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Highlighting the Need to Combat the Use of Rape as a Weapon of War

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on October 27, 2018 at 2:49 PM

By René Wadlow

The co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Denis Mukwege, has become an eloquent spokesperson for the effort to outlaw the use of rape as a weapon of war. Rape has often been considered as a nearly normal part of war. When an army took a city or town, the rape of women followed, a reward to brave soldiers. Military commanders turned a blind eye.

However, whatever may have been past practice, rape has now become a weapon of war, often an effort at genocide. Women’s reproductive organs are deliberately destroyed with the aim of preventing the reproduction of a group – one of the elements of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Denis Mukwege has created a clinic near Bukavu in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo – a country that is democratic only in name. He and a number of younger doctors whom he was trained try to care for women who have undergone rape by multiple men, one after the other, often in public in front of family members and others who know the woman. Known rape, even by a single person, can be a cause of family breakup, lasting shame, and an inability to continue living in the same village. There are also negative attitudes toward children born of a rape. Multiple rape is often followed by deliberate destruction of the reproductive organs.

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The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the two Kivu states, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front now become the government of Rwanda. Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.

The influx of a large number of Hutu led to a desire to control the wealth of the area – rich in gold, tropical timber and rare minerals such as those used in mobile telephones. In the Kivu, many problems arise from land tenure issues. With a large number of new people, others displaced, and villages destroyed, land tenure and land use patterns need to be reviewed and modified.

However, violence in the eastern Congo is not limited to fighting between Hutus and Tutsis. There are armed bands from neighboring countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda – who have come on the scene attracted by possible wealth from timber and mines of rare minerals. In addition, local commanders of the Congolese Army, far from the control of the Central Government, have created their own armed groups, looting, raping, and burning village homes.

There is a United Nations (U. N.) peacekeeping force in the Congo, the U. N.’s largest peacekeeping mission. However, its capacity has reached its limit. Its operations are focused on areas with roads, leaving villages on small paths largely unguarded.

There has been a growing international awareness of the use of rape as a weapon of war. The issue was raised during the conflicts which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia as well as cases brought to the International Criminal Court. The Association of World Citizens has raised the issue in U. N. human rights bodies in Geneva.

Yet there is much yet to be done to make the outlawing of rape as a norm of humanitarian law and, especially, to prevent its practice. The Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege should be a strong step forward in this effort.

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

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Nadia Murad: A Yazidi Voice Against Slavery

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Religious Freedom, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, United Nations, Women's Rights, World Law on October 24, 2018 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

Nadia Murad, now a United Nations (U. N.) Goodwill Ambassador on Trafficking of Persons, is the co-laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014, when she was 21, she and her neighbors in a predominantly Yazidi village in the Simjar mountainous area of Iraq were attacked by the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These forces were following a pattern of targeted killings, forced conversions to Islam, abductions, trafficking of women, sexual abuse and slavery. In Murad’s village, most of the older men were killed, the younger men taken to be soldiers in the ISIS forces, and the women taken into slavery, primarily as sex slaves, in Mosul, the city which served as the headquarters of ISIS.

There were some 500,000 Yazidi in Iraq though Iraqi demographic statistics are not fully reliable. Yazidi leaders may give larger estimates by counting Kurds who had been Yazidis but had converted to Islam. There had been some 200,000 Yazidis among the Kurds in Turkey but now nearly all have migrated to Western Europe, Australia and Canada. Many of the Yazidi are ethnic Kurds and the government of Saddam Hussein was opposed to them not so much for their religious beliefs but because some Yazidi played important roles in the Kurdish community seen as largely opposed to his government.

Nadia Murad

 

After a time in Mosul, Murad, with the help of a compassionate Muslim family, was able to escape Mosul and make her way to the Iraqi Kurdistan area where many Yazidis from the Sinjar area had already arrived. Once there she joined a newly created association of Yazidi women who had organized to defend their rights and so that the voices of women could be heard. A few of these women were able to be resettled in Western Europe. Nadia Murad was able to live in Germany where she became the spokesperson for Yazidi women and other women who had met a similar fate. In December 2015, she addressed the U. N. Security Council and became the public face both for the Yazidi women and for an even larger number of women victims of the fighting in Iraq and Syria.

The structure of the Yazidi world view is Zoroastrian, a faith born in Persia proclaiming that two great cosmic forces, that of light and good, and that of darkness and evil, are in constant battle. Man is called upon to help light overcome darkness. However, the strict dual thinking of Zoroastrianism was modified by another Persian prophet, Mani of Ctesiplon in the third century CE. Mani tried to create a synthesis of religious teachings that were increasingly coming into contact through trade: Buddhism and Hinduism from India, Jewish and Christian thought, Gnostic philosophy from Egypt and Greece, as well as many smaller traditional and “animist” beliefs. He kept the Zoroastrian dualism as the most easily understood intellectual framework, though giving it a more Taoist (yin/yang) character. Mani had traveled in China. He developed the idea of the progression of the soul by individual effort through reincarnation – a main feature of Indian thought.

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Within the Mani-Zoroastrian framework, the Yazidi added the presence of angels who are to help humans in their constant battle for light and good. The main angel is Melek Tavis, the peacock angel. Although there are angels in Islam, angels that one does not know could well be demons, so the Yazidi are regularly accused of being “demon worshipers” (1).

While it is dangerous to fall into a good/evil analysis of world politics, there is little to see of “good” in the ISIS actions. Thus, Nadia Murad can be seen as a bringer of light into a dark time.

 

Note
(1) A Yazidi website has been set up by Iraqis living in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. The website is uneven but of interest as self-presentation: http://www.yeziditruth.org (“Yazidi” is sometimes written “Yezidi”)

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

The International Court of Justice Reaffirms the Protection of Humanitarian Goods in Times of Sanctions and Boycotts

In Current Events, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 24, 2018 at 9:24 PM

By René Wadlow

In July 2018, the Islamic Republic of Iran brought a case against the United States (U. S.) policy of sanctions to the World Court in the Hague. After the U. S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commonly called the “Iran Nuclear Deal”, the U. S. announced that it was reintroducing economic and financial sanctions against Iran, and that additional sanctions would begin on November 5, 2018. Iran cited a 1955 Treaty with the U. S. as the legal basis for its complaint.

The 15-member Court published its unanimous decision on October 3, 2018 stating that the U. S. “must remove” sanctions that could stop food, medical supplies, humanitarian products and products needed for civil aviation. The U. S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, replied that although the U. S. considered the case without merit and was not bound by the Court ruling, the U. S. had already removed medicine and humanitarian items from its sanctions list. In addition, the U. S. was withdrawing from the 1955 Treaty which it already considered as no longer valid. The U. S. Government would review all its treaties to avoid their being cited in World Court proceedings.

The U. S. is party to some 70 treaties in which the World Court has jurisdiction. Each of these treaties provides that any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the treaty may be brought to the World Court by any party to the treaty. Some of the treaties have many parties, others as with the Iran Treaty are bilateral.

The decision of the International Court of Justice reaffirms the protection of children in States under sanctions and boycotts. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) had raised this issue in Geneva during the negotiations which led to the Convention of the Rights of the Child adopted on November 20, 1989. World Citizens had raised the same issue in the mid-1990s as a result of the wide-scale suffering of children and pregnant women during the sanctions against Iraq and also the U. S. boycott of Cuba. Thus the Court decision will make this protection a norm of world law.

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The International Court of Justice, often called the World Court, is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice associated with the League of Nations. When the United Nations (U. N.) was established in 1945, the International Court of Justice was created as the principle judicial organ of the U. N. It is composed of 15 judges who are elected by the U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council.

According to the Statute of the Court, the judges should be chosen with a view to representation of the principal legal systems of the world. The judges are expected to be independent and not to take instructions from governments. Only States may be parties in cases brought before the Court. An individual cannot bring a case before the Court nor can a firm. The U. N. and its Specialized Agencies may request advisory opinions from the Court on legal matters arising from their activities.

States have hardly been lining up to take cases to the Court. For long periods, the Court has no cases before it or very few. This makes the Court one of the most underutilized of intergovernmental organizations.

World Citizens have stressed that slowly but surely the U. N. plays the key role in the articulation of the values, norms, and laws of the world community. The U. N. General Assembly was mandated in Article 13 of the Charter to encourage “the progressive development of international law and its codification.” The Assembly has done so in a number of ways. It created the International Law Commission in 1949 which has usefully reviewed, updated, and codified traditional fields of international law leading to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties in 1969.

More directly, the General Assembly has proclaimed the standards of international law such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which has become the world standard and the guide for both regional and national human rights law. The General Assembly also proclaimed the standards for behavior among States with the Declaration of the Principles of International Law Relating to Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States according to the Charter of the United Nations (1970).

The General Assembly has organized special conferences for drafting international law such as the law of the sea which produced the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. The U. N. General Assembly has also created the U. N. Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to deal more particularly with the private law aspects of international economic relations.

Nongovernmental organizations, such as the AWC, have contributed to building and strengthening a world peace structure composed of world law and world institutions which will command such general acceptance that resort to law will replace unilateral action of States based on narrow domestic political considerations.

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

Nauru Government Condemns Mentally Traumatized Individuals to Lifelong Anguish

In Asia, Current Events, Disabled people, Human Rights, Uncategorized on October 16, 2018 at 8:40 PM

By René Wadlow

The Government of Nauru, the small Pacific island State, has expelled the medical and psychological personnel of the international nongovernmental organization (NGO) Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Sunday, October 7. The Government gave no explanation for its actions, but relations with the NGO have been difficult in the 11 months that MSF has been working there. It is likely that the Government feared international attention to the prison-like conditions in which refugees and asylum seekers were kept.

The Australian Government in 2013 created camps on Nauru to house asylum seekers who were trying to reach Australia by boat. Nauru uses Australian money as its national currency, receives the bulk of its financing as aid from the Australian Government and the bulk of its products come from Australia. Thus, refusing orders from Australia is difficult.

Nauru

Currently, there are some 900 refugees on Nauru, of which 100 are children, in different camps which have been described as “open-air prisons”. Children are often kept separately from their parents. The MSF has been providing mental health care, as there are no independent psychological services on the island. Many refugees suffer from depression and a feeling of hopelessness. 78 people have attempted suicide. Individuals have suffered trauma in their home country and during the sea journey. This is particularly true of children and young adults.

As president of an international child welfare NGO, I was responsible for mental health efforts for traumatized children and youth in Cambodia and Croatia suffering from the impact of war and in Bangladesh suffering from the loss of homes and families due to natural catastrophes (flooding). Sever cases of childhood psychosis may require long-term psychotherapy. Often frequent and severe language disturbances are observed. In the absence of adequate care and psychotherapy, these children can become mentally deficient, unable to perform their duties as adults.

With early and adequate psychological care, some of the challenges can be met. Children display an extraordinary need for contact and relate warmly to therapists. If the therapist is taken away, the child has a deep sense of loss, a sense of loss already there from having had to flee his home conditions.

There is an urgent need for early psycho-social care. The term “psycho-social” underlines the close relationship between the psychological and social impact of refugee flight. By psychological effects we mean those experiences which affect emotions, thoughts, memory, learning and how a situation may be understood. By social effects, we mean how experiences alter people’s relationships to each other. The psycho-social impact must be assessed as soon as possible to develop effective programming.

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The action of the Nauru Government in practice condemns the traumatized young to life-long anguish and other disabilities. MSF has called for the immediate evacuation of all refugees from Nauru, but for the moment, the Australian officials refuse to accept the refugees saying that evacuation would create a flow of new refugees.

Obviously, conditions of stability and economic opportunity need to be created in the States from which the refugees have fled. However, there is a short-term need for a return of the MSF team to Nauru and the creation of programs of mental health care.

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

World Food Day: A Holistic World Food Policy is Needed

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations on October 16, 2018 at 8:15 PM

By René Wadlow

Since the hungry billion in the world community believe that we can all eat if we set our common house in order, they believe also that it is unjust that some men die because it is too much trouble to arrange for them to live.

Stringfellow Barr, Citizens of the World (1954)

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030) aims by 2030 to “Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets, and non-farm resources.”

There is a consensus that radical measures are needed to deal with worldwide growing food needs. These measures must be taken in a holistic and coordinated way with actions going from the local level of the individual farmer to the national level with new government policies to the world level with better coordinated activities through the United Nations (UN) System.

A central theme which citizens of the world have long stressed is that there needs to be a world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs. Food security has too often been treated as a collection of national food security initiatives. While the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all is essential, a focus on the formulation of national plans is clearly inadequate. There is a need for a world plan of action with focused attention to the role which the UN system must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) did encourage governments to develop national food security policies, but the lack of policies at the world level has led to the increasing control of agricultural processes by a small number of private firms driven by the desire to make money.  Thus today, three firms — Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta — control about half of the commercial seed market worldwide.  Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held.

There needs to be detailed analysis of the role of speculation in the rise of commodity prices. There has been a merger of the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade to become the CME Group Market which deals in some 25 agricultural commodities. Banks and hedge funds, having lost money in the real estate mortgage packages of 2008 are now looking for ways to get money back. For the moment, there is no international regulation of this speculation. There needs to be an analysis of these financial flows and their impact on the price of grains. The word needs a market shaped by shared human values structured to ensure fairness and co-responsibility.

There is likewise a need for a serious analysis of the growing practice of buying or renting potential farm land, especially in Africa and South America, by foreign countries, especially China and the Arab Gulf states. While putting new land under cultivation is not a bad policy, we need to look at the impact of this policy on local farmers as well as on world food prices.

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There is a need to keep in mind local issues of food production, distribution, and food security. Attention needs to be given to cultural factors, the division of labor between women and men in agriculture and rural development, in marketing local food products, to the role of small farmers, to the role of landless agricultural labor and to land-holding patterns.

Fortunately, there is a growing awareness that an integrated, holistic approach is needed. World Citizens stress that solutions to poverty, hunger and climate change crisis require an agriculture that promotes producers’ livelihoods, knowledge, resiliency, health and equitable gender relations, while enriching the natural environment and helping balance the carbon cycle. Such an integrated approach is a fundamental aspect of the world citizen approach to a solid world food policy.

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

The Death Penalty and Human Dignity

In Being a World Citizen, Human Rights, NGOs, Uncategorized, United Nations, United States, World Law on October 10, 2018 at 7:36 PM

By René Wadlow

October 10 is the International Day Against the Death Penalty. Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty due to the rather obvious recognition that putting a person to death is not justice. Moreover, on practical grounds, the death penalty has little impact on the rate of crime in a country. A number of States have a death penalty for those involved in the drug trade. To the extent that the drug trade can be estimated statistically, the death penalty has no measurable impact on the trade − a trade usually linked to economic or geopolitical factors.

October 10 can also be a day to oppose all organized killings by State agents. In addition to State-sponsored official executions, usually carried out publicly or at least with official observers, a good number of countries have State-sponsored “death squads” − persons affiliated to the police or to intelligence agencies who kill “in the dark of the night” − unofficially. These deaths avoid a trial which might attract attention or even a “not guilty” decision. A shot in the back of the head is faster. The number of “targeted killings” has grown. In many cases, the bodies of those killed are destroyed and so death is supposed but not proved, as has been the case of students protesting in Mexico. United States assassinations with drones has also been highlighted both in the United Nations human rights bodies and domestically. However, the drone “strikes” continue, and there is very little legislative opposition.

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A good deal of recent concern has been expressed on the death sentence in Saudi Arabia by crucifixion. There is perhaps some chance of a change of penalty due to more historically-minded Saudis. The most widely known person crucified is Jesus. As the Roman court records have been lost, we have only the account written by his friends who stressed that he was innocent of the crimes for which he was condemned. His crucifixion has taken on cosmic dimensions. “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” The Saudis try to avoid some of the Jesus parallel by beheading the person before putting the rest of the body on the cross, but the image of the crucified as innocent is wide spread.

October 10 is an occasion for us to stress the importance of human dignity. Our efforts against executions need to be addressed both to governments and to those state-like nongovernmental armed groups such as ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps in developing a just world society.

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

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