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Harvin Khalaf : Une lumière s’est éteinte, mais la réconciliation reste à faire

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 12:16 PM

Par René Wadlow

Le 12 octobre 2019, Havrin Khalaf, Co-secrétaire générale du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, a été abattue à un barrage routier par la milice Ahrar al-Shargiya soutenue par la Turquie. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie avait été formé en mars 2018 à Raqqa afin de créer «une Syrie démocratique, pluraliste et décentralisée». Le Parti était actif au sein de l’Administration autonome du Nord et de l’Est de la Syrie – région souvent désignée par les Kurdes en tant que Rojava. La région présente une haute diversité, tant de par les groupes qui la peuplent que par les religions qui y sont représentées. Le Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie cherchait donc à bâtir des ponts de compréhension entre Kurdes, Arabes, Turkmènes et tous les autres groupes, ainsi qu’entre Musulmans, Chrétiens et Yézidis. L’espoir était que cet effort pour bâtir des passerelles devienne un exemple pour tout le reste de la Syrie.

Avant même le début des combats en Syrie en 2011, la société syrienne était divisée selon des critères ethniques et religieux. Les hostilités, le déplacement de populations, la montée de l’Etat islamique (Daesh) n’ont fait qu’accroître les divisions ethniques et religieuses. Dans de nombreux cas, la confiance entre les groupes a été brisée, et même la coopération a minima qui se manifestait à travers des liens économiques a volé en éclats. Rebâtir la coopération, et c’était l’un des buts principaux du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie, s’avérera difficile. L’incursion des forces turques et de leurs alliés syriens au nord-est de la Syrie va rendre la coopération par-delà les divisions ethniques et religieuses encore plus ardue.

A elle seule, Havrin Khalaf symbolisait cet effort de réconciliation. Elle était également un symbole de la quête pour l’égalité entre femmes et hommes. Femme kurde, elle avait pour Co-secrétaire général du Parti de l’Avenir de la Syrie un homme arabe. Femme dotée d’une solide éducation – elle avait été diplômée de l’Université d’Alep en 2009 – elle était particulièrement active en matière d’autonomie et de renforcement des femmes. Elle avait souvent officié comme porte-parole auprès de diplomates, journalistes, et travailleurs humanitaires en visite dans la région. Jouissant d’une haute visibilité, elle n’a pu être tuée que de manière délibérée. En même temps qu’elle, le chauffeur de la voiture du Parti à bord de laquelle elle se déplaçait a trouvé la mort.

Le danger est réel de voir de tels assassinats se multiplier avec l’avancée des troupes turques et l’expansion permanente de leur contrôle sur ce qu’ils appellent, non sans ironie, une « zone de sécurité ». Déjà dans un passé récent, l’occupation turque de la région d’Afrin a entraîné des déplacements de population, des pillages, des prises d’otages et des tortures. Il est également à craindre que les territoires du nord-est de la Syrie récemment repassées sous le contrôle du Gouvernement syrien ne soient pas épargnées par les crimes de vengeance, ni par les violations des Droits Humains ou du droit humanitaire international pour des motifs politiques.

Avec le décès de Havrin Khalaf à trente-quatre ans, une lumière vient de s’éteindre. Mais la réconciliation reste à faire. Il faut des voix nouvelles. Nous qui vivons en dehors de la Syrie, nous devons voir ce que nous pouvons faire pour faciliter ce rôle vital de construction de ponts entre les êtres humains.

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

Havrin Khalaf: A Light Has Gone Out But The Tasks of Reconciliation Remain

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, War Crimes, World Law on October 22, 2019 at 10:02 AM

By René Wadlow

On October 12, 2019, Havrin Khalaf, the Co-Secretary-General of the Future Syria Party was shot to death at a roadblock by the Turkish-backed militia, Ahrar al-Shargiya. The Future of Syria Party had been formed in March 2018 in Raqqa with its aim of a “democratic, pluralistic, and decentralized Syria.” The Party was active in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria — an area often referred to by the Kurds as Rojava. The area is highly diverse in both population groups and religions. Thus, the Future Syria Party wanted to build bridges of understanding among Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups as well as among Muslims, Christians and Yezidis. The hope was that this bridge-building effort would become a model for all of Syria.

Even before the fighting began in Syria in 2011, the Syrian society was divided along ethnic and religious lines. The fighting, the displacement of people, the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) has increased ethnic and religious divisions. In many cases, trust among groups has been broken, and even minimal cooperation through economic links has been broken. Rebuilding cooperation, a chief aim of the Future Syria Party, will be difficult. The move of Turkish forces and their Syrian allies into northeast Syria will make cooperation across ethnic and religious divides even more difficult.

Havrin Khalaf was a symbol of this reconciliation effort. She was also a symbol of the quest for equality between women and men. As a Kurdish woman she had an Arab man as Co-Secretary-General of the Party. As an educated woman – she received a degree from the University of Aleppo in 2009 – she was particularly active for the empowerment of women. She often served as spokesperson for visiting diplomats, journalists, and aid workers. As a highly visible person, her killing was deliberate. The driver of the Party car she was in was also killed at the same time.

There is a real danger that such killings increase as Turkish troops advance and control an ever-larger part of what the Turks have ironically called “the safe zone.” Earlier Turkish occupation of the Efrin area has led to the displacement of people, looting, hostage-taking and torture. We can also fear that areas in northeast Syria newly under the control of the Syrian Government will not be free from revenge killings and politically-motivated violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

With the death of Havrin Khalaf at the age of 34, a light has gone out. The tasks of reconciliation remain. New voices are needed. We outside of Syria must see how best we can facilitate this vital role of bridge-building.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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