In POLI 1140, we have read an excerpt from Rwanda section of Samantha Power’s prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, in which Power assesses the reasons for the lack of response by the Clinton administration in the spring of 1994 to the developing genocide in Rwanda. Power makes many points but one of the most trenchant is that despite the apparently early decision by Clinton that he would not send US troops to Rwanda (fearful that another Somalia could ensue), many other actions–short of sending troops-could have been taken by the US government and military. Something as simple as sending planes with the capability to jam radio frequencies may have slowed down the killing and saved countless lives.
Here is a compelling and very informative documentary by PBS’ Frontline series on the events surrounding the Rwandan genocide, paying special attention to the lack of action on the part of the United Nations and the United States. Many of the ideas in Power’s book are addressed here.
Today in POLI 1140, we discussed and debated the topic of universal jurisdiction. What is universal jurisdiction? Universal jurisdiction is
a legal concept that permits states to claim legal authority beyond their national territory for the purpose of punishing a particularly heinous criminal that violates the laws of all states or protecting human rights. Mingst and Arreguin-Toft (222)
The most celebrated case in this relatively new area of international jurisprudence is that of former Chilean military dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet, about whom the New York Times editorial board wrote in 2004:
Thanks to a Chilean court ruling on Monday, the day at last seems to be approaching when Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator, will go on trial for crimes committed decades ago. General Pinochet is now a very old man, but normal feelings of sympathy would be misplaced. This trial should have begun years ago.
The long delay is entirely the result of General Pinochet’s effort to evade legal accountability. The charges concern one of the most chilling crimes of his nearly 17-year rule, an international conspiracy to hunt down and murder opponents of Latin America’s military dictatorships in the 1970’s. That plot got under way in the days when Henry Kissinger was running American foreign policy for Richard Nixon, and the the United States did too little to discourage it, even though one of the resulting murders was carried out on the streets of Washington.
As genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances are crimes under international law, all states should investigate and prosecute the crimes before their national courts.
Recognizing that impunity exists mainly when the national authorities of countries affected by the crimes fail to act, it is important that the national criminal and civil justice systems of all countries can step in to prosecute the crimes on behalf of the international community and award reparations to victims.
Of course, there are many detractors to the use of the concept of universal jurisdiction. The aforementioned Henry Kissinger has argued the concept not only risks “judicial tyranny” and cases like that of Gen. Pinochet set a “dangerous precedent” (though Kissinger is certainly less than a disinterested figure in this case!), but that
The danger [in pushing for universal jurisdiction] lies in pushing the effort to extremes that risk substituting the tyranny of judges for that of governments; historically, the dictatorship of the virtuous has often led to inquisitions and even witch-hunts.
In class, we viewed the first ten minutes of the video below in which advocates and opponents of the concept of universal jurisdiction debated the relative merits of the idea with respect to the potential arrest of Israeli diplomats on visits to Great Britain for alleged war crimes in Israel/the Occupied Territories.
In the video, Professor Dan Scheuftan, of the University of Haifa notes
[although] International Relations is political…[the increasing use of universal jurisdiction will] politicize the legal system as well. again by radicals, usually from the extreme left using it [universal jurisdiction] as a propaganda ploy.
What do you think? Is the concept a valid tool in the fight to bring perpetrators of heinous human rights abuses and war crimes to justice, or is it more likely to be abused (than used) in the politicization and propagandization (is that a word?) of international justice?
Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 will stand as a watershed moment in international relations and in international law, specifically. Thomas Lubanga, former militia leader in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is thefirstpersoneverconvicted by the recently formed International Criminal Court (ICC). Though there have been dozens of convictions of war crimes suspects from the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, these cases were process by temporary courts–the ICTY and the ICTR, respectively–and not the ICC. Lubanga was accused of conscripting, enlisting, and using child soldiers in the conflict in the Ituri region of the DRC. Rather than playing a role in the post-war political process, (which he had hoped) Lubanga was arrested in March 2005 and extradited to the ICC one year later. It is only now, seven years after his arrest, that a verdict on this case has come down.
Lubanga’s conviction is the end of a multi=year trial process, the legitimacy of which was undermined at times by the lack of prosecutorial professionalism, and other issues. For more about the trial, go here, and watch the videos below.
In POLI 1140, we spent part of last session watching major portions of the documentary, The Peacekeepers, which explored the role of the UN is setting up and escalating a peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The documentary used a behind-the-scenes approach to analyze the issues faced by the world’s foremost IGO in implementing its mandate to “protect international peace and security”. The focus of the documentary was on the Ituri region in the eastern DRC province of East Kivu.
As of the start of this year, this is the strength of the peacekeeping force in the DRC:
19,070 total uniformed personnel
16,975 military personnel
723 military observers
1,372 police (including formed units)
976 international civilian personnel*
2,868 local civilian staff*
588 United Nations Volunteers
Currently, in 16 DPKO-led peacekeeping operations, there are almost 120,000 personnel (uniformed and civilian) serving from 115 different countries, while approved resources for the 2012 fiscal year are almost $8 billion US.
Mind you, this is only one aspect of the world’s greatest IGO–the United Nations. Remember also that the UN is only as strong and as capable as its members states make it. Thus, when you hear somebody say “the UN did this,” or “the UN didn’t do that”, what you should remind these people is that they should be saying “the member states, which comprise the UN, did (or did not do) this, or that…”
We read about the importance of international NGOs in Chapter 7 of Mingst and Arreguin-Toft this past week. Prompted by this blog post of a student of mine in POLI 1140, I have decided to highlight the work of Reporters without Borders. If you are interested in learning more about the challenges that journalists and “netizens” (after all, with the advent of the Internet we are all potential budding citizen-journalists), their website can be accessed here.
Below is a screen-shot of the front page where we see that as of this point in 2012, 11 journalists have been killed, an additional 153 journalists have been imprisoned, while 120 netizens have also been imprisoned. Clicking on the links to the graphic on their website will take you to more detailed information regarding the individuals behind these numbers. Of the 120 netizens who have been imprisoned, 68 are from China, 20 from Iran, and 18 from Vietnam.
After class today I spoke with a student who is interested in working in the humanitarian field after graduation. Given that I had acquired some experience working for humanitarian organizations before heading to graduate school, I was able to impart some words of wisdom. While I enjoyed my time working for humanitarian NGOs, I did find that it was very easy to get frustrated and become cynical. Here’s a story from the Associated Press that reminded me of some of the reasons that I stopped working for humanitarian organizations (I encourage you to read the whole report):
KABUL, Afghanistan – Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers’ high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.
The prospects for peace in Afghanistan are being undermined because Western countries are failing to deliver on aid promises — and because much of the aid money they do send is going to expatriate workers, according to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.
Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, the alliance said. Of that $15 billion, some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.
“A vast amount of aid is absorbed by high salaries, living, security, transport and accommodation costs for expatriates working for consulting firms or contractors,” the report said. The costs are increasing with a recent deterioration in security, it said.
The cost of a full-time expatriate consultant working in Afghanistan is around $250,000, according to the group.
This is some 200 times the average annual salary of an Afghan civil servant, who is paid less than $1,000″ per year, the report said.
Amy Frumin, an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations who spent a year in Afghanistan as an officer on a U.S. Agency for International Development reconstruction team, said blaming high expat salaries is unfair.
“You have to pay them good money to do that. They’re still having trouble finding people to fill these positions. It’s a dangerous place. Not many people are willing to risk their limbs,” she said.
A couple of weeks ago we watched the National Film Board of Canada documentary film, The Peacekeepers, in introduction to IR. It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the enterprise of UN peacekeeping operations, demonstrating the successes and failures of the UN in attempting to create and keep the pace amongst Congo’s warring factions. We saw the clash between realist views of international sovereignty, security, and power and the liberal ideal of multinational cooperation. The New York Times reports today on the potential failure of a relatively new UN peacekeeping operation before it has even started. Those who have been following the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan know that it has taken four years to get a UN peacekeeping force on the ground. It may already be doomed to failure. It is uncanny how much of this report sounds like it was taken directly from the documentary about Sudan.
ABU SUROUJ, Sudan — As Darfur smolders in the aftermath of a new government offensive, a long-sought peacekeeping force, expected to be the world’s largest, is in danger of failing even as it begins its mission because of bureaucratic delays, stonewalling by Sudan’s government and reluctance from troop-contributing countries to send peacekeeping forces into an active conflict.
The force, a joint mission of the African Union and the United Nations, officially took over from an overstretched and exhausted African Union force in Darfur on Jan. 1. It now has just over 9,000 of an expected 26,000 soldiers and police officers and will not fully deploy until the end of the year, United Nations officials said.
Even the troops that are in place, the old African Union force and two new battalions, lack essential equipment, like sufficient armored personnel carriers and helicopters, to carry out even the most rudimentary of peacekeeping tasks. Some even had to buy their own paint to turn their green helmets United Nations blue, peacekeepers here said.
The peacekeepers’ work is more essential than ever. At least 30,000 people were displaced last month as the government and its allied militias fought to retake territory held by rebel groups fighting in the region, according to United Nations human rights officials.
How do changing ideas about sovereignty–from sovereignty viewed as a “right” to sovereignty viewed as a “responsibilty”–affect the nature of how states act and the functioning of organizations such as the United Nations? Just before spring break we viewed the documentary The Peacekeepers, where you were able to witness the deliberations that take place behind the scenes at the United Nations and the Security Council specifically. For Wednesday, we’ll read Erik Voeten’s article on “The Political Origins of the UN Security Council’s Ability to Legitimize the Use of Force”, the main point of which is obvious given the title. Today, the Guardian reports that the Security Council remains silent on the current situation in Tibet.
UNITED NATIONS, March 17 (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council will likely keep silent about China’s crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet, mostly due to belief that provoking Beijing would accomplish nothing, diplomats said on Monday.
China, which has sent in troops to enforce control in the regional capital Lhasa, said earlier that the violent protests by Tibetans were organized by followers of the Dalai Lama seeking to derail the Beijing Olympics in August. Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader has denied this charge.
“The issue did not come up in the council,” China’s Deputy permanent U.N. representative Liu Zhenmin told Reuters after a meeting of the council on unrelated issues. “This has nothing to do with peace and security,” he said. “It is local violence, … a domestic issue.”
China, like the United States, Britain, France and Russia, is a permanent veto-wielding member of the council and would be able to block any attempts by the council to act on Tibet.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, currently president of the council, told reporters without elaborating that he did not expect the 15-nation Security Council to discuss Tibet. Several other ambassadors confirmed this view.
We will be analyzing international law next week upon our return from spring break. The recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent (i.e., it has no linkn to the United Nations, unlike the International Court of Justice–ICJ) international court located in the Hague, has in its short existence (it came into force in 2002) been the subject of heated debate between those who view it as a bold and necessary step in the fight for international justice, and those who view its powers as undermining to a dangerous degree state sovereignty.
This week’s weekly letter from the International Crisis Group (ICG) contains a book review of Nicholas Waddell and Phil Clark’s “Justice in Conflict: The ICC and Peace Processes. The author of the review, Nicholas Gronko, writes:
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is now investigating or prosecuting individuals involved in three of the most devastating conflicts in Africa – Darfur, northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In each case, the ICC has been forced to confront the challenges inherent in pursuing peace and justice simultaneously. What happens – and what should happen – when efforts to prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities coincide with a peace process? What is the best approach when the price of a peace deal may be a degree of impunity for those most responsible for such abuses? One common and convenient response is to hide behind truisms and make general statements of principle to the effect that no trade-off is required because peace and justice are inextricably linked. Clearly peace and justice are complementary in that justice can deter abuses and can help make peace sustainable by addressing grievances non-violently. But good things don’t always go together, and to present peace and justice as invariably mutually reinforcing is misleading and unhelpful when the difficult reality of peacemaking often proves otherwise. We review below arguments surrounding the ICC’s impact on prospects for peace in Uganda and go on to offer some general considerations that international policymakers should heed when seeking to balance peace and justice demands.
Here is a look at the 106 (most recent count) signatories to the Statute of Rome (which established the ICC). States in green are signatories to the statute.
In PLSC250–intro to IR–this week we viewed a documentary made by the National Film Board of Canada, which addresses the UN’s peacekeeping role in Congo. After reading Chapter 7 of Mingst, you should now be aware that the UN in the world’s most important and powerful IGO, and the UN Security Council plays the most prominent global role in the area of international security. Here are a couple of screen shots from the film and the film’s description:
With unprecedented access to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping, The Peacekeepers provides an intimate and dramatic portrait of the struggle to save “a failed state.” The film follows the determined and often desperate manoeuvres to avert another Rwandan disaster, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC).
Focusing on the UN mission, the film cuts back and forth between the United Nations headquarters in New York and events on the ground in the DRC. We are with the peacekeepers in the ‘Crisis Room’ as they balance the risk of loss of life on the ground with the enormous sums of money required from uncertain donor countries. We are with UN troops as the northeast Congo erupts and the future of the DRC, if not all of central Africa, hangs in the balance.
In the background, but often impinging on peacekeeping decisions, are the painful memory of Rwanda, the worsening crisis in Iraq, global terrorism and American hegemony in world affairs. As Secretary General Kofi Annan tells the General Assembly at the conclusion of The Peacekeepers: “History is a harsh judge. The world will not forgive us if we do nothing.” Whether the world’s peacekeeper did enough remains to be seen.
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