International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Category Archives: Random

Truth and Reconciliation in Canada

One part of Canadian history that is not commonly talked about is the Indian Residential School system. This boarding school system was in place as a way to try and assimilate aboriginal people into “normal (white) society”. Canada was not alone in this practice
as schools like these also existed in the United States for many years. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was constituted and created by the Indian trc-final-reportResidential Schools Settlement. For years the aboriginal peoples of Canada have had to live with the consequences from the residential schools and finally this truth commission worked as a conduit for healing and truth. The goals of the Commission are to acknowledge the schools and their impacts and consequences, to provide a safe and culturally appropriate setting for former students  and their parents to come forward, to promote awareness of the IRS system, to create a historical record, produce and submit to the Parties of the Agreement report and lastly to support commemoration of former IRS students. The final report of the Commission is to be released in December of this year. Seeing how the United States system was so parallel to Canada it will be interesting to see if there is a future for a commission here in the states. *Pictured is Commissioner Justice Murray Sinclair shaking hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau*


Dean’s Beans – fair trade coffee in a world of corporate impunity

Could Putin face international justice?

This article, written by former Bosnian foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations Muhamed Sacirbey, explores the potentiality of Russian President Vladimir Putin being deterred from his actions in Crimea and Ukraine by the threat of international justice.  Over the past few days, an overwhelming majority, 93% to be exact, of Crimeans voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, a political move that has incited protest from Western powers and perpetrated the application of sanctions on more than two dozen Russian officials.  This development has also jeopardized the future of Ukrainian Tartans, who have moved back to their homeland of Crimea and are now under the ominous shadow of ethnic cleansing under Putin’s  movement of Russian Imperialism. This has started the discussion of whether or not the International Criminal Court has the ability to put a stop to this.

As we learned in lectures, a few qualifications must be met before the ICC is able to take action.  First, the crimes must be of a systemic nature and fall into one of the categories listed in the Rome Statute. Second, either Ukraine or Russia must be unable to try the perpetrators in their own national courts. Sacirbey makes the case that the threat of ICC prosecution may be the most effective way to contain Putin’s territorial ambitions in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  However, I see certain difficulties in this strategy going forward.  First, I don’t think enough has happened yet for the ICC to get involved.  Yes, it is the most high profile international justice issue in progress right now and yes, one could say that the annexation of Crimea is a breach of national sovereignty, but there have not been any war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide committed yet.  Second, I think it would be incredibly difficult to get Putin to come out and answer for his crimes with the public threat of international criminal justice.  As we saw in the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic was able to use his national support to go into hiding for years.  I think the same case would be for Putin on a larger scale.  This is certainly a developing issue; the temporary Ukrainian government has already declared that it will not accept Crimea’s secession, so I think we will have to wait and see if the ICC will gain enough leverage to get involved and stop Russia’s expansion.

On creating new states and/or new governments

This short blog post by Elliot Abrams for the Council on Foreign Relations provides a short opinion on the growing lack of concern of the United States for the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, of which Abrams quotes multiple examples, such as cases of torture and ill treatment and the erroneous conduction of basic law practices, while Kerry continues to advocate for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Abrams ended his blog post with the question “What kind of Palestine is it that the United States is seeking to create?,” which brought to mind the agency that big players in transitional and international justice can have in creating new states.  For example, international justice has often entered into conflict situations perpetrated by dictators and attempted to establish democracies in their stead.  In this case though, since Abrams is arguing that the United States is simply ignoring the issues of Palestinian corruption, it’s a little worrying that US state officials are both arguing for the creation of a Palestinian state and giving no heed to the problems that are occurring even in the peace process stage.

Hannah Arendt (2012): The Banality of Evil

arendt“Hannah Arendt,” a film by German director Margarethe von Trotta, portrays one of the greatest and most controversial political theorists of the 21st century in biopic format. Von Trott, while maintaining a commitment to the medium, paints a fascinating picture of a historical moment of international justice (the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem) as experienced by a provocative German-Jewish intellect (Arendt) living in the shadow of the Shoah. Barbara Sukowa, who takes on the leading role, provides a stunning portrait of Arendt as she travels to Jerusalem to cover the trial of former Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

While von Trotta is dedicated to tracing Arendt’s personal life and intellectual development (not to mention including undercurrents of second wave feminism, although Arendt was certainly not a feminist), the overwhelming thrust of the film is in the representation of Arendt as a critical survivor; she views Eichmann, the guilty on trial in Jerusalem, through the eyes of a theorist, a theorist dedicated to explaining the societal, political, and cultural aspects which construct and manipulate the thinking and agency of the individual.

The film centers on the birth of Arendt’s thesis, the “banality of evil,” which subsequently was included in her report in the New Yorker, and later developed and extended in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt watches Eichmann on trial as he provides his “Nuremberg defense,” pleading that he was following orders and deferring to leadership. He argues that to not obey was to be a traitor to Germany and the Reich. Notably, von Trotta uses actual footage of Eichmann on trial which creates a very visceral experience as the audience observes the real Eichmann standing before Sukowa’s Arendt.

As Arendt watches the trial, she concludes that Eichmann, rather than suffering from any particular character flaw, acted like any human would under the pressures of the regime, the ideology of the Final Solution, and, importantly, his conviction that his actions were just. The crimes for which he faced trial were not the products of an inherent evil on the individual level.

Arendt’s conclusion, which in some ways accused the Jewish people of being compliant, was refuted across the world and even within her close intellectual community at the New School. Arendt challenged Nuremberg’s ability to provide true justice and theorized a new way of thinking about the power of regimes and the role of society (as a whole) in such atrocities. Her thesis added new complexities to debates of truth, justice, guilt, and conviction.

In these paragraphs, I have attempted to provide a brief summary of the film, but admittedly I could not account for all the intricacies of von Trotta’s cinematic work. I recommend watching the film if you have time or at least examining some of the more interesting commentaries such as this one in Black Wall/Dark Room by David Grossman or this New York Times article by Roger Berkowitz (which focuses more on Arendt’s actual philosophy).

Sri Lankan criticisms of Truth Commissions

So far in class and in readings, it seems to me that we have heard generally positive things about truth commissions.  The Michael Humphrey article “International intervention, justice and national reconciliation: the role of the ICTY and ICTR in Bosnia and Rwanda” suggested that a truth commission be held in Rwanda “in order to promote the creation of a more inclusive political community that international and national trials have so far not achieved” (Humphrey 502).  This editorial from the Sri Lankan Times presents a decidedly different argument.

The author, Kishali Jayawardene, is one that has been severely disillusioned by Sri Lanka’s history with truth commissions, claiming that they appeared to be “manna from heaven” but in reality have been huge and expensive disappointments.  While the author admits that the 1994 Commissions of Inquiry into the Involuntary Removal or Disappearances of Persons made good recommendations, these recommendations were largely disregarded by the government except for the payment of token reparations.  Jayawardene accuses truth commissions of being wastes of public funds, of raising the expectations of citizens while duly ignoring their human rights’ claims, and of distracting the attention of the government from more important reforms.

While the author is clearly against the practice of truth commissions, it seems to me that he more has a problem with the way that they’ve been implemented, rather than the theory behind them.  In his conclusion, the author writes that, “Sri Lankan governments… are able to resort to these tactics time and time again and without challenge from this country’s so-called ‘intellectual’ community.”  The author fails to provide an alternative to truth commissions or a suggestion for how they might be improved, but ultimately I think it’s an interesting piece in that it shows the frustration that some have with such commissions.

Syria Geneva talks progress, but with difficulties

This article recounts some of the difficulties involved with bringing the two sides of the recent Syrian civil conflict, the regime and the rebels, to the same table in order to begin to resolve their differences that have been expressed over two years of brutal civil war that have torn apart a country.  What started as minor protests in response to government corruption and human rights abuses in January 2011 escalated with the government’s use of military to quell uprising, a utilization of force that killed many civilians and only served to further enrage the protesters, until one day they too take up arms against their government.

While the conflict has come to something of a lull, both sides still have deep differences. Most recently, peace talks were delayed for 24 hours after the regime refused to acknowledge the results of Geneva I, the previous conflict, which concluded that Bashar Al-Assad be removed from power.  After a day of playing middleman between the two camps, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi announced that the two camps had agreed to meet at the same table.  While Brahimi expressed his hope that the two sides will understand their “different interpretations on some of those items [in Geneva I],” it remains to be seen if the two sides actually are on the same page.

Homophobia as a crime against humanity

In a historic move for international law, a US judge ruled in August that a prominent American evangelist can be tried for crimes against humanity due to his advocacy for the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill. Scott Lively has admitted to influencing the Ugandan bill as well as Russia’s more-recent “gay propaganda” law and has argued that homosexuals are to blame for Nazi atrocities. The ruling is new for international law because it defines LGBTQ individuals as a class against which discrimination and unfair treatment is not acceptable.

In his humorous take on global homophobia, Jon Stewart references the seemingly common news of homophobia coming out of Africa. Beyond the Ugandan law, Nigeria recently passed a law that makes most interactions between gay people criminal, a majority of African countries have outlawed homosexuality, and Macky Sall, the president of Senegal, recently went head-to-head with President Obama over the issue (In French, English coverage here).

While Africa’s problems with LGBTQ people haven’t won the region many allies in the West, Sall’s comments reflect a commonly-held belief that acceptance of homosexuality would be an unwelcome Western import. But if, in a few years or decade, acceptance of homosexuality became a new international norm, would leader like Sall in Senegal, Jonathan in Nigeria, and Putin in Russia be at risk of prosecution?

Van Morrison and the Role of Music in Reconciliation

In searching for material for my first blog post, I came across an interesting bit of information about an event that happened during peace processes following political violence between the IRA and other nationalist groups in Northern Ireland and the British government.  Apparently following a visit to the city of Belfast from then U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1995, the musician Van Morrison played a concert for a crowd of more than 80,000 people. Van Morrison, who is North Irish himself, performed the song “Days Like This”, which later, according to some, became an anthem for the peace movement in Northern Ireland.

For the participants who were there to witness it, one can imagine that Van Morrison’s concert was life changing and “something that allowed them to imagine peace, the possibility of living together.” It would be interesting to learn more about other similar events in recent history that might have happened in response to political violence or conflict. In addition, it would be worthwhile to investigate the question, “In the aftermath of mass violence and instability, what role can music play in promoting unity and reconciliation in a society imagining peace?” Such research could be very beneficial to societies seeking peace today, especially considering how pervasive music is in cultures and communities around the globe.

“Days Like This” – Van Morrison

The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)

This news article describes the first experiences that people had in the United States’ first state-sponsored truth and reconciliation commission, which was held earlier this week.  I thought this article was particularly interesting because it showed that truth and reconciliation commissions can be helpful not only in matters of international justice but also civil/ historic justice.  Maine’s TRC is helping to uncover the stories of many Native American children who were removed from their homes and placed in white homes.  I think it’s a good step in accounting for the genocide of the Native American people, which is probably one of the saddest things in American history and simply isn’t talked about enough.

A Play of (In)Justice

Coincidentally, I read a play that dealt with some of our course themes in one of my other classes this week.  The play by Peter Weiß, titled Die Ermittlung (The Investigation), recounts the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963-1965.  The play describes several occurrences within the Auschwitz walls during the World War II by utilizing the actual transcripts of the trials and the authentic statements and accounts given by witnesses and the defendants.

The play wrestles with the gray-zone between perpetrator and victim during the atrocities, but it also lead me to think about the country of Germany after the war ended.  How does a country cope with the atrocities that occurred by its hand?  One of the defendants even went so far as to say that all should be forgotten and the country just needed to move on.  What struck me the most was the fact that although the “Big Fish” who were widely responsible for giving the orders for the killings were prosecuted, the following generation of young Germans were the ones unhappy with the outcome and felt that justice was not served, not necessarily the victims themselves.  In fact, the Germany Student Movement of 1968 was widely due to the fact that Nazi officers were still in high office in Germany, leading a very comfortable life.  The importance of justice is not only for the victims and perpetrators of the crimes, but also for the following generations.

Thoughts and Questions on Justice for American Blacks

For my Theoretical Account of Racism class we had to read Barnon Hesse’s Im/Plausible Deniability: Racism’s Conceptual Double Bind. In this groundbreaking piece, Hesse suggests two typical approaches to the study of racism in the social sciences. Firstly, the approach that racism is an ideology, codified by a set of beliefs, with inherent psychological and thus political effects (for the victims). Secondly, you have the approach to racism in the analysis of colonial conventions and its sociological effects. Now, the former approach is one that is rooted in the analysis of the Holocaust and Nazi regime. However, what is problematic for Hesse is that the ideological account of racism is one that has more recently been used as a paradigmatic account for all accounts of racism, more specifically, the colonial/institutional one seen in America; when the two are wildly unique.

Despite the fact that this tradition ironically reeks of separate (experiences) but equal (approach) rhetoric, I think it is interesting for us to think about this prevailing tradition in the realm of justice. According to Hesse, there has been a tradition of counting the separate experiences of American Blacks and European Jews as ideologically equivalent. Going off this tradition, it is interesting that wide scale implementation of “justice” was attributed to one group and not the other. While America did make substantive legal changes in light of historical human rights violations, actual justice was not as apparent as the Nuremberg trials (obviously due to circumstantial differences). That is not to say that one group’s experiences were more deserving of justice than the other. Rather, if this has been the tradition in the social sciences, and these two distinct experiences have been equated, why then hasn’t justice been apparent in both outcomes? Circumstantial differences are just not enough to answer this question. Moreover, was/is this even possible?

Sometimes in April

Since we have been talking about Rwanda, I thought it would be appropriate to post about the movie “Sometimes in April” that I had to watch for my African Film class.  It is often compared to “Hotel Rwanda” and is based on the genocide.  The movie is about two brothers, one that is on trial for inciting killings through his radio program and another that is a soldier in the Rwandan army and is married to a Tutsi woman.  The movie shows the emotional turns from before, during, and after the genocide.  It is very powerful and does a great job at portraying the different aspects of the genocide and how everyone in Rwanda was affected.  As a warning, it can sometimes be graphic but it is worth watching if anyone is at all interested.

UMass Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies

The Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies at UMass recently opened at the end of March. It is hosting its first traveling exhibit called the Rescuers with Proof: Media for Social Justice.The exhibit highlights stories from genocides that occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, and Cambodia.With photographs and testimonials from around the world, the Rescuers Project highlights the remarkable stories of ordinary people who, at great risk to themselves, have intervened to protect and save members of targeted groups. Here’s a link to its website if you’re interested: . The exhibit is open until April 12th. The Institute is at 758 North Pleasant Street (ac from Totman Gym). Here is the link to the website .

I think this new Institute could be a really great resource for a lot of our research papers and is a great complement to what we’ve been doing in class if anyone has a chance to check it out!

French hand over Rwandan Rebel Leader to ICC

I know it was a few weeks ago, but I was reading through recent ICC news in the New York Times, and came across news regarding France expressing their right to universal jurisdiction. The French police arrested and detained a Rwandan rebel leader by the name of Callixte Mbarushimana, who fled Rwanda to Paris until the French police arrested him in October. The ICC wanted him on charges of rape, murder, torture and other atrocities committed during a terror campaign against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kivu region.

This is significant because it is another case showing the international community’s cooperation with the ICC and  human rights as a whole. I know in class a few people were questioning the overall reality of universal jurisdiction, and whether or not smaller less influential states would have the ability to exercise this concept. I cannot really answer the second part of that, but it is clear now that states like France support the ICC and the exercise of punishment for war crimes/crimes against humanity. So if universal jurisdiction is something that is not only allowed but encouraged, then this goes back to the same question…why would the United States feel as though they need to join the ICC? Being one of the most powerful states on the globe, and essentially being able to go in to any state necessary to either achieve a political or social goal hardly makes signing the Rome Statute very convincing. If they were to sign it, however, now instead of having the ability to exercise universal jurisdiction anyway without immediate penalties put on US nationals, they would be subject to international review.

Does the fact that states have to exercise universal jurisdiction because the International Criminal Court does not have the power to make certain arrests/detain certain individuals ultimately allow individuals to lose faith in the ICC as a judiciary? Can we really blame those who have been affected by war crimes or crimes against humanity that feel as though the ICC indicting people is not effective enough?

A Bit of Political Psychology

Yesterday in class Tiemessen mentioned that Pol Pot’s regime kept well documented records of the crimes they committed. I thought it was worth noting a political psychology  explanation, or perhaps theory is the better word, of genocide. As we know, genocide occurs always in communities affected by war and oppressed conditions. The elite oppressors use various psychological mechanisms to gain obedience from their ranks. Psychologists would recognize Pot’s extreme organization as routinization. This means that Pot presented his commands in a way that removed the need to use much mental faculties, in a drill like, repetitive way. To give you a concrete example of this, transporting victims from their homes to fields or into prisons was ordered by an elite official who didn’t have to actually physically mobilize the people. For this official it was about paperwork, checking the details, making sure the troops are ready to  do what’s necessary, pretty much making sure he did his job with perfection. He’s not thinking about the fact that he’s killing people he doesn’t know, his perfectionism is focused on following orders closely.Instructing specific orders like marching people to their death, in an extraordinarily organized fashion to type A personalities typical of  the high-ranking, makes it seem like it’s just a part of the job. Those instructed don’t have to think, Pot does all that, just execute. If the instructions are good enough, the next time it has to be done again, it’s a routine you don’t have to think about. I hit my word limit, there’s so much more I could say…

“Reconciliation in Rwanda” events at Smith and Hampshire Colleges

There are two “Reconciliation in Rwanda” events in the Five Colleges that I would like to draw your attention to and strongly encourage you to attend.  Here’s the advertisement: Reconciliation in Rwanda .  I have seen the film and its very relevant to our course content on the Gacaca courts in Rwanda and the topic of reconciliation in general.

“Genocide and its Aftermath in Rwanda.” Speaker: Alice Gatebuke (genocide survivor)

Monday, February 28th 4:30-6:30pm at Smith College (Neilson Library Browsing Room)

Co-exist” Documentary Screening. Followed by a discussion with Alice Gatebuke and Adam Mazo (“Co-exist” director). You can read more about the film and view a short clip here.

Wednesday, March 1st 7-9pm at Hampshire College (Franklin Patterson Hall, Main Lecture Hall)

“The Redemption of General Butt Naked”

No joke….this is a real person, and a perpetrator of extreme atrocities.

The above is the title of a documentary film that is playing at Sundance this year that chronicles of the life of a former Liberian warlord who is responsible for murdering thousands amidst a civil war that was rife with child soldiers and fueled by blood diamonds. At Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission he confessed his responsibility for the killing of approximately 20,000 people.  He is now a Christian preacher who renounces violence, helps to socially reconstruct his community, and seeks redemption and  forgiveness.

This fascinating Daily Mail article from Nov, 2010 details the story and asks whether or not it is possible to forgive the “most evil man in the world” and provide justice to victims. And an interesting short BBC segment on General Butt Naked available on YouTube.

We’re not yet into our readings and discussions on truth commissions and related topic of reconciliation, but it’s an interesting case of different conceptions and expectations of justice.

Film Screening at UMass: “State of Violence”

There’s a film screening at UMass on Wed, Feb 2 (weather permitting, I assume) on violence and injustice in South Africa. See here for details for those of you who might be interested.

Here’s a brief summary: “Matabane’s début action feature brings a new voice to African cinema—complex, questing, hybrid, fearless. When Bobedi, one of Johannesburg’s new black business élite, returns home to find an intruder attacking his wife, he takes justice into his own hands and is confronted by his militant past. One man’s story becomes an examination of collective memory and denial, ever-vital issues within South Africa where the past remains present and justice is never simple.”