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No Immunity for National Leaders in the 'Shadow of the Court'

Last night I had the pleasure of participation in a presentation at the Council on Foreign Relations given by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  As conveyors' of the Washington Working Group on the ICC we had helped him set up a few meetings on the Hill.  Our Program Coordinator, Abby Long helped out tremendously in this effort.

My friend Mark Goldberg at the UN Dispatch wrote an excellent piece on Ocampo's key points.

I want to emphasize two points that Mark mentioned and one that he didn't:

First, the true relevance of the Court is its global impact. Ocampo said that:

"Even before any ruling in the Lubanga case, the issue of child recruitment gained new momentum, triggered debates in remote countries like Colombia or Sri Lanka and child soldiers were released in Nepal. The Special representative of the UN Secretary-General on children in armed conflicts immediately factored in such potential and used us as a tool to campaign around the world, and secure even more releases." This is an example of how the Court can help to prevent crimes.  While the ICC will only deal with a few cases, its "shadow" extends far beyond them and the 110 nations that are Parties to the Rome Statute.

Second, political leaders sought by the ICC, such as Sudanese President Al-Bashir, are increasingly being shunned by other leaders and nations.  According to Ocampo:

ICC to Reconsider Genocide Charge in Bashir Case

Today (February 3rd 2010) the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court unanimously reversed ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I's decision of March 2009 which excluded the charge of genocide on the arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir.  The decision was based on the grounds that the judges had set the standard of proof too high for the Pre-Trial stage. The Appeals Chamber remanded the decision to the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide, based on the correct standard of proof, whether a warrant of arrest should be extended to cover the crime of genocide.

In 1989 Omar Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup. Throughout his presidency, there have been several violent struggles between the Janjaweed militia and rebel groups such as the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the form of guerilla warfare in the Darfur region. Since 2003 violent conflict in Darfur has resulted in 2.5 million people reportedly being displaced and death tolls estimated at between 200,000 and 400,000.

Don Kraus, Chief Executive Officer of GlobalSolutions.org stated:

"Today's ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges demonstrates the wheels of international justice at work.  We are now one step closer to holding accused war criminal Omar Al-Bashir in front of the world's premier court for trying perpetrators of mass atrocities. Adding a charge of genocide to Al-Bashir's arrest warrant, would be a first for the ICC and for a sitting head of state. This charge would add to the equally grave charges Al-Bashir faces of Crimes against Humanity and War Crime, including murder, extermination and rape.. President Al-Bashir is still evading arrest, despite the grave charges against him and still presides over a government that is harboring a fugitive from the law.  Each day that Al-Bashir is free from remand is another win for impunity for the world's most egregious crimes."

Update on the ICC's Arrest Warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Tomorrow (Wednesday February 3rd) the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will determine whether the standard of proof used by Pre-Trial Chamber I to examine the Prosecutor's evidence on genocide was correct in the case of Sudan's President, Omar al Bashir.

On March 31st, 2005, the United Nations Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the Prosecutor of the ICC. On July 14th, 2008, the prosecution filed an application for an arrest warrant for Bashir.  The prosecution, based on the evidence collected, alleged that three types of crimes had been committed: genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

On March 4th, 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided that the material provided by the Prosecutor failed to provide reasonable grounds to believe that Bashir had the specific intent to commit genocide. Consequently, the crime of genocide was not included in the warrant issued.  Pre-Trial Chamber I issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on five count of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, including murder, extermination and rape. Judge Ušacka, one of the three judges, dissented, saying that it is only at the trial phase that it is necessary to present evidence that allows the Court to reach a conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.  She argued, additionally, that genocide should have been among the charges included.

On July 6th, 2009, the Prosecutor appealed the decision, submitting that, according to article 58 of the Rome Statute, judges are only required to affirm that there is "reasonable evidence" that an individual committed a certain crime for the issuance of an arrest warrant.

Check back on this blog tomorrow for a summary of the decision.

Throughout the proceedings Sudan has refuses to cooperate with the ICC and has stated that it will not hand Bashir over to the Court.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation, 18 Years Later

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.  According to the United Nations, the organization responsible for the legislation, "the Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States."  Five of the states party to the treaty are considered nuclear weapon states: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

However, the United States has been criticized on several occasions for violating the provisions of the treaty when negotiating arms sales with India, a recognized nuclear state that has refused to sign the NPT.  In 2008, President Obama stated that he wished to "strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions."  Additional nuclear states that are noticeably absent from the list of signatures are Israel and Pakistan.  The treaty, set to be assessed every five years, will be reviewed in May of this year.

With regard specifically to negotiations between Russia and the United States regarding US-Russia nuclear relations, one successful treaty is the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).  The goals of the legislation are to limit the number of warheads each state has within its nuclear arsenal.  The treaty, which expires in 2012, requires semi-annual negotiations of the provisions of the document.

UNDP Panel Discusses Human Development Index

(With Patrick Fiedler)

Colleagues from GlobalSolutions.org and we attended a panel discussion on Thursday, January 28, 2010, hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) entitled "Rethinking Human Development - Part One."  The "Part One" indicates that this is the first of a series of such presentations to be offered during the year.

The panelists were Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department; Kemal Dervis, former Administrator of UNDP currently at The Brooking Institution, and Jeni Klugman, Director of UNDP Human Development Report Office, all moderated by David Yang, Senior Advisor in the Washington Office of UNDP.

The focus of the panel was UNDP's "Human Development Index" (HDI), a ranking of nations that relies on measures of education, health and income, seeking to measure human well-being rather than merely economic growth.

The "Sarkozy Commission," headed by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, has spearheaded a push to further legitimize the HDI and recommended that the HDI include improved and expanded  indicators.   In the panel discussion, Dr. Dervis suggested a greater reliance on "medians" rather than averages or "means" to make data more comparable.

Each of the panelists referred to a December address at Georgetown University by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton in which she expressed the importance of a U.S. foreign policy that emphasizes ensuring human rights.  U.S. foreign policy, she said, should adhere to American values "including the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the prerequisite for building a world in which every person has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential."  From this perspective human rights are not merely a complement to foreign policy - considerations of human rights help guide the foreign policy decisions.

Priorities, Priorities!

During President Obama's first State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, he focused on the upcoming economic challenges to be faced by the American people, as well as health care legislation and educational reform at all levels.  However, he also spoke about several issues that are key to the work of GlobalSolutions.org.

Climate Change: Although President Obama focused primarily upon the need to improve the domestic job market and American economy, he stated that".to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."  He reaffirmed his dedication to climate change legislation, asserting that "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation."

Prohibition of torture: He spoke of the threat of terrorism as well as the prohibition of torture in the same paragraph.  Through this gesture, he established a possible link between the need to balance the pursuit of terrorists and the remembrance of every individual's inherent human rights.

Nuclear non-proliferation: President Obama stated "the greatest danger to the American people - the threat of nuclear weapons." Emphasizing the importance of nuclear non-proliferation, he stated that one of his responsibilities as leader of the nation was reducing nuclear stockpiles.  Additionally, he described engaging internationally in nuclear weapons discussions at the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit to be held in April.

World Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27, 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.   International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established as a global day of commemoration by a United Nations resolution in 2005.  On the day the resolution was adopted, the President of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly, Mr. Jan Eliasson, stated that the Holocaust must "be a unifying historic warning around which we must rally, not only to recall the grievous crimes committed in human history but also to reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.We cannot continue to repeat saying 'Never again'."

More than one million people were murdered at Auschwitz; the death camp in modern-day Poland which was liberated by Soviet soldiers on January 27, 1945. President Shimon Peres of Israel addressed the German parliament in Berlin on Tuesday, January 26, 2010.  He stated: ''Across the world, survivors of the Holocaust are gradually departing from the world of the living.At the same time, men and women who took part in the most odious activity on earth -- that of genocide -- still live on German and European soil, and in other parts of the world.My request of you is: Please do everything to bring them to justice.''

The White House has sent a seven-member presidential delegation to Poland to attend the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz.  The delegation, lead by the Honorable Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, includes three Auschwitz survivors.

At the United Nations a solemn ceremony and concert will take place. Keynote remarks will be made by Nechama Tec, a Holocaust survivor, and her son, Mr. Roland Tec, co-producer of the film "Defiance."

UNICEF Warns Child Trafficking Could Emerge as a Serious Issue in Haiti

The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12th has led to a series of efforts to speed the adoption process for orphans in Haiti.  Some aid groups, however, have cautioned that a hasty process may not be in the best interests of the children and could open the door to child trafficking networks.

One issue revolves around knowing who is truly an orphan and who is not.  Save the Children Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread, said that family members may still be alive and taking children out of the country would "permanently separate thousands of children from their families - a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering".  Additionally, UNICEF spokesman, Christopher de Bono stated that it is not uncommon for Haitian parents to put their children in orphanages temporarily and, thus, finding out which children are in fact orphans requires great attention to detail and documents.

A second concern voiced by aid agencies is that moving children around without procedure in a time of national emergency can open the door to fraud and abuse, as trafficking networks take advantage of the weakness of local authorities and relief coordination. The UN's Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement saying that "[e]nslavement of children and trafficking were . existing problems, and could easily emerge as serious issues over the coming weeks and months."

Fears were raised as United Nations officials confirmed that around 15 children disappeared from a hospital in Haiti.  UNICEF adviser Jean Luc Legrand said the situation was similar to the aftermath of the tsunami in Asia five years ago: "traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability. We know from past experience that trafficking happens in the chaos that usually follows emergencies."

UN Peacekeeping Presence Grows in Haiti

As of January 25, 2010, The United Nations continued its work to provide emergency relief services to the people of Haiti with a meeting of senior United Nations officials today.  The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate the various sources of aid that are currently being channeled toward the nation.  Immediate goals for the crisis-stricken state include stabilization and security efforts, which are being led primarily through the efforts of UN Peacekeepers.

Based upon the United Nations Security Council resolution of January 19, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) expanded its forces to 8,940 troops and a police force of up to 3,711 individuals.  After visiting Port-au-Prince, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Mmoon requested an additional augmentation of troops for the region after surveying the devastation.  In describing the mission, Alain LeRoy, the UN Secretary-General for peacekeeping, stated that "their main task is to assure security and, of course, to help the Haitian people remove the rubble in all the places it can."  The latest figures indicate that there have been 81 total fatalities, of which 21 are confirmed UN Peacekeeping fatalities. The earthquake claimed the head of MINUSTAH, Hedi Annabi, as well as individuals representing Tunisia, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico, Italy, USA, Germany, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Guatemala, India, Philippines, United Kingdom, and Brazil.  According to the UN News Centre, "the earthquake has caused the single greatest loss of life in the UN's history."  With at least 50 people unaccounted for, the UN must combine efforts to assist the Haitians as well as identify the dispatched personnel.  Although early recovery efforts are currently underway, it is apparent that much greater investments into reconstruction and redevelopment of infrastructure will be necessary.

Supreme Court Ruling Changes Advocacy Landscape

Yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United holds tremendous implications for GlobalSolutions.org and our supporters.  As you read the editorials in newspapers and online and listen to the pundits on television, I invite you to consider how this decision fundamentally changes the advocacy landscape in which we often operate.

This morning, I will leave it to the law professors and historians to put this decision in context and to dissect the constitutional principles in play.   I will put aside the "pros" and "cons" of the decision to focus on this:  As a practical matter, the financing of political speech and advocacy in the U.S. will immediately change.

Citizens United, the plaintiff in this case, is a nonprofit corporation that has historically opposed GlobalSolutions.org on issues relating to United States respect for international law and customs, such as ratification of the Law of the Sea.

GlobalSolutions.org takes seriously our responsibility to represent in Washington the interests of our members and supporters and to educate and empower  our members and supporters on the issues of U.S. leadership in building international institutions and respect for rule of law.  We will continue to do so as we analyze and adapt to the consequences of this decision.

For those who value true "citizen" input into the American political process, one lesson is clear:  Organization like GlobalSolutions.org will need your sustained support more than ever.