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Condamnée pour avoir défendu ses clients : Maître Najet Laabidi, la valeur d’un symbole

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, World Law on March 30, 2020 at 7:05 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

Il est des années qui marquent l’histoire d’un pays, mais aussi celle d’une association. L’année 1961 est, pour l’Allemagne, celle de la construction du Mur de Berlin, qui allait devenir le symbole le plus douloureux de la Guerre Froide, de même qu’elle est l’année de la création, au Royaume-Uni, d’Amnesty International. Cinquante ans plus tard, pour la Tunisie, 2011 est l’année d’une révolution victorieuse du peuple contre la dictature, la première de son genre dans le monde arabe. Pour l’Association of World Citizens (AWC), c’est l’année de la disparition de son Président-fondateur, Douglas Mattern, emporté par un cancer dans la banlieue de San Francisco.

Mais c’est aussi l’année où nous avons commencé à suivre un cas individuel sur lequel, au début de la décennie nouvelle et au milieu de la tragédie mondiale sur laquelle elle s’ouvre, nous travaillons toujours. L’un des volets de ce cas vient de connaître son dénouement en justice, un dénouement qui, pour n’être pas des plus sévères, ne peut pourtant nous satisfaire. Car lui aussi est porteur d’un symbole, lourd, trop lourd et menaçant.

Civile jugée par des militaires, avocate punie pour avoir défendu

Ce cas, c’est celui de Najet Laabidi, avocate, Défenseure des Droits Humains (DDH). Comme nous l’écrivions le 27 mai 2017 dans notre article «Najet Laabidi, avocate engagée pour l’Etat de droit en Tunisie» :

«Le 8 novembre 2011, choisie et contactée pour représenter des victimes de mauvais traitements dans l’affaire Barakat Essahel, l’avocate subit un déluge d’insultes et de menaces de la part de proches d’anciens officiels de l’Etat poursuivis en justice pour avoir torturé des prisonniers politiques sous Ben Ali. D’abord par téléphone avant le procès, puis le jour venu, en pleine salle d’audience.

La police militaire évacue les auteurs des injures et menaces, mais ne lève pas le petit doigt pour protéger l’avocate. Il lui est ordonné de ne pas quitter le prétoire jusqu’à ce que tout le monde soit sorti. Elle décline une proposition de la raccompagner en voiture. Le ton est donné de ce que seront les années qui suivent pour Najet Laabidi.

Quatre ans plus tard, deuxième round. Le 26 novembre 2015, elle plaide lors d’une audience d’opposition contre Ezzedine Jenayeh, ancien Directeur de la Sûreté nationale sous Ben Ali, condamné par contumace pour délit de violences dans l’affaire Baraket Essahel et qui conteste le jugement. D’entrée, la procédure consacre l’arbitraire.

[…]

[Devant le Tribunal militaire, Najet Laabidi avait accusé Leila Hammami, juge du Tribunal militaire de Première instance,] de partialité, les propos de Najet Laabidi ayant été filmés puis diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux. «Dans ma vidéo,» rappelle l’avocate, «j’ai évoqué les circonstances de l’impunité, j’ai souligné que le Tribunal militaire ne pouvait pas consacrer les principes d’un procès équitable car, dans ce corps d’Etat, il y a toujours la corruption». Nouvelle plainte de Leila Hammami le 21 décembre 2015, la magistrate versant au dossier un CD de l’enregistrement de Najet Laabidi lui disant ses quatre vérités.

Il n’en faut pas plus au Procureur général près la Cour d’appel de Tunis pour lancer des poursuites sur le fondement de l’Article 128 du Code pénal pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Convoquée le 1er février 2016 devant le juge d’instruction du Tribunal de première instance de Tunis, Najet Laabidi refuse de comparaître. Le 12 octobre 2016, elle est condamnée par contumace à un an d’emprisonnement.

Informée de sa condamnation seulement le 24 avril dernier, l’avocate y fait opposition. A l’issue de son audience le 10 mai dernier, Najet Laabidi est condamnée à six mois de prison, décision dont elle interjette immédiatement appel. Mais qui n’aurait jamais dû intervenir en premier lieu, puisque ce qu’on lui reproche, outre peut-être son appartenance à un parti politique d’opposition, c’est d’avoir agi comme ce qu’elle est – une avocate.»

Qu’importe que tant la Constitution tunisienne que le droit international des Droits Humains interdisent la comparution de civils devant les juridictions militaires, dont les justiciables sont par définition les seuls membres des forces armées. Najet Laabidi comparaît le 27 juin 2019 devant le Tribunal militaire de Première instance de Tunis. A l’issue d’une délibération aux allures d’interminable, le 12 mars 2020, l’avocate est reconnue coupable et condamnée à une amende symbolique de huit dinars tunisiens, soit 2,50 € ou $2,79.

L’ONG FrontLine Defenders annonce la condamnation de Maître Najet Laabidi

Mieux vaut une amende symbolique qu’une peine d’emprisonnement ferme, certes, comme celle qui lui aurait été à coup sûr infligée pour les mêmes faits sous Ben Ali. Mais cela reste trop, car justement, c’est un symbole.

Une Défenseure des Droits Humains humiliée

Ce n’est un secret pour personne, le droit tunisien est un héritier direct du droit français, qui l’a construit pendant la période de protectorat de la France en Tunisie de 1881 à 1956. A cette exception près que la justice tunisienne ne dispose pas d’un instrument historique et juridique majeur comme la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen proclamée en France en 1789, aujourd’hui partie intégrante de la Constitution de la République française. Les formes y sont, mais jusqu’en cette année 2011, le fond, les justiciables tunisiens avaient pris l’habitude de s’en passer. Sauf peut-être les opposants et DDH qui garnissaient régulièrement les cellules du régime. Et ce droit français recèle un intriguant symbole.

Que ce soit au civil ou en tant que partie civile dans un procès pénal ou criminel, il est possible de demander à son adversaire, qui sera au pénal le prévenu et l’accusé en cour d’assises, un «euro symbolique» de dommages et intérêts, descendant logique du «franc symbolique» qui servait la même fonction. Lorsqu’il ne s’agit pas de balayer les accusations du public d’opportunisme financier, surtout si l’adversaire est notoirement aisé, l’euro symbolique est une solution commode pour faire reconnaître du juge son préjudice d’estime sans avoir à demander une somme conséquente qui ne serait jamais accordée, tant il serait impossible de prouver un préjudice moral ou financier conséquent. Pour autant, l’euro symbolique n’en peut pas moins servir d’outil de vexation envers la partie condamnée, qui se voit ainsi refuser toute idée de puissance et réduire au dénuement moral.

Condamner Najet Laabidi à huit dinars symboliques, comme elle aurait pu l’être à un «dinar symbolique», c’est envers elle une double insulte. D’abord parce qu’elle n’a commis aucun acte qui eût pu lui valoir une comparution en justice, ayant rempli ses charges d’avocate et aucun Etat se voulant un Etat de droit ne peut judiciariser quiconque pour cela ; voilà qui, à bon droit, interroge sur l’Article 128 du Code pénal tunisien et son intitulé périlleusement vague d’ «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Ensuite, parce que c’est sa qualité de DDH elle-même qui s’en trouve niée, ses juges lui accordant la faveur d’une peine clémente alors que la moindre conscience juridique aurait dû les amener à une seule et unique conclusion, celle de l’iniquité de toute peine même symbolique envers elle, professionnelle du droit œuvrant pour la défense des valeurs mêmes qui avaient fait descendre les Tunisiens dans la rue et, in fine, amené la chute du régime Ben Ali puis l’avènement du système actuel, ce système dont ces mêmes juges font partie.

En ce sens-là, oui, l’amende infligée à Najet Laabidi a la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole d’une Tunisie qui, depuis 2011, avance vers l’Etat de droit mais bien souvent trébuche. Dans notre article du 18 mars 2018 intitulé «Maître Najet Laabidi de nouveau visée par les autorités tunisiennes», nous notions encore :

«Si l’on juge un pays sur la manière dont il traite les personnes handicapées, alors la Tunisie a besoin d’un bon avocat. Et si l’on juge un pays au respect que les pouvoirs publics accordent aux avocats, alors la terre du Jasmin semble en chute libre vers l’indéfendable».

Autant dire que Najet Laabidi a elle aussi, plus encore, la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole des DDH de tous parcours de vie et milieux professionnels, même si les praticiens du droit sont par définition mieux armés pour défendre, qui permettent tant soit peu à cette Tunisie en chute libre de se raccrocher aux branches. La valeur d’un symbole à défendre, car de là dépend la réalité de demain de l’Etat de droit en Tunisie. Et partout ailleurs, parce qu’un symbole de liberté n’a pas de frontières.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’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.

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 28, 2019 at 12:40 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 23, 2019, 39 people, 8 women and 31 men, were found dead in a refrigerated trailer truck coming from Belgium in the last leg of its journey. The truck was at a parking lot in Essex, near London, England. The identity of the persons is still in the process of being investigated. They may be Vietnamese having traveled through China, or Chinese. The victims draw sad attention to the process of trafficking in persons.

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

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

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

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

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

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As 25% of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. As a result, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sacco and Vanzetti: That Agony is Our Triumph

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, United Nations, World Law on August 23, 2019 at 9:02 PM

By René Wadlow

“If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man’s understanding of man as now we do by accident. Our words – our lives – our pain – nothing! The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all! That last moment belongs to us – that agony is our triumph.”

Letter of Bartolome Vanzetti (1888-1927) to Judge Webster Thayer who had condemned Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco (1891-1927) to death for the murder of a guard and the paymaster of the Slater and Morill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts on April 15, 1920.

Sacco and Vanzetti, along with a third member of the Italian anarchist group involved in the robbery were electrocuted at midnight on August 23, 1927, after seven years of legal proceedings and an organized social campaign to prevent the execution led by some of the leading intellectuals of the time, especially the novelist John Dos Passos. Some 200,000 persons attended the funeral, and there were demonstrations in front of United States (U. S.) embassies in many parts of Europe. Since then, Sacco and Vanzetti have been symbolic figures in efforts to abolish the death penalty.

Two aspects of the trials and legal procedures have stood out in the anti-death penalty debates. The first is that it is often difficult to have a trial that is not influenced by emotions and the political currents of the times.

Both Sacco and Vanzetti had been members of an anarchist network led by the Italian anarchist writer Luigi Galleani who was living for some years in the New York area. He edited a journal calling for violent revolution. He was deported to Italy in June 1919, but his journal continued for several years after that. In the minds of many in the U.S.A. there was a link between anarchy and Bolshevism which had just come to power in Russia in 1917. There were fears that Bolshevism would spread. Moreover, both Sacco and Vanzetti had left for Mexico in 1917 and changed their names to evade draft registration which had been introduced in 1917 when the U. S. jointed the First World War. The prosecutor in the murder trial used the Mexico flight to demonstrate their lack of patriotism. In Massachusetts, there was a general anti-Italian feeling, even if individuals were not anarchist but family-loving Roman Catholics.

The second element of the case used in anti-death penalty efforts is that people are executed who are later found to be not guilty of the crimes for which they were executed. Research on the case continued long after the executions. It is highly possible that Sacco was in fact involved in the robbery and may have used the weapon he had with him. Vanzetti was not involved but rounded up as a member of the same Italian anarchist group which had robbed the pay of other shoe companies as well.

Thus the possibility of a person from a minority group, of the lower class, at a time of fear and international violence being convicted and executed is higher than if a person is part of the majority, has money to get a good lawyer, and the world situation is calm.

Studies in a good number of countries indicate that the death penalty has little impact on the rate of violent crimes. Thus, the Association of World Citizens has worked with others, especially in the United Nations bodies for the abolition of the death penalty.

Since the end of World War II, there has been a gradual abolition of the death penalty. In some countries, executions have been suspended in practice but laws allowing executions remain. In other countries, there has been a legal abolition. The abolition of executions and the corresponding valuation of human life are necessary steps in the development of a just world society.

Here’s to you, Nicola and Bart …

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.

Hiroshima Anniversary Day: Developing a Nuclear-weapon Abolition Strategy

In Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, United States, World Law on August 6, 2019 at 8:16 PM

By René Wadlow

“Just prior to the May 2010 Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) said, “Everyone recognizes the catastrophic danger of nuclear weapons. Just as clearly, we know the threat will last as long as these weapons exist. The Earth’s very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament. And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation … Momentum is building around the world. Governments and civil society groups, often at odds, have begun working in the common cause. All this work reflects the priorities of our member states, shaped in turn by public opinion. Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now.”

Thus, governments and civil society groups, often at odds on other questions, might be able to set out a strategy for progress toward a nuclear-weapon-free world. There has always been an ebb and flow of popular interest in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world, and currently, there seems to be a rising tide of activity. Men who did little to curb nuclear weapons when they were in power are now saying that something should be done: ‘The only sure way to prevent nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war is to rid the world of nuclear weapons.’ Since peace-making depends on coalition building, we cannot belittle these new-found friends.

There have always been at least two major aspects of nuclear issues — the one is to prevent the proliferation to new states, the other is to reduce the number of warheads among the existing nuclear-weapon states.

A strategy which has influenced popular action on nuclear weapons has been whether to place an emphasis on the goal of total abolition or on partial steps such as the ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Those working for partial measures have always said that abolition was the ultimate aim, but in practice, the partial measures always became the focus of action. I recall that when I was in college, I used to walk to relax and would meet from time to time Albert Einstein walking from his office to his nearby home. I would say ‘Good Evening, Prof Einstein, and he would reply ‘Good Evening, Young Man’. Although I had no idea then or now what his theories were about, I knew that they had something to do with atoms, and he had come out early for nuclear control. ‘One World or None’ was the slogan of the late 1940s. Einstein’s final appeal shortly before his death was the Russell-Einstein Manifesto (1955) with its call to think “not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings”.

When I used to see Einstein, I was already active on the partial measures of the time — an end to testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. I had followed the lead of Senator Estes Kefauver who was the first United States (U. S.) political leader to attack actively nuclear testing. As Kefauver had taken on the link between politics and organized crime, he could take on also the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission which was deaf to all calls to prevent nuclear fallout from entering the food chain. It took till 1963 to get the tests to move below ground, but the mid-1950s nuclear testing campaign was the entry point of my generation into nuclear issues.

Senator Estes Kefauver

I tend still to stress limited steps within the framework of regional settlements of disputes. There seems to me to be three opportunities to press ahead:

1.

The first and easiest because it involves only two states without major conflict issues is a reduction in the number of nuclear warheads of the USA and Russia — the number of 1,000 each seems to be on the table. It is still too many and strategic thinking in the two countries is not very clear what they are for, but this is a case where ‘fewer is better’, so let us push for this sharp reduction while we try to see what role the USA and Russia can usefully play in the world society, as well as reducing tensions between them.

2.

The second opportunity is for a nuclear-weapon free zone in the Middle East. The elimination of Israeli nuclear weapons and no nuclear-weapon development in Iran would help reduce Middle East tensions. Mohammed El Baradei, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been calling for this Middle East nuclear weapon free zone for some time. However, there will have to be strong popular pressure for such a zone as neither the Israeli nor the Iranian government seems to be moving fast in the direction.

3.

The third opportunity for non-governmental suggestions is to participate in the preparations for the 2020 Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Review conferences held every five years have been the most favorable to Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) of the arms control negotiations. I had chaired the NGOs attending the 1975 and 1980 reviews and with the help of Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico, the NGOs had the ability to distribute proposals and to interact fully, though not to address the conference. Our proposals were widely discussed and even presented by one government as its own. At the 1980 review when no government text could be agreed upon, the NGO draft, largely written by Homer Jack, an active world citizen, was seriously discussed at a midnight meeting of the Conference Bureau, but wording was not the real issue. After the 1985 Review, which nearly went down in flames thanks to charges and outer-charges between Iraq and Iran, at that time in war, I gave up, having repeated too often the Preamble and Article VI. which hold out the promise of a disarmed world under effective international control and stresses that “in accordance with the Charter, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

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

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