Archive for September, 2010

Intelligence Squared US Video – “Treat Terrorists as Enemy Combatants, Not Criminals”

I just wanted to link to a fascinating debate I watched yesterday on counter-terrorism policy: namely, a debate around the motion “treat terrorists as enemy combatants, not criminals.” The participants were former President George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen and former CIA Director Michael Hayden (in favor of the motion), and David Frakt, an Army lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainees, and Stephen Jones, a criminal lawyer who defended Timothy McVeigh (against the motion).

The debate was organized by an organization called Intelligence Squared US that organizes “Oxford-style” debates. I had never heard of them before, but apparently they are broadcasted on NPR and Bloomberg TV, and they have also podcasts available on iTunes. Something to definitely watch out for in the future.

Also, there’s a vote on the motion by the public at the end of the debate, whether for or against. It’s interesting because they poll people on the motion before the debate, and after the debate, so it’s interesting to see how they progress.

But enough talk – well, by me anyway – here’s the video:

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The UN and this brave new world.

“Despite all criticism, the UN remains the world’s premier supranational forum. As such, it may be the best hope for tackling global issues,” suggested the Carnegie Council in 2006. Four years later, these words are still true, but it’s becoming increasingly common to hear the UN described as “weak” and “irrelevant”. However, considering the antiquated balance of power in the organization, do countries have an incentive to engage more fully in the UN system?

In an interview with Turtle Bay, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the new assertiveness of emerging powers like Turkey and Brazil “should not be seen as a new game” aimed at altering the balance of power at the United Nations. I appreciate the sentiment, Mr Davutoglu (after all, who wants to piss off the P5?), but perhaps it is time to consider that the balance of power at the UN really should be altered.

When it comes to Security Council reform, there are two conversations that can take place: what should happen, or what can happen. Should the system reflect the world as it was immediately following World War II? No. Should five countries hold permanent seats? No. Should those same five `countries have the ability to use the veto power to enhance their political sway? No. Should a veto power even exist? I don’t think so. In the words of Kevin Rudd, Australia’s minister of foreign affairs, “The international community can no longer tolerate the actions of a few dissenting states to roadblock the common resolve of the many…If we fail to make the UN work, to make its institutions relevant to the great challenges we all now face, the uncomfortable fact is that the UN will become a hollow shell.”

Could it be that the reluctance of the P5 to surrender any of their power is actually good for the UN’s image? If the UN were truly an irrelevant and stagnant body, powerful states wouldn’t care so much about their standings as members. By holding on so tightly to veto power, the P5 is admitting that the UN is actually a organization capable of big things.

Let’s face it – the veto power and permanent members of the Security Council aren’t going anywhere, but this doesn’t have to be an all or nothing game. India, Brazil, Japan, and Germany are all seeking a permanent seat on the council, and US Under-Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns stated, “For countries like India and for other countries, we need very much to consider how their increasing role in global affairs is matched by the responsibilities that they can discharge in the most important parts of the international architecture.” We also need to consider the role of the aforementioned countries in the UN itself – Japan and Germany are, respectively, the second and third largest UN funders, and Brazil and India are two of the largest contributors to UN-mandated peacekeeping missions. Similarly, Africa, which has more UN members than every other continent, doesn’t include a state that’s a permanent member. Already, the US, France, and the UK have issued formal statements that support Council reform and expansion.

As said by Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the General Assembly last week, “”We should keep in mind that global problems cannot be solved unilaterally, bilaterally or in small circles of like-minded nations.”

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SCL Lecture Series – Booklaunch and lecture by author Maria Nybondas and discussant Judge Kourula

I just wanted to post a quick heads-up to all our readers in The Hague right now. This coming Wednesday, there’s an interesting event in the Supranational Criminal Law Lectures series, organized by the Grotius Center for International Legal Studies, the T.M. C. Asser Institute and my current employer, the Coalition for the ICC. Here is the presentation of the lecture:

Lecture on the occassion of the publication of the book:

Command Responsibility and Its Applicability to Civilian Superiors by Maria Nybondas

Title of the lecture: The Purpose of Command Responsibility under International Criminal Law?
Speaker: Maria Nybondas
Discussant: Judge Kourula
The lecture is followed by a reception.
Registration not needed, seats available on a first come first serve basis

The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, the T.M.C. Asser Institute and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court invite you to the Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series.
The Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series (SCL Lecture Series), aim to contribute to information-sharing and public discourse on contemporary legal issues, while benefiting from the input of distinguished practitioners and experts in the field. The lecture series are particulary interesting for all professionals working with, or interested, in international legal activities in The Hague. These include lawyers, journalists, diplomats, NGO representatives, LL.M-students, and academics. However, everyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

The event is located at the T.M. C. Asser Institute, at R.J. Schimmelpennincklan 20 in The Hague. It starts at 19H30. I’ll be there to attend, so if anyone is going as well, I look forward to meeting you there.

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Is France “At War” With Terrorism?

French Soldier under the Eiffel Tower, Photo AFP/FRED DUFOUR

For the past 10 days or so, there’s been a flutter of activity regarding France and the Islamic terrorist threat – in particular Al-Qaeda au Maghreb Islamique (AQMI). The French intelligence and counterterrorism services have been particularly wary, even nervous, regarding risks of a terrorist strike on French soil. According to Reuters, French authorities are currently investigating and attempting to prevent a supposed kamikaze attack on the transportation system by a suspected female terrorist. Jewish synagogues and other religious sites have been under increased surveillance by security forces, especially during Yom Kippour. Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, perceived as a “moderate” by both his supporters and his detractors, is under police protection.

Last week, the Eiffel Tower and the metro station Saint-Michel, the same that was the object of a terrorist attack in July 1995 killing 8 and wounding over a hundred, were evacuated following an anonymous tip.

All this following an interview of Bernard Squarcini, the head of the French counterterrorist agency – the DCRI (Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur) – in the Journal du Dimanche on the eve of 11 September, claiming that the terrorist threat against France has never been greater. Jean-Louis Bruguière, one of the most famous and mediatized former anti-terrorist magistrates, stated on France 24 that the level of threat was similar to that of 1995, with the difference that today AQMI exists, which was not the case 15 years ago. Needless to say, AQMI’s recent apparition in Algeria and expanding in the entire Sahel is not a positive factor for France’s security.

Talk about nervousness. And yet, on the Home Front, the French are taking all of this with a surprisingly British phlegm.

However, to make things worse, seven employees of the French company specialized in nuclear energy Areva and construction firm Vinci have been kidnapped from their homes in Niger last Wednesday, five of them being French, the two others being from Madagascar and Togo. AQMI is suspected of being behind the attack. The French government has reacted swiftly and firmly to the kidnappings, immediately arranging to deploy 80 troops in Niger along with several aircrafts, and set up a temporary base there to search and rescue the hostages. Read the rest of this entry »

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Could the Pope be prosecuted?

It’s no secret that the majority of sexual abuse claims regarding the Catholic Church have failed to be investigated by either legal authorities or the Church itself, but the Pope’s recent trip to the UK has spurned a debate of, shall we say, almighty proportions.

In a letter to the Catholics of Ireland dated 19 March 2010, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

“To priests and religious who have abused children: You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals.”

What “tribunal” is he talking about? Can the Pope himself be charged with anything? What about the entire Holy See, or a representative, as suggested by Patrick Wall, an American lawyer and former Benedictine monk? Read the rest of this entry »

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A Quick Update on the Niqab Debate

Woman Wearing the Niqab, photo by AFP

Just a quick update regarding the Niqab debate in France: last week, the French Senate voted overwhelmingly and as expected the law banning the wearing of full-face veils that had already been voted by the lower house of the French Parliament, l’Assemblée Nationale, in July.

The law still has to face the scrutiny of the French Conseil Constitutionnel (France’s Constitutional “Court”), and eventually, challenges before the European Court of Human Rights. The outcome of each of these tests is uncertain, as there are arguably good arguments on both sides of the debate. Read the rest of this entry »

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The “Peace versus Justice” Debate: Views From the Darfurian Refugee Camps

I apologize for not having posted anything in what appears to be way too long, even though from my perspective it feels as if it was just yesterday. I have been busy here and there, with work, The Hague, and finishing my LLM dissertation. Now that most of that is behind me, I can get back to this blog, and boy, there’s been plenty to talk about these past few weeks: the UN Mapping Report regarding crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1990s, a delicate political situation in Sudan, and some worrisome news from the front lines of the global struggle against terrorism. And let’s not forget the Pope’s visit to the UK, and the temptation by a certain number of people to put him on trial for crimes against humanity.

I will write on some, if not all, of these issues in the following days (again, forgive me for my lateness in reacting to these events), but I want to start off with a post on a NGO project called Darfurian Voices that I came across a few weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dignity for All Students Act

An interesting piece of legislation was signed by the New York governor entitled the Dignity for All Students Act. The basic terms of the legislation is to protect students from bullying and harassment. The reason I mention this legislation however is because it is the first New York piece of legislation that directly refers to gender identity, and expression.

I just want to welcome this important piece of legislation that thanks to the tireless efforts of state lawmakers, and Governor Patterson makes students more safe. Due to this legislation students can now be protected legally for having to put up with relentless bullying  for a characteristics they can not help. Finally, New York has recognised these consequences that leave young individuals emotionally and/or physically damaged, with no option but taking their own lives. So I welcome this important piece of legislation.

However I would ask the question why has it took so long ? How long have individuals worried about expressing who they are in a so-called democracy. How many people can not express their true self? And how many lives have been taken under pressure of relentless abuse?

So thank you New York, but next time don’t take so long.

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