June 21, 2006

Taylor at the ICC: Good News for International Justice

Posted in Africa, International Politics at 5:20 pm by greatparanoiac

Great Britain has stepped up and offered to house the former Liberian president Charles Taylor if he is convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court at the Hague. This is great news because the trial was stalled unless a third country could jail the dictator.

AllAfrica.com reported today the Netherlands agreed to host the trial if a third country would jail Taylor if he were to be sentenced to a prison term. Britain promised last week to hold Taylor in jail, and drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing his transfer to the Netherlands for trial

tayor-exit.jpgI wrote a post last month when Charles Taylor was arrested in regard that it would not be better for Taylor to be tried in a neighboring African country instead of the ICC. The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone expressed fear that a trial at home could mount another insurgency in the fragile region. Taylor could be the first African leader convicted by an international court if found guilty of these crimes.

This is a major step for the young court in its first trial of a former head of state. To avoid the mistakes in Slobodan Milosevic’s trial, it is important for the ICC to study the failures of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) as it enters this new phase.

The former Serbian president was charged with war crimes and genocide during the Balkan wars. It’s hard not to think of Milosevic’s prosecution as a massive failure given that he died in his cell before his trial ended. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent bringing him to justice could’ve gone to rebuilding the Balkans. Is a trial without a verdict a waste of time and money?

Milosevic’s death was bad news for international criminal justice. But there’s more to a trial than securing a conviction. The underlying idea that those who commit crimes against humanity won’t escape unpunished is too important to be set back by one death. For all the trial’s weaknesses, there are lessons to be learned as prosecutors work to send a powerful message to Africa’s despots—no one is above the law.

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June 20, 2006

Support World Refugee Day

Posted in International Politics, United Nations at 7:37 am by greatparanoiac

afganistan-refugee-camp-family.jpg

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, marked World Refugee Day by requesting more long-term support for the millions of refugees who have returned home. In the last four years, more than six million people have returned home from other countries bringing the world’s number of refugees to its lowest level in more than 25 years.

“The international community needs to devote much more attention to the transition between relief and development, to rebuilding societies which have been ripped apart by violence,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

The UN and international agencies have different events planned to mark this day. This year also marks the 55th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, which was designed to lay the basis for the protection and then resettlement of people fleeing from persecution and tyranny.

This is a good time to be reminded that states have an obligation to protect and care for refugees once they have resettled and provide for their basic rights such as a freedom of religion and movement, the right to work, access to education and travel documents.

The BBC News reported that Mr. Guterres is spending the day with Liberian returnees coming back from Sierra Leone and accompany them on their journey home. Liberia is emerging from a protracted civil war that destroyed much of its infrastructure as its former president Charles Taylor is being brought in front of the ICC to face charges on crimes against humanity.  Read the rest of this entry »

June 17, 2006

What Statistics Mean for Refugees

Posted in Human Rights, International Politics at 7:31 pm by greatparanoiac

This was posted on Amnesty International’s website. Interesting information on what statistics don’t reflect about refugees and the internally displaced, especially in light of World Refugee Day being this Tuesday.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are fewer refugees worldwide today than at any time in almost a quarter of a century. Since 2000, the number of refugees has fallen steadily to just over 9 million in early 2005. Between January 2001 and December 2004 an unprecedented five million refugees returned to their countries of origin. But the reality is far bleaker and more complex than the numbers suggest. Large numbers of people returned to, for example, Afghanistan, Iraq and Burundi during this period in conditions that were not voluntary, safe or dignified.

The persistent focus on statistics by both the international community and individual governments has often led to the rights of refugees being disregarded. Ever-increasing numbers of asylum-seekers have been prevented from accessing protection, either physically or through complex legal procedures. Increasingly restrictive policies in the context of the “war on terror” have fuelled racism and xenophobia, with some politicians and segments of the media linking all refugees with criminality and terrorism.

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May 4, 2006

The Talibanization of Somalia

Posted in International Politics, Somalia at 2:02 pm by greatparanoiac

There’s an interesting article on Reuters‘ website today.  Somalia’s President Abdullahi Yusuf spoke against U.S. support for warlords fighting hardline Islamic militia in Mogadishu as part of Washington’s declared war on terrorism. Yusuf told a Swedish newspaper during a visit to Prime Minister Goran Persson:

“The United States thinks that these warlords can seize al Qaeda members in Somalia, but the Americans should work with us instead….”We really oppose American aid which goes outside the government.”

The Reuters article went on to say U.S. officials have declined comment on persistent reports from foreign and local sources in Somalia that Washington has funneled large sums of money to the alliance since the start of the year. Somali officials had until now also been cautious about responding to the reports of U.S. cash going to Mogadishu.

That’s interesting….Somali officials have been commenting on U.S. money going to warlords for the past few months. Check out some earlier news stories on Somalia Globe and what bloggers on Somalia are saying. 

Harun Hassan posted “Somalia Twists in the Wind” on the blog Harowo a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great post on what’s been happening in Somalia after the collapse of Mohammed Siad-Barre’s regime and the U.S. intervention in 1992. The country has been left to its own devices under the label of a ‘failed state’ according to the Foreign Policy yearly index. Hassan wrote:

” …in the vacuum of political and legal authority in recent years and the frustration of the vast majority of the Somalis with the warlords, the Islamic courts found their own opportunity. The courts offered to restore peace and tranquillity to a people longing for an alternative route, through the complete implementation of sharia law…the warlords have opposed any such proposal for over a decade, but the revival of the courts has given it a new momentum.”

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April 29, 2006

Wanted: Good Home for Former Dictator

Posted in International Politics, Liberia at 8:08 pm by greatparanoiac

I saw this press release from Human Rights Watch, “Taylor Trial: A Third Country Must Step Forward.”

It seems before our old boy Charles Taylor can get a trial at The Hague, a country (presumably one not involved in the conflict) has to offer to put him up in prison, if he is convicted of crimes against humanity. Until this happens Taylor’s trial remains stalled.

I can’t believe this…I thought for sure…countries would be lining up ready to offer a cold, dank 4×6 room with primitive plumbing for the International Criminal Court’s first major trial. Taylor is one of the top dogs in West Africa when it comes to human rights abuses. Who else can have a country terrorized for eight years as a guerrilla leader–and still win ‘free and fair’ (wink, wink) elections. The press release said:

“Liberia’s new president took a real risk by requesting Taylor’s surrender, and security concerns prompted the Special Court to request relocating the trial to The Hague,” said Richard Dicker, International Justice director at  Human Rights Watch. “How can other countries now sit back and do nothing?”  

taylor.jpgHow come other countries aren’t stepping up? What about the U.S? Did it run out of room in Guantanamo already? No vacancies at Abu Ghraib? Oh, that’s right…the U.S. isn’t a signatory to the ICC. Well, perhaps the administration has enough problems. 

I think it is crucial for West Africans to know they do have accessibility to the ICC and Taylor will still be held responsible for his actions despite these setbacks. We should start planning now if in the next ten years the Iraqi people decide to take Rumsfeld or Cheney to the ICC and charge them with war crimes.

Oh I have a feeling there will be no problem finding a place to keep them in lockdown… 

April 19, 2006

Supporting A Different War on Terror

Posted in International Politics, Latin America at 9:11 pm by greatparanoiac

An AP article in today’s Washington Post reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has promised his government will blow up his country's oil fields if the United States should ever attack.

“Speaking to other South American leaders, Chavez said his conflict with Washington is rooted in the U.S. thirst to control oil. He said the Americans will be denied that in Venezuela, which is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and one of the biggest suppliers to the U.S. market.”

This came in answer to speculation of plans to get Chavez out of office. Of course, U.S. officials denied such plans against Chavez, but also call him a threat to stability in the region. Everyone's a threat to stability in some region, except the U.S. Bush is making sure his country is a threat to the world.

While the U.S. calls Chavez a threat to stability and continues to talk about Latin America’s turn to the left, there doesn’t seem to be much attention paid to how there are two different types of ‘leftist’ parties in the region. An article in the May/June 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs gives us more insight.

Jorge Castaneda’s Latin America’s Left Turn examines how one type of ‘left’ has radical roots but is modern, while the other remains populist. Instead of focusing on Chavez’s rants, the US should look at fostering a relationship with the modern left. Let's look at the recent events and trends in Latin America:

"Starting with Hugo Chávez's victory in Venezuela eight years ago and poised to culminate in the possible election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico's July 2 presidential contest, a wave of leaders, parties, and movements generically labeled "leftist" have swept into power in one Latin American country after another. After Chávez, it was Lula and the Workers' Party in Brazil, then Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay, and then, earlier this year, Evo Morales in Bolivia. If the long shot Ollanta Humala wins the April presidential election in Peru and López Obrador wins in Mexico, it will seem as if a veritable left-wing tsunami has hit the region.”

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April 17, 2006

He Killed Your Pa, He Killed Your Ma, Send Taylor to The Hague

Posted in International Politics, Liberia at 5:39 pm by greatparanoiac

In today’s International Herald Tribune, John Leigh who served as Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the U.S. from 1998-2002 wrote the op-ed “Try Charles Taylor in Africa”

This is an interesting piece, but I disagree with Leigh’s points. The main one being that West Africa is still unstable with countries reeling from the aftermath of a civil war that former President Taylor fueled by providing arms and training insurgents in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone. Despite this, Leigh says that it’s better for Taylor to be tried in a neighboring country rather than transferring him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

 “Such a transfer would defeat a main purpose behind the establishment of the court in Sierra Leone: to teach Africans, in their own countries, the fundamentals of justice and to drive home the principle that no one is above the law.”

Africans can learn this lesson with the trial at The Hague too. Having the trial in Europe does nothing to undermine the integrity of the Special Court in Sierra Leone. The new president of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson doesn’t want Taylor tried in Africa. Taylor still has strong supporters among insurgents. Some of these rebel groups are active in the region. Why give them someone to rally support for? But Leigh argues:

 “Taylor’s transfer abroad would seem like favoritism rendered to one of the most brutal of warlords out of perverse respect for the extreme horrors he perpetrated.”

This isn’t about the U.N. or the ICC showing favoritism. It’s about making someone who fueled an ethnic conflict into a civil war accountable. Up to 200,000 people were killed and more than 1 million were forced from their homes during 1989-1997.

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April 16, 2006

End of History? I’ll be Happy with the End of Neoconservatives

Posted in International Politics at 1:17 am by greatparanoiac

fukuyama.jpgIf you get a chance look at a copy of this week’s issue of Chronicle of Higher Education. Allan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College wrote an article on Francis Fukuyama, “How Bush’s Bad Ideas May Lead to Good Ones.”It seems Fukuyama, the neoconservative intellectual and professor at Johns Hopkins University who supported the war in Iraq, has had second thoughts. So it takes a debacle of epic proportions for neocons to start distancing themselves from each other.

america at the crossroads.gifWolfe gives a great overview of Fukuyama’s new book, “America at the Crossroad”which was published by Yale University Press in February. The NYT also did a book review on it a few weeks ago. Wolfe starts with great background information on the architects of the neocon movement:

“Three of Wohlstetter's students were instrumental in applying his principles to the situation in Iraq: Richard Perle and Paul D. Wolfowitz, at the Department of Defense, and Zalmay Khalilzad, first an envoy to Afghanistan and now ambassador to Iraq. All three, along with William Kristol, Robert Kagan, and, for that matter, Fukuyama himself, signed a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton, which viewed Iraq the same way foreign-policy hardliners had once viewed Communism; like America's previous enemy, they argued, Saddam Hussein was too irrational to be deterred by normal diplomatic means, and the only effective alternative was to remove him from power.”

Bush and Cheney moved to quickly support these ideas after 9/11. So did Rumsfeld, who believed that the United States could win in Iraq without deploying vast numbers of troops.

Now many of Fukuyama’s former colleagues are pushing the same agenda for Iran. Instead of supporting this plan, Fukuyama calls for a “dramatic demilitarization” of American foreign policy, and that the U.S. should approach multilateralism by relying on a wide variety of international institutions. Fukuyama theorizes that the neoconservatist's failure in Iraq could lead Americans to become more unilateral and isolated.

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April 14, 2006

Getting Rid of Evil Doers

Posted in International Politics, Iran at 8:21 pm by greatparanoiac

check list.jpgIf you haven’t already seen Seymour Hersh’s article “The Iran Plans” in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker, it’s an interesting but disturbing read. Hopefully you can open the link to print. Hersh writes:

“The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack.”

Maybe I'm being a bit paranoid…maybe not…but there's a lot of similarity with what Seymour reported and what Joseph Cirincione, a director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the March issue of Foreign Policy magazine on the parallels between Iran and Iraq. Three years after misleading its country into a war in search for WMD, the administration may be ready to have another crack at it. In “Fool Me Twice,” Cirincione says:

“Nothing is clear, yet. For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the executive branch who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.”

This should keep Iraq out of the headlines for a few days….while the neocons work on their plans to continue spreading democracy in the Middle East…

Here's the rest of Bush's To-Do List. It's a bit old, but still good for a few laughs.

April 13, 2006

Picking Ahmadinejad’s Brains

Posted in International Politics, Iran at 9:57 pm by greatparanoiac

Mmmm....Forbidden Nookular Weapons... 

Mmm…Forbidden Nookular Weapons…. 

There was a very interesting artcle by NYT writers Eric Sanger and David Schmidt in today’s International Herald Tribune, “Iran Has Bush’s Aids Scratching their Heads.”   

Ashton Carter, a security expert from Harvard, was interviewed by the writers and said:

“In Tehran, the threat of military action is double-edged. It may scare leadership, but it could also cause people to rally around the leadership.”

Interesting quote–although many Iranians didn't support Ahmadinejad's bid for presidency, I wonder how much support he can garner if citizen's feel their country is being badgered by the West–or if there is a believable threat for sanctions?

 It would be a challenge to get international support for economic sanctions, especially since it doesn't seem Russia or China are too pressed over the U.S.'s objectives in Iran. Even if the U.S. could convince Russia and China not to veto resolutions against Iran in the Security Council, how will sanctions change policy? Look at the effect of sanctions in Cuba, North Korea and Iraq. How would an oil embargo or ban of investments in Iran affect its civilians? These are some of the things the S.C. have to consider–they don't want a looming humanitarian crises in Iran–with a much larger population than Iraq.

Perhaps it is to Bush’s advantage that Ahmadinejad continue to antagonize the U.S. and Europe and ignore the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency? What better poster boy for regime change in Iran than someone threatening to wipe a nieghboring Middle Eastern country off the map–and claims to have waves of martyrs ready to do his bidding?  After all, Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric only serves to make any future dialogue between Iran and the West look like conciliation.

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