Archive for August, 2010

Gender in the 21st Century

There was an interesting story on the INTERNATIONAL LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANS AND INTERSEX ASSOCIATION site. It involved a girl, a lesbian, who was excluded from the school year book because she wore a tuxedo in her photo, but had implications far beyond that mere fact.

The reason I mention the story is because it got me thinking: are there still roles unique to men and women, or do we live, or should live in a genderless society? Obviously when I talk about this issue I am not referring to actual biology but to perceptions in society. In the process of thinking about this subject I tried to think of advantages to certain roles for certain genders, and was faced with quite a difficult time. Therefore I came to the conclusion maybe gender is just a label to allow discrimination, which women are unfortunately but not exclusively subjected to.

I then asked myself legally would it be possible to be genderless, and found a type of answer out quickly thanks to Norrie May-Welby. This individual has become the world’s first legally genderless person thanks to New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages giving into the activist demands. Although a few days later the decision from New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages were told they did not have the power to issue a certificate for a genderless person. Yet still this means the idea legally has been introduced, and likely many ideas when they have entered the minds of people, they are hard to get rid off.

Hence I leave with you with the question: should the human race become genderless? if so why, and if not, why not?

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I’m inviting Bashir to the next family picnic.

There’s been a media firestorm in response to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s trip Friday to attend the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution, despite the ICC warrant for his arrest (see Xavier’s post below). A quick response:

In a press release, Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Programme Director, said, “It is disturbing that the Kenyan government is celebrating a new constitution – the national centrepiece of the rule of law – while obstructing justice for victims of such serious human rights violations in a neighbouring country.” Apparently the whole ‘neighbor’ part is being used by the Kenyan government to defend al-Bashir’s attendance: Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula stated, “[al-Bashir] was here today because we invited all neighbors and he is a neighbor.” Well, thanks, Mr Wetangula, for that priceless bit of social precedent. Next time I have a barbecue, I’ll be sure to invite the serial killer down the block, even though I promised my friends that I wouldn’t associate with him.

I don’t know where Wetangula is finding these gems, but he keeps them coming: “[Bashir] is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest.” Yes, Mr Wetangula, it seems the only thing Kenya is embarrassing lately is itself. To be fair, there is some hope for the sanity of select Kenyan government officials. Deputy Defense Minister David Musila stated, “Kenya has brought shame to itself by allowing President Bashir to visit the country. If he is still in the country he should be arrested immediately and handed to the ICC.” Unfortunately, Kenya’s apparent war crimes poster boy is already safe and snug back in Khartoum.

My apologies for the tone of this post. If I sound bitter, that’s because I am.

But do follow me on twitter @cminall.

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An Intolerable Affront

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in Nairobi today, photo by AFP

Cate and I have been monitoring this since the news that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir would be visiting Kenya today broke yesterday evening (Central European Time), and have been tweeting about it since (follow us @cminall and @xrauscher_, respectively), but I was holding out to see what was going to happen today, and notably what the Court’s reaction would be, before posting. Now that the day is coming to an end, and the Court has reacted, I have no more reasons to wait.

As you may or you may not yet know, Sudanese President Al-Bashir made a surprise visit to Kenya today as Kenya celebrated the signing into law of its new Constitution, and was able to enter and leave the country untouched. Omar Al-Bashir is indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity since March 2009, and for genocide – the crime of crimes – since last July.

By inviting him into the country and not arresting him, Kenya failed to meet its international obligations, and this on two different planes:

First of all, the situation in Sudan was referred to the International Criminal Court by the United Nations Security Council. In its Resolution 1593 referring the situation in Sudan to the ICC, the Security Council, at §2,

recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation under the Statute, urges all States and concerned regional and other international organizations to cooperate fully;

It could be very well interpreted that Kenya is in breach with its obligations as a UN member. However, some could argue that the use of the word “urge”, preceded with the “recognizing that States not party to the Rome Statute have no obligation…” (thank you John Bolton for that one), makes it non-binding. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Legal Response To Mass Rape in the Congo?

In October 2007, John Holmes, United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the New York Times:

The sexual violence in Congo is the worst in the world. The sheer numbers, the wholesale brutality, the culture of impunity – it’s appalling.

It seems as though not much has changed over the last three years.

Last month, civilians were brutally attacked and raped by armed elements of the Mai-Mai and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to Will F. Cragin, the International Medical Corps’ coordinator for the region, between 200 and 400 men entered the village of Ruvungi and systematically raped more than 150 women. The victims, most of whom were raped by two to six men at a time, were often violated in front of their families.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is understandably outraged by the attacks, and has dispatched Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to the DRC, and has instructed his Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, to take charge of the UN’s response and follow-up to this incident. But will anyone actually be prosecuted for the atrocities? Read the rest of this entry »

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The David Bosco v. Julian Ku Debate on the ICC, and I’m disagreeing with both

The International Criminal Court, photo from the Coalition for the ICC's website

Not that I want to do another blog review so soon, but a recent exchange between Opinio Juris‘ Julian Ku and Foreign Policy The Multilateralist‘s David Bosco on the International Criminal Court has caught my attention. It’s an interesting exchange between someone with a very American and conservative view on the ICC (Julian Ku), and another who’s closer to the center and apparently slightly more favorable – or perhaps “less unfavorable” being a more appropriate expression – to the Court (David Bosco).

You would probably think that I’d take Bosco’s side on this debate, and I wish I were, but – at the risk of not making many friends – I’m going to take neither.

My opposition to Julian Ku is clear, and is one I’m comfortable with. From what I’ve been reading, Julian Ku belongs to the American school of thought that considers the ICC to be a threat to American interests, that the adoption by the Assembly of States Parties at Kampala in June of a definition (PDF) for the Crime of Aggression (Article 5(1)(d) of the Rome Statute – PDF) is a failure for US diplomacy, and that US cooperation with the ICC will lead to nowhere. Read the rest of this entry »

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Communiqué: The International Jurist Wishes To Congratulate St Lucia For Ratifying The Rome Statute

Xavier: I’d like to welcome our newest team member, Cate Minall. This is her first post, and hopefully the first of many. Cate, welcome to The International Jurist.

On 18 August 2010, the Eastern Caribbean state of St. Lucia deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the UN Headquarters, becoming the 113th State Party to the ICC Treaty.

The Court welcomed this decision, calling it “a new sign of the international community’s commitment to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity.”

According to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Caribbean states played a key role in the creation and establishment of the ICC, and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy noted that St. Lucia’s ratification was the third this year. She stated, “A steady increase in the number of ratifications demonstrates that the Court is a reality, which everybody must recognize.”

The International Jurist congratulates St. Lucia for showing true commitment to international justice, and welcomes them to the growing community of states around the world that are working to end impunity.

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A First Blog Review

These days, I’m a little overwhelmed with my work at the CICC and my LLM dissertation that is due in two weeks. So instead of giving you a full-fledged entry tonight, I thought of doing a little blog review. I’ve been reading a lot of interesting stuff lately, and for lack of reflecting on an entire issue, I thought I’d share and comment a little on a few posts out there in the blogosphere.

First of all, Alex Lobov’s post at Zeitgeist Politics is an interesting read and sums-up well Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s ordeal in Iran, sentenced to death by stoning, and culminates with a plea against the death penalty in the United States and in the world. Here is an excerpt:

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is a young Iranian woman who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, a sentence that sparked an international outcry over  a practice that many see as archaic and barbaric. Since the initial sentence was handed down, the twists and turns in events since then have moved rapidly.

The initial sentence was handed down by a court in Tabriz in May 2006, she was charged with committing adultery (despite the alleged incident occurring after the death of her husband) and was sentenced to 99 lashes, which was carried out. Then, in September she was convicted by another court, the details of which are still rather shaky, of adultery and of being an accomplice in the murder of her husband. But wait, is she being put to death for adultery? Or for murder? Or for both?

I’ve been thinking of using this story to write a post about international law and the death penalty, but I have not had time as of yet. Stay tuned: maybe I’ll find time this weekend.

Secondly, a very interesting story by Colum Lynch in his Foreign Policy Turtle Bay blog about the Tea Party in the United States and their rather “hostile” (something of an understatement) attitude towards the United Nations. Going far beyond the obvious, Colum Lynch tracks back the roots of the American heartland’s hostility to the UN and multilateralism in general, ever since the days of Founding Father George Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legal And Ethical Issues – What Is Wrong With Taking Photographs of Prisoners In A Conflict?

Israeli soldier posing in front of Palestinian prisoners

A shameful controversy has recently crossed over the borders of Israel and made a splash in the media worldwide: a former Israeli soldier, Eden Abergil, had posted on her Facebook page photographs of her posing with bound and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners. And to add insult to injury, Ms. Abergil does not understand what is “wrong” with her posting the pictures, claiming that she had published those pictures were taken “in good will” and that she had no idea that they would be “problematic.”

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has quickly reacted to what could be another PR nightmare for Israel at a time when Israel really does not need any more of those. The problem is that the Breaking the Silence group, a very interesting NGO that gathers testimony from IDF veterans, has already published many other photos of Israeli soldiers posing next to Palestinian prisoners or even corpses, claiming that such behavior is the norm, not the exception.

In a world where the media – in the larger sense – is everywhere, the question of publishing photographs and other images of conflicts and their different facets are regularly the subject of controversies. The biggest recent scandal that we have in mind when seeing these pictures is the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. It goes without saying that in many ways, the two don’t compare: whereas the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib were absolutely horrifying and gruesome, Ms. Abergil’s photographs remain relatively decent. She “only” poses next to prisoners, does not appear to touch them or to taunt them, let alone abuse them sexually. The Arab media, by claiming that this was Israel’s Abu Ghraib, are largely exaggerating. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gaddafi’s Son Supports The ICC Against Bashir

This is going to be a short post, as I’m short on time, and I don’t really know what to think about this anyway. The Sudan Tribune reported yesterday that Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al-Islam, through the intermediary of his human rights group – the Arab Alliance For Democracy Development and Human Rights – expressed support for the prosecution of perpetrators of mass atrocities in Sudan, “irrespective of their positions“.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“August 11, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — A Libyan human right group headed by the son of Muammar Gaddafi has issued a statement last week calling for prosecuting perpetrators of war crimes in Darfur “irrespective of their positions” in what appears to be a subtle reference to the indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera website said that the statement by the Arab Alliance For Democracy, Development and Human Rights (ADDHR) coincided with a visit made by Bashir to Tripoli last Wednesday for talks with his Libyan counterpart.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide during Darfur’s seven-year conflict

“The Arab Alliance For Democracy, Development and Human Rights continues to monitor and follow the grave humanitarian situation in Darfur and the resulting suffering and serious violations of human rights and crimes against humanity,” said a statement by the group on their website.

“The continuation of humanitarian violations against the citizens of Darfur and subjecting them to the suffering, killing and displacement is a serious situation that requires condemnation and working to stop it,”.

“[The world] cannot continue to turn a blind eye to crimes committed against innocent people in Darfur by parties to the conflict [including] government and rebel factions. [The world] cannot continue to postpone the realization of justice and offering compliments to offenders irrespective of their positions. This requires all states, governments, organizations and human rights activists to show solidarity with this humanitarian issue and not siding with the devil’s advocates so that each party faces the results of their own actions,” the statements reads. (…)”

The article further explains that this is really a message sent by Tripoli to Bashir, as the relationship between Sudan and Libya has been rather tense lately.

I honestly don’t know what to think about this. Should I take it seriously or is this hypocrisy at its best? Or am I missing something?

You tell me.

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So, Just How Much Trouble Is Naomi Campbell Getting Into? And Is The International Jurist Going Tabloid?

I’ve heard that supermodel Naomi Campbell was rather accustomed to getting into trouble – something about hitting her maids, among other things – but I’ll leave that to tabloids and people magazines (personally, I’m not a reader).

The kind of trouble concerning Ms. Campbell that is of interest to me is that of eventual false testimony before an international criminal court, or at least a hybrid one: the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Now, I have absolutely no proof nor any reason to think that the supermodel lied in her testimony to the Court last Friday. But with the conflicting testimonies before the SCSL that we’ve been hearing these past few days, I just had to wonder (with a little help from Washington Post’s Colum Lynch’s Twitter feed) what consequences could be for Naomi Campbell should it turn out that she provided an international court with false testimony. Read the rest of this entry »

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