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Avec l’avancée des troupes turques, les dangers échappent à tout contrôle

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on October 13, 2019 at 2:59 PM

Par René Wadlow

Le 9 octobre, confirmant des suspicions déjà anciennes, les troupes turques ont lancé une attaque contre les Forces démocratiques syriennes, milice opérant sous commandement kurde au nord-est de la Syrie. L’opération kurde a pour nom de code «Opération Printemps de Paix», mais le danger est réel de voir la situation tourner à une «Opération Hiver de Violence» alors que les habitants de la région fuient en nombre les attaques aériennes et les bombardements de l’artillerie.

Soldats turcs en action

En conséquence, dans un message adressé le 10 octobre aux ambassadeurs turcs auprès de l’ONU à New York et Genève, ainsi qu’à l’ambassadeur turc auprès de l’UNESCO à Paris, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) a exprimé sa préoccupation devant les opérations militaires auxquelles se livrent les forces armées turques et leurs alliés syriens au nord-est de la Syrie. L’AWC a appelé à une solution politique permettant de réconcilier les intérêts tout à la fois de la Turquie et de l’Administration autonome de la Syrie du Nord et de l’Est, région largement désignée par les Kurdes sous le nom de Rojava. Il s’agit d’une région multiethnique peuplée de Kurdes, d’Arabes et d’Assyriens, des groupes plus circonscrits de Turkmènes, d’Arméniens et de Circassiens l’habitant également. Avec le temps, les relations entre ces groupes se sont envenimées du fait du conflit en Syrie et de la création de l’Etat islamique (Daesh).

L’Appel Citoyen du Monde se poursuivait ainsi : «Un cycle de violence dans la région serait à même d’entraîner des conséquences funestes pour les civils qui y vivent, et ils sont plus de deux millions dans ce cas. L’Association of World Citizens appelle le Gouvernement turc à entreprendre des négociations de bonne foi avec l’Administration autonome de la Syrie du Nord et de l’Est, ainsi qu’avec les autres parties concernées, afin de parvenir dès que possible à un cessez-le-feu. Nous tenons également à ce que les forces armées turques se conforment à leurs obligations en droit humanitaire international, ce qui consiste notamment à s’abstenir de toute attaque contre des civils, ainsi que de toute attaque aveugle ou disproportionnée ».

Combattantes kurdes de Syrie

Les guerres d’Irak et de Syrie ont toutes deux entraîné de nombreuses violations du droit humanitaire international. A bien des égards, le droit humanitaire international est le fondement du système de droit mondial que promeut l’AWC.

Pour l’heure, les discussions à huis clos qui se sont tenues au Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies n’ont mené à aucune déclaration que tous aient pu soutenir. Les divers Etats concernés présentent en la matière des politiques très diverses. La Russie se targue de pouvoir faciliter d’éventuelles discussions entre les factions kurdes et le gouvernement d’Assad. Le Président Trump a laissé entendre qu’il pouvait servir de médiateur entre Turcs et Kurdes. La position qu’affichent les Etats européens membres du Conseil de Sécurité semble voisine de celle de l’AWC, puisqu’ils appellent à un cessez-le-feu. La direction de l’OTAN ainsi que l’ambassadeur chinois à l’ONU appellent tous deux à la «retenue».

C’est pourquoi, alors que la situation actuelle peut prendre tous les chemins possibles vers le pire, les organisations non-gouvernementales doivent faire preuve d’un leadership clair et dynamique. Il faut un appel aussi large que possible au cessez-le-feu ainsi que des négociations de bonne foi, de manière à pouvoir commencer à satisfaire les intérêts communs aux diverses parties dans une société qui soit à présent en paix.

Le Professeur René Wadlow est Président de l’Association of World Citizens.

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As Turkish Troops Advance, Dangers Escalate

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 October 13, 2019 at 2:57 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 9, Turkish troops began a long-anticipated cross-border assault against the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia in northeastern Syria. The Turkish operation is code-named “Operation Peace Spring”. There is a real danger that the situation turns into “Operation Violent Winter” as many flee from the air attacks and artillery bombardments.

Therefore, in an October 10 message to the Turkish Ambassadors to the United Nations in New York and Geneva and to the Turkish Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) expressed its concern at the military operations carried out by the Turkish armed forces and their Syrian allies in northeast Syria. The AWC called for a political solution that would reconcile the interests of both Turkey and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria – an area often referred to by the Kurds as Rojava. The area is a multi-ethnic region with Kurds, Arab and Assyrian populations and smaller groups of Turkmen, Armenians, and Circassians. Relations among these groups have grown tense as a result of the conflict in Syria and the creation of the Islamic State (ISIS).

Turkish army soldiers

The World Citizen Appeal continued “A cycle of violence may induce dreadful consequences for civilians in the area, nearly two million people. Therefore, the Association of World Citizens calls on the Turkish Government to enter negotiations in good faith with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria as well as other stakeholders with a view of securing a prompt ceasefire. In addition, we are concerned that the Turkish military lives up to its obligations under international humanitarian law including refraining from carrying out attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.”

The wars in both Iraq and Syria have produced numerous violations of international humanitarian law. In many ways, international humanitarian law is the basis of the system of world law which the AWC promotes.

Syrian Kurdish fighters

For the moment, closed-door discussions in the United Nations (UN) Security Council have not led to a statement on which all can agree. States have a range of policies. Russia proposes that it can facilitate discussions between the Kurdish factions and the al-Assad government. President Trump suggested that he could mediate between the Turks and the Kurds. The position of the European States members of the Security Council is close to that of the AWC. They call for a ceasefire. NATO leadership as well as the Chinese Ambassador at the UN call for “restraint”.

Therefore, as the current situation may grow worse, clear and dynamic leadership from non-governmental organizations is required. There should be a broad call for a ceasefire and negotiations in good faith so that common interests in a peaceful society can be put into practice.

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

International Humanitarian Law, Constant Challenges, NGO Responses

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on August 12, 2019 at 8:38 AM

By René Wadlow

August 12 is the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional are central instruments of International Humanitarian Law. The Geneva Conventions, are also often called the Red Cross Conventions as the International Committee of the Red Cross is the institution which is to promote and protect the articles of the Conventions, although the Convention opens the door to other organizations “which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy.”

The 1949 Geneva Conventions were drawn up in light of the violations of earlier international humanitarian law during the Second World War. The first Geneva Convention was drawn up in 1864, the time of the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aims of the ICRC were set out at the time: the development and universalization of humanitarian law and as a neutral go-between in armed conflicts, enabling contact to be maintained between combatants. There could also be a role to serve as an intermediary between victims and States, reminding States of their obligations towards those victims.

The Geneva Conventions have evolved as the nature of armed conflicts has evolved. The 1977 Protocols Additional were drawn up by a diplomatic conference held in Geneva in light of the experiences of the war in Vietnam, the greater number of conflicts that could be called “civil wars” and the greater use of armed militias which were not regular military forces. In the 1977 discussions, there was greater awareness of the conditions of refugees, already protected by the international refugee agreements but also a growing awareness of persons displaced within the country, a pattern which has grown.

Closely related to the Geneva Conventions is a second tradition of international humanitarian law, what may be called “the Hague Tradition” growing out of the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. This tradition places its emphasis on banning the use of certain types of weapons. The 1925 Geneva Convention prohibiting the use of poison gas was a direct result of poison gas use in World War I. Since then, there has been a treaty banning the use of land mines, of cluster munitions, and a wider ban on chemical weapons.

There are two other sources or traditions in the development of international humanitarian law. One is respect for human rights provisions as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions which followed focused on different aspects of the Universal Declaration. While the provisions of the Universal Declaration are to be upheld at all times, there are highly visible and wide-spread violations during armed conflicts. Thus the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights (become the Human Rights Council) became concerned with situations of armed conflicts.

Palmyra, the ancient city in Syria, much of which has been destroyed by both the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) and the Syrian Arab Army of the Assad regime.

The fourth tradition is the development of the 1936 Roerich Peace Pact to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The 1936 Pact, signed at the White House in Washington, D.C. was a Pan-American Union Treaty. Its provisions served as the basis of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Goods with UNESCO as the official body for its safeguard. The 1954 Treaty has been progressively enriched by the development of UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage sites. The International Criminal Court has recently condemned a person for his role in the destruction of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites in northern Mali, West Africa.

These traditions of international humanitarian law have been highlighted in a number of United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions such as that on Basic Principles of Protection for Civilian Populations in Time of Armed Conflict, Resolution 2625 (1971).

Thus, the provisions of international humanitarian law are well developed and cover many issues that are likely to arise in armed conflicts. There are two major challenges for their respect. One is that the provisions of international humanitarian law are not well known, neither by the military nor by possible victims. Thus, education concerning international humanitarian law is necessary. During the 1969-1971 Nigeria-Biafra War, I had been a member of an ICRC working group as the Nigeria-Biafra war was the first war among Africans without a colonial power being involved. There were many violations during the war, including the use of starvation as a military policy. After the end of the war, the need for teaching international humanitarian law was obvious. I helped in the preparation of a textbook using African examples that the Red Cross used fairly widely in Africa. The teaching of international humanitarian law in the context of local cultures and values is still a vital challenge.

The second and more important challenge is that international humanitarian law is not respected even when its provisions are known. The current conscious violation of international humanitarian law including some of the oldest provisions – not attacking medical facilities or not shooting prisoners – has been widespread in armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. More than preparing handbooks for the military and the militias is needed.

The Association of World Citizens has been stressing the need for a UN-led world conference on the reaffirmation of international humanitarian law in which governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and armed factions could participate. The degree of respect for humanitarian standards is far from satisfactory, as has been repeatedly pointed out. However, for the moment, there has not been the needed momentum. Such a momentum is likely to arise only from NGOs. The August 12 anniversary is a reminder that we need to work creatively before major wars not afterwards.

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

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.

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.

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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