Tag: Darfur

“Step One to a messy divorce”

Sorry I’ve been out of the loop for a month or so — I volunteered to lead a search committee for the head of a local organization and I’m just now catching my breath. (Note to self: Volunteering is really hard work and takes a ton of time…)

So, I opened the New York Times this morning and notice that Africa’s largest country may be on the brink of splitting apart after the country’s presidential elections earlier this month. The rivals, Omar Bashir and Salva Kiir (indicted war criminal and former rebel leader respectively — great choices) have completely consolidated their control — Bashir in the north and Kiir in the south — of the country. Conventional wisdom says that this will make next year’s scheduled referendum on southern independence very intense.

However, I was intrigued with a proposition posed in the NYTimes story: Oil might be the glue that keeps the country together — both Bashir and Kiir rely heavily on oil revenues and may not want to jeopardize the money flow. This seems a stretch to me and I can’t think of any case where oil has been something that keeps divergent factions together, but I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on this or can think of cases where oil or cash commodities have played such a role?

Parenthetically, I’d like to note the excellent work of a friend, Pete Muller, a photo-journalist who is based in Juba, Sudan. He’s had a recent bout with malaria and a couple of close calls in southern Sudan and eastern DRC, but he’s been reporting great stuff for AP, Financial Times, Al Jazeera and others.

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Sudan’s Truce: A turning point or a simple pause?


Last weekend’s signing of the truce between Omar al-Bashir’s government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels in Darfur is a good first step. The government will commute the death sentences of some of the JEM rebels and will release several others. The JEM will hold to a truce and the two sides will resume more comprehensive negotiations in March.

However, the problem is, as Laura Heaton from Enough Project notes, this is essentially a bilateral agreement between the government and JEM. It does not include the dozens of other rebel groups that have been fighting over the past seven years. JEM has long demanded it be considered the central voice for Darfur.

Excluding groups from peace processes is often done out of diplomatic expediency. It is easier to get a deal between two major warring groups than to open the process up to several factions. However, as we frequently see, this often creates significant downstream problems. For example, the Naivasha Agreement (Comprehensive Peace Agreement CPA) that helped end the war in Southern Sudan limited the negotiations to SPLM and the Sudanese Government. Other groups, including many fighting in Darfur since 2003, also had grievances against the government in the 1990s but were largely excluded from the CPA process. Similarly, the Kosovar Albanians had hoped to get support from the international community for their grievances against Slobodan Milosevic in 1995 but were shut out at Dayton. In both instances, unresolved conflicts between governments and aggrieved groups ultimately led to additional violence.

To mitigate against this potential in Darfur, the Obama administration has been working with other international negotiators to unite a disparate group of other factions under the umbrella of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and negotiating a parallel track between the LJM and the govenrment. It seems we may see a similar truce between the government and LJM in the coming days.

The question, of course, is how will the JEM respond to the joint track with LJM — especially if a final agreement includes government power sharing with Darfuris. Who will represent Darfur? Furthermore, not all of the other factions have joined forces under LJM. What happens if they balk? And, how will the government respond if there are outliers in the process?

Finally, neither the first track between the government and JEM nor the second track between the government and LJM include a wide range of civil society groups. To be sure, a cease fire is the first step, but the long-term sustainability of any cease fire as well as successful post-conflict transitioning will require the active participation and incorporation of civil society groups into the process. But, if they are shut out from the beginning when the initial power-sharing rules and structures are parceled out, it’s hard to see how they will be able to join the party later.

(cross-posted at The IR Blog)

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ICC Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashir, But Not For Genocide

When Foreign Policy’s Morning Brief hit my inbox today, the top story was the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for President Omar Bashir of the Sudan.

FP’s header gets the charges wrong, however – Bashir is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not with genocide. The distinction is legally and politically significant – crimes against humanity include a host of horrible acts, when widespread and/or carried out systematically against a civilian population.

Genocide, however, is a crime not against individual civilians but against certain groups and requires a finding that the perpetrator carried out a series of acts with the express intent to wipe out not particular people but the group itself. Note the exact language the prosecutor had to work with, borrowed from the 1948 Genocide Convention and spelled out in Article 6 of the Rome Statute:

“For the purpose of this Statute, ‘genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

This is a tall order, not only because the definition of what exactly constitutes a “group” is often ambiguous, but because even if the above acts have occurred, and even if they can be linked to the political leadership, those leaders are seldom careless enough to leave paper trails demonstrating the acts were carried out with intent to destroy the group as such.

This explains why there have been only a handful of convictions for genocide in the history of international war crimes tribunals.

In political terms, this is likely to be an unpopular decision – the colloquial use of the term “genocide” as a referent to Darfur, by diplomats and activists, has overshadowed the legal meaning of the term for several years, and many people view crimes against humanity as a lesser charge (though in my mind, systematic rape and slaughter is plenty bad even when there’s no intent to wipe out a whole group). But in legal and institutional terms, the absence of genocide from the charges is a no-brainer: as a new institution, the ICC prosecutor has an interest in making a case he thinks he can win. Whether or not this is a good decision politically is about to be a huge subject of debate – see for example Kevin Jon Heller’s reactions – but let’s remember, the ICC is a legal, not a political institution. In theory.

UPDATE: Not long after I posted this (or perhaps even before I did), Foreign Policy had made a correction – the actual website now shows “crimes against humanity” as the charge.

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(Soft) Power Politics

Lots went on in international criminal justice this past week.

A few thoughts about three big news stories and a smaller one are below the fold.

1) Omar Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court. I was less surprised by the fact that a sitting head of state might be charged than that the list of charges actually included genocide. Not because the facts on the ground don’t suggest they should, but because of the nature of the crime and the nature of the court.

a) Genocide is an “intent” crime – to convict you have to prove not just that atrocities occurred, but that they were carried out with the specific intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Historically, it’s been much easier to convict people for war crimes and crimes against humanity than for genocide, because few nefarious leaders are careless enough to leave a paper trail. Bashir, for example, has been a master of plausible deniability.

b) As a new institution still struggling for credibility within international society, the ICC has an explicit policy of going after only the most clear-cut cases, cases that it is likely to win. (Unlike its “activist” predecessors, the ICTY and ICTR, whose judges often made history with their interpretations of international law.)

But, perhaps this is a move calculated to make sure that some of the charges can in the end be dismissed. I predict the genocide charges won’t stand, for the same reason that the UN couldn’t condone a finding of genocide in its 2005 report on Darfur; but that crimes against humanity will. Then, the court can give the impression that it is evenhanded and apolitical.

2) Radovan Karadzic, former President of the Bosnian Serb breakaway republic in the former Yugslavia, was captured. I had little but kudos to say about it last Tuesday, but have followed a rather disturbing trend since whereby commentators and journalists refer to Karadzic as a “war criminal.” (I’m guilty myself, having cited Robert Farley’s blog post entitled “Genocidal Maniac captured.“) But the whole notion of international criminal law as rule of law is that a man like Karadzic is only a war crimes suspect until he is tried and found guilty. (At present, therefore, we must keep in mind that he is only an alleged genocidal maniac.)

3) The trial of Salih Hamdan, bin Laden’s former driver, will go forward at Guantanamo Bay after Hamdan’s attorney exhausted efforts to have it dismissed. The trial has been touted in the press as the first “US war crimes trial” since Nuremberg, though it’s really nothing of the sort.

a) The defense will argue that Hamdan was at worst a low-ranking al-Qaeda employee; and that much of the evidence against him was either coerced or provided willingly to military investigators on the hunt for bin Laden: Hamdan was not told that he was incriminating himself when he cooperated with the government.

b) The USG will argue that a terrorist is a terrorist, sexual humiliation isn’t degrading so evidence gained this way is admissible, and Miranda rights don’t apply to non-US citizens anyway so Hamdan’s cooperation with the USG doesn’t erase his crimes.

Leaving aside the question of whether a civilian who drives a car for the “enemy” has committed a “war crime,” one wonders about the implications for HUMINT operations if the USG develops a reputation for taking this stand. Which defectors from al-Qaeda or any other entity will provide us with actionable intelligence if we thank them by putting them on trial? Here is a clear case where following international rules is also in our concrete interest, a point continually lost on the Bush Administration. Good coverage of the Hamdan case over at SCOTUSblog.

4) Finally, John McCain told Wolf Blitzer that he could imagine bin Laden being prosecuted in an international court. If he means the International Criminal Court, the attacks of 9/11 couldn’t be prosecuted there: only crimes committed by al-Qaeda after July 2002 would fall within the court’s mandate. But more interesting is what this statement tells us about the likelihood of the US joining the ICC after the next election. Kevin Jon Heller writes about this and Obama’s position on the ICC at Opinio Juris.

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Glitterati Power

From USA Today: “Darfur Benefit Party Brings Celebs Out in Force

While Forest Whitaker chatted with a refugee, his wife, Keisha, worked a table selling her line of lip gloss, with money going to the IRC. Her top seller: the shade she named Forest.

Whitaker, who arrived directly from the Toronto set of Repossession Mambo, said issue-oriented films remain high on his agenda. In March, he’ll shoot Hurricane Katrina-related The Patriots, to be directed by Tim Story (Fantastic Four).

Shopping for jeans and dresses, Heather Graham said she was disappointed “that our country isn’t doing more for Darfur. Africa’s one of those places that really needs help.”

It’s easy to make light of the glitterati for this self-serving humanitarianism. (For another example, click here.) Celebrities use causes to brand themselves.

But so what?

Governments do the same thing when they tie foreign aid to official recognition of their beneficence. And whether it is Bono peddling poverty reduction, George Clooney advocating for Darfur, or Leonardo diCaprio condemning conflict diamonds, celebrity sponsorship seems to go hand in hand with public awareness of global issues.

But scholars of humanitarian affairs should be asking: under what conditions are these humanitarian players effective in practical terms, and at what? Is theirs an agenda-setting effect: can the rise of new issues in the transnational primordial soup be traced to celebrity influence? Or do they essentially bandwagon on issues that have already gained prominence? If so does this at least have a catalyzing effect on transforming campaigns into mass movements? Do they exercise power, as Dan Drezner’s recent National Interest piece argues, through social networks of access to policymakers and donors – civic activism plus? Or, is the power of celebrities not their personal crusades but the stories they tell on screen?

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NATO Takes Limited Steps on Darfur

The international community’s inadequate response to the ongoing genocide in Sudan (and yes, it is a genocide) brings shame upon us all. Recent polling suggests the American people agree, as majorities favor a stronger US commitment to the stop the crimes against humanity being committed by the Sudanese-backed Janjawid.

Today, NATO pledged to provide airlift support to send additional African troops to the region:

NATO defence ministers gave the green light on Thursday to an operation to airlift extra African troops to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, the alliance’s first mission on the continent.

NATO chiefs were at pains to stress there was no competition with a separate European Union mission, after NATO-member France said its offer to transport two battalions of Senegalese troops was under an EU, not a NATO, banner.

NATO’s go-ahead for the operation comes a day before Darfur peace talks sponsored by the African Union resume in the Nigerian capital Abuja. Tens of thousands have been killed in the arid western region and more than 2 million forced from their homes during a rebellion now well into its third year.

Current EU and NATO plans stop short of providing the robust support, including military intervention, that would be necessary to end the atrocities. The African Union (AU) and Sudanese government have “ruled out Western troops helping in Darfur,” but I imagine sufficient NATO pressure would change the AU’s mind. As for the Sudanese, they don’t have any right to make demands on the international community, and there’s not a lot they could do if they were faced with a serious humanitarian intervention in the region.

(For steps short of intervention that the US can take, see the excellent post by Derek Chollet on divestment and the extensive discussion of options by Susan Nossel, both of Democracy Arsenal.)

I remain ambivalent on the Iraq War. Yet we should all remember that at least part of the Bush Administration’s arguments for the invasion were based upon the past genocidal behavior of Saddam Hussein. What then, can we possibly say about a failure to do more in the face of ongoing genocide?

That being said, we also should not discount the significance of the EU and NATO pledges. The fact is that the US did not even make a serious commitment to logistical support – of any kind – to help stop the Rwandan genocide. As Samantha Power wrote in her influential Atlantic argue on the failure of the US to act:

The United States haggled at the Security Council and with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations for the first two weeks of May. U.S. officials pointed to the flaws in Dallaire’s proposal without offering the resources that would have helped him to overcome them. On May 13 Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott sent Madeleine Albright instructions on how the United States should respond to Dallaire’s plan. Noting the logistic hazards of airlifting troops into the capital, Talbott wrote, “The U.S. is not prepared at this point to lift heavy equipment and troops into Kigali.” The “more manageable” operation would be to create the protected zones at the border, secure humanitarian-aid deliveries, and “promot[e] restoration of a ceasefire and return to the Arusha Peace Process.” Talbott acknowledged that even the minimalist American proposal contained “many unanswered questions”:

Where will the needed forces come from; how will they be transported … where precisely should these safe zones be created; … would UN forces be authorized to move out of the zones to assist affected populations not in the zones … will the fighting parties in Rwanda agree to this arrangement … what conditions would need to obtain for the operation to end successfully?….

On May 17, by which time most of the Tutsi victims of the genocide were already dead, the United States finally acceded to a version of Dallaire’s plan. However, few African countries stepped forward to offer troops. Even if troops had been immediately available, the lethargy of the major powers would have hindered their use. Though the Administration had committed the United States to provide armored support if the African nations provided soldiers, Pentagon stalling resumed. On May 19 the UN formally requested fifty American armored personnel carriers. On May 31 the United States agreed to send the APCs from Germany to Entebbe, Uganda. But squabbles between the Pentagon and UN planners arose. Who would pay for the vehicles? Should the vehicles be tracked or wheeled? Would the UN buy them or simply lease them? And who would pay the shipping costs? Compounding the disputes was the fact that Department of Defense regulations prevented the U.S. Army from preparing the vehicles for transport until contracts had been signed. The Defense Department demanded that it be reimbursed $15 million for shipping spare parts and equipment to and from Rwanda. In mid-June the White House finally intervened. On June 19, a month after the UN request, the United States began transporting the APCs, but they were missing the radios and heavy machine guns that would be needed if UN troops came under fire. By the time the APCs arrived, the genocide was over—halted by Rwandan Patriotic Front forces under the command of the Tutsi leader, Paul Kagame.

An aside: there’s another story in this article, which has to do with the intricacies of the EU-NATO-US relationship. Perhaps a subject for another post.

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