Tag: Sudan

Keeping Up With The International Criminal Court: The Realization of Judicial Intervention

The International Criminal Court would “wither and die” was once the prediction of John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN. It seems that is not the case. There has been a dizzying amount of activity surrounding the Court lately, much of which underscores that judicial intervention is becoming a mainstay of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Undoubtedly, the ICC will be the hot topic at your department’s holiday party ;) Here’s your cheat sheet so you can nerd out with everyone else. If you get stuck, just wryly remark that it depends on sovereignty, or complementarity, or selectivity. That’s always gold in international justice.

LIBYA: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (and maybe al-Senussi?) was captured and the jockeying for who gets to conduct his trial began. Ocampo suggested on his recent visit to Tripoli that the Libyan court system might be capable of conducting a fair trial and that the ICC would provide assistance, not competition. But it’s not up to Ocampo. ICC judges will determine whether the Libyan court system is up to snuff. If a Libyan court does try Saif  this is an opportunity for the ICC to affect positive complementarity and help rebuild the rule of law in Libya. But there are valid concerns that Libya courts are not ready so soon into the post-authoritarian transition and after decades in which the courts were an instrument of repression. Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group and former prosecutors at the ICTY and ICTR, explains the tensions of complementarity in this case and why international justice is often a measure of last resort.

SYRIA: The UN Human Rights Council has found that crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, and disappearances, have been perpetrated by Syrian security and military forces and that the death toll is at least 4,000. UNHCR chief, Navi Pillay, is urging the Security Council to refer the situation to the ICC. But the UNHCR’s December 2nd resolution condemning the violence did not explicitly ask for such a referral. Certainly a UNSC referral is warranted and would counter criticisms that judicial interventions are politicized and selective. But China and Russia would veto it so that’s a non-starter.


MEXICO: Human rights activists have petitioned the ICC to investigate and determine whether crimes against humanity have been committed in the context of the state’s “war on drugs.” Specifically, the petition alleges that President Calderon, a top drug cartel boss, and political and security officials are responsible for the murder, torture, and kidnapping of hundreds of civilians in a war that has killed 45,000. It will take a while before the ICC prosecutors can determine if the case meets the “sufficient gravity” criteria and if the crimes were “systemic” and “systemic” to warrant charges of crimes against humanity. Mexico is a State Party to the Rome Statute but the government immediately rejected the accusations and insists that the rule of law is respected and upheld in Mexico. Calderon has called the accusations “slander” and the government issued a statement saying “it categorically rejects that security policy could be considered an international crime.”

KENYA: A Kenyan high court judge issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir of Sudan. The Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (and NGO) filed the request. Bashir has visited several States Parties to the Rome Statute, including Kenya in August, and was not arrested – a violation of States Parties’ obligations. The recent ruling prompted the Sudanese government to expel the Kenyan Ambassador and prompted criticisms that this was a political move by the ICJ to put pressure on the Kenyan government to cooperate with the “Ocampo Six” cases before the ICC. This is partially a score for Rome Statute compliance, but the Kenyan government plans to appeal the ruling. One very interesting aspect of the ICC-Kenya situation is the prominence of civil society actors pushing for accountability, and the growing rift with political elites.

COTE D’IVOIRE: The ICC unsealed an arrest warrant for former President Laurent Gbagbo on November 29th and he was promptly transferred from his house arrest to The Hague. This is the first head of state to appear before the Court as Gaddafi met a different kind of “justice” and Bashir is still enjoying his impunity. Gbagbo is accused of being an indirect co-perpetrator of crimes against humanity, committed in the context of Cote d’Ivoire’s post-election violence from December 2010-April 2011. Rival and current President Alassane Ouattara has long welcomed the ICC’s involvement and wants Gbagbo tried internationally. But the arrest still seemed sudden and dramatic – shocking Gbagbo’s supporters who were hoping for an amnesty-for-peace type deal. Gbagbo made his first appearance before the ICC judges today (Dec 5) and judges will announce on June 18, 2012 if the case will proceed to trial.

There are two things to watch for. First, the timing of the arrest appears political as Cote d’Ivoire has parliamentary elections coming up on December 11th and Gbagbo supporters have pledged to boycott the vote. Second, the arrest is stirring up accusations of victor’s justice. The ICC indicates that investigations are ongoing, that there will be more charges, and both sides are being investigated. But locally there’s pessimism that crimes committed on behalf or at the best of Ouattara’s forces will be prosecuted.

SUDAN: An arrest warrant was requested of ICC judges by the Chief Prosecutor on December 2nd for Sudan’s Defence Minister, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. At the time of the alleged crimes (August 2033-March 2003) Hussein was Interior Minister and representative in Darfur. Hussein is closely connected to two of the ICC’s other targets – Bashir and Harun. The request for an arrest warrant comes at a time when the crimes and victims in Darfur have fallen off the world’s radar and for a situation in which the Court has made the least progress.

And in a bizarre revelation, Time magazine reports that the ICC’s evidence against Hussein is partly derived from data from the Satellite Sentinal Project – the brain child of the celeb badvocacy efforts of George Clooney and John Prendergast of the Enough Project. See this NPR article for why the satellite project, Clooney, and Prendergast, are a little ridiculous.

CHIEF PROSECUTOR: Ocampo’s term is almost up (we’ll all miss the eyebrows and swagger) and, to no one’s surprise and much acclaim, Fatou Bensouda will be chosen as the new Chief Prosecutor of the ICC. (To be confirmed at the next meeting of the Assembly of States Parties on December 12th). Currently the Deputy Prosecutor, Bensouda comes from the Gambia and worked at the ICTR. It’s hoped that her leadership will mend ties between the Court and African political elites and the African Union. There’s also the expectation that the Court and its prosecutorial strategy will be more victim-focused.

And lastly, in the best possible example of make-believe international justice, a Malaysian tribunal “reached a unanimous verdict that found George W. Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide, as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.” The verdict obviously doesn’t have much effect beyond shame and blame, but the tribunal will communicate its findings to the ICC and give a little wink/nudge to states to exercise their universal jurisdiction muscles.

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“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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Shadow War comes to light

Another mysterious air strike has come to light. Via the NYT, we have links to reports that in January, a “major power” conducted a significant air strike in Sudan on a convoy of trucks supposedly transporting weapons from Sudan to Hamas in Gaza. CBS reports that while Sudanese officials have accused the US of carrying out the strike, US officials hint that Israel was behind the attack. Haaretz reports that Israeli officials, while not confirming the report, certainly are denying it. According to CBS:

In the airstrike in Sudan – said to have been “in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha’anoon,” according to SudanTribune.com – 39 people riding in 17 trucks were reportedly killed….

If Israeli airplanes carried out the attack in Sudan, it would suggest that there is a shadow war against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed.

Who could have undertaken such an attack? Its a pretty limited group consisting of mainly the US and Israel and perhaps Egypt, given the proximity to the Egyptian border. Conceding that Egypt is a stretch at best, the likely suspects include the US and Israel. Israel’s F-15I, a long range ground attack aircraft, is designed for just such missions–long range precision attack. The US has bases in Djibouti as well as carrier-based aircraft that could launch any number of platforms. The scope of the attack (17 trucks) suggest a multiple-plane strike package, probably ruling out attack by US drones.

The most significant element in this strike is the actionable intelligence that produced it. The attacking power must know that this particular convoy is carrying arms, and know where the convoy is and where its heading. That type of intelligence suggests either a very robust HUMINT capability on the ground in Sudan, or, more likely, a robust satellite surveillance capability that could identify the convoy and follow it, pinpointing its exact location at the time of the strike.

The wider implications of this strike could be significant. It shows the depth and difficulty of the Israeli – Hamas conflict. Hamas has a robust global supply network and cooperative governments willing to allow such a network to exist. It also shows the depth of involvement by Sudan and Iran in the issue. It also is a clear signal from Israel to Iran–we are monitoring your actions and have the ability to strike your activities. The F-15I’s range includes Port Sudan, and thus a good chunk of Iran as well.

Developing….

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War and punishment

Ethics and pragmatism sometimes align in matters of war and peace, and other times they work at cross purposes. Two recent examples illustrate this rather banal point:

1. Brian Ulrich calls attention to what might be charitably described as a misguided Israeli tactic for dealing with Hamas in the West Bank:

It’s long been said that Hamas is popular because of its social services. Israel’s defense establishment is now on the case:

“Israeli military officials have identified Hamas’s civilian infrastructure in the West Bank as a major source of the Islamic group’s popularity, and have begun raiding and shutting down these institutions in cities like Hebron, Nablus and Qalqilyah.

“Last week, troops focused their efforts in Nablus, raiding the city hall and confiscating computers. They also stormed into a shopping mall and posted closure notices on the shop windows. A girls’ school and a medical centre were shut down in the city, and a charitable association had its computers impounded and documents seized.

And:

In recent months, the army has also closed down an orphanage, a bakery and other institutions in Hebron, which Israel believes are associated with Hamas. In Gaza, meanwhile, Israel and the Islamic group are observing a truce, but this does not pertain to the West Bank where the Israeli military operates freely.”

Are they serious? Having Israel attack Hamas orphanages and medical centers is supposed to make Palestinians turn against Hamas?

Robert Farley lodges an additional objection:

The motivating concept behind strategic bombing in World War II was that enemy morale would be crushed by the destruction of the infrastructure of civilian life; the Japanese, it was thought, would stop supporting their government when the United States Army Air Force destroyed the ability of that government to supply civilian services. Essentially, the point is to make the people blame their own government for their hardships.”

Rob contines

The Israelis aren’t actually blowing anything up, but the concept seems to be the same — close an orphanage, and hope that the Palestinians blame Hamas instead of Israel. Good luck with that…

I think Rob misses the point. The Israeli campaign isn’t designed to make the Palestinians blame Hamas for a loss of social services, but to deny Hamas the ability to provide social services. Now Rob is right that a major problem with the strategy is that it risks creating more of a rally-around Hamas effect; another is that it further undermines Fatah.

Writing in the daily Haaretz newspaper this week, columnist Gideon Levy calls the move against Hamas-related institutions “ludicrous.” Residents of the West Bank, he concludes, “cannot be simultaneously imprisoned, prohibited from earning a living and offered no social welfare assistance while we strike at those who are trying to do so, whatever their motives. If Israel wants to fight the charitable associations, it must at least offer alternative services. On whose back are we fighting terror? Widows? Orphans? It’s shameful.”

By moving against Hamas institutions, Israel runs the risk of increasing the popularity of the Islamic movement and, at the same time, undermining that of Abbas and his Fatah party, who are perceived, correctly or not, as the intended beneficiaries — even if unwitting and unwilling ones — of this policy.

What’s more, Hamas’s popularity does not derive only from its network of schools and charities, but is also very much a direct function of the deep disillusionment among the Palestinian people with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and its inability to deliver on its key promises, the central one being an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. Some in Israel argue that the best way for Israel to block Hamas and bolster Abbas would be to halt construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, ease travel restrictions there and, most importantly, ensure there is progress in negotiations with the Palestinian leader.

To be blunt, the Israelis need to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that the peace process–and those advocating peace–will bring material improvement to their lives. Israeli counter-terrorism strategy, however, often does just the opposite.

The frustrating thing is how little anyone interested in peace has learned since the breakdown of Oslo, when the Israeli far right Palestinian extremists de facto conspired to torpedo the peace process. They did so not only by polarizing the environment, but by forcing policies that destroyed the hope of material benefit from the peace process.

So this is a case where moral action–responding to the plight of the Palestinian people–is also pragmatic action.

2. The opposite, unfortunately, is true in Sudan. Recall that the ICC has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of genocide. China, an increasingly close ally of Sudan, is part of an effort to suspend the ICC indictment.

But the indictment should be suspended, as it complicates already struggling attempts to deal with the situation in Darfur. Proceeding with the indictment backs Bashir into a corner, reduces whatever incentive he has to sign onto any future agreement, and renders such negotiations even more difficult. The African Union is basically right that:

“hard-won gains made in the search for peace and reconciliation in the Sudan” could be jeopardised.

Foreign ministers of the 15 countries currently serving on the AU’s Peace and Security Council are expected to meet in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital where the AU is based, next week.

The charges against President Bashir put African countries in an acutely difficult position, says the BBC’s Liz Blunt in Addis Ababa.

They supply almost all the troops for the joint AU/UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, and are also the countries most likely to be called upon to carry out any arrest warrant, she says.

It also threatens to undermine the ICC itself, as it can’t do much of anything to enforce its writ.

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In other news

Our US readers might be surprised to learn that there are, in fact, happenings not associated with the 2008 Presidential race. So I thought I would point out that:

Sudan is on the brink of renewed war between the north and south.

NATO has issued checks that it probably can’t cash regarding the Georgia-Russia “cold” conflict over Abkhazia.

• Zimbabwe’s “free and fair” second-round elections continue to be, uh, not so free and fair.

And in the “someone is wrong on the internet” category, we return to the US Presidential race:

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee has just wrapped up what it considers to be a fair and just solution to the problem of Florida and Michigan delegates. How the Committee managed to not give Florida 100% representation at the convention is beyond bizarre. The Florida Democratic party was outmaneuvered and disenfranchised by the Republican controlled legislature and now they have been disenfranchised by the Democratic Party as well.

The solution was to seat all delegates but only give each of them half a vote. This effectively makes the vote of each Floridian delegate less representative than slaves were at the foundation of our democracy. For the math illiterate 1/2 is less than 3/5.

I am so *^&%@!& happy the primaries are over. I’m sick of Democratic bloggers exposing their own racism, sexism, and historical ignorance for everyone to see.

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