The Global Citizen: genocide prevention
Today is a great day for international justice. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general charged with ordering the infamous genocide at Srebrenica, has been arrested in Serbia after sixteen years as a fugitive and will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Mladic is accused of being responsible for the deaths of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the attack on Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995. Peacekeepers who were supposed to protect the town were unable to prevent the massacre by Mladic's forces.
Serbia's government was quick to trumpet the news of Mladic's capture. "We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," said President Boris Tadic.
The arrest of Mladic sends a clear message to other tyrants around the globe who have committed similar crimes: there is no impunity for international lawbreakers and those responsible for genocide and mass atrocities. Whether it is President al-Bashir in Sudan or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, those leaders and officials responsible for crimes against civilians will not be able to escape justice forever.
The world's eyes, most recently focused on such hot spots as Libya and Cote D'Ivoire, turned back to Sudan this weekend as forces from the northern part of the country captured a key town in the disputed Abyei region on May 21st. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called for the northern forces to pull out immediately, a call which the government of Sudan has rejected.
Sudanese President Bashir-currently charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but yet to be arrested-claimed that the South attacked Northern Sudanese troops who were part of a UN peacekeeping convoy on May 19th while they were withdrawing from the region, and the North responded in self-defense. South Sudan's Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) denied this charge and accused the North of taking a step towards "full-scale war."
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir reportedly traveled to Djibouti over the weekend to attend the inauguration of that nation’s leader, President Ismael Omar Guelleh. Bashir has been charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC), stemming from his responsibility for the events in Darfur. The ICC has said that Bashir should be arrested as soon as he sets foot in any country which is a state party to the Rome Statute. However, Djibouti is an ICC state party, and he apparently was able to visit there with impunity.
Bashir’s Djibouti sojourn illustrates the difficulty of trying to compel ICC member states to do their duty and cooperate with the Court in arresting wanted tyrants such as Bashir. While he has become increasingly isolated and has largely remained in Sudan since the ICC targeted him, there have been incidents in which Bashir has visited other African countries which are members of the ICC, including Chad and Kenya, without facing arrest. His weekend jaunt to Djibouti shows that this worrisome trend continues.
On Monday, April 18, Citizens for Global Solutions ran a full page advertisement in the New York Times that calls for three essential actions for the U.N. to take in Libya. We are reaching out to Americans because we now live in a new age where the international community has accepted its responsibility to protect. But you can’t protect babies from 30,000 feet nor should this be the job of the U.S. and its allies alone. The United Nations must have the support and tools that it needs to get these jobs done:
- Deployment of U.N. Peacekeepers On the Ground to Protect Libyan Civilians;
- Provision of Food, Water, Medicine and Shelter for Displaced People in Libya;
- U.N. Sponsored Elections to Bring Democracy and a Legitimate Government.
Jon Stewart took a different tone on Libya during his show following President Obama’s speech Monday. Stewart began by mocking the President’s declaration that responsibility for the mission in Libya has transferred from the U.S. to NATO. Stewart’s assertion that “We’re NATO” is actually false. With NATO assuming control, France, Britain and other NATO countries will be maintaining the no-fly-zone and taking any actions NATO commanders deem necessary to aid the Libyan opposition. As Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said before the Senate armed services committee, U.S. planes will stop flying over Libya Sunday but will be on standby and available if needed.
But then Stewart reminded me why I love his show so much when he made a profound point, one overlooked by most but crucially important and interesting. Stewart cited President Obama’s concession that while America works for freedom and liberty around the world, we also have to be realistic. The President stated in his speech:
“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right.”
Last night I had a conversation with a Senator, who I consider a friend, about Libya. It was a private conversation so I won’t mention his name. But after listening to President Obama’s speech, he was still very concerned about what the U.S. was doing in Libya. For him, the concept that we were there to protect civilians wasn’t good enough. Nor was the concept that if the international community didn’t weigh in, then in President Obama’s words, “if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
When this senator first ran for office, one of the questions I asked him was, “under what circumstances would you vote to authorize the president to take military action?” He viewed, “military action as an instrument of last resort in international relations” and listed 5 standards which I believe are reasonable. I also believe the UN authorized actions that the US has taken in Libya meet these criteria. Let me know what you think:
On Friday, the second day of Citizens for Global Solutions’ 2011 Conference, members took action and went to Capitol Hill to lobby their Congress people to protect funding for the United Nations and stand up against genocide by passing a comprehensive genocide prevention bill. The general feeling was that visits were successful, as the Congressional staffers were for the most part receptive and sympathetic to our cause. Some members found their Congress people whole heartedly supportive of our initiatives while others ran into cautious staff intent on avoiding commitments.
President Obama gave what I consider to be a great speech on Libya tonight. Here's an excellent quote:
Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security - responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America's problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world's most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.
In such cases, we should not be afraid to act - but the burden of action should not be America's alone. As we have in Libya, our task is instead to mobilize the international community for collective action. Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.
As posted in the Huffington Post
I recently returned from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where I gave a speech on UN reform at a conference on "Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision". It was an incredibly interesting place to get a perspective on the conflict in Libya. Speakers at the conference included the UAE's Foreign Minister, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The participants at the conference were from around the Arab world, Europe, the U.S., and many other nations.
There seems to be a general consensus that while the "no fly zone" will not stop the conflict in Libya, it is a necessary evil. Gaddafi has gone too far. I've heard comments like, "Gaddafi is crazy. No one should do this to his people."
In an interview with Gulf News on Tuesday, I discussed the importance and need for a United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). It's one step towards effective genocide prevention, and is designed primarily as a first-in, first-out unit that could fill the gap between the Security Council's authorization of a peace operation and the actual deployment of a conventional peacekeeping mission.
UNEPS would consist of 15,000 - 18,000 civilian police, military, judicial, and relief professionals, employed by the United Nations that could deploy within 48 hours of a Security Council authorization. The force would be permanent and voluntary; its participants could be trained together in the same language, use the same weapons and communications equipment for greater interoperability, have a clear chain of command and would have a greater level of commitment to the success of their missions.
I am currently participating in the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) conference titled, "Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision," where I am discussing the future of the United Nations and the Security Council.
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