being physically abused by the soldiers when they attempted to refuse their advances. Paula Donovan, who is the co-Director of the organization AIDS Free World, advocated for increased involvement from the UN, noting that while the soldiers were in CAR under the authority of the French government, “the children should expect that the United Nations will not only protect them, but also provide the services which are so desperately needed by children who have been forced to have oral sex by a man with a gun in return for food.”

The international community has become increasingly aware of crimes committed by peacekeepers. Nearly half of all the accusations against peacekeepers involve sexual abuse or violence against a minor; children have reported that peacekeepers have coerced them into some form of sex with as little as a peace of candy or a dollar bill. The UN has a public database of crimes brought against the peacekeepers; however, despite this effort to promote transparency, it hasn’t published the outcomes of these cases. The US State Department even criticized the UN in its 2010 human trafficking report, saying, “no comprehensive information is available on the number of cases of disciplinary action.”  While the UN has a “zero tolerance” policy regarding abuse by peacekeepers, it has come under some criticism for effectively leaving the peacekeeper’s home country to prosecute, which makes it less likely that soldiers will be held accountable for their actions.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/30/world/france-un-car-sex-abuse-claims/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/08/world/08nations.html?_r=0

Bensouda announces that Palestinians could also face war crimes

In the most recent news of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, announced that in addition to the investigation of Israeli war crimes, the ICC will also be looking into crimes committed by the Palestinian side of the conflict. Although the investigation is in the preliminary stages, Bensouda made this fact very clear in her interview with the Israeli liberal newspaper Haaretz. She stated that all accused crimes would be examined, “independently and impartially without fear or favour.” This is significant because it seemed that, when the Palestinians joined the ICC last month, they were certain the Israelis would be investigated and charged with war crimes; however, the Palestinian’s joining of the ICC may backfire and ultimately cause members of their own community to be indicted by the ICC. In addition, this recent development represents another example of how the ICC is continuing to remain as impartial and fair as possible without being influenced by the agendas of outside countries.

Link

Allegations of UN Peacekeeping Forces Killing Seven Civilians in Darfur

Tensions continue to rise in Sudan as a force of peacekeepers in Darfur is accused of killing seven civilians in three separate incidents just last week. This recent peacekeeping development only threatens the strained relationship between the government and international forces. In response to these allegations, the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has claimed that the attacks were self-defense. The two attacks on April 23 and 24 left four Sudanese dead and six peacekeepers wounded. The UNAMID has been in Darfur since 2007. Their mandate is to stem the violence against civilians, and recently their mission has stirred up controversy with attempts to investigate an alleged mass rape by Sudanese soldiers in the town of Tabit. UNAMID has said that 61 peacekeepers have been killed in Darfur since deployment in 2007.

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Previous blog posts have commented on the controversy that surrounds peacekeeping. The most famous example is the Dutch peacekeeping mission in Srebrenica that has been called partially responsible for the deaths that occurred during the 1995 massacre. Problems and controversies with peacekeeping are serious threats to justice—if the people trying to find and restore justice are committing crimes and not being held accountable, then is progress really happening? A lack of accountability for crimes committed by peacekeepers is a serious problem that threatens peace in the threatened area and brings up questions of impunity. In the case of Sudan, as Bashir continues to hold onto power, these strained relationships are only going to act as a spark plug to the conflict.

ICC to Look Into Zulu King’s Xenophobic Speech

A Nigerian human rights group known as the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, or SERAP, has petitioned the ICC’s OTP to look into allegations of inciteful hate speech committed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in South Africa. Bensouda has opted to investigate the xenophobic attacks that have said to have resulted from Zwelithini’s speech.zulu kings

In a March gathering in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, Zwelithini talked about the inconvenience that foreigners, such as Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa, have posed to locals in his country. Allegedy, he told gatherers that “foreigners must pack their bags and go home.” Not long after in April, xenophobic violence flared up in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, killing at least seven people and displacing thousands more.

SERAP, in its petition, argues that Zwelithini’s hate speech created the conditions for this violence to occur, crimes of which the group asserts are crimes against humanity that violate the Rome Statute. In addition to Zwelithini’s words, SERAP argues that South African law enforcement is complicit in the violence, as they failed to take steps to stop the abuse against non-nationals. Police Minister Nathi Nheleko was present when Zwelithini made his speech, yet no steps have been taken by the police to counteract the speech’s effects.

Given that the government itself has been implicated in this xenophobia and that law enforcement has failed to act to protect non-national targets, SERAP argues that the conditions are present to justify a proprio motu investigation by Mrs. Fatou Bensouda. The national judiciary is likely to be unwilling to try Zwelithini for his incitements to hatred, thus allowing the ICC to step in under the principle of complementarity and as a court of last resort.

This case will be interesting to watch, especially since Chief Prosecutor Bensouda has decided to look into the situation already. As we have seen in many cases, incitements to violence have been powerful weapons used in many cases to cause mass amounts of violence. In Rwanda, the media was a huge reason why so many regular Rwandans acted out on the hate speech directed at Hutus, resulting in a massive amount of violence in only 100 days. In Cote d’Ivoire, as well, hate speech was generated by political leaders and the media, ultimately leading to an eruption of violence against non-Ivorians. The power of hate speech to incite mass violence, in light of these past cases, surely must not be underestimated in the current situation in South Africa. Given their history of apartheid, any attempt at categorizing different South African citizens is frightening and should not be ignored.