International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: U.S.

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.

Arrest Bush!



Four former detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan filed a complaint with the U.N. Committee against Torture against Canada for failing to arrest and prosecute former U.S. president George W. Bush. The Canadian Centre for International Justice and the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint on behalf of Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani, and Murat Kurnaz (The Canadian Press). This episode goes back to last year, when they filed a criminal complaint in Canada alleging torture against Bush (Wittes). When Bush and Clinton visited British Columbia for a speaking engagement in October, 2011, hundreds were out to protest, and bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz called on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the UN Convention against Torture and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian Soil (Gallagher). The picture above is from the protest that occurred during Bush’s visit. Amnesty International also called on the Canadian authorities on October 12, 2011, to arrest and prosecute Bush (Comte). Regarding this incidence, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “no, this isn’t an episode of South Park.”

Canada’s Justice Department answered with “It’s complicated” in briefing notes on the subject, pointing out that investigations involving crimes against humanity are complex, lengthy, and resource intensive and that Canada prioritizes those who reside in Canada. The note also writes that officials should tell the UN Committee, “Canada does not address specific criminal complaints in a public forum,” if pressed for information on Bush and Cheney (The Canadian Press).

The call for Bush’s arrest was supported by three civil organizations from U.S., Canada, and U.K., and this shows that civil society and victims will not be silent about human rights violations committed by the U.S. Although it is unlikely that Bush will actually be arrested and prosecuted, incidence like this significantly mars the reputation of the former leader of the U.S. Do you think incidence like this would change United States’ future calculations and actions? Also, I read someone’s comment on one of the news articles, which said, “Amnesty, I have just lost respect for you…what kind of idiot attacks the U.S. while ignoring the ACTUAL crimes of groups like Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc….?” These organizations probably didn’t think they would actually put Bush in jail. Then why do you think they did this? Also, do you think these organizations should just focus on “worse” human rights violations? Below are the links to the news and blog posts I read.

“Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties?”

When we were discussing why countries would voluntarily ratify or commit to treaties like the Rome Statute in class on Thursday, this article I read, titled “Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties” by Oona A. Hathaway, a professor in Yale Law School, came to my mind. I would like to briefly summarize what she says in the article and talk about its implications for our topic. I saw that many people have commented on the U.S.’s position with the ICC, and I hope this post can offer a different perspective.

Hathaway argues that “states take into account the likely costs and benefits of complying with a treaty (as determined primarily by legal enforcement and collateral consequences) when they decide whether to commit to a treaty” (590). Here, domestic legal enforcement refers to “the degree to which those outside the government can enforce the state’s legal commitments,” while collateral consequences are “reactions of domestic or transnational actors to the state’s decision to commit to the treaty” (593, 595).

Based on her statistical analysis, Hathaway concludes that among those states that have robust domestic legal enforcement (such as stable democracies), the states with higher human rights violations are less likely to ratify the relevant treaties (608). Once those states commit to the treaty, the domestic population may force the state to change its behavior in regards to human rights. Surprisingly, those states that do not have such strong domestic legal enforcement of treaties are not less likely to sign the treaties because of the weak domestic force to change its behavior (608). Those states with poor human rights records and weak domestic enforcement may gain diplomatic leverage, economic aid, or other collateral benefits from signing the treaty, with little cost of changing their behavior (595).

Among collateral consequences, some proved to be more powerful than others. Number of human rights NGOs actually yielded mixed results for different treaties, which may diverges from norm-based theories of states’ commitment (598). Although human rights NGOs may push the state to sign the treaty, such powerful influence of NGOs might be the reason that some states don’t sign the treaty, as the domestic legal enforcement cost (609). Hathaway also finds that newer states are more likely to commit to human rights treaties, all other things being equal, possibly because they “have no existing track record to help or hurt them in their efforts to attract foreign capital, trade, aid, and political support” and therefore may “take actions that signal an intention to become good international citizens” (597). They may also have more to gain from investment, trade aid, and political support (597). Lastly, the regional ratification rate also matters, as those states surrounded by other states that committed to the treaty are more likely to sign, as there may be collateral benefits to be gained from by demonstrating their “commitment to these shared norms and thereby smooth relations with other countries within the region” (597).

What does this mean to the topics of our class? We have seen many cases where even those states that are state parties to the ICC do not cooperate with the ICC, and this may be explained by what Hathaway describes as weak domestic legal enforcement (I understand it may be a huge understatement of the complicated political situations and calculations in those countries). It is at least evidenced by the fact that they do not have influential human rights NGOs to affect its state behavior. I think it may also explain the U.S.’s such strong opposition against the Rome Statute. It can be argued that U.S., because of its unique role in the world, may have poor “human rights records” by committing certain crimes that the Rome Statute addresses. It might be under enormous pressure from both domestic legal enforcements and face collateral cost if it commits to the Rome Statute. It may be the U.S.’s best interest to entirely deny the legitimacy of the ICC to avoid the cost from collateral consequence of not ratifying the treaty (and signaling that it is a state that does not hold up international justice) and avoid the legal enforcement cost from ratifying it. And even if U.S. is becoming increasingly supportive of the ICC, we could arguably predict that it will never ratify the Rome Statute because of the enormous legal enforcement cost from both domestic and international level (that would make it change its behavior in the world).

I am sorry that this is so long…There are some differences between the human rights treaties that Hathaway examines and the Rome Statute, but I thought it would be interesting to draw the parallel. I also may have interpreted “legal enforcement” more loosely to include general forces that lead states to comply with the treaty. Also, here is the link to the article if anyone is interested.

The Emergence of Justice Norms

An interesting article from the Guardian reports that Winston Churchill favoured executions and life imprisonment without trial for Nazi leaders. These revelations come from this week’s declassification of the diary of Guy Liddell, who was the head of counter-espionage at MI5 (so a pretty reliable source). Churchill’s position was opposed by before Stalin, who wanted to use trials as propaganda, and Roosevelt, who felt the American public would want trials. It seems Liddell also personally disliked the idea that Nazi leaders would be prosecuted for waging a war of aggression because of the precedent it set.

This article made me think about where the concept of transitional justice has developed and disseminated from. I think often the US claims responsibility for the emergence of universal human rights and transitional justice citing American exceptionalism, the Bill of Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in shaping the UN’s Universal Declaration, etc. The rest of the world seems to reject this position – perhaps because concepts of human rights and transitional justice are so ingrained in society that everyone would like to claim responsibility (and take the US down a peg). However, reading the Guardian’s article, it does seem that the impetus for transitional justice sprung from America. I’m interested in what everyone else thinks about the beginnings of transitional justice. Often I think I’ve been too dismissive of the role of the US in shaping normative values about justice, especially as other states and actors, such the EU/UN/any number of NGOs, are the current transitional justice vanguard. So should the US be credited more for the emergence of transitional justice?

Possible Presidential Debate Hot Topic: “Rewards for Justice” at the ICC?

As we head into our course unit on the International Criminal Court—and approach Monday’s foreign policy-focused presidential debate—it is interesting to examine the institution’s current standing with the United States, perhaps the most notable nonsignatory of the Rome Statute. According to a piece of news referenced in a recent post on Justice in Conflict (a blog maintained by a current PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics), the US appears to be inching towards a closer relationship with the ICC. After expanding the reach of its Rewards for Justice program (which offers significant monetary compensation to those who provide information leading to the arrest and/or prosecution of suspected terrorists) to cover those individuals indicted by the ICTY and ICTR, the US may take its involvement in the realm of international justice one step further by including ICC indictees on its list of those notorious enough to warrant coverage by Rewards for Justice.

This (potential) policy decision by the United States comes at a time of domestic political flux, considering the contentiousness of the upcoming presidential election. While the topics sure to dominate Monday’s debate will be all things Afghanistan and Libya, a better gauge of each candidate’s foreign policy outlook may very well be where they stand on the US’s role in facilitating international justice. As Justice in Conflict’s Mark Kersten points out, the relationship between the United States, though improving, has been rocky (to say the least) from the start; in today’s increasingly globalized world, though, the US cannot afford (in my opinion) to formally (at least on paper) disengage from transitional justice efforts. How each candidate would aim to further improve (or completely dismantle) US relations with the ICC—and US involvement in international justice efforts in any arena—could be more telling of the core of their foreign policy views than their ability to spew out death toll statistics.

US forces join jungle search for Kony

In an article recently published by the BBC, the writer reports traveling from Uganda’s capitol city of Kampala to Obo in the Central African Republic.  The writer reports that there they are met by a few of the US special forces and identifies these as the ones that were sent to locate and kill Osama bin Laden; specifically Navy Seals.

Although the author confirms exactly what the United States has been reporting on the issue of finding the LRA’s leader Jospeh Kony in that the goal is to simply aid already existing African forces on the ground, it seems that the perceived notion of the local people is that US forces is different: “The man in overall charge of the US African Command (Africom) is General Carter Ham.  He emphasizes that US soldiers will not be out on patrol in the jungle tracking Mr Kony, but he acknowledges that this is what a lot of Africans think is going to happen.”

Is it possible for the US to respond to a humanitarian crisis and for the public perception to not be that they are the only answer to the solution?  In addition, towards the end of the article it is written, “The local betting is that Joseph Kony is more likely to die in the forest than appear in the dock in The Hague as an indicted war criminal.”

The International Criminal Court and American Exceptionalism

Now that you know more about the ICC in terms of his historical precedents, current cases, and challenges in terms of effectiveness and legitimacy, it’s an interesting time to address the U.S. relationship with the Court.

Recall a number of important things. The U.S. is considered a “judicial carpenter” of past tribunals (Nuremberg, ICTY, ICTR) and has long supported, if not consistently, the idea of a permanent international criminal court. And the U.S. participated actively in the Rome negotiations and many of the compromises made in the Court’s jurisdictional triggers and limits were a result of such concessions. Since then, there’s been a lot of ebb and flow it the U.S. relationship with the Court. The Bush administration pushed against the ICC – not only seeking to ignore it but undermine it. This policy gradually changed toward the end of the Bush admin and the Obama admin has a policy of constructive engagement. U.S. support for ICC intervention (through UNSC referrals) in Sudan and Libya underscore this.  But this raises a number of important questions that are worth debating:

1) What justifications are there for why the U.S. has not signed the Rome Statute? Is this a case of “American exceptionalism”?

2) Should the U.S. sign the Rome Statute? And why?

3) If the U.S. were to sign, what difference would it make in the Court’s effectiveness and legitimacy?

4) Is it fair for the U.S. to “constructively engage” with the ICC, by supporting Security Council referrals and participating in ICC meetings and diplomacy, but not to be bound by the Rome Statute itself?

My Lai Massacre

I know this is not a topic we have discussed yet but I thought it was interesting to bring up after all this talk of genocides that occurred in other governments.  Although this is not considered genocide, the My Lai Massacre was a mass murder conducted by the U.S. Army (Charlie Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division) during the Vietnam War.  Basically, this group of soldiers was informed of a group of Vietcong fighters hiding out in this village in South Korea. As it turned out, the American soldiers killed over 500 innocent men, women, and children.  Although this event seems terrible, it was really just men who had been out in the Korean wilderness, seeing fellow soldiers die at the hands of the communist Viet Cong groups, given specific orders and not having the sense to realize that something had gone horribly wrong when the plan was actually executed.  The government tried to charge these soldiers with criminal offences of murder, but was it really their fault, or were they just following orders?  If they had refused to carry out the plan, they would have faced dishonorable discharge, so what choice did they really have?  This goes along with the “A Bit of Political Philosophy” post showing that the separate parts of an operation such as this often leaves the people that create the plan remorseless and the people that execute the plan confused and seemingly at fault.

The video is a little long but very interesting if you want to learn the whole story from execution to trials. (The link doesn’t work for some reason, just click watch full episode)

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.