Tag Archives: genocide

Investigating and Prosecuting War Crimes

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, yesterday announced she was opening a “preliminary investigation” into possible war crimes committed during the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic. The Central African Republic—one of Africa’s poorest countries—has been the site of ongoing sectarian violence for more than a year. Thousands of refugees have attempted to flee into neighboring countries, often escorted by African Union-backed peacekeeping forces.

In her report, Bensouda noted that her initial investigation has already found “hundreds of killings, acts of rape and sexual slavery, destruction of property, pillaging, torture, forced displacement and recruitment and use of children in hostilities,” and that “in many incidents, victims appear to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.” Some have suggested that the Central African Republic may be on the verge of genocide.

Fatou Bensoouda’s statement was published as a short, 3 minute video.

The International Criminal Court was created in 2002 to prosecute acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in situations where existing national legal systems are unwilling or unable to act. The ICC has come under attack in recent years for its near-exclusive focus on Africa, as all of the ICC’s investigations to date have focused on African countries.

What do you think? Should the ICC begin an investigation into developments in the Central African Republic? Is the ICC biased against Africa? Or does it merely reflect the concentration of conflict in the region? Can the ICC effectively deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity? Why or why not?

Advertisements

An Atrocities Prevention Board: Useful Tool or Farce?

President Obama at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In a speech at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. last week, President Obama announced the creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board.  This interagency body (with members from the Departments of State, Defense, Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, and others) is designed to monitor situations that could lead to mass atrocities and recommend timely actions to prevent escalation.  This announcement drew swift and scathing responses from a variety of critics.

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, in an article called “While Syria Burns,” argued that the Obama administration talks tough on preventing atrocities but has stood idly by as 9,000 Syrians have been killed.  He calls the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board “embarrassing,” and suggests it is an excuse for inaction: “I kid you not. A board. Russia flies plane loads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Supports a feckless U.N. peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. (Indeed, some of the civilians who met with the peacekeepers were summarily executed.) And establishes an Atrocities Prevention Board.”

Another critic, realist scholar Stephen Walt, argues that the board is problematic for three reasons: (1) it will increase the likelihood that the U.S. will get involved in more unwise and costly interventions in an effort to be the “global police,” (2) it will do nothing about the core strategic problems that prevent states from intervening in humanitarian crises, and (3) it helps perpetuate the myth that the U.S. has clean hands and should be judging others’ behavior when it has been responsible for atrocities in the past.

But Andrew Miller of the Council on Foreign Relations‘ Center for Preventive Action argues in a response to Walt that the Atrocities Prevention Board has the potential both to prevent genocide and to reduce the likelihood of costly U.S. intervention abroad:

“The APB will help ensure that atrocity situations don’t get sidelined in the policymaking process. The Clinton administration failed to address the 1994 Rwandan genocide in part because White House officials were focused on the dual crises in Bosnia and Haiti. Thus, as hundreds of thousands died in Rwanda, the genocide wasn’t even a side-show for policymakers; it was a “no show” in the words of then-national security advisor Tony Lake…

Does that mean the U.S. military is more likely to find itself in places of negligible U.S. interests such as Rwanda?  Simply put: No.  As the board’s title suggests, it will focus on prevention. Thus, its success will be measured on its ability to prevent tensions from deteriorating to the point where intervention is even considered. With a preventive approach, the United States can save more lives while expending less blood and treasure. Preventive tools such as economic sanctions or threats of prosecution used to deter would-be perpetrators and protect would-be victims are almost always cheaper and less risky than large-scale military operations.”

Who makes a more persuasive case: the advocates of an Atrocities Prevention Board or its critics?  Are we kidding ourselves that this board can actually make a difference, or does it have the potential to be a useful policy tool that saves lives, saves money, and stops budding conflicts from escalating into the worst kinds of atrocities?

The International Criminal Court and Global Governance

Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, the target of an ICC arrest warrant.

The International Criminal Court’s decision this week to issue an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has revived debate about the power and usefulness of the ICC in world politics.  The ICC is an international governmental organization (IGO)–an organization whose members are states–that was created by the 1998 Rome Treaty and today has 114 members.  Its purpose is to prosecute individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  (The charges against Qaddafi, his son, and his military intelligence chief were for crimes against humanity stemming from the regime’s  crackdown on anti-government protesters).  The ICC operates according to the principle of complementarity, which means that it can only act when national court systems are unable or unwilling to take action against the perpetrators of such crimes.  The United States has refused to sign the Rome Treaty and has expressed fears that its soldiers or government officials could be subjected to politically motivated prosecutions by the court, but it has increasingly shown a willingness to use the ICC as a tool to accomplish its foreign policy goals, as discussed in this piece by Colum Lynch.

“Global governance” refers to efforts to move beyond an anarchic system of sovereign states and create structures that can make and enforce rules at the global level.  The ICC is obviously a crucial part of these efforts.  However, a fundamental weakness of the ICC (and other global bodies) is that it does not have an army or police force that can enforce its arrest warrants and bring indicted war criminals such as Sudan’s President Bashir or Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi to justice.  One commentator described the ICC indictment as a fairly impotent call for Qaddafi to “please turn yourself in, now.”  Without “teeth” to enforce its dictates, the ICC must rely on cooperation from state actors, and a number of analysts have raised doubts about whether the NATO forces that are carrying out the bombing of Libya will extend their mission to enforcing the arrest warrant against Qaddafi and his associates.  David Kaye, director of the International Human Rights Law program at UCLA’s School of Law, put it this way:

“Arresting the three would require “boots on the ground,” a scenario that has largely — if not categorically — been taken off the table, especially by the United States. The last time NATO faced such a predicament, in Bosnia in the 1990s, it long resisted devoting any of its resources to enforcing arrest warrants issued by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, even when it had significant numbers of troops on the ground.”

Beyond questions of enforcement, other analysts have argued that the ICC indictments, while morally and legally justified, represent a tactical blunder that reduces the chances of a peace deal that could end the bloodshed in Libya.  Foreign policy analyst and former National Security Council official James Lindsay argued in a May 17 Op-Ed piece that an arrest warrant “…would give [Qaddafi]  additional reason to dig in his heels. With the threat of arrest and trial in The Hague hanging over his head, he knows he will not have the option given dictators of old – going into exile to Paris (Baby Doc Duvalier) or retreat to Saudi Arabi (Idi Amin)…Both a rebel victory and a stable ceasefire remain out of reach. A diplomatic initiative to persuade Gadhafi to step down offers one way out of the current stalemate. But Monday’s ICC indictment simply gives him another reason to hang on and fight.”  For other thoughtful articles on the conflict between justice and peace in this case, see here and here.

The Atlantic’s Max Fisher provides a somewhat different view, arguing that “Ultimately, the arrest warrant is likely to serve as little more than another bargaining chip in any negotiations over ending Libya’s civil war. That’s a good thing — as fighting worsens and civil society degrades, anything that makes peace more likely is essential — but it’s not quite international justice in the legal sense of the term.”

A final critique, aimed not at the indictment of Qaddafi per se, but at the inconsistent application of international law (i.e., why Qaddafi and not others?)can be found here.

What do you think?  Was the ICC’s indictment of Qaddafi a wise step?  How can the structural impediments to global governance (foremost among them, state sovereignty) be overcome to enforce human rights globally and consistently?  Or would the surrender of state sovereignty to supranational organizations actually create more problems than it solves?

Hate Radio and the Rwandan Genocide

A tip of the hat to Chris Blattman, who pointed out a great new article on the role of Mille Collines (RTLM) “Hate Radio” in the Rwandan genocide. The article by David Yanagizawa  demonstates fairly conclusively that RTLM’s broadcasts helped to instensify the genocide. The paper is definately worth a read.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The Nobel Prize Committee sparked considerable debate on Friday when they named President Barack Obama the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. According to the committee, Obama received the award for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples,” citing in particular his effort to reach out to the Muslim world and his push for nuclear disarmament. FT blogger Gideon Rachman commented, “while it is OK to give school children prizes for “effort” – my kids get them all the time – I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.” Qari Mohammad Yousof Ahmadi, a senior spokesman for Afghanistan’s Taliban movement said of the award, “Obama should be awarded the war prize, rather than the peace prize.” Daniel Drezner said the decision “cheapens an already devalued prize.” At Foreign Policy, David Rothkopf decried the decision as “the most ludicrous choice in the history of an award that has a pretty dubious history… It’s as if a freshman tailback were handed the Heisman Trophy as he ran onto the playing field along with a hearty pat on the back and the explanation that he’d been selected to encourage him to have a great year to come.”

But most of the criticism of the award seems to be reserved for the Nobel Peace Prize Committee rather than for President Obama. Indeed, while calling the decision a “ludicrous choice,” Rothkoph also praised Obama’s speech regarding the award. He wrote,

Short of deferring his acceptance of the Nobel Prize, President Obama could not have struck a better tone in his remarks this morning accepting the award. From saying he did not deserve it to framing the award as a “call to action” to citing others who merited such an award, he was pitch-perfect. And in reciting some of his key goals — from the elimination of nuclear weapons to combating climate change to bringing a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine — he raised hope that the award might be even further motivation to advance to what are, as noted above, worthy objectives.

In news from outside the Nobel Prize awards:

1. The security situation in Pakistan appears to be in serious decline. Over the weekend, a group of militants stormed the headquarters of the Pakistani military in Rawalpindi, taking hostages and creating a standoff situation. The Pakistani military was able to retake the compound early Sunday, rescuing 42 hostages and killing most of the militants. On Friday, a car bomb exploded near a shopping mall in Peshawar, a city in the northern part of the country. The attack, described by Pakistani security officials as “one of the most daring attacks ever carried out by the Taliban,” killed 49 people and injuring nearly 100. The attack came just one day after a similar bombing outside the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, and may constitute part of a renewed offensive by Taliban elements operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Last week, the Pakistani government launched a renewed offensive against the Taliban in the Waziristan region of the country. But so far, the campaign has had few successes, and the increase in recent attacks, particularly the brazen attack against Pakistani military headquarters, cast doubt on the ability of the Pakistani military to effectively address the Taliban threat.

2. Despite reservations that the treaty would erode national sovereignty and transfer too much power to Germany, Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland, signed the Lisbon Treaty on Saturday. Poland’s accession make the Czech Republic the lone European Union member that has not approved the Lisbon Treaty. Despite Czech resistance, the treaty appears to be headed for adoption and thus a radical restructuring of the European Union. The treaty would make EU decision making more efficient, streamlining the current voting system in the European Council and strengthening the role of the European Parliament.

3. A number of trade disputes intensified last week. On Thursday, the United States announced an investigation into Chinese steel pipes, the culmination of which could result in a 98.7 percent duty on steel pine imports from China. The announcement follows the imposition of a 35 percent duty on Chinese tire imports last month and a longstanding dispute over Chinese currency values.  Meanwhile, the United States filed a complaint against the European Union with the World Trade Organization on Thursday. The complaint alleges that EU restrictions on the importation of chicken meat washed with chlorine and other chemicals constitutes an unfair trade barrier. Canada last week filed a complaint with the WTO alleging US country-of-origin labeling requirements in cattle and hog exports also constitute an unfair trade barrier.

4. Intervention by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to help overcome last minute setbacks to the Armenian-Turkish peace treaty on Saturday. The agreement, which must still be approved by both country’s parliaments, sets out a timeline to restore diplomatic relations and open the border between Amenia and Turkey. While the agreement was difficult to reach, both sides stand to gain. For Turkey, resolving the longstanding dispute could smooth its path to membership in the European Union and increase its influence in the Caucasus. Armenia could see its economy improve access to European Union market. Despite the potential benefits, the agreement could still be derailed due to longstanding tensions between the two countries, which date back to 1915 murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, often referred to as the world’s first genocide.

5. On Tuesday, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, a key player in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, was arrested in Uganda. Nizeyimana was responsible for the organization of the genocide in Butare, a southern province in Rwanda. The arrest was the second high profile detention in a month, following the arrest of Gregoire Ndahimana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the arrests highlight tensions between Rwanda and the United Nations over the handling of charges related to the genocide, in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus will killed. Both Nizeyimana and Ndahimana have been transferred to Tanzania to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, despite efforts by the Rwandan government to have them tried by the Rwandan government in Kigali.

Five Stories You Might Have Missesd

Efforts to rescue the failing auto industry continue, as President Bush last week announced a $17.4 billion package targeting the big three American auto manufacturers.  The Canadian government has stepped in with a C$4 billion package of its own, and pressure is growing on the British government to follow suit.

Here’s five other stories important from the previous week:

 1.  Despite the announcement of a record production cut by OPEC last week, oil prices continued to slide, falling below $34 per barrel—a four year low—on Friday.  Many analysts have raised concerns about the stability of oil prices, though oil producers and oil consumers remain at odds over precisely what the price should be.  In an interesting side note, falling oil prices have also undermined the ability of Venezuela to pursue its policy of supporting like-minded governments in Latin America.  Chavez’s government has pledged $30 billion in direct payments, oil financings, and other initiatives developed through the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, whose members include Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Dominica, and Honduras.

2.  Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s government in Belgium resigned on Friday after the country’s supreme court found signs that the government had attempted to exercise undue influence over the country’s courts.  The resignation of Leterme’s government is the most recent indication of political instability in the country, sharply divided along linguistic lines and perpetually in danger of dissolution.  The government has been in office since March, after taking more than nine months to cobble together his five-party coalition.  As head of state, King Albert II must now decide whether to accept the resignation and schedule new elections, or try to form a new coalition out of the country’s sharply divided parliament.

3.  Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and Israelis living near it are bracing for a renewal of violence this weekend as the Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire between the Israeli government and the Hamas-led government in Gaza ended on Friday.  The fragile ceasefire has been in place for six months, but both sides have regularly violated the agreement.  In response to rocket attacks against Israeli settlements, the Israeli military has closed all entry-points into Gaza, effectively cutting the region off from the outside world and creating severe shortages of key materials, including food and fuel.  The Hamas government asserts that it will not stop the rocket attacks until the blockage is lifted.

4.  On Thursday, a United Nations court found Colonel Theoneste Bagosora guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Rwanda and sentenced him to life in prison.  Bagosora assumed leadership of the military, and became the de facto leader of Rwanda after President Huvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in April, 1994.  The downing of the plane marked the beginning of the mass killings, which resulted in the murder of more than 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda.  The conviction makes Bagosora the highest-ranking member of the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government to be convicted. 

5.  The United States is preparing to expand its mission in Afghanistan, projecting an increased force commitment of between 20,000 and 30,000 soldiers by next summer.  The extra troops are necessary to fight a growing Taliban insurgency centered in the east and south of Afghanistan.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

There were many important and interesting stories this week.  WTO talks have resumed, the economic slowdown in the United States appears to be spreading to Europe and Japan, and Russia continues to reassert its position on the world stage.  But for now, here are five stories from the previous week you might have missed.

1.  Republican presidential candidate John McCain launched an attackon rival Barack Obama yesterday.  Obama cancelled a scheduled visit with wounded American troops in Germany after the Pentagon raised concerns about the potential political use of soldiers.  In a new television ad, McCain claimed that Obama would rather woo foreign leaders than visit US soldiers.  Obama countered that he refused to allow American soldiers to be used as pawns in a game of political back and forth.  The visit was supposed to be part of Obama’s international tour last week, when he visited leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.  The tour, which included a speech drawing more than 200,000 Berliners, was heralded as a success by the Financial Times editorials staff.

2.  Former Bosnian Serbian leader Radovan Karazic was arrested in Belgrade on Tuesday.   Karazic was the leader of Serbian forces responsible for Srebrenica massacre, where 8,000 people were murdered.  Karazic was wanted by the International Court of Justice and has been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.  He had going by the name Dragan Dabic and earning a living as naturalist and alternative medicine guru since 1995.

3.  On Wednesday the Israeli Defense Ministry preliminarily approved plans to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  The proposal must still be approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.  Under international law, the settlements are illegal, but more than 450,000 Israelis live in such settlements.  According to Palestinian officials, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are the most fundamental obstacle to peace in the region.

4.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has proposed to expand his cheap oil initiative, known as Petrocaribe, to more countries in Central America.  Chavez developed the plan as a way to curry the favor of countries in the region, hoping to sway allies in struggle against the United States government.  The plan allows countries to purchase oil from Venezuela at a reduced price and to finance purchases over low interest rates over 25 years.  High oil prices have increased participation in the plan, and now, even center-right governments in Central America are singing up.

5.  Tens of thousands of workers have taken to the streets in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Workers from across the country are participating in a nation-wide strike called by the country’s largest federation of local unions, COSATU.  Workers are protesting declining standards of living due to economic slowdown and a proposed 27.5 percent increase in the price of electricity.