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South China Sea Delimitation Disputes: Good Faith Negotiations Needed

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Environmental protection, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on July 28, 2020 at 11:42 AM

By René Wadlow

 

There are several maritime delimitation disputes that are currently dangerous and require good-faith negotiations to prevent increased tensions. World Citizens had played an important role in the Law of the Sea Conference (UNCLOS) negotiations and in the creation of the International Seabed Authority and its Tribunal on maritime deliberation issues. (1)

There are currently two major geographic areas in which there are maritime delimitation issues: the Arctic and the China Seas. The China Seas tensions are the most politically sensitive. Territorial sea disputes can be heated up by governments and cooled off at will when other political issues require attention elsewhere. Currently, we are in a “heating up” stage between China and Japan, China, and the USA, and to a lesser degree between China and Vietnam, China and Taiwan, and China and the Philippines. The broader China-U.S.A. tensions also color the South China Sea issues.

There are both economic and geo-strategic aspects to these tensions, and both need to be addressed if good faith negotiations are to lead to cooperation for the benefit of all. (2)

Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

Progress in maritime geology and predictions of metal shortages in the decade ahead have made seabed mining a concern of governments such as China, Japan, and South Korea. Minerals such as copper, gold, and many other industrial minerals as well as oil-natural gas are thought to be available through sea mining in this Pacific area.

The strategic-geopolitical aspects are less clear but they focus on the Chinese Navy creating permanent islands around what had been only rock formations of land that was visible only part of the year. There is a drive for influence in the area among China, Japan, the USA, and to a lesser extent, India. The drive has no doubt to do with the vision each State has of its leadership role, its growing or declining position, its ability to limit the influence and access of other States, and its “core interests.” Such political speculations are “immaterial” but can easily lead to mistaken calculations and consequent actions.

Factions in both Japan and China are playing a “nationalist card” concerning the maritime delimitations disputes, no doubt for reasons which go beyond the specific aspects of the disputes. Although the Chinese “nationalist” focus is directed toward Japan, there is a vision among some Chinese that the USA is the cause of the continuing problems with Taiwan and Japan.

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Therefore, it is important that “non-nationalist” voices be heard, stressing cooperation for mutual benefit. The Association of World Citizens is among such voices, stressing that the settlement of maritime delimitation disputes through adjudication by the World Court is the ideal approach. For World Citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea is of special significance. The greater part of the oceans is considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership. Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

Although most maritime delimitations are, in fact, achieved without recourse to adjudication and settled by bilateral negotiations, submitting a dispute to the World Court can better ensure that the results of the delimitation process conform to the rules of international law. We need to start a strong mobilization of voices calling for good-faith negotiations and for a vision of cooperation among the States of the China Seas.

NOTES:

1) See the writings of the Louis B. Sohn, in particular his course at the Hague Court legal summer school “Settlement of Disputes Relating to the Interpretation and Application of Treaties”, Recueil des cours, Vol. 150. 1976 II, pp. 205-294. For a useful approach to the delimitations issues see A. O. Adede, The System for Settlement of Disputes Under the UNCLOS (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987)

2) Delimitation disputes are not new but reappear when politically useful for some reason. For a good overview of the history with maps of the disputed areas see Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia, Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1991).

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

U. S. Measures Weaken the Slow but Sure Growth of World Law

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II on June 15, 2020 at 8:19 PM

International_Criminal_Court_building_(2016)_in_The_Hague

For nearly half a century — almost as long as the United Nations has been in existence — the General Assembly has recognized the need to establish such a court to prosecute and punish persons responsible for crimes such as genocide. Many thought that the horrors of the Second World War — the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust — could never happen again. And yet they have. In Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Rwanda. Our time — this decade even— has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide is now a word of our time too, a heinous reality that calls for a historic response.

Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General.

By René Wadlow

 

President Donald Trump’s executive order of June 11, 2020 proposing sanctions against staff and family members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) weakens the slow but sure growth of world law. The ICC and its 123 Member States recognize that individuals and not just States are the subject of world law. The ICC is structured by the Rome Statute named after the city where the governments agreed to the creation of the Court. The Rome Statute system recognizes the primary jurisdiction of the State to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes – namely genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC is a court of last resort when national courts are unable or unwilling to act.

Although United States (U. S). nongovernmental organizations and legal scholars played an important role in the creation of the ICC, the U. S. Government refused to join. The government defended a concept of sovereignty that maintained that U. S. citizens could be tried only by U. S. courts. Legislation was passed by the U. S. Congress, the American Service-Members Protection Act, to prevent ICC jurisdiction over U. S. personnel.

The role of the ICC has come to a crisis point in the U. S. political system as the Court has started investigations of war crimes in Afghanistan by U. S. military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials. There are also ICC investigations concerning ICC investigations concerning war crimes by Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza. The U. S. Government has often played a protective role for Israel in the United Nations (UN) Security Council and other UN bodies.

Many nongovernmental organizations, including the Association of World Citizens (AWC), have expressed regret at this shortsighted and ill-timed U. S. policy. They have pledged themselves to uphold the principle of world law applicable to individuals.

Citizens of the world have usually made a distinction between international law as commonly understood and world law. International law has come to mean laws that regulate relations between States, with the International Court of Justice — the World Court in The Hague — as the supreme body of the international law system. The International Court of Justice is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice that was established at the time of the League of Nations following the First World War. When the UN was formed in 1945, the World Court was re-established as the principal judicial organ of the UN. It is composed of 15 judges who are elected by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

Only States may be parties in cases before the World Court. An individual cannot bring a case before the Court, nor can a company although many transnational companies are active at the world level. International agencies that are part of the UN system may request advisory opinions from the Court on legal questions arising from their activities but advisory opinions are advisory rather than binding.

 

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The Italian Foreign Minister, Lamberto Dini, signs the Rome Statute at the Rome Conference in July 1998.

 

Citizens of the world have tended to use the term “world law” in the sense that Wilfred Jenks, for many years the legal spirit of the International Labor Organization, used the term the common law of mankind: “By the common law of mankind is meant the law of an organized world community, contributed on the basis of States but discharging its community functions increasingly through a complex of international and regional institutions, guaranteeing rights to, and placing obligations upon, the individual citizen, and confronted with a wide range of economic, social and technological problems calling for uniform regulation on an international basis which represents a growing proportion of the subject-matter of the law.” It is especially the ‘rights and obligations’ of the individual person which is the common theme of world citizens.

The growth of world law has been closely related to the development of humanitarian law and to the violations of humanitarian law. It was Gustave Moynier, one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a longtime president of the ICRC who presented in 1872 the first draft convention for the establishment of an international criminal court to punish violations of the first Red Cross standards on the humane treatment of the sick and injured in periods of war, the 1864 Geneva Convention. The Red Cross conventions are basically self-enforcing. “If you treat my prisoners of war well, I will treat yours the same way.” Governments were not willing to act on Moynier’s proposition, but Red Cross standards were often written into national laws.

The Red Cross Geneva conventions deal with the way individuals should be treated in time of war. They have been expanded to cover civil wars and prisoners of civil unrest. The second tradition of humanitarian law arises from the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and deals with the weapons of war and the way war is carried on. Most of the Hague rules, such as the prohibition against bombarding undefended towns or villages, have fallen by the side, but the Hague spirit of banning certain weapons continues in the ban on chemical weapons, landmines and cluster weapons. However, although The Hague meetings made a codification of war crimes, no monitoring mechanisms or court for violations was set up.

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Gustave Moynier

After the First World War, Great Britain, France and Belgium accused the Central Powers, in particular Germany and Turkey of war atrocities such as the deportation of Belgian civilians to Germany for forced labor, executing civilians, the sinking of the Lusitania and the killing of Armenians by the Ottoman forces. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919 provided in articles 227-229 the legal right for the Allies to establish an international criminal court. The jurisdiction of the court would extend from common soldiers to military and government leaders. Article 227 deals specifically with Kaiser Wilhelm II, underlining the principle that all individuals to the highest level can be held accountable for their wartime actions. However, the USA opposed the creation of an international criminal court both on the basis of State sovereignty and on the basis that the German government had changed and that one must look to the future rather than the past.

The same issues arose after the World War II with the creation of two military courts — the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Some have said that these tribunals were imposing ‘victors’ justice on their defeated enemies, Germany and Japan. There was no international trial for Italians as Italy had changed sides at an opportune time, and there were no prosecutions of Allied soldiers or commanders.

In the first years of the UN, there was a discussion of the creation of an international court. A Special Committee was set up to look into the issue. The Special Committee mad a report in 1950 just as the Korean War had broken out, marking a Cold War that would continue until 1990, basically preventing any modifications in the structure of the UN.

Thus, during the Cold War, while there were any number of candidates for a war crime tribunal, none was created. For the most part national courts rarely acted even after changes in government. From Stalin to Uganda’s Idi Amin to Cambodia’s Pol Pot, war criminals have lived out their lives in relative calm..

It was only at the end of the Cold War that advances were made. Ad hoc international criminal courts have been set up to try war crimes from former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone. Just as the Cold War was coming to an end, certain countries became concerned with international drug trafficking. Thus in 1989, Trinidad and Tobago proposed the establishment of an international court to deal with the drug trade. The proposal was passed on by the UN General Assembly to the International Law Commission, the UN’s expert body on international law. By 1993, the International Law Commission made a comprehensive report calling for a court able to deal with a wider range of issues than just drugs — basically what was called the three ‘core crimes’ of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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The defendants at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.

By the mid-1990s, a good number of governments started to worry about world trends and the breakdown of the international legal order. The break up of the federations of the USSR and Yugoslavia, the genocide in Rwanda, the breakdown of all government functions in Somalia, the continuing north-south civil war in Sudan — all pointed to the need for legal restraints on individuals. This was particularly true with the rise of non-State insurgencies. International law as law for relations among States was no longer adequate to deal with the large number on non-State actors.

By the mid-1990s, the door was open to the new concept of world law dealing with individuals, and the drafting of the statues of the ICC went quickly. There is still much to be done to develop the intellectual basis of world law and to create the institutions to structure it, but the ICC is an important milestone.

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

Conscience: The Inner Voice of the Higher Self

In Being a World Citizen, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, NGOs, Solidarity, Spirituality, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on April 5, 2020 at 8:30 AM

By René Wadlow

 

The United Nations (UN) has designated April 5 as the International Day of Conscience. The first celebration is this year 2020. An awakened conscience is essential to meeting the challenges which face humanity today as we move into the World Society. The great challenge which humanity faces today is to leave behind the culture of violence in which we find ourselves and move rapidly to a culture of peace and solidarity. We can achieve this historic task by casting aside our ancient national, ethnic, and social prejudices and begin to think and act as responsible Citizens of the World.

The useful press kit prepared by the UN Information section for the April 5 International Day of Conscience highlights earlier UNESCO and then UN General Assembly efforts for the Decade of the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. A culture of peace gives the broad social framework in which the conscience of each individual can be a guide.

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An awakened conscience makes us sensitive to hearing the inner voice that warns and encourages. We have a conscience so that we may not let ourselves be lulled to sleep by the social environment in which we find ourselves but will remain alert to truth, justice, and reason. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 1, “All human beings are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

There is a need to build networks and bridges among Companions of Conscience. As the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “I believe that there are groups of people and individuals the world over who are kin, regardless of race. They are in the sme realm of awareness. This is kinship, only this.”

Companions of Conscience create a ground for common discourse and thus a ground for common, life-affirming action. The circle of Companions of Conscience is growing worldwide, and Conscience-based actions are increasingly felt.

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Khalil Gibran

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

Libya: The Fairy Godmothers Hoping to Bless a New State Structure Meet in Berlin

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on January 22, 2020 at 9:16 PM

By René Wadlow

The Fairy Godmothers of world politics met in Berlin on January 19, 2020 to assist at the birth of a State structure arising from the currently deeply divided factions of Libya: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were the co-hosts with the Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, the USA’s Mike Pompeo as well as the less easily recognized officials – the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the representatives of China, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates. There were also representatives of the major intergovernmental organizations involved in Libya: the UN, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Final Document of the Berlin Conference is an effort to please all participants, but, in fact, on the crucial issue of the creation of a functioning administration for Libya, there was only a broad vision of a desirable future: a single, unified, inclusive, and effective Libyan government that is transparent, accountable, fair with equitable distribution of public wealth and resources between different Libyan geographic areas, including through decentralization and support for municipalities, thereby removing a central grievance and cause of recrimination.

The creation of such State structures has been the chief issue since 1945 when the Allies – Britain, the USA and the USSR – agreed that the Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy, although Italian settlers were encouraged to stay. The Allies did not want to create the structures of the new State believing that this task should be done by the Libyans themselves. Also, the three Allies disagreed among themselves as to the nature of the future State.

King Idris I of Libya

By 1950-1951 with more crucial geopolitical issues elsewhere, the Allies were ready for the creation of a Libyan State. It seemed that a monarchy was the most appropriate form of government as there were no structured political parties that could have created a parliamentary government. Thus in 1951, Idris was made the King of the State. Idris was the head of the Senussi Sufi Order created by his father. The Senussi Sufi Order had branches in most parts of the country. Idriss ruled the country as if it were a Sufi order and did little to structure non-religious political structures. Idris ruled until September 1969 when he was overthrown by Muammar Qaddafi.

Qaddafi was also not interested in creating permanent political parties which, he feared, might be used against him. He called himself “the Guide of the Revolution” not “President” and Libya became the Libyan Jamahiriya, that is, the authority of the people. The closest model to Qaddafi’s vision is a Quaker Meeting, where decisions are taken by consensus and compromise at the local level. These decisions are then sent as recommendations to the next higher level where by consensus and compromise again a decision is taken. Ultimately, these decisions reach to the top of Libya, and the “Guide” sees how they can be carried out.

Muammar Qaddafi

The problem with the governance of Libya was that not everyone was a member of a Sufi order where the search for enlightenment in a spirit of love was the way decisions were to be made. Moreover, there were hardly any Libyan Quakers, and compromise was not the chief model for the tribal and clanic networks which was how the country was structured under Qaddafi.

Since the overthrow and death of Qaddafi in 2011, there has been no agreement on how the country should be structured. The model which is most likely to be followed is that of General Khalifa Haftar, who now likes to be addressed as “Field Marshal”. The model is a military-based dictatorship with a small number of civilians as “window dressing”. The model is well represented through the world although not always held up as a model form of government. Haftar holds a good bit of the Libyan territory, although his hope of a quick victory over the “national unity” government in the capitol Tripoli has not been successful for the moment.

Faiez Sarraj

The National Unity Government of Faiez Sarraj is a civilian-led government but heavily dependent for its survival on tribal militias. The model for the government is that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey with a certain ideological coloring from the Islamic Brotherhood, originally from Egypt but whose ideology has spread. What type of structures can be created between these two major models is not known. I would expect to see a Khalifa Haftar-led government with a few civilians brought in from the National Unity Government.

General Khalifa Haftar

The only geographic area outside of the current Tripoli-centered conflict between Faiez Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar is the area known as the Fezzan – the southwestern part of the country on the edge of the Sahara. The area was associated with the rest of the country during the period of King Idriss as there were a number of branches of his Sufi order in the oases where most of the 200,000 people in the area live, mostly date palm farmers. Gaddafi largely left the area alone as there was little possibility of developing organized opposition. However, today, the governmental neglect has opened the door to wide-spread smuggling of people, weapons and drugs. The Italian government in particular has drawn international attention to the lack of administration in the Fezzan as many of the African migrants who end up in Italy have passed through the Fezzan on their way to Europe.

The creation of highly decentralized governmental structures in Libya will not be easy. Nevertheless, such decentralized administration is key to the future, and a challenge to all of us who want to see a peaceful and relatively just Libya.

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

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.

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