Posts Tagged United States

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.

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Inspired by Karl Rove…

As one journalist states – and I agree – “…the United States of America has the moral duty and legal obligation to go after each and every one of those involved in the illegal acts of butchery in Afghanistan and Iraq, following up and holding them responsible for the consequences of these acts and holding accountable each and every person involved in the decision-making process, however high their position in the pyramid may have been.” The notion of command responsibility seems conveniently absent from the minds of American policy-makers. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “a wall of impunity surrounds the architects of the policies responsible for the larger pattern of abuses.”

Ah. Let us take a moment to re-read that last sentence. This time focus on the word “architect”. Architect…perhaps as in, Karl Rove, widely known as “The Architect” for Bush’s reelection and subsequent policies?  Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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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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Justice and the US; immigration and disability

It turns out that people face greater injustice in the United States, well at least in regards to immigration. This is because individuals with mental disabilities are more likely to face erroneous deportation under the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The reason for this is the judicial system. In the US, immigrants have no right to free legal representation at their hearings. Normally this is bad, but the effects are compounded when these immigrants have mental disabilities, and are just unable to defend themselves and put across their reasons for seeking asylum. Read the rest of this entry »

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Compétence sur la Compétence: A Comparison of the United States and the European Union, with Gloves

Flag of the European Union

There’s a recent internet “buzz” around the question of whether the European Union is or is not a State, following British MP Daniel Hannan’s post claiming that, with the UN recognizing the EU officially and the Lisbon treaty giving it the power to sign treaties, the European Union was now officially a State under international law.

I was doing my usual blog tour through RSS feeds and such, and came across this post on this question by Julian Ku at Opinio Juris. Reading the comments under them, one of them caught my attention. It was written by Tobias Thienel, who contributes at the Invisible College Blog. Tobias Thienel wrote, on the question of whether the EU was or not a State:

“for an entity to be a state, it must not only have powers comparable to a state (a ‘government’ in the words of the Montevideo Convention), but those powers must not be derived from anyone else. They also, therefore, must not be limited by someone else’s consent. That, in a nutshell, is what sovereignty means.

A state  naturally has full ‘compétence de la compétence’, in that it can take new powers at any time, of its own initiative.

The EU cannot. It remains bound by the principle of limited attribution, and derives all its powers from the Treaties, that is to say from the member states. It does not hold power in its own right, no matter how much power – or what powers, including the capacity to make treaties – it holds.”

I started writing a comment to discuss this point, and the comment ended up being over a 1000 words long. Feeling it would be too long for a comment, I decided to post it here instead. Hence the abrupt start:

I think Tobias Thienel’s point about the United States having as a State “la compétence de la compétence”, and not the European Union raises an interesting issue of comparison. I believe he is right in the end, but I’ve been toying with the idea of comparing the US’s constitutional structure and the EU’s institutions, and I’ve found some interesting parallels.

First of all, words of caution: comparison is not, of course, reason, and what I am about to write will probably make any comparative legal scholar scream, but I think it’s worth thinking about.

I left my legal lexicon at home, but if I remember correctly, “la compétence de la compétence” as far as State sovereignty is concerned is the capacity of a State to define the limits on its powers on its own, without exterior intervention. In that sense, bar a full-fledged revolution, “compétence de la compétence” is incarnated by the State’s constitution, and more precisely in the clauses concerning the possibility to amend it.

So the question is, how much difference is there in who holds the power to modify or amend the US Constitution and the EU treaties? In principle, Tobias Thienel’s claim that the US has kompetenz-kompetenz and not the EU is exact. But from a practical point of view, the difference is less than it seems. Read the rest of this entry »

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