The Global Citizen
Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. Ambassador and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist/associate editor, penned a great opinion piece on "extraordinary rendition" and the betrayal of U.S. principles in Wednesday's Post-Gazette.
For me, it takes me back to the days of working in U.S. embassies with repressive governments that showed little respect for the rule of law. These were countries such as Burundi, apartheid-era South Africa, Bulgaria, Zaire and the Central African Republic. In those places, the United States tried hard to keep tabs on political prisoners -- people whom the host governments detained, locked up and frequently never brought to trial. In many cases, the American embassy, the prisoners' families and local human rights groups -- if there were any -- were the only ones trying to monitor these people so that they would not just disappear from view, perhaps to die.
The idea that it is now the United States doing such things -- and that it is American human rights groups who are working with the families and friends of people to see that they don't just disappear into a CIA jail in Poland or Romania, or into the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, or, perhaps worst of all, into some prison in Iraq or Afghanistan, never to be seen again -- is painful and shameful.
What are we doing? What are we becoming?
On June 14th at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations announced that Kofi Annan would head up their new African agriculture initiative.
I have little doubt that readers of this blog have noticed our more-than-occasional rants about insufficient U.S. funding for multilateral activities and institutions. Global poverty and U.N. peacekeeping have been the areas I've pushed for hardest, but there's another that's just as much in need and even less noticed.
On Tuesday, June 12, the House Appropriations Committee approved the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY 2008, which determines the funding levels for the federal government's international programs and contributions to international organizations. This bill marks an important signal of the global priorities of the democratically controlled House.
To build upon what my colleague Raj wrote earlier on the Bush Administration's 'movement' on the ICC, yesterday revealed a move by the Sudanese government that looks like a step forward but doesn't go anywhere at all.? Am I surprised? Not really.
Sudan announced (for what seems like the hundredth time) that they accept an African Union - United Nations joint proposal for a hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur. Sudan initially agreed to the force "in principle" at a November 2006 meeting in Addis Ababa with the African Union, then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, members of the U.N. Security Council, and the Sudanese government. Since then, they have issued several public statements accepting various packages of a three-phase deployment, with the most recent announcement in April.
First the good news:
John B. Bellinger III, the Legal Adviser at the State Department, indictated in a speech he gave at The Hague that a thaw in U.S. relations with the ICC is a real possibility (mostly because of Darfur). Bellinger has been pushing for a more rational policy re: the Court and finally seems to be winning this fight.
Alas there is also some bad news to share.
The British government is facing a pubic inquiry into their use of torture in Iraq after the Law Lords found for the family of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in British Army custody. He died after being held and tortured by British forces over a 36 hour period. An inquiry now seems inevitable and, as it begins to unfold, it will surely increase the pressure on the U.S. to form an Independent Bipartisan Commission to look into torture and interrogation issues.
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