International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Elections

Elections set to begin in Sudan tomorrow, expectations for a victory by incumbent al-Bashir

Incumbent al-Bashir is expected to continue his time as President of Sudan after elections held over the course of the next three days will come to a conclusion. Although al-Bashir has held office for over 25 years, the political climate seems to be relatively non-competitive in the race for president. Despite almost 15 other presidential candidates in the race, there are extremely low expectations for any sort of impact on the likelihood of al-Bashir’s impending victory by these other candidates. In the country that has recently been dealing with crises such as South Sudan’s succession and accusations by the international community of the commitment of war crimes and other crimes against humanity, it is quite intriguing that there is not a stronger dissent group to the continuation of al-Bashir as president.

Interestingly, there is a small opposition group that is choosing to boycott the elections and voting altogether in order to make a statement against the reign of al-Bashir. Many people believe, however, that by boycotting the elections, this opposition group is not making a realistic impact on the elections. Much of the opposition group’s concerns and reasoning for boycotting the elections is centered around the plausibility of fairness in the elections. Additionally, concerns about the government rigging the elections and violence are those most cited as reasoning for boycotting the elections. The elections, however, are to be formally observed by the African Union, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Arab League–all organizations which have pledged to ensure fairness and transparency throughout the elections.

The outcome of the elections will be most interesting in relation to the International Criminal Court because if al-Bashir is no longer in power, there is a greater potential for pursuing the trial against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nigeria puts the One-Party State behind them, sets sights on Boko Haram

Yesterday marks the first time in Nigerian history that a president has succeeded his predecessor through an undisputed, democratic ballot election. Former President Goodluck Jonathan has peacefully accepted defeat in the recent presidential election, and urged his supporters to follow suit. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which Jonathan represented, had been in power since 1999 upon the end of a period of military rule. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari addressed the media today, congratulating his opponent on his efforts and exclaiming how proud he was of his country, “we have proven to the world that we are people who have embraced democracy. We have put [the] one-party state behind us.” The peaceful transfer of leadership coupled with Buhari’s commitment in fighting the corruption of the Nigerian elites sends a promising message to the international community, highlighting the direction the country is headed under its new leadership.

Even more important than bringing political and economic stabilization to Nigeria, this new administration has declared that it is prepared to do what ever it takes to combat and rid the country of Boko Haram’s presence. This effort will become more relevant in the international justice scene soon, as Buhari and his administration move forward in bringing Boko Haram to justice.

Is transitional justice a forgotten issue in Afghanistan?

It is a legitimate concern for Afghans who are preparing themselves for their country’s third presidential elections on April 5th, a little under three weeks from today, and which will hopefully mark the first peaceful transition of power in the country’s history. Despite this achievement, many voters are concerned and frustrated that issue of transitional justice for war crimes over the past three decades has been lacking from presidential debates. For some of the candidates, this is understandably a difficult subject to approach, since a number of them have difficult pasts with conflict and war crimes. In the face of new government, Afghans are worried that the same culture of impunity and lack of transitional justice will plague Afghanistan in the future.

Over President Karzai’s tenure, the government has been criticized for the little progress it has made in efforts to enact transitional justice. In 2002, President Karzai helped to established the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) was established to address war crimes that had been committed in the country prior to 2001. A national action plan recommended by the commission was launch by Karzai in 2006, but after the parliament enacted a general amnesty law in 2007, the action plan expired in March of 2009 despite having requested to be extended.

While the progress for transitional justice has been at a snail’s pace in Afghanistan, perhaps there still is hope. One example is the case of Vice presidential candidate, Rashid Dostum, who apologized publicly to the afghan people for his involvement in war crimes, seen by some as a political maneuver but by others as an encouragement for others to do the same and apologize on their own cognizance.

Transitional justice perhaps still has a place in Afghanistan, and after the election in a matter of week, we will have a better idea of how the country will move forward to address its past. However, the effort must be sensitive to what is both feasible and appropriate in light of limitations that the government has faced in the past.

The article can be found here:

Elections in Kenya: As Polls Loom, Tensions Mount

With the March 2013 Kenyan elections looming on the horizon, the realties of political violence become more real. Many remember the inter-communal violence of the 2007 elections in which some 600,000 people fled their homes and more than 1,500 were killed. To avoid regional and ethnic violence in the coming election, many people are making arrangements to go to other areas of the country where they may hopefully avoid the violence likely to erupt near their homes in the slums. According to government data, 71 per cent of Kenya’s urban population lives in slums. “During the [2007-8] post-election violence, traditional myths about the existence of ‘ancestral homelands’ – considered to be binding to specific ethnic communities by blood – were transferred to Nairobi’s suburbs and violently enforced,” the Nairobi-based Peace Research Institute wrote in a recent report.

“Ethnic identities were checked by vigilante groups at zone boundaries [in slums], inter-group clashes occurred mostly along such boundaries, and the slum-dwellers adjusted their daily movements with regard to the location of ethnic zones (e.g., by avoiding zones held by members of opposing ethnic communities),” the report added

Pockets of violence have already begun to erupt across the country, worrying many following the Kenyan elections in the international community. It has been suggested that Kenyans need to be sensitized on national unity and also learn the skills to be able to address their grievances without necessarily finding comfort in their tribal groupings.  But would it be possible to teach them these skills? Is there even room for international intervention? Or would this only exacerbate tensions within Kenya even more, adding more outside seemingly outsider opinions to the mix?

ICC Indicted Presidential Candidates Discuss Alliance

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto seek Kenyan alliance 

A recent posting on the BBC News website addresses a possible discussed alliance between two key candidates in the 2013 Kenyan Presidential Election. The two candidates, Deputy Prime Minster Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto have both been indicted by the ICC and charged crimes against humanity in relation to orchestrating the violence that followed the elections of 2007. As the article states, “both men deny playing key roles in the violence of the 2007 poll” and intend to  follow through with their plans to run for office. While communications are still in their negotiatory stage and nothing has officially been established, this discourse between the two presidential candidates charged with crimes by the ICC could potentially result in important political ramifications both on the national and international stage. Their defiance of their charges in running for office is notable, as the people of Kenya even question if the candidates should be put on the ballot. The article discusses how a court in Kenya will convene next week to hear a petition that would potentially bar the two candidates from entering the election. Civil society groups have been especially outspoken in attempting to keep the candidates from running.

Munyori Buku, the director of communications in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office released the statement, noting that “the goal of their alliance would be ‘national unity, prosperity for all Kenyans [and] reconciliation'”. This statement contains validity in that the potential alliance between the two candidates could lead to more peace  and stability following the post-election results next year as Kenyatta and Ruto were on opposing sides during the 2007 election. However, while peace and reconciliation between all Kenyans following the 2013 elections is the ultimate goal, it must also be considered what additional hidden agendas may exist under all this rhetoric. It is especially important to frame the actions of Kenyatta and Ruto in relation to their upcoming trials in the Hague, scheduled to commence around the time of the election next year.

Will ICC trials threaten Kenyan polls?

Technological and legislative changes made to make Kenya’s upcoming presidential election fairer, including switching to an electronic polling system and judicial reforms that hold electoral officers personally liable for electoral malpractice, seem to be setting up the nation for if not a peaceful election, then one significantly less bloody than that of 2007. But officials claim that if the ICC is to try politicians as responsible for the 2007 election violence then all these improvements could be for naught. This article even mentions how if violence were to rock Kenya again, then it could have a wider impact on its Rwandan and Ugandan neighbors. If these politicians, who are also now presidential hopefuls, are called to trial and blocked from running, it could incite fresh violence. Currently, Uhuru Kenyatta, the former finance minister and son of Kenya’s founder president, and William Ruto a former higher education minister both face charges by the ICC and have teamed up against Prime Minister Raila Odinga, “who leads in the race according to pollsters, to replace outgoing President Mwai Kibaki”.

Do you think these changes are significant enough to take prevent the immense outbreaks of violence from 2007, or will the prominence of Ruto and Kenyatta in Kenyan society surpasses these precautions?

Politics of the Court

This page from the International Criminal Court website describes the results from the first round of the recent elections for judges to the ICC. It’s interesting to see the breakdown of the votes between candidates – it lead me to question the standards that are used to deem whom is most apt to sit on the Court. Which standards do the electors use? Can we use this as an avenue to examine to what degree the ICC is a politically driven institution versus a legally driven and generated body. The question seems particularly relevant to me because the ICC is still so relatively new.