The Global Citizen
On Friday reports surfaced that U.N. documents obtained by Foreign Policy show that the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria has been consistently cutting off food supplies to opposition-held areas in order to starve rebels and their supporters into submission. This is a clear-cut war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the UN Security Council needs to provide what evidence it has for this and other crimes against humanity in a referral to the International Criminal Court.
What would you do if major figures in your government were suspected of or charged with war crimes? In Baltic States like Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, this is not very uncommon; however, the difference between these countries comes from which of these figures are actually tried for their crimes. The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) has put Serbian war criminals on trial since 1993. In Kosovo the rule-of-law is still too new to function perfectly, but many are calling for a more efficient court system to put the accused on trial safely and successfully.
After NATO-led airstrikes in 1999 led to the end of the war between Kosovo and Serbia, and since Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, relations between the two nations have been far from perfect. Serbia to this day refuses to recognize Kosovo as an independent country (along with other major powers like Russia and Spain).
It is no secret that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was the opposition to Milosevic’s troops, took part in violent acts against the Serbian military in order to end the Serbian oppression. More recently, however, it has been speculated that prominent Kosovo leaders, like Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi, were involved in much more serious war crimes like organ trafficking.
Yesterday saw progress on ending the crisis in the Ukraine with a diplomatic agreement reached in Geneva.
After ongoing talks between officials from the Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union, it was agreed that the situation in Ukraine must de-escalate. The agreement calls for all illegal military formations in Ukraine to be dissolved and everyone illegally occupying buildings to be disarmed and to evacuate. There is added amnesty for all anti-government protesters under the agreement as well. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will moniter the de-escalation efforts.
Beyond this general agreement however, much is left unclear. I think most of the world with access to the Internet could deduce that the situation in Ukraine needed de-escalation even without going to Geneva. And we could reasonably assume that for this to happen violence and occupation of buildings needed to stop. This agreement leaves much to be desired in the realm of resolving the conflict in the region and stabilizing the government and economy of the Ukraine. Already today there are reports that the protestors in East Ukraine are refusing to disperse, showing the cracks in the weak facade of this 'deal'.
On Monday, Canada’s foreign affairs minister announced that the world’s 11th largest economy would be suspending its $10 million annual contribution to the Commonwealth of Nations until late 2015 in protest against Sri Lanka’s two-year leadership of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper caused controversy last year by joining the leaders of India and Mauritius in boycotting the summit in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital. This persistent conflict stems from Sri Lanka’s continued refusal to address claims of human rights atrocities committed by government forces during the country’s 26-year civil war.
Since the end of hostilities in 2009, Colombo has continuously rejected all calls for investigation into the claims, most recently denouncing a March resolution by the UN Human Rights Council requesting a “comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations” by “both parties” in the war. Monday’s announcement has been met with similar obstinacy, as the Sri Lankan foreign ministry accused Canada of attempting to “hold the Commonwealth to ransom” for the sake of “scoring political points.” Human Rights organizations, however, have consistently praised the Harper government for its uniquely stern stance in dealing with Colombo.
Last week, the US administration of Barack Obama announced that it would reduce the number of deployed US Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) from 450 to 400. The silos that housed these nuclear weapons will be maintained, unfortunately, and the 50 weapons will be stored rather than dismantled. The reduction comes as part of the United States' obligations under the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation.
The treaty requires both parties to limit their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and reduce their nuclear weapons delivery systems to 800 (700 deployed) by 2018. As of October, 2013, the Russian Federation had already accomplished this reduction with 473 reported deployed delivery systems. The US currently has 886 deployed and non-deployed delivery systems, still above the 2018 goal.
The top headline on BBC News yesterday read “Ukraine begins 'anti-terror action’.” "Terror" evokes a strong reaction from most Americans as they think of 9/11, leading some to call for US action in the region. However, despite the months of nonstop news coverage, many of the Americans making these demands do not know where the Ukraine is located, let alone what they are calling for action against. And the possible repercussions of US military intervention make this call to action an improbable option for the US.
In recent years, we’ve come to recognize that the world is interconnected, perhaps in ways and on a scale that it never has been before. We live together and affect each other on the same small planet and we are all fundamentally equal regardless of where we are born. Global justice is about deciding how the institutions those interactions create, formal and informal, social, political, and economic, should be managed in a just, equitable way, where everyone is treated fairly and no one is abused.
Ben Franklin said it best — nothing is certain, “except death and taxes.”
Like most Americans, we submit our 1040s to maintain the health of our nation. However, we’d personally rather decrease our income tax and instead pay a fee that reduces carbon pollution and could preserve the planet.
The carbon-intensive oil, gas, and coal industries are stoking climate change. According to a new UN report, the threats to our civilization are enormous. Crop failures, the top concern in the UN’s report, will cause widespread starvation in all parts of the world. Countries will face a cascade of destabilizing events: severe water shortages, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, rising sea levels and other catastrophes on an unprecedented scale. Civil wars and conflicts between nations will increase as people compete for scarce natural resources.
The good news is that while it is too late to avoid climate change — it’s already happening — humanity can still temper its force. One of the simplest ways to slow the pace of climate change is by levying a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.
The recent move by the Obama administration to bar Hamid Aboutalebi, nominated to be the Iranian ambassador to the UN, from entering the U.S. weakens the United Nations. By denying Aboutalebi a visa to access UN Headquarters in New York City, the United States is effectively commandeering UN policy and forcing the world organization's proceedings to bow before U.S. national security interests.
The denial ignores the 1947 U.S./UN agreement that the U.S. will not interfere with diplomatic rights, the only exception being if the diplomat's visit raises national security concerns.
The administration and Congress has overreacted to Aboutalebi’s role as a translator in the 1978-61 Iran Hostage Crisis. Aboutalebi, 22 during the crisis, has since lived the life of a career diplomat. He’s been the ambassador to Italy, Australia, Belgium, and the European Union. If he were a “terrorist”, as Senator Cruz labels him, then these countries and the EU would certainly never had allowed him to enter their territory.
One hundred days and nearly 1 million men, women, and children alike killed; killed only because of their ethnic backgrounds. Neighbors, friends, coworkers, and in extreme cases spouses, fell victim to what the United Nations has declared “one of the darkest chapters in human history.” Twenty years later Rwandans are moving forward in inspiring ways.
Throughout the African country, villages are emerging; villages in which perpetrators and victims live as neighbors, some even as friends. Known as Reconciliation Villages, these are places where forgiveness is becoming the norm and where life is moving on.
New York Times photographer Pieter Hugo has chronicled several of these reconciliations in a piece titled “Portraits of Reconciliation.” These powerful images capture the work of AMI, a non-profit working with national efforts for reconciliation. These Reconciliation Villages are part of a grassroots effort to address the thousands of accused who have yet to face trial.
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