Peacemakers Trust posts news, reports or announcements of interest to people studying or working in the field of dispute resolution, conflict transformation and peacebuilding. Inclusion of an item on the media watch blog does not imply endorsement or agreement of Peacemakers Trust with views expressed by authors of posted items.
'Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war I will declare myself a conscientious objector.'
By Harry Leslie Smith
I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict.
Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war’s General Sherman once said that “war is hell”, but unfortunately today’s politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.
Many civil society activists who continue to defy the Assad regime are not convinced by the case for U.S. air strikes.
The Syrian Non Violence Movement continues, despite being largely ignored in the conversation about Syria.
Much of the debate over U.S. intervention in Syria boils down the conflict there to a clash between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and an armed rebellion in which al-Qaeda affiliates play a significant role. Typically ignored in that conversation are the voices of the non-violent opposition movement that took to the streets to challenge Assad in March 2011, and which has persisted against great odds.
A Dutch Supreme Court judgment finding the state liable for the deaths of three Muslim men amid the Srebrenica genocide marks a significant victory in the decades-long search for accountability, Amnesty International said today.
“Nearly two decades on from Srebrenica, this Dutch case marks the first time an individual government has been held to account for the conduct of its peacekeeping troops under a UN mandate,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
According to the court, Dutch troops serving as UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica sent three Bosniak Muslim men away from a “safe area” on 13 July 1995. This effectively handed them over to Bosnian Serb forces, who went on to kill some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys; many of their bodies have still not been found.
With the United Nations chemical weapons team working “around the clock” to expedite analyses of samples taken in Syria, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Security Council members to unite and develop an appropriate response should allegations regarding the use of such weapons prove true…
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons,” the UN chief said. “At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution of the conflict.”
He appealed that any decision that is made is done so within the framework of the UN Charter.
The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and/or when the Security Council approves such action, said Mr. Ban…
Mr. Ban reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be a serious violation of international law and an outrageous war crime.
“Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity,” he stressed.
Although the impulse to try to end the ongoing repression by the Syrian regime against its own people through foreign military intervention is understandable, it would be a very bad idea.
Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides.
By Brian Davis, former Canadian ambassador to Syria
The drums of war are beating and we should be deeply concerned…
It is deeply distressing to see the toll that the Syrian civil war has taken and continues to take on the Syrian people and the country. We all want to see that ended. But, the question one has to ask is whether attacking the Syrian regime will do that.
An interesting discussion recently broke out on twitter about whether the Security Council could refer the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — and only the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons — to the ICC…
Despite two years of an incessant civil war that has claimed at least 80,000 people, the United Nations Security Council has been mired in deadlock on how to respond to the violence in Syria. Yet the images and videos of civilians attacked with chemical weapons in the outskirts of Damascus has rocked the Syrian status quo. As Jon Western suggests, the chemical weapons attack may constitute “Syria’s Srebrenica,” galvanizing the international community into taking action in a war they can no longer afford to ignore…
In the case of Syria, however, there have been no calls from the Security Council for chemical weapons attacks to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted an “outrageous crime” that could not be met with impunity, there were no calls for the Council to refer Syria to the ICC. This begs the question: if the use of chemical weapons against thousands of civilians is a crime, why the silence on Syria and the ICC?
August 19 is the tenth anniversary of the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq. De Mello, considered by many as the most suitable successor to Kofi Annan, was a victim of the terrorist attack on our political mission in Baghdad in the first — and so far, the most serious — attack on the UN since it was founded in 1945. There were twenty-one other victims, and more than 200 injured. As a survivor of the attack and partner of Sergio Vieira de Mello, I can say that to this day none of us understands why an attack of such magnitude did not warrant a rigorous investigation. Instead, the circumstances of the incident were buried under statues and memorial speeches.
On this anniversary we should take a moment to reflect on the life of a UN official who was truly committed to the ideals and principles of peace. However, we must also demand an independent investigation, doing justice to the memory of the people who lost their lives in Baghdad on August 19, 2003.
On Saturday night, Michael Grunwald, a Time correspondent, deleted a tweet that he said was “dumb”; a spokesperson for the magazine noted in an e-mailed statement that it had been on Grunwald’s “personal twitter account” and “is in no way representative of Time’s views,” and called it “offensive”: “he regrets having tweeted it.” Those responses are apt. This is what Grunwald said:
I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.
People say reckless things on Twitter, as Grunwald’s defenders pointed out and as some of his more extreme critics, who posted that they couldn’t wait to write a similar defense regarding the drone strike that hit him and other gruesome things, demonstrated. If dumbness were the only issue we’d be done. But this one deserves being talked about a bit more, less because Grunwald still seems a bit oblivious as to what was wrong with what he said (though there’s that) than because it encapsulated something hazardous about the current moment, for journalists, for anyone who cares about civil liberties, and for the political culture more generally.
Yes, Time‘s Senior National Correspondent can barely contain his enthusiasm for murdering Julian Assange. And let’s be clear: that is what Grunwald is so excited about. We can debate the legality of drone strikes. We can have a rational argument about whether the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki was consistent with IHL and/or IHRL. But there is no conceivable rationale for killing Julian Assange.
NEW DELHI – The Myanmar army released 62 child soldiers Wednesday in its latest bid to meet international human rights standards, although critics said more children still remain in uniform.
Since the army agreed to end the practice in June 2012, about 170 children and young adults have been let out of the army. No exact figures are available on the total number of child soldiers in Myanmar, although human rights group Burma Campaign UK has estimated there are 5,000.
Human Rights Brief, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Volume 20 Issue 3 Spring 2013
By Benjamin Zawacki
Much has been written either empathetically or as a challenge of Myanmar’s “Rohingya problem.” Between June and November 2012, the Rohingya bore the brunt of communal violence, human rights violations, and an urgent humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, and still face an uncertain future.
A great deal of rhetoric has attended these accounts—by officials and citizens of Myanmar, Rohingya organizations, journalists, human rights groups, and others—essentially attaching labels to the situation. And while there have been a number of thoughtful attempts to define or even explain the Rohingya problem in historical or political terms, they have been largely drowned out by emotive outbursts and media-friendly sound bites.
This is not only unfortunate, it is also consequential, for as was seen in 2012, rhetoric can influence both the way in which a crisis plays out as well as in how it is responded to. In other words, how we talk about what it is we are talking about matters… full article (pdf)
After weeks of anticipation, I finally had a chance to watch the premiere of Crossing Lines, the new NBC drama about a police unit that works for the International Criminal Court. As a police procedural, the show is not bad. William Fichtner is fantastic as always. Production values are extremely high. Bringing together detectives and investigators from a number of European states is a nice idea. And all the actors have nice accents.
But as a show about the ICC, Crossing Lines is an unmitigated disaster.
The problem, of course, is with the basic premise…
I was very curious to see how, if at all, the writers would get around the inconvenient fact that the ICC team will investigate crimes over which the Court has no jurisdiction. At first they just avoided the issue: after the newly-recruited Fichtner character points out that the ICC usually investigates war crimes and genocide, the leader of the team simply replies, “for now we’re going to try something…” He then changes the subject and explains that the team is comprised of the best and brightest detectives from various Western European states. (Africa’s worst nightmare!)
Last Friday marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project in which the Court held the sweeping view that “material support” to terrorist organizations included even support aimed at promoting peace. That means the U.S. government can criminally prosecute groups or individuals for facilitating peace talks, offering training in conflict resolution, or teaching a course on humanitarian law, simply because these activities involve members of a group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. That undercuts America’s security – and the Obama administration can and must fix it.
WASHINGTON — Two civil liberties organizations suing the U.S. government for killing three Americans in drone strikes slammed the Obama administration Tuesday for trying to cut federal courts out of the debate. The government argued in a court filing last week that drone strikes against American citizens were constitutional, in part, because President Barack Obama said they are.
“Two years after the fact, the president declassified what the entire world knew to be true — that the government killed three American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy,” the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint statement. “Now, the government continues to insist that the courts have no role in evaluating the legality of its actions. But the executive branch cannot simply declare the killings lawful and attempt to close the book on that basis. A federal judge, not executive officials examining their own conduct, must determine the constitutionality of the government’s actions.”
The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights has sued the government on behalf of the estates of three American citizens killed in drone strikes.
Christopher Keith Hall, who has died aged 66 after suffering from cancer, was a leading light in the formation of the international criminal court (ICC). As senior legal adviser of Amnesty International, he headed its international justice project and was a co-founder of the coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) behind the ICC.
The idea of such a court had lingered since the precedent of the international military tribunal in Nuremberg after the second world war. Then, in the 1990s, when the UN security council was unwilling to take strong action to prevent atrocities it set up two ad hoc courts – the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda – to at least warn the perpetrators of war crimes that they could not count on impunity. This reinforced the idea of a standing criminal tribunal to deliver international justice.
Amnesty International, led by Christopher, immediately became involved in the diplomatic negotiations culminating in the 1998 Rome Conference that adopted the ICC statute. He worked to ensure that the court would not only materialise, but would have the powers needed for maximum possible effect.
The revived hearings over the Preah Vihear temple boundary dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) have concluded. Despite a formal decision from the court not expected for several months, several observations can now be made…