To all my Bowdoin students…

Thanks for a great semester and enjoy your summer!

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

Nigerian Soldiers Rescue Approximately 300 Girls from Boko Haram

Nigerian soldiers rescued approximately 300 girls from the notorious terrorist group, Boko Haram. The girls were found in the Sambisa Forest in northern Nigeria, where the militants have been known to use the dense coverage to set up their bases. Although rescuing these 300 girls and women was a substantial victory for the Nigerian army, the 200 Chibok schoolgirls, who were kidnapped just over a year ago and whose disappearance prompted a massive international outcry and subsequent social media campaign for their return, remain missing. A CNN correspondent reported that neither the international community nor the Nigerian military or government have “any idea where the girls are or were.” Many have speculated that the girls have been broken up into smaller groups used as suicide bombers, or have been given in “marriage” — or sex slavery — to Boko Haram fighters. Unconfirmed eyewitnesses have reported that they saw the girls being taken by boat across Lake Chad into Cameroon, and a community leader who had attempted to organize their release said that Boko Haram told him that at least three had died while in captivity.

Despite a huge domestic and international push to return the 200 Chibok girls safely to their families, these efforts have been largely futile and have thrown the Nigerian government’s weaknesses into high relief. Even this recent rescue of the kidnapped girls was relatively disorganized; when a Nigerian soldier described the operation, he said, “we stumbled on some girls and may find more.” Despite the best intentions of the army and international community, the pervasive rhetoric and social media presence that has raised awareness about the Chibok kidnappings remains largely ineffective at bringing them home.

African leaders silent as their people perish in the Mediterranean. Could they be blamed for neglect and turning a blind eye?

The article discusses the widespread silence from African leaders amid a global crisis of many African immigrants being shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. As we discussed in class, when Gaddafi was in charge in Libya, he struck a deal with EU leaders to seal the ports from illegal immigrants out of Africa, to “stop Europe turning black.” However, ever since Gaddafi was overthrown, the cap that was keeping Africans in Africa has been removed.

Evidently, the blame can fall on both the European and African leaders for allowing such massive tragedies to take place right in front of them. However, the question at the end of the day is, whose responsibility is it to 1. make sure the illegal immigration is controlled and 2. prevent these people stop dying in the middle of the sea?

As the article notes, four of top 10 countries with most immigrants are Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Nigeria, which are relatively stable states with no war going on. Such a trend means that African leaders must look beyond the statistics of economic growth and actually figure out what is happening on the ground because clearly, most of these people see no future for themselves in Africa. Could the African leaders be blamed for being negligent in letting these tragedies happen? or is the blame more on the Europeans?

293 Women and Girls Rescued from Boko Haram

On Tuesday the 28th, the Nigerian military raided several Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria. After an initial series of unsuccessful operations rebels due to defensive explosives placed by Boko Haram militants residing in the forest, the Nigerian Armed forces successfully raided and destroyed the Tokumbre, Sassa, and Tlafa terror camps. Of these three, Tokuumbre is the most notorious, as it is the known location for the training of child soldiers.

In these raids, Nigerian Army spokesman Gen Chris Olukolade details that 200 girls and 93 women were rescued, but none belonged to the group of kidnapped girls from Chibok. Following the abduction of around 200 school girls from Chibok, the campaign of #BringBackOurGirls has lead to a large scale, world wide awareness of Boko Haram’s kidnappings and horrific mistreatment of women. While there was much hope that some of the rescued belonged to the group of kidnapped school girls as the Sambisa Forest is close to Chibok, this offensive against Boko Haram has given many hope that more captives will be found in the near future.

As the Nigerian military continues to gain ground in the fight against Boko Haram, it will be interesting to see if they call upon the ICC should there be any prosecutions against Boko Haram perpetrators. While it may be an option to try Boko Haram officials on an international stage at the Hague, the Nigerian government may also desire under the law of complementarity to host future trials within the country. Either way, it is the hope that Nigeria, in coalition with other countries, continues with victories against Boko Haram and removes the terrorist group as a powerful actor within West Africa.

Violence in Burundi in Response to Nkurunzia 3rd Term

Riots have been raging in Bujumbura for the past 3 days in response to the threat of President Nkurunzia having a third term of Presidency. The public riots have been met with barricades, military force, and active prevention to prevent people from organizing in opposition to the president. BBC reports that private radio stations phone lines have been disabled in order to prevent word of the rebellions from spreading throughout the country. President Nkurunzia is a former war lord and his lack of respect for the government, excessive use of force on his own citizens, and addiction to power despite  negative reactions from the people he governs clearly demonstrates that his war lord mindset and behavior is still relevant. Out of fear of Nkurunzia extending his political control 24,000 people have fled the country, including 5,000 in just the past weekend. It will be interesting to see if Nkurunzias regime will go unchecked by the international community or if the domestic riots will persuade him to give up his power as he should.


The Hissène Habré Trial


Human Rights Watch has released updates on the Hissène Habré Trial, which is expected to occur mid-way through 2015. Hissène Habré was the former dictator of Chad from 1982-1990; after he was dismantled he fled to Senegal where he has been living in exile since. Habré was responsible for widespread political killings, systematic torture, and thousands of arbitrary arrests. Human Rights Watch found that the Habré government was responsible for periodic targeting of civil and ethnic populations. Both the United States and France supported Habré, with the belief that Habré could combat Gaddafi successfully. Habré was indicted for crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes.

The Toronto Globe describes this case as “one of the world’s most patient and tenacious campaigns for justice”. The reason for this is that the trial will occur almost 25 years after the fall of Habré. When Habré was indicted in 2000 by a Senegalese judge, the then president of Senegal proceeded to engage in a “political and legal soap opera”. In 2012, the new president of Senegal was ordered by the International Court of Justice to prosecute or extradite Habré.

The case is particularly important because it shows that it is possible for victims to bring a dictator to court with perseverance. Hopefully the courts in Senegal will be able to fairly prosecute him and there is no impunity for any sides involved.

To read more about the trial click here.

Key ICC Events in 2015


With this being our last week of blogging, it seems like the perfect time to highlight some of the major events and dates at the ICC to keep an eye out for after the academic year is over.

The trials of the Congolese militia leader Bosco Ntaganda and former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo are both scheduled to begin in July, while the “confirmation of charges” hearing for LRA Commander Dominic Ongwen will open on August 24 to determine whether there is enough evidence to go to trial.

Also during the summer, the ICC member states will meet to elect a new judge to fill the vacancy left by Filipino judge Miriam Defensor Santiago, moving the number of judges on the court back to seven.

The ICC will be moving in the fall to its permanent home in Scheveningen in The Hague. The ICC building will have 56,000 square meters of floor space, and will be equipped with 1,200 working spaces, 3 courtrooms, and a restaurant (among other amenities).

Nursultan Narzarbayev of Kazakhstan Elected for Fifth Term

The president of Kazakhstan was elected for his fifth term on Monday by 97.7% of the vote. Nursultan Narzabayev, 74, won his fifth consecutive term since 1989, pre-dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was reported that 95% of the population voted in the election, and the other two opposition candidates gained a collective 2.3% of the total vote. Not one article that I’ve read has mentioned either of their names. This is a clear demonstration of an un-democratic and un-balanced election process in Kazakhstan.

To this, Nazarbayev said in mockery: “ I apologize that for super-democratic countries these figures are unacceptable, but I can’t do anything about it. If I interfered, it would be undemocratic of me.” Additionally, Putin congratulated Nazarbayev on his victory and even went on to say that his victory “showed ‘broad support’ for his policies” and from the general population.

Ultimately, Kazakhstan’s election is representative of the large Central Asian country’s lack of genuine democratic process and freedom of speech, one which is recognized by most of the international community. The opposition candidates were nearly invisible in society while Nazarbayev’s campaign was public and uncontested. I’m interested to know how 95% of the country voted, and wouldn’t shy away from the assumption that voting was encouraged in ways that might not be accepted by the United States.

Ukraine Calls for Further Engagement by the ICC

Earlier this year, Ukraine asked the International Criminal Court to look into the crimes on its territory from November 21, 2013, to February 22, 2014. This time period, leading up to the annexation of Crimea, was characterized by what the Ukraine considers to be a multitude of crimes against humanity.

In an interview earlier this Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin speaks during an interview with Reuters in Brusselsmonth, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin referenced a recent meeting with ICC officials in which Ukraine asked for an official referral by the ICC to investigate the crimes committed by Russian-backed troops during this time. There has not been any news regarding whether or not the ICC will pursue the investigation, but Prosecutor Bensouda did accept the Ukraine’s request last April, and opened a preliminary investigation into the conflict to determine whether an official investigation should be opened under the criteria of the Court’s Rome Statute.

Minister Klimkin specifically referenced the January attack in Mariupol in which thirty civilians were killed and another hundred were injured by a shelling. “If you have a military hostility it’s one situation, [but] if you deliberately, and I have to stress deliberately, shell on cities, killing civilians is a completely different situation and we have to engage with the ICC in working on these cases.” He also referenced the possibility of bringing the case to the International Court of Justice at the same time, as he sees the two as complementary processes.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, especially if the ICC accepts the case and Ukraine also brings the issue to the ICJ. Given Russia’s status within the international community, the conflict in Ukraine hasn’t received a lot of judiciary attention.

UN Investigates Atrocity Crimes during the Gaza War

The UN recently released the summary of a private report on their inquiry into atrocities committed in Gaza during the war between Israel and Palestine, and have blamed Israeli forces for seven attacks on UN schools in Gaza that were used for shelter by Palestinians. These attacks left at least 44 Palestinians dead and many hundreds injured when they sought refuge at the UN sites. However, the UN inquiry also revealed that Palestinian forces also likely fired on Israeli forces from these sites as evidenced by weaponry discovered at three empty schools. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the violence on both sides, calling it deplorable and unacceptable. Civilians in Gaza have borne the brunt of the violent conflict, which has left 2,200 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 72 Israelis (66 of whom were soldiers) dead since 2014. The widespread violence done to civilians in Gaza, recognized by the UN in this new report, indicates that the level of violence and atrocity in Gaza ought to elicit a reaction from the international community.

Commenting upon the UN report, Ban emphasized the fact that the report had no legal impact and that the task of the report was not to address the full scope of issues surrounding the Gaza conflict. However, the implications of this report might very likely be considered by the ICC as they pursue a preliminary investigation into atrocity crimes in Gaza.

Omar al-Bashir wins Sudan Elections

In recent Presidential elections, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was re-elected with 94% of votes. According to BBC news sources, “the country’s main opposition parties boycotted the election, saying they would not be free and fair” thereby leaving us to question the legitimacy of the election. This situation has prompted a close consideration of whether or not justice has a deterrent impact on international actors. Bashir’s re-election demonstrates that justice does not always serve as a deterrent factor. While some might argue that justice does not work as a deterrent factor because of the perpetrator’s inability to perform a cost benefit analysis of the situation, Bashir demonstrates otherwise. Bashir’s ICC arrest warrant proves that his desires and demand for presidency make him a rational actor. “Despite his age, stepping down is not an option for Bashir. It would mean surrendering power and the possibility of prosecution by The Hague.” Bashir’s ICC arrest warrant failed to deter Bashir’s actions, but also motivated him to run for re-election. Not only did justice fail to provide deterrence for the Sudanese perpetrator, Bashir’s re-election poses a threat to peace and security as his presidency could destabilize the current political situation. “These elections may decide something, but do not resolve anything. Indeed, they have deepened the current political crises by intensifying mistrust: mistrust among political parties, mistrust among the country’s centre and its peripheries, and mistrust between political parties and their supposed constituencies.” How should the international community respond to Bashir’s re-election? Is there such a thing as “un-doing” justice and could it help in stabilizing Sudan’s political situation? If Bashir is a rational actor, what can be done to remedy the situation?

Neuroscience of Restorative Justice

In a recent TED Talk, Daniel Reisel discusses his experiences and insights about how we could change the way that we view justice, to bettea9fa3c528d831735be7bdfb31b806926r suit the way the brain works. While he focuses mainly on the criminal justice system, his support for restorative justice focuses in on an aspect that we have not discussed in class: the physiological benefits.  I am interested to hear your thoughts on the subject!

100 Years Since the Armenian Genocide

April 24, 1915, is the date that most historians believe marked the official start of the Armenian Genocide. As the Ottoman Empire continued to dissolve, the Turkish Government forcibly removed an estimated 1.5 ethnic Armenians from their homes and marched, under grueling conditions, to labor camps where they were systematically killed. The Turkish Government still unequivocally denies its role in the genocide, and over 90% of the Turkish population also contests the international community’s stance on the issue. Rather, Turkey argues that the deaths of the Armenians were simply a tragic byproduct of the pervasive violence during World War I, and the killings also included Turkish Muslims, rather than exclusively Armenian Christians. The government also estimates that the death toll was significantly lower than the commonly accepted 1.5 million and places it closer to 300,000. Many Armenians resent the Turkish Government’s continued refusal to acknowledge the genocide and feel that the denial inhibits any meaningful or genuine reconciliation between the two groups. People of Armenian descent in Turkey also feel as if they are being treated as second-class citizens, although they acknowledge that this is more prevalent in older generations, and that younger people are often more liberal. For their part, Turkish citizens continue to deny that there is anything their government needs to apologize for. They argue that the Turkish government had no responsibility for the civilian deaths that took place during World War I, and have accused Armenians of trying to spread divisive rhetoric within the state.

White House confirms Airstrikes kill two high al Qaeda officials

On Thursday, the White House announced the death of two important al Qaeda officials in a series of airstrikes that occurred in January. One figure, Adam Gadahn, was widely known as the mouthpiece for al Qaeda. Gadahn, an American citizen who grew up in California, converted to Islam in 1995 and left for Pakistan 3 years later. Following 9/11, Gadahn appeared in several propaganda videos making threats and urging Muslims to target any Americans or people with Western ideals. The second official, Ahmed Farouq, was also an American who traveled across seas to join al Qaeda. While not as widely known as Gadahn, Farouq had risen to become the leader of the branch located in India.

While the successful target of these al Qaeda officials is a victory for the U.S. in the War on Terror, it is scary to see how propaganda messages by radical terrorist groups attract citizens of Western nations. Groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram have taken to social media in attempts to attract recruits and send messages. Gadahn and Farouq were two of several American/Western citizens that have joined a radical Islamic group and have risen to respected positions within the organization. Due to this increased use of social media by terrorist organizations, Western countries and their allies have to carefully study these methods of propaganda when addressing security concerns, as there are many others who have, and will continue to, join these groups.

Central African Republic: Muslims Held Captive and the Potential for ICC/National Intervention

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch reported that anti-balaka fighters in the CAR have taken at least 42 Muslim Peuhl herders captive. Most of the captives are women and young girls, whom HRW urges may sCARuffer from sexual violence if the UN peacekeepers and CAR government do not act immediately to get them out.

In early 2013, Muslim Seleka rebels took over power in the CAR in a campaign of mass civilian killings and destruction of homes. By mid-2013, groups self-proclaimed as the anti-balaka came together to fight the Seleka in a huge reprisal campaign in which they attacked Muslim civilians, among those Peuhl herders. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians while also displacing hundreds of others. This conflict is ongoing between anti-balaka, Seleka, and international forces via UN peacekeepers and French troops.

In December of last year, HRW reported that a group of Peuhl had been held captive in Pondo by the anti-balaka. Though some survivors have been released thanks to intervention by local authorities and UN peacekeepers, these survivors and other witnesses insist that other Peuhl are being held captive in other towns and villages in the country. Allegedly, 30 are currently held captive in Lambi, 11 are in Ngbaina, and 1 is in Betefio. Others have been reported to be held in Gadzi and Gaga. Many have been held for more than a year.

HRW insists that holding civilians in captivity, murdering children, and sexually enslaving women and young girls constitute serious war crimes. And while something certainly needs to be done to deal with these atrocities, it is unlikely that the bulk of this action will come from CAR itself. This ongoing conflict, compounded by a lack of resources and legal expertise, has essentially left CAR’s national justice system unable to handle such serious international crimes.

An international solution, however, may be in the works. In September, the CAR referred the conflict to the ICC, prompting the chief prosecutor to open a second investigation in the CAR for crimes committed since January 2002. Yet, this does not mean that resolving the conflict will be totally left up to the international sphere.

In what I believe to be important steps for CAR’s own national legal capacity-building, the National Transition Council, which is CAR’s interim parliament, has been discussing the possibility of creating a Special Criminal Court. This court would be within the national judicial system and would include both national and international judges and staff. Essentially, the court would act as a complement to the ICC and would try those responsible for serious crimes, with a specific focus on sexual violence and crimes against children.

The potential for this Special Criminal Court to deliver justice to perpetrators in the CAR in a way that is more connected to the locale is large in my opinion. Undoubtedly, it would have been very easy to admit that the national judiciary was in no condition to handle such grave international crimes, instead simply handing over the responsibility to the ICC to prosecute. Yet, in doing so there would have been a lost opportunity for national capacity building. What would CAR have gained from outsourcing justice to the ICC without making its own attempts at strengthening its judicial system? Undoubtedly, it is encouraging to see the CAR making strides to take responsibility and shoulder at least part of the responsibility for prosecutions. Not only does this have positive implications for the nation’s future capacity to handle prosecution of serious international crimes, but it also has the potential to more intimately involve the locals in the process. For having suffered so much in this conflict, the victims are owed at least more involvement in the process of bringing justice to their perpetrators. Additionally, the Special Criminal Court’s specific focus on sexual violence and violence against children is a strong step toward elevating the serious status of such crimes and ensuring the prosecution of their perpetrators.

This is not to say, however, that intervening will be without its challenges. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the fact that both international and national intervention is coming mid-conflict, which as we have seen may pose challenges for the enforcement of indictments and arrest warrants, gathering evidence, and general national stability. Yet, if intervention doesn’t happen and justice is forced to wait until peace comes around, many more lives may be lost and the conflict could go on for much much longer. Ultimately, we will have to wait to see how this trade off, if there is one, will play out.

Rwanda Genocide Tribunal Holds Final Hearings

In 1994 the Rwandan genocide took place, in which 800,000 people died. The killings took place in Rwanda’s southern region over about 100 days. After more than 20 years of operation, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has held its final hearings into the crimes that took place during the genocide. Approximately two-thirds of those indicted over the Rwandan genocide were convicted.

The court is backed by the UN and has indicted 93 people for their crimes of violence. Out of the defendants, 61 were convicted and 14 acquitted. Other defendants were referred for trail elsewhere, died, are fugitives, or had their indictments withdrawn. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was “the first international tribunal to deliver verdicts in relation to genocide and recognize rape as a means of carrying out genocide.”

It is shocking to me that the Rwandan tribunal is the first to recognize rape as a means of genocide. Rape is a method of repression, violence, and dominance. Rape, and other forms of sexual violence, are widely associated with international crimes. Rape as a weapon is not a new form of violence and/or aggression. The tribunal’s recognition of rape as a means of carrying out genocide is a good step in the right direction towards justice for victims of sexual abuse.

The tribunal has six appeals. The last defendant to appear before the court was former Rwandan minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. She is appealing against her conviction for genocide and incitement to rape. “In 2011 she became the first woman to be found guilty of such crimes by an international tribunal.” She begged the appeal judges to acquit her. She claimed that she was not the “type to commit these heinous crimes.”

The court had 5 other appeals, one being Ms. Nyiramasuhuko’s son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. Ntahobali was a militia leader during the genocide and was sentenced to life in prison for “genocide, extermination and rape as a crime against humanity.”

The other accused persons are serving long jail terms. They were senior officials that massacred members of the minority Tutsi community. Tutsi were widely murdered by ethnic Hutus. The verdicts for these appeals are expected later this year.

The U.S Announces its take on the Crime of Aggression

In 2010 the ICC held a Review Conference in Kampala that would suggest an amendment to the Rome Statute that would allow for the ICC to prosecute crimes of “aggression. The American Society of International Law gathered to discuss this amendment at their annual meeting earlier this month. Not surprisingly, the U.S stance on the expansion of the ICC’s power was negative; the panel sited three reasons to oppose the crime of aggression that would take effect in 2017 if ratified.

First the ASIL raised concerns that a crime of aggression would deter member countries from aiding in joint military action for risk of legal prosecution. They claim that these military endeavors could be the actions needed to prevent the very crimes that the ICC wishes to stop like atrocity crimes. The ASIL argues that mobilizing allies to intervene in humanitarian catastrophes is difficult enough as is, and an addition legal deterrent would hinder the process further.

Second the US is worried that the aggression law would limit the international communities ability to resolve conflicts. The idea is that if two countries are willing to end a conflict through mutual cooperation, the crime of aggression law could upset this balance by forcing the leaders of the countries involved to be prosecuted for their crimes. The ASIL speculates that the ICC could insist that these crimes be investigated at any cost and thus disturb fragile diplomatic efforts.

Third the ASIL points out that the ICC is struggling as is to apprehend defendants and “sustain a record of effectiveness” in prosecuting atrocity crimes and an added responsibility would be too much for the ICC. The panel also pointed out that crimes of aggression would be deeply political and could compromise the court’s obligation to impartiality.

While the ASIL brings up valid points, It seems that this report is another example of the US shying away from the ICC in fear of its own prosecution. No doubt the US could be considered to have committed crimes of aggression in territories within the courts jurisdiction so the ASIL’s stance is not surprising. Here is the report do you think the ASIL is genuinely concerned with the state of International Law or its own self interests?

Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

Mohamed Morsi, the deposed former president of Egypt, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labor on the charges of “inciting violence and directing illegal detentions as well as torture.” The conviction was the first resulting from the four significant cases brought against Morsi since 2013, when he was ousted by the military. Morsi could also potentially face death penalty from results of other trials. This is a politically charged issue as all the defendants are either from Morsi’s regime or Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood.

While the news of the conviction may sound encouraging to some, I fear that there may be foul play involved. Morsi was tried and convicted in the national court system, which is clearly under and influenced by the military regime. As seen a couple weeks ago, Pakistanis just reversed the sentences handed down by its military courts against those convicted of a terrorist attack in a school in Peshwar. Leaving trials of such magnitude to military tribunes seem to inevitably result in the trials’ failure to meet international standards of fairness and due process. At this point, the defense lawyers of Morsi can still appeal the court’s decision, but appealing within the national court system seems rather futile.

While the ICC’s complementarity principle ensures the preservation of state sovereignty to a certain degree, it is true that stable governments are not the same as legally fair ones. Just because a state has a strong rule of law and can carry out these trials, it does not mean that the state is fit for such important trials.

The article can be found here.


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