Archive for category International Security Issues

The Economist on Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War

The Economist has published about two weeks ago a very interesting piece on the use of rape as a weapon of war, in the past and present. It’s worthwhile reading for anyone interested. Here’s an excerpt:

Rape in war is as old as war itself. After the sack of Rome 16 centuries ago Saint Augustine called rape in wartime an “ancient and customary evil”. For soldiers, it has long been considered one of the spoils of war. Antony Beevor, a historian who has written about rape during the Soviet conquest of Germany in 1945, says that rape has occurred in war since ancient times, often perpetrated by indisciplined soldiers. But he argues that there are also examples in history of rape being used strategically, to humiliate and to terrorise, such as the Moroccan regulares in Spain’s civil war.

As the reporting of rape has improved, the scale of the crime has become more horrifyingly apparent (see table). And with the Bosnian war of the 1990s came the widespread recognition that rape has been used systematically as a weapon of war and that it must be punished as an egregious crime.

H/T Laura Seay (Texas in Africa).

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The Turkel Commission Releases Part I of its Report on the Legality of the Gaza Flotilla Raid

The Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010, also known as the Turkel Commission, has published Part I of its findings on the legality of the Israeli raid against the Mavi Marmara that caused the death of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists and provoked an international outrage last year. The Commission has deemed the raid “in accordance” with international law.

From the New York Times article:

JERUSALEM — An Israeli commission that examined the deadly raid on a flotilla off Gaza last May concluded on Sunday that Israel had acted in accordance with international law when its military enforced its naval blockade by intercepting the ships in international waters.

The commission alluded to what it called “the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries,” — nine pro-Palestinian campaigners were killed and more than 50 were wounded during clashes on a Turkish vessel that was attempting to breach the blockade. But the commission found that Israeli soldiers had acted “professionally and in a measured manner in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence.”

Part I of the Report is available here. I will read it over the course of the next few days, and will probably publish some thoughts.

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Debate at the New America Foundation on Guantanamo for its Ninth Birthday

Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the opening of the infamous detention center for “unlawful combatants” in the War on Terror at a U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In order to reflect on the question of treatment of detainees in the struggle against terrorism, as well as Obama’s failure to keep his promise to close the Guantanamo detention facilities by now, the Washington D.C.-based think tank the New America Foundation organized a panel of experts to discuss these difficult and thorny issues.

Here is the NAF’s presentation of the panel:

Nine years after opening the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, the United States still faces major questions and partisan rancor over the future of the prison, the fate of its 174 remaining detainees, and the proper means of trying and holding terrorism suspects detained at home and abroad. Please join the New America Foundation National Security Studies Program for an important discussion on the prison’s future, and the broader context of the state of terrorism, detention and the law today.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dangers Ahead For International Justice – A Very Brief Reaction to David Bosco’s Post

David Bosco is raising the alarm on his excellent blog The Multilateralist over at Foreign Policy on some potentially very bad news for the international criminal justice project, regarding the ICC’s difficulties in Africa and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s delicate mission in an explosive-as-ever Lebanon.

The post is not very long, so it is difficult for me to quote excerpts without quoting the entire thing (which would not be appropriate without the author’s approval), so I can only strongly suggest you read it.

I do not have time for a detailed response, so I will have to content myself with two quick observations:

Regarding an engineered African withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the threat is undeniably there, and I do not doubt the credibility of the reports David Bosco mentions. However, things are a little more complex than what they appear, as Africa is a) not a homogeneous block – some African States are very pro-ICC, others a bit less, a few outright anti-; b) some African States do have an interest in having the ICC intervening in their country, and c) I was surprised while reading the statements given by delegations at the latest Assembly of States Parties at how conciliatory and even positively low-profile the African States’ declarations were. You’d think for a continent plotting to leave the Rome Statute in a coup, they would raise the issues bothering them in a louder fashion than what they did last month.

I sincerely doubt anything would happen before the Prosecutorial elections next year. The African group has a strong chance of having elected an African Prosecutor for the ICC, and I simply do not see them forfeiting that chance.

Regarding the situation in Lebanon, it is particularly delicate and one I have been meaning to write on for quite a while, and probably will as soon as I have a little more time on my hands (I still have a pile of reports on Lebanon to go through first). But it seems clear that the difficulties at the heart of the peace versus justice debate have never been so discernible and clear-cut than it is there. This is a situation to monitor and think about, for both sides.

Hopefully, I will have time to write more about each situation soon.

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Some Quick Thoughts About Africa, the Crime of Terrorism and the Rome Statute

As readers may know, I have been paying particular attention to the African Union’s attempt to put together a comprehensive counter-terrorism treaty, and have already posted some thoughts on the matter on the al-Wasat blog a few days before Christmas.

A few more thoughts occurred to me today as I was reading (for my current employer) the statements given by delegations to the Ninth Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court, which took place last month in New York. I still have a handful to go through, but so far the delegation from Nigeria’s statement (PDF file) has particularly caught my attention.

From the third paragraph of the statement, I quote and emphasize:

One significant contribution of our common efforts in developing an international criminal justice under the Rome Statute is the strengthening of the international community, acting in concert, to check the activities of armed non-state actors. As we all know, these are usually armed groups that operate outside state control or authority, often constituting threats to corporate existence of their victim states through operational styles marked by horrendous acts of impunity.

I was intrigued by the mention of ‘armed non-state actors’, also known as non-State armed groups. Of course, that term means many things. In fact, it is fairly self-explanatory: any armed group that is not under the direct control of a State is, logically, a non-State armed group.

But as I read that I subconsciously understood “terrorist groups” and that has brought me back to what I wrote last month. Read the rest of this entry »

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The War Against Rape

This is a post to praise UN Security Council Resolution 1960, passed on December 16 2010, which constitutes a step further to stop sexual assaults against women.

It finally allows public shaming of armed groups who have been proven to sexually abuse women. It also spells out instructions to end the practice and avoid future shaming. However most importantly sends a clear message that using rape as a weapon of war can lead to sanctions. The reason I bold rape as a weapon of war, is because I find it to be an under looked point, and one of the most serious war crimes. This type of sexual abuse is man’s lowest quality, and the worst form of obsession. No woman should be degraded in this manner.

So I would like to congratulate the UN Security Council for this strong step to stop these harness abuses, and quote Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“Today is a big day for women worldwide.”

Of course as a side point which I often mention at the end of my posts, the question that arises is: why has this taken so long to be achieved?

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The ICC Setting Its Eyes on Korea?

From the ICC website (emphasis being, as always, mine):

ICC Prosecutor: alleged war crimes in the territory of the Republic of Korea under preliminary examination

The Office of the Prosecutor has received communications alleging that North Korean forces committed war crimes in the territory of the Republic of Korea. The Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, confirmed that the Office has opened a preliminary examination to evaluate if some incidents constitute war crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court. They are:

  1. the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on the 23 November 2010 which resulted in the killing of South Korean marines and civilians and the injury of many others; and
  2. the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, hit by a torpedo allegedly fired from a North Korean submarine on 26 March 2010, which resulted in the death of 46 persons.

The Republic of Korea has been a State Party to the Rome Statute since 13 November 2002. As such, the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide possibly committed on the territory of the Republic of Korea or by its nationals since 1st February 2003, date on which the Statute entered into force in the Republic of Korea.

This, in combination with the recent Wikileaks regarding China’s readiness to drop the North Korean regime could make for an interesting situation to follow in Korea. The ICC as an instrument of justice, contributing to the reunification of the two Koreas?

Let’s not quite go beyond ourselves yet, but hey, why not? Read the rest of this entry »

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A Late Reaction on Omar Khadr, the United States, and Child-Soldiers

I came across this interesting piece of information today: France pressed U.S. on Khadr as Ottawa stood silent: WikiLeaks. According to this article:

France’s foreign minister asked the United States to consider releasing Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay even though the Harper government adamantly refused to intervene, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

The memo, released by WikiLeaks, shows that Bernard Kouchner, who was French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign minister until three weeks ago, personally asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the case in a meeting in February of 2009.

Oddly enough, France, a country which has, to my knowledge, no relation whatsoever with Mr. Omar Khadr, tried to plead his case before the American authorities even though the country of Mr. Khadr’s nationality, Canada, refused to.

Aside from the oddity of it all, that’s not really what made me jump to the ceiling. It turns out – and I do realize I’m about seven years late into this debate – that Mr. Khadr was “arrested” on the battlefield in Afghanistan, wounded, at age 15:

Khadr is the last Western prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. He has been held at the American naval base since October 2002, accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said that after a July 2002 attack by U.S. forces on a suspected al-Qaeda compound, Khadr threw a grenade that killed one soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer, and wounded another.

Khadr was 15 at the time. His defence team argued that their client was a child soldier and should be treated as a victim.

No kidding. I have heard of the Khadr case, like everyone else, for a long time, but bizarrely enough, that piece of information had escaped me until today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Religion, Ethnicity, and Ethnic Cleansing: Discussion On Anti-Christian Violence in the Middle East

Twitter will never cease to surprise me. How can 140-character messages be so thought-provoking and generate such pertinent and interesting debates? It’s a mystery, but it’s also a fact.

Today’s post relates to one of Daveed Gartenstein-Ross‘s tweets and the debate that followed. Here is the tweet:

Daveed was referring to Juan Cole’s story on the current violent attacks carried out against Christians in the Middle East, most notably in Iraq but also in Egypt. More specifically, Daveed was commenting Mr. Cole’s concluding paragraph:

The attacks on Christians in Iraq are serious, and hold the danger of ethnically cleansing that community. The threats against Copts, while they cannot be discounted, are less credible and may well backfire.

Juan Cole’s conclusion and Daveed’s reaction ask interesting questions for international criminal lawyers – does ethnic cleansing apply to religious group? And if it doesn’t, then does “religious” cleansing amount to genocide?

International lawyers who are familiar with the debates these notions generate within the international legal community will know what Juan Cole and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross have stepped in, namely how complex and endless these debates are, starting with the question of whether ethnic cleansing is not a form of genocide (recently shut down at least in part in the ICJ’s 2007 Decision in the Case Concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide – §190), and not to mention the general confusion between “social” and “legal” definitions of such crimes.

Without being so ambitious as to engage in these debates, I would like to clarify a certain number of these notions from a legal perspective.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Shedding Light on Tensions Between the African Union and the ICC

The current tensions between the African Union and the International Criminal Court are often the object of international criminal lawyers’ discussions, and are particularly seized upon by skeptics and critics of the Court. For the Court and its supporters however, it has also been the subject of much reflection and concern, and this up to the highest levels (see ICC President Song’s opening remarks at the ICC-NGO biannual meetings a few weeks ago). Tensions and frustrations are flaring, and there seems to be no end to the standoff between the UN Security Council and the ICC on one side, and the African Union and Sudan on the other.

In the midst of these frictions that clearly threaten the ICC’s credibility in Africa, the Institute for Security Studies published last week an excellent Position Paper titled “An African expert study on the African Union concerns about article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC”, written by three African international law experts, namely Dapo Akande, Max du Plessis and Charles Chernor Jalloh.

As the title very clearly suggests, the authors give a very detailed analysis of the African Union’s position towards article 16 of the Rome Statute, in particular as it relates to the current tensions arising from the ICC’s involvement in Darfur.

Before giving some of my personal thoughts on the study’s findings, I first have to say that this report is brilliant and enlightening. It takes a very clear and rigorous approach to the raised questions on the role article 16 has to play, and makes the case for the African Union’s position without falling into the usual anti-West postcolonial political rhetoric that I find too often pollutes the debate and makes the real legal case inaudible. Although some would say there’s nothing new in the study for anyone who has followed AU-ICC relations closely, I still find that it puts a fresh perspective and offers a coherent analysis that puts the difference pieces of the puzzle in order.

I would recommend the reading of this report to anyone interested in understanding the state of ICC-AU relations, and more specifically, the legal aspects of the AU’s position towards the ICC.

I won’t summarize and go over the entire report, but briefly mention three main ideas that I think structure the paper and that particularly shed light on the ongoing conflict: Read the rest of this entry »

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