War Criminals Are Running Out Of Time – And Space

A statement in an AP story, relating to the start of the trial of alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic, recently caught my attention:

… the fact that he [Mladic] is jailed and on trial is seen as another victory for international justice and hailed by observers as evidence that — more often than not — war crimes tribunals get their indicted suspects, even if years later.

This is a very optimistic and strong statement regarding the current state of international justice. Is the reason for optimism justified? I absolutely think so.

Let’s recap some of the recent historic events to bolster my argument that time’s up for war criminals:

  1. The first conviction of a former head of state for international crimes since the Nuremberg trials: Charles Taylor, Mr. Blood Diamond, was convicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in late April.
  2. Milestone verdict on child soldiers and the ICC’s first verdict: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese warlord, was found guilty in March of the war crime of using children in armed conflict.
  3. The Mladic trial: 17 years after Srebrenica―infamously known as “Europe’s worst massacre since World War II”―Ratko Mladic had his first day in court on May 16. He faces genocide charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Mladic allegedly orchestrated the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. The completion of his trial could mark a milestone for the survivors, who did not see a verdict against Slobodan Milošević (who passed away while on trial in 2006).
  4. The unanimous referral by the UN Security Council of the situation in Libya to the ICC. The vote in February 2011 showed a surprising shift in positions when all 15 members―including non-state parties to the ICC such as the United States and Russia―voted in favor of a referral.

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Milestone Verdict on Child Soldiers: Will Kony Be Next?

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanda Dyilo listens at the International Criminal Court. MARCEL ANTONISSE/AFP/Getty Images

Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced a historic decision, finding Thomas Lubanga Dyilo – the alleged founder of a vicious Congolese armed rebel group – guilty of war crimes for his use and abuse of child soldiers during the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 2002 and 2003.

Lubanga’s conviction sets a historic precedent for international justice and accountability for those who commit the most unspeakable of crimes. Crimes like rape. Torture. Enslavement. Crimes common among Lubanda’s Union of Congolese Patriots and its armed wing, the FPLC.

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#Kony2012 and the Warping Logic of Atrocity

Joseph Kony Uganda LRA

Joseph Kony (STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past 48 hours, there has been a flood of criticism of Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign—much of it fair, some of it less so.

My first exposure to IC’s work was some time ago when—with Resolve—they launched the LRA Crisis Tracker. In stark contrast to the criticisms of implicit disempowerment of affected people by the Kony2012 campaign, this tool empowers communities through radio and digital communications to effectively form an overlapping system of neighborhood watch in LRA-affected areas. It is—in short—good work, and represents the promise of access to the benefits of science and technology, whether for underprivileged people in the US, or communities facing security threats in Uganda and elsewhere.

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Syria: Why The Security Council Matters

Update: Take action now by urging the Russian government to join others on the UN Security Council in putting an end to the bloodshed in Syria.

The crisis in Syria has reached a pivotal point. The situation on the ground has sharply deteriorated over the last few days, prompting the Arab League to suspend its mission.

In New York, the UN Security Council will be briefed today by Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, followed by a potential vote on a new draft resolution later this week. A Syrian activist currently based in the U.S. described this new development yesterday by stating: “It has become the last chance for the Security Council to act.”

I agree that it is high time for the Council to end its silence—if demands to end the serious and widespread human rights violations are front and center of the resolution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Milestone for International Justice in Kenya

Kenya police passout paradeOn Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that four out of six senior-level Kenyan officials must stand trial for crimes against humanity. This includes two presidential hopefuls, and all four are accused of complicity in the widespread violence that erupted in the aftermath of the bitterly disputed 2007 presidential elections which left over half a million Kenyans displaced and over 1,100 killed.

The ruling by the ICC marks an important milestone for victims of violence and their right to justice, truth, and reparations, and will also go far in setting a historic precedent in ensuring international justice for crimes committed against humanity worldwide. ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated:
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Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN and Its Implications

As you may have heard, Palestinian authorities have embarked on a major diplomatic effort to secure wider recognition of a Palestinian state and an upgraded status at the United Nations.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently submitted an application for full UN membership to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Palestine currently has the status of an observer entity at the UN General Assembly, where it is represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  An application for full membership is currently being considered by the UN Security Council Committee on Admission of New Members.  The UN Committee will issue its analysis of the historic Palestinian bid for statehood around mid-October.

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13 Years of International Justice

Today we celebrate International Justice Day.

13 years ago, on July 17, 1998 2002, the Rome Statute came into effect, enabling the creation of the International Criminal Court. A few years later, signers of the Statute designated July 17 as International Justice Day, a day to all come together and celebrate the advances made in international justice – and reflect on ways in which we can strengthen the system and ensure no crimes are left unpunished.

Today, 116 countries have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC.  To date, three states – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic – have referred situations in their countries to the Court, the Prosecutor of the ICC has initiated an investigation in Kenya, and the UN Security Council has referred the situations in Darfur, Sudan and Libya to the Court.  The Prosecutor is also in the process of conducting preliminary investigations in several countries, including Colombia and Cote d’Ivoire.

Meanwhile, trials are winding down at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is expected to render a verdict in the Charles Taylor case in the next few months, the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which are expected to wind down in 2012 and 2013 respectively . SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Taliban Send 8-Year Old Girl To Her Death

While targeting civilians in Kabul, the Taliban allegedly tricked an eight-year old girl into carrying a package containing a remote-control detonated bomb.

Only the girl was killed in the blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the village of Uwshi in the Char Chino District, said Fazal Ahmad Shirzad, the police chief of Oruzgan Province.

The scene after a Taliban suicide bombing in Pakistan in May, 2011 © Hasham Ahmed/AFP/Getty Images

Mr. Shirzad said he believed the girl was unaware that the bag she had been given by Taliban insurgents held a bomb. Her body was “taken to a nearby security check post, and the police called her relatives,” he said.

As I write this I think of my two daughters and wonder what kind of people would find that acceptable?

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Hope for Justice in Cote d'Ivoire?

New Amnesty report on Cote d'Ivoire

Between the months of January and April of this year, Amnesty International researchers spent more than two months in Côte d’Ivoire investigating and documenting the human rights abuses that have occurred since the November run-off election for the Presidency.

The result of their work is a report, released today, which outlines grave crimes committed by parties on both sides of the political contest, and continued violence associated with communal conflict in the west.

After what was widely recognized as a free and fair election in November, Alassane Ouattara was pronounced the new president, defeating incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to step aside. Between December and April, military troops and militias loyal to each politician fought intensely for control of the country, leading to Gbagbo’s arrest on April 11 and Ouattara’s ascension to the presidency.

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As Situation in Libya Escalates Alarmingly, UN Has to Act

While the human rights situation in Libya continues to escalate at an alarming rate, the UN Security Council is meeting in New York to decide on next steps. We are calling for the United States to take a leadership role in the discussions at the Security Council, including the support of an arms embargo and a referral to the International Criminal Court.

We continue to receive reports that many people are being killed by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddfi and the situation is deteriorating. It seems that at least several hundred people, possibly many more, have been killed across the country and others now are at grave risk. We have received new information that many victims had been shot in the head, chest or neck, suggesting that the security forces had intended to kill them.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign our online petition calling for a UN led investigation to ensure accountability for these crimes and an international arms embargo. Colonel al-Gaddafi and his chain of command have to understand they will answer for their actions. They need to see that investigation and prosecution are a reality they will face.

This should act as a wake-up call to those issuing the orders and those who carry them out: your crimes will not go unpunished. Members of the Security Council must act now to stop the outrageous abuses taking place on the streets of Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya.