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Libya: The Blitzkrieg Breaks Down, Negotiations Needed

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on July 20, 2019 at 10:29 AM

By René Wadlow

Dozens of people were killed in an air raid on July 3, 2019 on a detention center holding migrants in a camp at Tajoura, a suburb of Tripoli according to the United Nations (UN) Support Mission in Libya. Most of those killed and wounded were Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia who had hoped to reach Europe but were blocked in Libya. Others held in the detention center had been returned to Libya, arrested trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2018, some 15,000 persons were intercepted on boats at sea and returned to Libya, placed in detention centers without charge and with no date set for release. The detention centers are officially under the control of the Government of National Accord’s Department for Combating Illegal Migration. In practice, most of the detention centers are controlled by militias. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the conditions in these detention centers as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”

Since the outbreak of armed conflict on the outskirts of Tripoli on April 3, 2019, many persons have been killed or wounded in what General Khalifa Haftar hoped would be a blitzkrieg advance. He badly underestimated the degree of military response that he would meet from the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Since the blitzkrieg bogged down, in the absence of a ceasefire, the humanitarian situation is dramatically degenerating.

General Khalifa Haftar

The dramatic conditions in Libya have a double aspect. One is the need to create a stable administrative structure of government taking into consideration the geographic and ethnic diversity of the country. The second aspect is the humane treatment of refugees and migrants from other countries who have tried to cross Libya or have been returned from failed crossings of the Mediterranean.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens (AWC), as an immediate step, calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and the resumption of UN-led negotiations in good faith among a broad spectrum of Libyan political parties and tribal representatives.

Secondly, the AWC calls for an end of returning refugees and migrants to Libya. Other countries must welcome migrants while longer-range cooperative structures are put into place. Migration issues will continue to challenge the world society.

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

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جمعية المواطنين العالمية تدعو للسلام في ليبيا

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on May 8, 2019 at 4:25 PM

Appel de l’AWC pour la Libye

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 30, 2019 at 10:09 AM

L’ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS APPELLE A UN CESSEZ-LE-FEU EN LIBYE, AU RESPECT DU DROIT HUMANITAIRE INTERNATIONAL ET A L’OUVERTURE DE NÉGOCIATIONS DE BONNE FOI SUR LA FUTURE STRUCTURE CONSTITUTIONNELLE DE L’ÉTAT

L’Association of World Citizens, réagissant aux appels à l’aide de personnes déplacées et menacées par les bombardements dans les combats aux alentours et au cœur même de Tripoli, appelle à un cessez-le-feu immédiat qui permît de distribuer de l’aide humanitaire, ainsi que de sauver des vies.

Les affrontements ne donnant pas signe de fin entre, d’un côté, le Général Khalifa Haftar à la tête de son Armée nationale libyenne et, de l’autre, les milices locales contrôlées par le Gouvernement, créent toutes les conditions d’une intensification des atteintes aux lois de la guerre, en particulier d’attaques contre les civils et les installations médicales.

L’Association of World Citizens appelle instamment à ce que des négociations aient lieu sous l’égide de médiateurs des Nations Unies, comme il était prévu qu’elles aient lieu du 14 au 16 avril, et à ce que ces négociations soient ouvertes à un éventail de participants qui soit aussi large que possible. Il faut des structures constitutionnelles nouvelles et adéquates pour assurer l’administration d’un Etat par nature complexe et diversifié. Depuis un certain temps, notre association met en avant l’éventualité de structures administratives de type confédéral au sein de l’Etat.

L’Association of World Citizens, qui s’était préoccupée de la situation des Droits Humains et de la liberté d’expression en Libye du temps où Mu’ammar Kadhafi dirigeait le pays, demeure préoccupée par le sort du peuple libyen depuis la mort de l’ancien leader en 2011. A présent, le temps est venu pour toutes les parties d’agir de manière responsable pour mettre fin aux combats et entamer des négociations de bonne foi.

POUR L’ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS,

Professeur René WADLOW

Président

Bernard J. HENRY

Officier des Relations Extérieures

An AWC Appeal for Libya

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 30, 2019 at 10:05 AM

THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS CALLS FOR A CEASEFIRE IN LIBYA, THE RESPECT OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND THE START OF NEGOTIATIONS IN GOOD FAITH ON THE FUTURE CONSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE STATE

The Association of World Citizens, responding to calls for assistance from persons displaced and in danger of bomb attacks by the fighting in and around Tripoli, calls for an immediate ceasefire so that humanitarian aid can be provided, and lives saved.

Continued fighting by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army opposed by local militias under the control of the Government is likely to lead to increased violations of the laws of war, especially attacks upon civilians and medical facilities.

The Association of World Citizens urges that negotiations under the leadership of United Nations mediators, originally to be held April 14-16, be undertaken with a range of participants as wide as possible. New and appropriate constitutional structures are needed for the administration of a complex and diversified State. This association has proposed the possibility of con-federal administrative structures for the State.

The Association of World Citizens had been concerned with human rights and freedom of expression in Libya during the time of the leadership of Mu’ammar Gaddafi and has continued to be concerned with the fate of the people of Libya since his death in 2011. Now is the time for responsible action by all parties for an end to the fighting and the start of negotiations in good faith.

FOR THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS,

Professor René Wadlow

President

Bernard J. Henry

External Relations Officer

A Step Forward in the UN’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Modern slavery, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, Women's Rights, World Law on April 26, 2019 at 10:50 PM

By René Wadlow

On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, the United Nations (UN) Security Council voted Resolution 2467 concerning the use of rape as a weapon in times of armed conflict. This resolution builds on an earlier resolution of June 24, 2013 which called for the complete and immediate cessation of all acts of sexual violation by all parties in armed conflicts. The new resolution introduced by Germany contained two new elements, both of which were eliminated in the intense negotiations in the four days prior to the vote of 13 in favor and two abstentions, those of Russia and China.

The first new element in the German proposed text concerned help to the victims of rape. The proposed paragraph was “urges United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the special needs of persons with disabilities.”

French Ambassador François Delattre

The United States (U. S). delegation objected to this paragraph claiming that “sexual and reproductive health” were code words that opened a door to abortion. Since a U. S. veto would prevent the resolution as a whole, the paragraph was eliminated. There had been four days of intense discussions among the Security Council members concerning this paragraph, with only the U. S. opposed to any form of planned parenthood action. After the resolution was passed with the health paragraph eliminated, the Permanent Representative of France, Ambassador François Delattre, spoke for many of the members saying “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzya

The second concept of the German draft that was eliminated was the proposal to create a working group to monitor and to review progress on ending sexual violence in armed conflict. Such a working group was opposed by the diplomats of Russia and China, both of which have the veto power. Thus, for the same reason as with the U. S. opposition, the idea of a monitoring working group was dropped. Both China and Russia are opposed to any form of UN monitoring, fearing that their actions on one topic or another would be noted by a monitoring group. The Russian diplomat had to add that he was against the added administrative burden that a monitoring group would present but that Russia was against sexual violence in conflict situations.

Thus, the new UN Security Council Resolution 2467 is weaker than it should have been but is nevertheless a step forward in building awareness. The Association of World Citizens (AWC) first raised the issue in the UN Commission on Human Rights in March 2001, citing the judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia which maintained that there can be no time limitations on bringing an accused to trial. The Tribunal also reinforced the possibility of universal jurisdiction that a person can be tried not only by his national court but by any court claiming universal jurisdiction and where the accused is present.

Nadia Murad, the Iraqi women’s rights activist who was raped as an ISIS/Daesh slave

The AWC again stressed the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Special Session of the Commission on Human Rights Violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo citing the findings of Meredeth Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya in their book What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa (London: Zed Press, 1998). They write “There are numerous types of rape. Rape is committed to boast the soldiers’ morale, to feed soldiers’ hatred of the enemy, their sense of superiority, and to keep them fighting: rape is one kind of war booty; women are raped because war intensifies men’s sense of entitlement, superiority, avidity, and social license to rape: rape is a weapon of war used to spread political terror; rape can destabilize a society and break its resistance; rape is a form of torture; gang rapes in public terrorize and silence women because they keep the civilian population functioning and are essential to its social and physical continuity; rape is used in ethnic cleansing; it is designed to drive women from their homes or destroy their possibility of reproduction within or “for” their community; genocidal rape treats women as “reproductive vessels”; to make them bear babies of the rapists’ nationality, ethnicity, race or religion, and genocidal rape aggravates women’s terror and future stigma, producing a class of outcast mothers and children – this is rape committed with consciousness of how unacceptable a raped woman is to the patriarchal community and to herself. This list combines individual and group motives with obedience to military command; in doing so, it gives a political context to violence against women, and it is this political context that needs to be incorporated in the social response to rape.”

The Security Council resolution opens the door to civil society organizations to build on the concepts eliminated from the governmental resolution itself. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must play an ever-more active role in providing services to rape victims with medical, psychological and socio-cultural services. In addition, if the UN is unable to create a monitoring and review of information working group, then such a monitoring group will have to be the task of cooperative efforts among NGOs. It is always to be hoped that government acting together would provide the institutions necessary to promote human dignity. But with the failure of governments to act, our task as nongovernmental representatives is set out for us.

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

Libya: Will the UN Appeal for a Halt to the March on Tripoli Be Heard?

In Africa, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2019 at 9:51 PM

By René Wadlow

With the administrative-political situation in Libya badly stalemated and a meeting for negotiations to be held April 14-16 unlikely to make progress, on Thursday, April 4, 2019, General Khalifa Haftar, one of the key players in the drama decided to start a “March on Tripoli” and to take overall power by force.

Most of the significant buildings in Libyan cities were built by Italians during the Fascist period, when Libya was an Italian colony. Thus, General Haftar has patterned himself on Mussolini’s 1922 “March on Rome”. In 1922, the diplomats of most States looked away when Mussolini marched or the diplomats took it as a domestic affair.

In 2019, the “March on Tripoli” has drawn more international attention and concern. The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, met with Haftar a few hours before the March began. Guterres was in Libya to facilitate the April 14-16 meeting on which his Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, has been working for some time in the hope of drawing a road map for long-delayed elections. On Friday, April 5, the UN Security Council held a closed-door emergency meeting. The Security Council called for a halt to the March on Tripoli and the de-escalation of the growing armed conflict.

The Security Council recognized the real possibilities of broader armed conflict and its consequences on the civilian population. In the recent past, the Libyan armed factions have violated the laws of war and have a sad record of abuses against civilians.

We will now have to see if Khalifa Haftar is more open to international appeals than was Benito Mussolini. My impression is that the goal of holding overall power is stronger than the respect of international law. However, even a successful “March on Tripoli” will not create the conditions for an administration of a culturally and geographically-diverse country. New and appropriate constitutional structures must be developed.

There cannot be a return to the earlier Italian colonial structures, nor to the forms of government at independence developed by King Idris al Sanussi which depended largely on his role as a religious leader using religious orders, nor the complicated pattern of “direct democracy” developed by Muammar al-Qadhafi. The Association of World Citizens has proposed the possibility of con-federal structures.

The post 2011 Libyan society faces large and complex issues. Resolving the institutional, economic and political issues is urgent and cannot be settled by elections alone. There are three distinct regions which must have some degree of autonomy: Tripolitania and Cyrenaica both bordering the Mediterranean and Fezzan in the southern Sahara. Within each of the three regions there are differing and often rival tribal societies which are in practice more kinship lines than organized tribes. (1) There are differing economic interests and there are differing ideologies ranging from “Arab Socialism” to the Islamist ideology of the Islamic State which has spread from its Syrian-Iraqi base.

The situation is critical, and the next few days may be crucial for the future of the country.

Note

1) See J. Davis. Libyan Politics, Tribes and Revolution (London: I. B. Tauris, 1987)

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

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2019 at 9:47 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has drawn attention to the positive aspects of migration. However, there are also negative aspects so that we are also concerned with migration that is not safe such as trafficking in persons. A UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women at the start of its current two-week session in New York highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the biggest human rights crises today. The vast majority of victims trafficked are for sexual exploitation, while others are exploited for forced labor and forced marriage.

One aspect of migration issues is the issue of the trans-frontier trafficking in persons. Awareness has been growing, but effective remedies are slow and uncoordinated. Effective remedies are often not accessible to victims of trafficking owing to gaps between setting international standards, enacting national laws and then implementation in a humane way.

The international standards have been set out in the “United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” and its “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.” The Convention and the Protocol standards are strengthened by the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.” The worldwide standards have been reaffirmed by regional legal frameworks such as the “Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.”

Despite clear international and regional standards, there is poor implementation, limited government resources and infrastructure dedicated to the issue, a tendency to criminalize victims and restrictive immigration policies in many countries.

Trafficking in persons is often linked to networks trafficking in drugs and arms. Some gangs are involved in all three; in other cases, agreements are made to specialize and not expand into the specialty of other criminal networks.

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As ¼ of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. Therefore, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

The second category are people leaving their country for economic reasons − sometimes called “economic refugees.” Migration for better jobs and a higher standard of living has a long history. Poverty, ethnic and racial discrimination, and gender-based discrimination are all factors in people seeking to change countries. With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries and with a popular “backlash” against migrants in some countries, would-be migrants turn to “passers” − individuals or groups that try to take migrants into a country, avoiding legal controls.

A third category − or a subcategory of economic migration − is the sex trade, usually of women but also children. As a Human Rights Watch study of the Japanese “sex-entertainment” businesses notes, “There are an estimated 150,000 non-Japanese women employed in the Japanese sex industry, primarily from other Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. These women are typically employed in the lower rungs of the industry either in ‘dating’ snack bars or in low-end brothels, in which customers pay for short periods of eight or fifteen minutes. Abuses are common as job brokers and employers take advantage of foreign women’s vulnerability as undocumented migrants: they cannot seek recourse from the police or other law enforcement authorities without risking deportation and potential prosecution, and they are isolated by language barriers, a lack of community, and a lack of familiarity with their surroundings.” We find similar patterns in many countries.

The scourge of trafficking in persons will continue to grow unless strong counter measures are taken. Basically, police and governments worldwide do not place a high priority on the fight against trafficking unless illegal migration becomes a media issue. Thus, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens. There are four aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other three aspects depend on the efforts of the NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which children and women are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of the country and among marginalized populations. Socio-economic and educational development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is the development of housing and of women’s shelters to ensure that persons who have been able to leave exploitive situations have temporary housing and other necessary services.

The fourth aspect is psychological healing. Very often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trades have a disrupted or violent family and have a poor idea of their self-worth. This is also often true of refugees from armed conflict. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimension to the person through teaching meditation and yoga. There are needs for creating adult education facilities so that people may continue a broken education cycle.

There are NGOs who are already working along these lines. Their efforts need to be encouraged and expanded.

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

Navroz: Turkish Troops in Afrin: Renewal and Complexity

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on March 22, 2019 at 11:45 PM

By René Wadlow

May the soul flourish;

May youth be as the new-grown grain.

Navroz, usually celebrated on March 21 in Iran and Central Asia, is the “New Day”, the end of the old year with its hardships and deceptions and the start of the New Year to be filled with hope and optimism. With each periodical festival, the participants find the same sacred time – the same that had been manifested in the festival of the previous year or the festival of a century earlier. It is a day for spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation and is usually a time for reciting devotional poetry, presenting food with symbolic meaning to guests, and visits among family and close friends.

Navroz, which coincides with the Spring Equinox, is related to myths focused on the sun and thus symbolizes the connections of humans to Nature. In some of the myths, Navroz is considered as symbolizing the first day of creation − thus a time when all can be newly created. It is a day between times − old time has died; new time will start the day after Navroz. In this one-day period without time, all is possible. The seeds are planted for a new birth. Among some who celebrate Navroz, real seeds are planted, usually in seven pots with symbolic meanings of virtues. Their growth is an indication of how these virtues will manifest themselves in the coming year. Among those influenced by Islam and Christianity, Navroz is the day when God will raise the dead for the final judgment and the start of eternal life.

Navroz has an ancient Persian origin, related to Abura Mazda, the high god who was symbolized by the sun and manifested by fire. Navroz is also related to the opposite of fire, that is, water. However, water can also be considered not as opposite but as complementary, and thus fire-water can become symbols of harmony. Fire – as light, as an agent of purification, as a manifestation of the basic energy of life − played a large role in Zoroastrian thought and in the teachings of Zarathoustra. Thus, we find fire as a central symbol and incorporated into rituals among the Parsis in India, originally of Iranian origin.

From what is today Iran, Zoroastrian beliefs and ritual spread along the “Silk Road” through Central Asia to China, and in the other direction to the Arab world. As much of this area later came under the influence of Islam, elements of Navroz were given Islamic meanings to the extent that some today consider Navroz an “Islamic holiday”. Navroz is also celebrated among the Alawites in Syria, the Baha’i, the Yezidis, and the Kurds, each group adapting Navroz to its spiritual framework.

In Turkey, for many years, Navroz was officially banned as being too related to the Kurds and thus to Kurdish demands for autonomy or an independent Kurdistan. I recall a number of years ago being invited to participate in a non-violent Kurdish protest in Turkey on Navroz to protest the ban. I declined as the idea of going from Geneva to be put in a Turkish jail was not on top of my list of priorities. Fortunately, for the last few years, the ban has been lifted.

Navroz was marked in 2018 in the Syrian Kurdish area of Afrin by the arrival of Turkish troops and their Syrian allies. One of the first acts of the Turkish troops was to pull down and destroy a statue of Kawa, a mythological founder of the Kurdish people. In the myth, Kawa is a blacksmith who melted iron to make swords and liberate the people from an evil ruler who had been helped by spirits.

2018 Navroz was also the end of a seven-year cycle begun in March 2011, the uprising and then war in Syria. Seven years in many traditions is a significant number.

Thus, Navroz as a day outside of time can be a moment of reflection on the armed conflict in Syria, and on our inability as peace makers to facilitate negotiations in good faith. Now, a new cycle of secular time has begun, made even more complex by the arrival of Turkish troops.

The armed conflict in Syria is complex with outside official players: Iran, Russia, USA, Turkey, the United Nations, the Arab League and more shadowy characters: the Islamic State, a host of intelligence agencies, money and fighters from a variety of sources. We find some of the same players in the war in Yemen. There is, however, agreement among all that killing those who disagree is the only realistic policy. It is a very old and wide-spread idea found in most cultures. The techniques of killing have become more sophisticated – drones and car bombs – but the idea has remained the same and is easily understood.

In contrast, ideas of conflict reduction through changes in structure are more complex: broadening the base of the Syrian government by bringing in individuals from groups largely excluded, creating con-federal forms of association among the Kurds without necessarily creating a separate State, creating a cosmopolitan, humanist society which meets the basic needs of all. Moreover, we on the outside can suggest approaches, but the effort will have to be made by local people.

Those who advocate (and carry out) killing have funds and staff which conflict resolution nongovernmental organizations lack. Yet conflict resolution efforts must continue and grow stronger. A new, even more complex cycle of time has started. The old approach of killing those who disagree remains strong. Yet, I believe that there are possibilities of renewal and cooperative action for a more peaceful and just wider Middle East.

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

Rocky Road to World Law: Need for a UN-led Conference on the Reaffirmation of Humanitarian Law

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 22, 2019 at 10:52 PM

By René Wadlow

World law, as World Citizens use the term, is more than current international law. World law has, as its base, universally-recognized international law but also the human rights declarations and standards, the oft-repeated declarations of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly as well as the international legal bodies such as the World Court and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The International Criminal Court is the most recent of the world courts, and its Rome Status has not been ratified by all UN Member States, the United States (U. S.) being a significant holdout.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Some States have withdrawn from the ICC and other States do not cooperate with it, such as the Sudan. The ICC can act only after the relevant national courts have acted or when national courts are unable to act (the case of some ‘failed States’) or when there is an unjustified unwillingness of national courts to act when crimes against humanity have been committed.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has repeatedly stressed that humanitarian law (international law in times of war, primarily the Geneva Conventions) are being systematically violated and that there should be a UN-led World Conference for the Re-affirmation of Humanitarian Law.

In the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, there have been repeated violations of humanitarian law by all sides: violations in the treatment of prisoners of war, violation of the prohibition of torture, prohibition of attacking medical facilities and medical personnel. The ICC has undertaken preliminary investigations to collect evidence. Among those who have violated humanitarian law are U. S. troops, and thus evidence should be collected.

Although most evidence could be collected within Afghanistan itself, it would be useful to interview persons who had served in Afghanistan but now have returned to the U. S. and to see written reports no longer stored in Afghanistan. Thus, the ICC plans to send investigators to the U. S. to interview and collect documentation.

However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on March 15, 2019 that the U. S. will revoke or deny visas to ICC personnel investigating allegations of torture or other war crimes committed in the conflicts in Afghanistan. Pompeo also announced that the U. S. will consider imposing financial sanctions and restrictions on “persons who take or have taken action to request or further such ICC investigation”. He could have added imprisonment if we recall those who provided evidence of war crimes in Iraq.

Unfortunately, Pompeo sends the wrong message to all other parties that torture, rape, attacks on medical facilities will not be tried. Pompeo helps to undermine further international humanitarian law.

We have to think back to 1947-1948 and the leadership of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt as chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights to recall any U.S. leadership on world law. Unfortunately, law has never been part of U. S. culture. The lone cowboy taking the law into his own hands by shooting it out on a dusty street seen in many films remains the U. S. ideal.

As mentioned, most of the necessary evidence can be found in Afghanistan itself. Bringing anyone from any party to trial for crimes in Afghanistan seems to me unlikely. Nevertheless, as world citizens, we need to keep the standards of world law in mind. These standards should be clear. Thus, our repeated call for a UN-led conference on the re-affirmation of international humanitarian law.

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

Syria: Concerns Raised and Possible Next Steps

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 16, 2019 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

March 15 is widely used as the date on which the conflict in Syria began. March 15, 2011 was the first “Day of Rage” held in a good number of localities to mark opposition to the repression of youth in the southern city of Daraa, where a month earlier young people had painted anti-government graffiti on some of the walls, followed by massive arrests.

I think that it is important for us to look at why organizations that promote nonviolent action and conflict resolution in the US and Western Europe were not able to do more to aid those in Syria who tried to use nonviolence during the first months of 2011. By June 2011, the conflict had largely become one of armed groups against the government forces, but there were at least four months when there were nonviolent efforts before many started to think that a military “solution” was the only way forward. There were some parts of the country where nonviolent actions continued for a longer period.

There had been early on an effort on the part of some Syrians to develop support among nonviolent and conflict resolution groups. As one Syrian activist wrote concerning the ‘Left’ in the US and Europe but would also be true for nonviolent activists “I am afraid that it is too late for the leftists in the West to express any solidarity with the Syrians in their extremely hard struggle. What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria, its society, its regime, its people, its political economy, its contemporary history. Rarely have I found a useful piece of information or a genuinely creative idea in their analyses “(1)

A Syrian opposition rally in Paris
(C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

In December 2011, there was the start of a short-lived Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. In a February 9, 2012 message to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ambassador Nabil el-Araby, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) proposed a renewal of the Arab League Observer Mission with the inclusion of a greater number of non-governmental organization observers and a broadened mandate to go beyond fact-finding and thus to play an active conflict resolution role at the local level in the hope to halt the downward spiral of violence and killing. In response, members from two Arab human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO) were added for the first time. However, opposition to the conditions of the Arab League Observers from Saudi Arabia let to the end of the Observer Mission.

On many occasions since, the AWC has indicated to the United Nations (UN), the Government of Syria and opposition movements the potentially important role of NGOs, both Syrian and international, in facilitating armed conflict resolution measures.

In these years of war, the AWC, along with others, has highlighted six concerns:

1) The widespread violation of humanitarian law (international law in time of war) and thus the need for a UN-led conference for the re-affirmation of humanitarian law.

2) The widespread violations of human rights standards.

3) The deliberate destruction of monuments and sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

4) The use of chemical weapons in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol signed by Syria at the time, as well as in violation of the more recent treaty banning chemical weapons.

5) The situation of the large number of persons displaced within the country as well as the large number of refugees and their conditions in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. In addition, there is the dramatic fate of those trying to reach Europe.

6) The specific conditions of the Kurds and the possibility of the creation of a trans-frontier Kurdistan without dividing the current States of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

These issues have been raised with diplomats and others participating in negotiations in Geneva as well as with the UN-appointed mediators. In addition, there have been articles published and then distributed to NGOs and others of potential influence.

The Syrian situation has grown increasingly complex since 2011 with more death and destruction as well as more actors involved and with a larger number of refugees and displaced persons. Efforts have been made to create an atmosphere in which negotiations in good faith could be carried out. Good faith is, alas, in short supply. Efforts must continue. An anniversary is a reminder of the long road still ahead.

Notes:

(1) Yassin al-Haj Saleh in Robin Yassin-Kassal and Leila Al-Shami, Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War (London: Pluto Press, 2015, p. 210)

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

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