The Global Citizen

Search form

The Trial of Hissène Habré: An Advance for World Law

The trial of Hissène Habré, former President of Chad, which opened in Dakar, Senegal, on July 20 marks a new step in trans-national law. Habré will be tried in a specially constituted court created by a treaty between the African Union and the State of Senegal. The court is modeled on the statues of the International Criminal Court (ICC), but is to deal only with cases concerning Africans. It will be important to see if this new African court will be a one-time institution for the Habré trial or if it becomes a permanent institution of world law.

The ICC has been criticized by some African leaders as being overly focused on Africans. Arrests and arrest warrants have been issued nearly exclusively against Africans. However, Africa is the only continent where state institutions have totally disappeared (Somalia, Central African Republic, Libya) or where vast areas of a State are not under the control of the central government (the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the northeast areas of Nigeria). In addition, there are a good number of African States where the court system is so under the control of the executive that “fair trials” are out of question.

Thus, if African leaders were reluctant to see the ICC take on new African cases, an “all-African” alternative had to be created, even if it is nearly identical in the types of crimes to be judged and the way that evidence is to be collected. The judges in Dakar have already interviewed some 2,500 persons even before the trial started.

Gamesmanship and the Iran Deal: An Open Letter to Those Objecting

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Let’s look at the field positions of the parties in Iran, the United States, and Israel who seem to want to kill the agreement worked out between Iran and the P5+1 coalition.

First, let me address those in the Republican Party and in Israel who have expressed objections to this deal. I suggest that the basic fact is that you have won—a considerable field position—and if you kill the deal, you will lose.

You can assume that your publicly expressed concerns figured into this negotiation. You demanded a tough deal. You got one, and the international community won in these negotiations because the P5+1 had a strong field position and used it. Iran needed its sanctions lifted, so they needed this deal more than we did. And we made them pay for it.

Yes, you did win. Let’s stop the denial. Many Republican and Israeli objectors seem to have a hard time admitting it, but this agreement is thorough enough to make very difficult any Iranian move toward military use of nuclear technologies for 15-25 years. Beyond the controls on specific sites and techniques of uranium enrichment, the deal provides for comprehensive control of the nuclear supply chain and for IAEA monitoring of Iran’s nuclear technology activities—using very sophisticated means now available—for the foreseeable future.

The Iran Nuclear Discussion

It’s time for us to act like adults.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have won an agreement, which has capped nuclear enrichment potentials in Iran and removed the current prospect of war, greater sanctions and hardships for Iranians, or both. The agreement has been praised by most arms control experts and welcomed by almost all (with the exception of Israel) political entities in the world that have spoken on it.

The teams fielded by the P5+1 and the Iranians have crafted a contract which any fair-minded person must concede blocks all visible and probable paths to a nuclear weapon for Iran for eight years and erects substantial, on the ground, deeply entrenched impediments to any Iranian attempt to create nuclear weapons well beyond that point (for example, detailed controls on uranium enrichment and stockpiles for 15 years and IAEA monitoring of all uranium ore concentrate activity for 25 years – see paragraphs 5,7.10.11,12 and 15 of the Joint Comprehensive plan of Action). Also Iran would be subject to the Additional Protocol allowing IAEA investigation of suspicious sites (paragraph 13). Check out this infographic for more detail.

Iranian citizens can now look toward greater engagement with the west in a host of ways and to significantly greater prosperity. Their eagerness to embrace this sort of future is evident. Other countries around the world, including but not limited to the United States, can enjoy greater access to the citizens, markets, resources, and creative capacities of a large nation in an important area.

The European "Union": 'Til Crisis Do Us Part

Having just crossed the border from Italy to France, my train stops at the next station for longer than the usual five-minute interval. Police board the train; I take out my passport, which has become habit at this point. The woman sitting next to me, a French native who has lived in Italy in for the last 20 years, leans over.

“They are checking for illegal migrants,” she says. “Sometimes they hide in the bathrooms.”

With our passports verified and the train cleared, we begin moving again.

“Look,” my seatmate points out the window. “They’re arresting one now.”

While I knew about the current migrant crisis as I left for Europe this summer, I never expected to come into contact with it as much as I did over the last two months of my trip. Despite having our own immigration crisis back in the U.S., the issue seemed even more visible while in the Eurozone; from migrants on the street trying to sell me a selfie stick to camp sites to scenes like this on the train, it was quickly apparent how serious this crisis has become.

Rape, Child Marriage and FGM

One in three women will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. This ongoing crisis permeates socioeconomic classes, races, creeds, and geographical regions, threatening human rights on a global scale. In light of increasing political will to address this injustice through the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and the Women’s Rights Treaty (CEDAW) , here are 10 facts you may not know about violence against women.

1)      The "R" Word

Over 22 million women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime.

2)      Intimate Partner Violence

The World Health Organization reports that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. 

3)      Reproductive Health

A woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or childbirth - more than 350,000 women each year.

A July Holiday for the Whole World

Courtesy of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court
There are two important dates in July for globally-minded Americans.  The 4th of July is an important date for our country, and the 17th of July is an important day for our whole world community.
The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted on July 17, 1998.   Five years ago the UN designated July 17th as "International Criminal Justice Day." The day will be celebrated by advocates for justice around the world, many of whom will post on social media using a hashtag #JusticeMatters to draw attention to this rather new world holiday. 
The International Criminal Court is a permanent court with jurisdiction over individuals who commit genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity (enumerated in the Rome Statute) when they are not held accountable by their own government.  The word "criminal" in the name of the Court and the holiday is crucial.  In contrast to the International Court of Justice (or “World Court”), the International Criminal Court focuses on holding individuals accountable for violating international law. The ICJ deals only with national governments.  Its rulings are non-binding. Furthermore trying to punish a country requires fighting a war such as the Korean War in 1950-1953 and First Gulf War in 1991.

Not My Pope?

I’ll never forget the time in eighth-grade religion class when one of my classmates asked why our school didn’t participate in neighborhood cleanup days. My teacher replied, “It’s not fair to worry about things like that when souls are going to Hell every day.”

She elaborated, “The earth can save itself.”

Yeah. That happened.

This teacher would also frequently stress the importance of following everything the Catholic Church teaches without question. (You can’t just pick and choose!)

Which, of course, begs the question of how she and others from this line of thinking are responding to Pope Francis’s new encyclical on ecology and climate change.

Entitled “Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home,” the official statement of church teaching calls on all of humanity to do their part to stop environmental deterioration; to “recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption in order to combat this warming” and protect our shared home.

However, protecting the environment and being stewards of the earth are not new concepts for the Church. In 1981, the U.S. Catholic Conference even issued a statement that recognized the threat of climate change and the need for clean energy.

So while the encyclical may be increasing global consciousness and moving the sympathetic to act, it’s probably not troubling the deniers as much as you’d think.

The Slow Process of Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

President Sirisena at the Sri Lankan High Commission's Interfaith Ceremony, March 2015 (Courtesy of Daily FT and

It has been nearly half a year since Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was elected to office, and he and his administration have been seeking the path of reconciliation ever since. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a slow process that will take generations to achieve. The beginning is going to be frustrating for everyone involved, especially for those who suffered the most.

I reported in February that Sirisena promised to give back most of the land taken from the Tamils by the military, but thus far it seems that not much has been given back and the military continues to engage in commercial activities on these seized lands.

The Oakland Institute published a report this May about Sri Lanka’s military still engaging in commercial activity on land seized from the Tamil population during the civil war.

The Sri Lankan High Commission in London countered by stating that this report exaggerated the extent of the military’s activity on the captured lands, that the government has already returned several to their original owners, and that it will continue to do so.

It should be noted that earlier this year, both President Maithripala Sirisena and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera have met with Tamil Diaspora groups in London, England as part of reconciliation efforts.

Put Away your Passport

I consider myself a pretty culturally diverse person. I was raised as Serbian-American, and I remain highly involved in this community today. You can ask my friends. I have always been playfully teased about my “obsession” with being a Serb, inviting them to “crazy Serb” events, and forcing them to try my mother’s food. 

My connection to my ethnicity inspired me to love and appreciate learning about others. I chose to major in Global and International Studies with the regional focus on Latin America and a specialization in comparative politics. Throw in a Spanish minor and a semester abroad, and there you have it: culturally diverse.

My fascination with global affairs also led me to apply for an internship with Global Solutions Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, when I read their Spring Fundraiser program last week during the event, they had a section about “Global Engagement” that caught my attention:

“What does it mean to be globally engaged?”

I had always associated the word “global” with international; over there; foreign and exotic lands different than my own. But is that always the case? What does it really mean to be globally engaged? Can you be globally engaged in your own backyard?

Merriam Webster defines global as “involving the entire world.” Although that can mean abroad, it doesn’t always have to. The entire world includes the United States. It includes your state, your city, and your home. How is it possible to be globally engaged in your own neighborhood, though? Can you make a global impact without a passport?

June 26: Anniversary of the Signing of the UN Charter

June 26 is the anniversary date of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.  While UN Day is usually celebrated October 24 when the UN Charter came into force after ratification by States—especially the five permanent members of the proposed Security Council—it was June 26 that the Charter was presented to the world. As a friend noted, "I prefer to celebrate the birth and not the baptism.”

For today, we will look at two reports that outline challenges facing the emerging world society and the role that the UN should play.

Since the presentation of the Charter in 1945, there have been criticisms and proposals for reforms and revisions. In response to these criticisms, the UN Charter provided that a review conference on the Charter would be put on the agenda 10 years after the Charter's coming into force—that is, in 1955.