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OSCE: Strains and Renewal in the Security Community

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Development, Human Rights, The Balkan Wars, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, World Law on August 2, 2015 at 9:29 AM


By René Wadlow

On August 1, 2015, the Helsinki Final Act, the birth certificate of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) turned 40. The Final Act signed in Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall was the result of three years of nearly continuous negotiations among government representatives meeting for the most part in Geneva, Switzerland as well as years of promotion of better East-West relations by non-governmental peace builders.

Basically, one can date the planting of the seeds that grew into the OSCE as 1968 in two cities: Paris and Prague. The student-led demonstrations in Paris which sent shock waves to other university centers from California to Berlin showed that under a cover of calm, there was a river of demands and desires for a new life, a more cooperative and creative way of life.

In Prague, the Prague Spring of internal reforms and demands for a freer European society was met by the tanks of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact in August. Yet some far-sighted individuals saw that 1968 was a turning point in European history and that there could be no return to the 1945 divisions of two Europes with the Berlin Wall as the symbol of that division. Thus, in small circles, there were those who started asking “Where do we go from here?”

A Security Community: A Halfway House

In 1957, Karl W. Deutsch (1912-1992) published an important study, Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton University Press). Karl Deutsch was born to a German-speaking family in Prague in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His family was active in socialist party politics and became strongly anti-Nazi. Seeing what might happen, Deutsch and his wife left Prague in 1939 for the USA where he became a leading political science-international relations professor. I knew Karl Deutsch in the mid-1950s when I was a university student at Princeton, and he was associated with a Center on International Organization at Princeton. It was there that he was developing his ideas on types of integration among peoples and States and that he coined the term “security community” to mean a group of people “believing that they had come to agreement on at least one point that common social problems must and can be resolved by processes of peaceful change.” For Deutsch, the concept of a security community could be applied to people coming together to form a State: His approach was much used in the 1960s in the study of “nation building” especially of post-colonial African States. A “security community” could also be a stage in relations among States as the term has become common in OSCE thinking. For Deutsch, a security community was a necessary halfway house before the creation of a State or a multi-State federation. Deutsch stressed the need for certain core values which created a sense of mutual identity and loyalty leading to self-restraint and good-faith negotiations to settle disputes.

Core values established and quickly disappeared

During the negotiations leading to the Helsinki Final Act, a set of 10 core values or commitments were set out, sometimes called the OSCE Decalogue after the “Ten Commandments”. “Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs” set the framework as well as the limitations of any efforts toward a supranational institution. The two other related core values were “the territorial integrity of States and the inviolability of frontiers.”

The core values were not so much “values” as a reflection of the status quo of the Cold War years. By the time that the Charter of Paris for a New Europe was signed in November 1990, marking the formal end of the Cold War, “territorial integrity and the inviolability of frontiers” as values had disappeared.

The 1990s saw the breakup of two major European federations − that of Yugoslavia and the USSR. Most of the work of the OSCE has been devoted to the consequences of these two breakups. Yugoslavia broke into nearly all the pieces that it could with a few exceptions. I had been asked to help support the independence of Sandzak, a largely Muslim area in Serbia and part of Montenegro. I declined, having thought at the time that with a few modifications the Yugoslav federation could be kept together. I was wrong, and the OSCE is still confronted by tensions in Kosovo, renewed tensions in Macedonia, an unlikely form of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as social issues of trafficking in persons, arms, drugs and uncontrolled migration.

The breakup of the Soviet Union has led to a full agenda of OSCE activities. The republics of the Soviet Union had been designed by Joseph Stalin, then Commissioner for Nationalities so that each republic could not become an independent State but would have to look to the central government for security and socio-economic development. Each Soviet republic had minority populations though each was given the name of the majority or dominant ethnic group called a “nationality”.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, there have been recurrent issues involving the degree of autonomy of geographic space and the role of minorities. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh had already started before the breakup, but continues to this day with its load of refugees, displaced persons and the calmer but unlikely twin, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Moldova and Transdniestria remain a “frozen conflict” with a 1992 ceasefire agreement. The armed conflicts in Chechnya and violence in Dagestan highlighted conflicts within the Russian Federation. The 2008 “Guns of August” conflict over South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia showed that autonomy issues could slip out of control and have Europe-wide consequences.

(C) Sadankomitea

(C) Sadankomitea

A Cloudy Cristal Ball

Predictions, especially about the future, are always difficult. In 2013, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Leonid Kazhara, said “We wish to contribute to the establishment of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community free of dividing lines, conflicts, spheres of influence and zones with different levels of security … There is a pressing need to, first of all, change our mindsets from confrontational thinking to a cooperative approach. I am confident that Ukraine, with its rich history, huge cultural heritage and clear European aspirations is well placed for carrying out this mission.”

Today, Ukraine’s rich history has a new chapter, recreating old dividing lines and spheres of influence. The shift in “ownership” of Crimea indicates that “territorial integrity of States” is a relative commitment. The large number of persons going to Russia as refugees and to west Ukraine as internally-displaced persons recalls the bad days of displacement of the Second World War. NATO has dangerously over-reacted to events in Ukraine.

It is not clear that the current leaders of the 57 governments of the OSCE have the wisdom or skills to lead to a renewal of the Security Community. Yet when one looks at the photos of the government leaders who did sign the Helsinki Final Act 40 years ago, there are few faces indicating wisdom or diplomatic skills so perhaps all is not lost today. Very likely, as in the period between the events of 1968 and the start of government negotiations in 1972, there will need to be nongovernmental voices setting out new ideas and creating bridges between people.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

International Day of Friendship

In Being a World Citizen, Children's Rights, Foundations for the New Humanism, Human Development, Human Rights, United Nations on July 30, 2015 at 7:23 PM


By Rene Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly established in 2011 July 30 as the International Day of Friendship. The Day was to be a continuation of the themes of dialogue and mutual understanding proposed in the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). I had been active in getting the General Assembly resolution voted, building on the earlier Year of the Culture of Peace. My effort, backed by UNESCO which had been at the start of the concept of a “culture of peace”, was to add the word “nonviolence” to make the concept still clearer. Then, some of us wanted a focus on children because who can be against doing things for the benefit of children. It turned out during the negotiations prior to the introduction of the resolution that the UK and the USA were against the whole concept but were pushing the idea that “we are already doing enough for children by supporting UNICEF”.

Finally, in light of wide support for having such a Decade, the UK and the USA backed off although they had made a strong try to get “nonviolence” out of the title. There was still some debate as to the wording of the Decade. A colleague in New York called me in Geneva about the debate over the title. I replied that “the title was too long for public relations reasons, but it was not up to NGO representatives to suggest cuts. Let the governments do as they want for the title as long as they vote the resolution by consensus.” The governments kept all the words, voted the resolution by consensus and then did very little else. Both peace and nonviolence did not standout strongly during the 2001-2010 decade.

At the end of the Decade, there was a need to continue the spirit, and “friendship” could be seen to combine peace and nonviolence. Thus we now have a yearly International Day of Friendship.

The idea of an International Day of Friendship had been first developed in the 1930s in the USA by the president of a well-known company which made Christmas cards, Birthday cards, and cards to send on Mother’s Day. He suggested that everyone send cards to their friends and even people they did not know indicating the joys of friendship and the need to keep ties active and strong.

For a few years, there was a certain active interest, but then it looked too much like a commercial venture for his company to sell cards. In the middle of the summer, there were no other Days to celebrate, so a Day of Friendship could be a form of sales promotion. By the end of the 1930s and the start of the Second World War, the idea of an International Day of Friendship celebrated by sending cards had disappeared.

Now, however, we live in a different period of time than in the 1930s. Although there are still many world tensions and local wars as in the Middle East, the idea of friendship among all the peoples of the world could become a real force for cooperation.

Emails and the Internet can spread the idea that friendship is the basis of freedom in the world as it elevates the spirit. Friendship is as a ray of light coming from the burning core of the soul. Friendship can be a kind of love, a happy feeling when sharing a secret.

Paper still has its uses, and one can write a short text on the importance of friendship within the family, the school, neighborhood, nation and the world and send it to friends known and not yet known. 30 July, a day to renew and deepen friendships.

Prof. René Wadlow is President and Chief Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva of the Association of World Citizens.

The Trial of Hissène Habré: An Advance for World Law

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on July 21, 2015 at 10:18 PM


By René Wadlow

The trial of Hissène Habré, former President of Chad, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, on July 20 marks a new step in transnational law. Habré will be tried in a specially constituted court created by a treaty between the African Union and the State of Senegal. The court is modeled on the statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, but is to deal only with cases concerning Africans. It will be important to see if this new African court will be a one-time-only institution for the Habré trial or if it becomes a permanent institution of world law.

The ICC has been criticized by some African leaders as being overly focused on Africans. Arrests and arrest warrants have been issued nearly exclusively against Africans. What is not mentioned in polite company is that Africa is the only continent where state institutions have totally disappeared − Somalia, Central African Republic, Libya − or where vast areas of a State are not under the control of the central government: the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the northeast areas of Nigeria. In addition, there are a good number of African States where the court system is so under the control of the executive that “fair trials” are out of question.

Thus, if African leaders were reluctant to see the ICC take on new African cases, an “all-African” alternative had to be created, even if it is nearly identical in the types of crimes to be judged and the way that evidence is to be collected. The judges in Dakar have already interviewed some 2,500 persons even before the trial started.

Not even the fact that the current Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, is an African from the nation of Guinea could silence critics who claim the ICC has been exerting racial bias against suspects from Africa, a most unfounded charge in our view. (C) EPA/Evert-Jan Daniels dpa  +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Not even the fact that the current Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, is an African from the nation of Guinea could silence critics who claim the ICC has been exerting racial bias against suspects from Africa, a most unfounded charge in our view. (C) EPA/Evert-Jan Daniels – Bildfunk

Hissène Habré is a sad case of an intelligent man blinded by his quest for power and then for holding on to power. In this process he destroyed large segments of ethnic groups who he suspected of wanting power. He also had killed any potential rivals, even those who had shown no opposition. It is estimated that in his eight years of power, some 40,000 persons were killed, some in the military campaigns against ethnic groups, but also some 4,000 political figures killed individually in jails and specially-designed torture centers. In his very last days in power in December 1990 as the forces of his general Idriss Deby were moving to overthrow him, he had 300 persons in jail killed as a last gesture. His very last gesture, however, was to take all the money available in the Treasury with him into exile in Senegal − money which has allowed him to live well and to contribute to the well-being of Senegal political figures.

Hissène Habré is a member of the Toubou ethnic group in northwest Chad. His intelligence was spotted by his teachers, and at the independence of Chad in 1960, he was given an important post in the provincial government at age 18. After two years of administration, he was selected to go to France for university studies in law and development economics. He even has a diploma in federalist-decentralization studies so he had heard that there were ways of dealing with ethnic minorities other than by killing them. Habré spent 9 years in France, mostly in Paris, and has the equivalent of two Master’s degrees in law and development economics.

In 1972, he returned to Chad but rather than becoming a government administrator, he joined a militia band that was trying to overthrow the government, and then formed his own militia group. Habré had been deeply influenced by the example and writings of Che Guevara and saw power as coming from “the people in arms.” He first attracted international, especially French, attention by taking hostages. The most famous − if unclear case − is taking the woman anthropologist Francoise Claustre hostage from 1974 to 1977. What makes the case unclear is the Habré and Claustre knew each other as students in Paris, and there was some talk that the hostage-taking was a common plot to get money out of the French government. The French military officer sent to negotiate her release was murdered by Chadian government officials, but Claustre was later released.

By 1978, Habré and his troops had become powerful enough that he was named Prime Minister. He learned his way around the administration, and in June 1982 he overthrew the then President Goukouni Oueddei and became President. Habré abolished the post of Prime Minister. He wanted no rivals in sight and until December 1990 ruled ruthlessly, helped by his security organization: Direction de la Documentation et de la Sécurité (DDS). His repressive administrative practices were hardly secret. However his administration was heavily supported by the governments of France and the USA as a barrier to the expansion of Colonel Qaddafi’s Libya.

Hissène Habré, then President of Chad, and his French counterpart François Mitterrand on the doorsteps of the Elysée Palace in Paris, France on October 21, 1989. Habré was then an African head of state to be reckoned with; now he is a suspect in the dock of an African court and can no longer run away from his deeds. (C) Reuters/Christine Grunnet

Hissène Habré, then President of Chad, and his French counterpart François Mitterrand on the doorsteps of the Elysée Palace in Paris, France on October 21, 1989. Habré was then an African head of state to be reckoned with; now he is a suspect in the dock of an African court and can no longer run away from his crimes. (C) Reuters/Christine Grunnet

In 1973, Libya had claimed and then occupied a strip of land − the Aouzou Strip − on the frontier between the two countries. Modern State frontiers have little meaning to the nomadic tribes of that area and so the frontier had never been well delimited. However, there were fears that Qaddafi wanted to annex all of Chad and had expansionist aims toward other countries of the Sahel. Hissène Habré was willing to give a free hand to the CIA which tried to create an anti-Qaddafi military force from captured Libyan soldiers. Since the CIA was willing to pay large amounts of money to set up its training bases, Habré had no objection, especially as the area occupied by Libya was of no particular interest or support to him.

French aid was more obvious. French soldiers were sent as a mark of support to the Habré government. Each time that French troops were sent as security for the capital, Habré could use his own troops to attack minority areas. Thus in 1983 French troops, code named “Manta” landed, and in 1984 Habré’s troops attacked the Sara population of south Chad. In 1986, French troops, code named “Epervier” (“Sharp-shinned Hawk”) landed and in 1987 Habré’s troops attacked the Hadjarai tribes: this pattern went on through 1989 and the attacks against the Zaghawa tribes.

By 1990, one of Habré’s generals, Idriss Deby said “Why not me?” and with some troops loyal to him overthrew Hissène Habré. Deby is still President of Chad and his troops are the most battle-tested of African armies, now busy helping the Nigerian army against Boko Haram on the Nigeria-Chad frontier.

In 1987 Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, welcomed Hissène Habré to the White House during his official visit to America. (C) Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma/Corbis

In 1987 Ronald Reagan, the then President of the United States, welcomed Hissène Habré to the White House during his official visit to America. As President of Chad, Habré was never short of powerful allies in the West; today, as he faces punishment for his deeds, he stands alone. (C) Jean-Louis Atlan/Sygma/Corbis

Since 1990, Habré has lived a comfortable but low profile life in Dakar. However victims and their families from his years of rule have cried for revenge (or at least justice). Different avenues to bring Habré to trial have been used, especially a universal jurisdiction law of Belgium which held that persons accused of certain crimes such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, systematic torture, no matter where committed, could be tried in a Belgium court. This Belgium law has since been revoked but not before evidence on the Chadian case could be presented to the Belgium judges.

Evidence concerning torture and the killing of potential opponents by Habré’s security forces was carefully collected under the driving energy of Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch. Habré had friends among the governing elite of then President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, who protected him so that no trial could take place. However, with the new President of Senegal, Macky Sall, in power and the accumulation of evidence, the African Union and Senegal felt that something had to be done. Thus, the creation of the special court and the start of the trial. It is unlikely that new facts will be uncovered. Habré’s government was fairly open in its repression. The degree of active support of France and the USA will probably be pushed under the rug. Yet the trial merits watching closely. There are still other African dictators, some retired, others still in power. What impact will the trial and the court have on the rule of world law?

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.


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