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To Catch a War Criminal: A Look at the International Criminal Court

The National Public Radio show "On Point" featured an hour long segment about the International Criminal Court on August 5th, 2009. It was called "To Catch a War Criminal" and featured two guest speakers: Pamela Yates, the director of the film The Reckoning which looks deeply into the workings of the ICC, and Christine Chung, the former senior trial attorney for the ICC.

Secretary Clinton Says the U.S. Supports the International Criminal Court

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the University of Nairobi in Kenya today and expressed the United States support of the International Criminal Court. Secretary Clinton was asked by a student how the U.S. expected Kenya to allow the ICC to come into their country when the U.S. is not a member itself.

Bill Clinton and Detained Journalists Return from North Korea

On the morning of August 5, former President Bill Clinton returned from North Korea around 6:00 a.m., along with Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American journalists who had been confined and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korean territory while researching a report on women and human trafficking.

During his diplomatic visit to North Korea, former President Clinton met with North Korean President Kim Jong-Il after an invitation by the White House to negotiate for the release of Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling. He won their freedom after issuing an official apology on behalf of the two journalists. His visit marks a great diplomatic success in a time of difficult relations between the U.S. and North Korea, after North Korea tested its second nuclear device in May and performed a series of missile launchings. Although relations between the two countries have become increasingly complicated, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that the freedom of the captured American journalists is separate from the issue of nuclear weapons. However, given former President Clinton's knowledge of and interest in North Korean nuclear activity, "it would be someplace between surprising and shocking if there wasn't some substantiative discussion between the former president...and Kim Jong-Il," said Robert L. Galluci, who negotiated with North Korea in the Clinton administration.

African Union Declaration Against the ICC Not What it Seems

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's eleven day visit to Africa is intended to affirm the Obama administration's commitment to engage the conflict ridden continent.  However, a resolution has recently been issued by the African Union (AU) allowing Sudanese President and wanted war criminal Omar al Bashir to travel throughout Africa with impunity.  This could easily cause Secretary Clinton to believe that Africa has no interest in holding human rights abusers responsible for their actions.

Congress Negotiates Nuclear Program

On July 23, a bipartisan group of six senior senators (including John Kerry, chair of the Foreign Relations committee; Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services committee; and ranking Republicans Richard Lugar and John McCain) wrote to President Obama about the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [START]. Brought into effect in 1991, the treaty will expire at the end of this year and is beginning negotiation in Congress.

The group suggests that, when START is submitted for ratification, a 10-year funding estimate should be included to enhance and update the U.S. nuclear supply. They also want the treaty to include cost figures to show how much will be available to modernize nuclear manufacturing and maintain the ability to create new weapons, if necessary. These provisions will address certain weaknesses in the U.S. nuclear program that have become more and more apparent over the years, such as potential failures, lack of trained workforce, and lack of modernized facilities.

President Obama and Russian President Medvedev, whose countries hold 95% of the world's nuclear weapons, began negotiating START in early July by signing a nuclear agreement which would cut Russian and American strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one quarter and reduce the number of warheads and missiles to the lowest levels since the beginning of the Cold War. This treaty, to be finished by December, could lead to talks on further reductions next year if ratified by the Senate.

McCain No Longer Opposes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) no longer opposes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). McCain did not commit to voting in favor of CTBT but if he does, the U.S. will be one vote closer to finally becoming party to the CTBT. McCain influences the Republican Party significantly. If McCain supports CTBT, it will likely convince the six additional Republicans necessary to vote in favor of CTBT (Read more here).

Special Envoy to Sudan Speaks to Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, July 30. He criticized Sudan's inclusion on the U.S. terrorism blacklist, saying that there was no evidence to back it up and calling it "a political decision." He also said that it prompted economic sanctions that hindered development.

Kenya May Turn to ICC in Addressing Domestic Violence

On Thursday, July 30, Kenyan cabinet members decided to keep all options open after discussing whether to form a local tribunal or to allow an international trial for those behind last year's post-election violence.

After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected in December 2007, supporters of his opponent, Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, erupted in violence over the allegedly rigged election. Riots, mass looting, protests, and ethnic violence continued for months, with an estimated 1,500 people killed and more than 300,000 displaced.

The divided Kenyan cabinet discussed five options during the day-long session, which was the third meeting held on this issue. While the first two meetings failed to produce an agreement, with many concerned about whether President Mwai Kibaki should have immunity, the cabinet finally "reaffirmed its commitment to rule of law, and in particular its commitment to the International Criminal Court and will cooperate and fulfill its obligations to the Court under the Rome Statute." Although they promised local judicial reform, the International Criminal Court, which has received a list of ten top suspects by crisis mediator and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, is ready to step in to try the perpetrators if Kenya's coalition government does not create its own court.

While both Kibaki and Odinga support a local court, the majority of Kenyans would prefer the ICC take the case, believing that a domestic tribunal would simply absolve the wrongdoers of blame.

Another Kenya article from 07/31/2009

Ambassador Rice Addresses House Foreign Affairs Committee on Peacekeeping

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on July 29 with Ambassador Rice to address questions on the status of United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world.  The ambassador discussed the challenges that still hobble peacekeeping.  She spoke of a "gap between supply and demand," implying that there is far more need for peacekeeping operations than there are resources within the U.N.

Responsibility to Protect versus "Humanitarian Imperialism" in the U.N. Debate

The United Nations General Assembly's debate on the Responsibility to Protect [R2P], held on July 23, showed conflicting beliefs about the role of nations intervening in cases of genocide, war crimes, and mass atrocities.

A week before the debate, Nicaraguan Reverend Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who is president of the UN General Assembly as well as a Catholic priest, issued a panel discussion and presented a position paper suggesting that R2P was essentially colonialism in disguise. "Recent and painful memories related to the legacy of colonialism give developing countries strong reasons to fear that laudable motives can end up being misused, once more, to justify arbitrary and selective interventions against weak states," he said. "We must take into account the prevailing lack of trust from most of the developing countries when it comes to the use of force for humanitarian reasons." Panelist Noam Chomsky reiterated this, saying that "virtually every use of force in international affairs has been justified in humanitarian terms, even the worst monsters."

According to Reverend D'Escoto, the true means to end genocide and mass atrocities involve world finanical reform, Security Council reform, and following a lesson from Jesus - he said in his note that "Jesus' emphasis on the redistribution of wealth to the poor and on nonviolence reinforces the right perspective on responsibility to protect."