The Global Citizen: Civilian Protection
A Kenyan court today issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. This decision will hopefully put an end to the impunity Bashir had previously enjoyed when he traveled to the country.
As a state party to the ICC, Kenya is legally obligated to turn over Bashir and any other individuals indicted by the Court as soon as they set foot on its soil. However, in August of 2010 Bashir visited Kenya without being arrested, illustrating the gap in the ICC's ability to enforce cooperation among its member states when it comes to turning over indictees. ICC judges then reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council for its failure to turn over Bashir.
It's gratifying to see Kenya stepping up to the plate and declaring that it will live up to its obligations as an ICC state party. The only way the Court can enforce its warrants and bring criminals to justice is if all its member states follow this example. Hopefully Kenya is setting a precedent that other nations who have previously hosted criminals like Bashir will follow, hastening the day he will face justice in the Hague.
Syrian President Bashar Assad's despotic regime received major setbacks today, as the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Syria to better cooperate with the Arab League the same day that body approved economic sanctions against the regime. The moves further isolate the deteriorating government, cutting off almost all trade and investment between Syria and other Arab nations and demonstrating the distance Syria's traditional allies are putting between themselves and the tyrannical actions of Assad.
Hong Lei, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters today that "China believes that the Syrian issue should be solved within the framework of the Arab League." While the Chinese did not officially comment on the League's sanctions, this is still a bold change of tune for Chinese officials, who have until now been some of Assad's most stalwart protectors against attempts for international action to reprimand the Syrian regime.
The United Nations General Assembly's committee on human rights today overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning the violence in Syria and attacks on civilians by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The vote tally was 122 votes in favor, 13 against and 41 abstentions. It passed with strong support from Arab countries, including cosponsors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, and Kuwait.
The resolution strongly condemned the "continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities." Specific human rights abuses mentioned included arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders, torture, and ill treatment of detainees. The resolution also calls on Assad to immediately implement the Arab League's peace plan.
The resolution will now move to the full General Assembly, where a vote is expected in mid-December.
Today's vote came after both Russia and China, who hold veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, blocked Security Council action on a watered-down Syria resolution last month. Both countries also voted against today's resolution; however, there are no vetos in the General Assembly.
The United Nations, after failing to approve a resolution condemning the violence in Syria last month, is expected to vote on another Syria resolution as early as Tuesday.
The anticipated resolution, which has been drafted by the United Kingdom, France and Germany but also reportedly has support from some Arab governments, would be voted on by the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee, rather than the U.N. Security Council. It would then be considered by the full General Assembly. Arab countries supporting the resolution include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, and possibly Morocco and Kuwait. The Arab League recently voted to suspend Syria's membership and possibly implement sanctions against the country.
The violence unleashed in Syria by the government of Bashar al-Assad has left more than 3500 people dead. However, the U.N. has so far been unable to adequately respond to the Syrian government's attacks on its civilians. In October, the Security Council failed to approve a watered-down resolution on Syria after Russia and China both opposed it with a rare double veto. There are no vetoes permitted in the General Assembly's human rights committee.
Syria lives in a very flammable neighborhood, surrounded by Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. The neighbors are getting very worried that the escalation of violence in Syria could quickly spread to surrounding nations, and are taking steps to prevent the flames from spreading. It's time for the U.N. Security Council to support this effort and help form a neighborhood fire brigade that can prevent a civil war and protect the Syrian people.
Today, Syria announced it was "in talks" with the Arab League to send civilian and military observers into the country in the hopes of ending the violence that has wracked the country for eight months.
But if experience tells us anything, President Bashir al-Assad's talk is cheap and is just permitting him more time for tactical stalling.
There are many tools available to protect civilians from violence, including economic sanctions, establishing a no -fly zone or referring Assad to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
But the best option available to have the greatest immediate impact for the Syrian people would be to back the Arab League's move and establish a U.N. authorized and funded observer force that is led by the Arab League and comprised of regional forces.
It appears that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is still on track to issue a verdict in its first completed trial by early 2012, according to a recent announcement by Court judges.
The trial of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo wrapped up in August with closing arguments by both defense and prosecution. Lubanga is charged by the ICC with conscripting child soldiers under the age of 15 into battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Citizens for Global Solutions will provide updates on the verdict when it is released.
The situation in Syria is rapidly devolving into a civil war. Embassies are being attacked, and defectors from the military are meeting violence with violence. The international community's window of opportunity to protect Syrian civilians is closing.
While the Arab League threatened to suspend Syria's membership in the organization, it has given the Assad regime one last chance to cooperate before continuing on the path of isolating the regime. This proposal would allow civilian and military observers to enter Syria to determine if the Assad regime is complying with ending the violence against civilians.
Citizens for Global Solutions CEO Don Kraus presented remarks yesterday at American University's Washington College of Law for a discussion on "Responsibility to Protect and the Arab Spring"
Kraus disagreed with critics who think that the international response in Libya has hurt the Responsibility to Protect concept. On the contrary, he believed that Libya solidified the principle as a norm in international affairs.
He also noted that the global response to Libya was made at "lightening speed", taking a matter of weeks compared to recent other humanitarian disasters, such as the conflict in the Congo, which took three years for the international community to respond.
Click here to hear his remarks in full.
Citizens for Global Solutions CEO Don Kraus will be participating in a panel discussion at American University's Washington Law College on "The Responsiblity to Protect and the Arab Spring."
The presentation will be held on Tuesday, November 15th 2011 from 12:00-1:30 EST.
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter in the Senate, asking their fellow Senators to sign on in support of genocide and atrocity prevention.
The letter, which will be sent to President Obama once it has been circulated to other Senators for their sign-on, commends the Obama Administration's recently issued Presidential Study Directive (PSD) 10, which created an Atrocities Prevention Board and stated that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is in America's national interest. The letter urges the Administration to develop the necessary tools to successfully avert mass atrocities and prevent the conditions that can lead to violence against innocent civilians.
The letter reiterates the principles of S. Con. Res. 71, which passed unanimously in the 111th Congress urging the administration to conduct an interagency review to evaluating existing capacities for anticipating, preventing, and responding to genocide and other mass atrocities. Finally, the letter urges the Administration to establish coordinating mechanisms between Congress and the Board, and consider a whole of government approach to atrocities prevention.
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