07/29/2010 - 12:22pm
Posted by Gabriela Campos
On Monday, July 26th, a joint UN-Cambodian war crimes court convicted the first of several key players of the Khmer Rouge of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
More than three decades after Pol Pot and the leaders of the Khmer Rouge tried to turn Cambodia into a classless society based on agricultural communism, Kaing Guek Eav, commander of the movement’s main torture and execution center, was sentenced to a mere 35 years in prison, for which he will only serve 19.
As commander of Tuol Sleng prison, Eav, who is better known as Duch, blatantly admitted to overseeing the torture and deaths of 16,000 people under his command. Though he was found guilty for murder, torture, rape and crimes against humanity, Duch was only sentenced to 35 years due to his expressions of remorse, cooperation with the court, his so-called “potential for rehabilitation,” and for the coercive environment under the Khmer Rouge. Eleven years were also shaved off for his time served in prison, and another five for his illegal detention in a military prison.
Cambodians and many in the international community, alike, are outraged by the sentencing, and by the lack of rule of law. Duck, essentially, will only be serving eleven and a half hours per life that he took during his reign of his secret prison.
His sentencing is also, for a large part, accredited to not only the excessive Cambodian bureaucracy, but also to the country’s single party, hardly democratic, government that never truly backed the tribunal for its historical ties with Khmer Rouge.
Early next year, the same court is scheduled to try top leader, Nuon Chea, former head of state, Khieu Samphan, and two others. Yet, unlike Duch, they have denied any guilt. Whether the UN or the tribunal itself will be able to bring them to trial remains to be seen as political interference from the current Cambodian government might set delays.
There needs to be an increase of international pressure to bring them to trial and pursue justice for the acts of genocide committed during the Khmer Rouge.
07/28/2010 - 12:34pm
Ideologically diverse yet respected foreign policy experts and high-ranking military officials—Henry Kissinger, George P. Schultz, Richard Burt, Robert Gates Hillary Clinton, and Adm. Mike Mullen—support the New START treaty. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg noted the reason for this phenomenon: “At its core, the debate is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who understand the world of nuclear weapons has changed dramatically and those who still view national security through a pre-9/11, Cold War lens.”
Treaty opponents embrace this Cold War hysteria, imagining a game of international chess that did not stop with the collapse of the Soviet Union. For them, first strike capability, acceptable losses, and thousands of nuclear weapons trained on major population centers have become a way of life. They demand to see negotiation records, hoping to uncover proof of Ivan’s cunning as he stealthily softens up lazy American capitalists for a surprise nuclear strike. Small wonder that those who entertain this skewed fantasy would sacrifice the proven benefits of a strategic arms treaty and bet the house on an unwanted, nonexistent panacea. These neo-Cold Warriors either are incapable of accepting the changes resulting from the end of the Cold War or they seek to return to the heady days of an unfettered nuclear arms race.
Take, for example, the repeated claim that the treaty will hobble the development of a missile shield. According to the far-right Heritage Foundation, it should “be the goal of the U.S. to have a missile defense system that renders nuclear threats by other nations useless.” They tacitly ignore the actual purpose of U.S. missile defense—preventing a nuclear strike from rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran—and demand a missile shield unlike anything ever imagined by the last Bush administration. The missile shield they dream of is a relic of the Cold War, a fantastical Star Wars system capable of enveloping the U.S. in an impenetrable cocoon of nuclear deterrence against Russia. If the U.S. were to follow the path laid out by these treaty opponents, a costly and destabilizing modern-day arms race will be unavoidable.
At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. DeMint inquired "Don't we want to expand our defenses so that we can obliterate Russia's offensive capability?” His simple question reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the inherent relationship between offensive and defensive nuclear weapons. Beyond that, Sen. DeMint’s query woefully misinterprets the history of arms reduction treaties, and the necessity of non-proliferation in a post 9/11 world.
If the U.S. were to develop this mythical impenetrable missile shield, it would send shockwaves through the nuclear community. According to Sen. Kerry, it could “obliterate one party’s sense of deterrence,” and force nations like Russia and China to pour resources into developing an offensive nuclear arsenal large enough to eliminate this sudden gap.
Unchecked proliferation presents a more pressing concern, with unsecured nuclear weapons exponentially raising the likelihood of nuclear terrorism. A missile shield could not prevent a martyr from detonating a bomb in an American city, and nuclear deterrence holds no sway with non-state actors. Even if we spend untold billions arming ourselves to the teeth, safely ensconced in our mythical cocoon, we will not be invulnerable. Worse still, it will usher in a new age of nuclear paranoia not seen since the height of the Cold War.
In a nuclear world America cannot go it alone. Contrary to the baseless fear mongering of opponents like the Heritage Foundation, ratifying the New START treaty will not lead to a new arms race. It is not a drastically new agreement, but a reiteration of arms treaties supported by every administration since Reagan. If we ignore the treaty and pursue a path of nuclear hegemony, we will create a living, breathing monster that threatens the citizens of every nation.
The best and brightest cannot concoct a strategic plan or weapon system that will provide the safety and security that New START offers. There is no magic solution, no technological marvel to guarantee safety. Opponents of the treaty would do well to heed the words of “Nuclear Wizards” author Fred Kaplan: “The nuclear strategists had come to impose order -– but in the end, chaos still prevailed.”
The history of civilization shows no force more unstoppable than the madness of man. Mankind survived the Fall of Rome, the Grand Inquisition, and the Holocaust, but now we face a thousand-year night. That’s why we must remain vigilant. That’s why we must support New START. President John F. Kennedy recognized the catastrophic alternative: “Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
Michael Crabtree is a Research Associate at Citizens for Global Solutions.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will be voting on the New START treaty August 3rd. Join the New START facebook page for one final push. It's time to tell the Republican members of the SFRC to vote Yes on START.
07/27/2010 - 10:08am
Posted by Melissa Kaplan
The United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on July 22nd that the 2008 declaration of independence by Kosovo from Serbia does not violate international law.
07/20/2010 - 12:15pm
Written by Open DemocracyAriela Blätter for
The ICC's decision to reinstate three counts of genocide against President Bashir of Sudan is to be welcomed
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo's July 2008 announcement seeking the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes was a lightning rod for Court-bashing and panic-mongering. At the time, critics argued that Ocampo’s move would come at the expense of peace in Darfur, the charge of genocide was over-reaching, and that the Prosecutor was on an unchecked wild-goose chase. Monday’s decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reinstate three counts of genocide on Bashir’s arrest warrant may begin to silence those critics.
When Ocampo initially publicly announced the genocide charge against Bashir in 2008, critics claimed he was over-reaching and had badly misjudged the situation. Among their concerns about how the arrest warrant would affect the prospects for peace, they argued that the situation in Darfur no longer resembled the dynamics evident between 2003 and 2005, when a scorched earth policy, intended to eradicate members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups, resulted in some 113,000 excess deaths. [i] The linchpin of these arguments was that a post-2005 Darfur should not be described as experiencing genocide but was instead suffering from a messier complex emergency. But this was simply a red herring. Whether true or not, the fact that genocidal acts may have been commissioned by the head of state at any time between 2003 and 2008 - the dates covered by the indictment - justified Ocampo decision to present his case to the three judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber. And that is why last week’s decision, that it was reasonable to believe that Bashir committed genocide and to move forward with charges, was the right one for the Court to make.
Now the Prosecutor is free to present the mass of evidence he has gathered since 2003, which covers atrocities that Bashir is alleged to have committed when he was the commander of the Sudan's civil and military apparatus. Specifically, they point to his role in masterminding a genocidal plan to eradicate the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. Acting on the pretext of counterinsurgency, this policy caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to be uprooted from their homes, destroyed their means of survival, and condemned many of them to death in the desert or in the overcrowded camps. As if this wasn't enough, Bashir employed what Ocampo asserts was control of the state apparatus in order to subject the survivors living in displacement camps to rape, hunger and even more attacks - and therefore eventually bring about their physical destruction.
The Prosecutor’s initial decision to take this case forward was dogged by claims that it was badly timed. Sudan's UN ambassador charged that the ICC action would also have "disastrous consequences" for the peace process in Darfur. This could only be true if there was evidence of a effective and substantive peace process in the first place. In reality, however, the Darfur Peace Agreement languished and two alleged abusers are signatories-President Bashir's government and the rebel leader Minni Minawi, now a conspirator of Bashir, who has been accused of heinous crimes himself. Looking to the situation in the wake of last week’s ICC ruling, the Doha peace process is in tatters. Even senior UN officials will admit privately that it has failed, and only continues now to because it can’t be stopped.[ii] Ocampo's view of the timing of the arrest warrant in 2008, which applies just as much today, was that as any prosecutor, with such evidence in his hand, had a duty to act and did not have "the luxury to look away." Ocampo, who also believes that he has a duty to contribute to the prevention of international crimes, has pointed out that every day which Bashir remains free enables him to engage in the commission of additional hostilities and abuses.
Many have argued that by acting beyond his competences, the Prosecutor has made a misstep in alleging genocide against a sitting head of state. This is not the case. It’s easy to forget that prosecutor's authority to act was bestowed upon his office by the UN Security Council (Resolution 1593) to investigate past and present crimes in Darfur. The prosecutor's decision to target the top of the food chain with his indictment of Bashir was taken only after his first set of indictments focused on two "middle men": Ali Kushaby, a Janjawid colonel, who was accused of leading the attacks against four villages, but was subsequently released by Bashir’s regime for "lack of evidence," and Ahmad Harun, former Minister of the State for the Interior, later promoted to Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs - a position meant to provide assistance to the Darfuri people - who was indicted for rape, torture and murder.
Finally, what is unique about Monday’s decision by the ICC is that it shows that this young Court is working. By adding the charge of genocide to the Bashir “indictment” on appeal, these judges were saying that, like all judicial bodies, they sometimes get it wrong; that their decision-making was not affected by the very public criticism of Ocampo’s earlier attempts to secure a genocide charge; and that the trial chamber ultimately valued over all other considerations the pursuit of justice for the victims of Darfur. It is also clear that despite fears to the contrary, Ocampo is not a renegade Prosecutor. A strong system of checks and balances exist in the Court’s system which was responsible first for striking the charge of genocide in 2008, and then on appeal reinstating it in 2010.What is as clear today, as it was when this issue first came before the ICC two years ago, is that holding Bashir accountable for his acts may be the only way to achieve real and substantive peace in Darfur.
Ariela Blätter is an international human rights lawyer and the Director of Policy and Programming for Citizens for Global Solutions in Washington DC.
[i] O. Degomme and D. Guha-Sapir, “Patterns of Mortality Rates in Darfur Conflict”, Lancet, vol. 135 (23 January 2010), p. 298. At http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61967-X/abstract
[ii] J. Flint, “Going Nowhere in Doha”, Making Sense of Darfur, 15 June 2010, at http://blogs.ssrc.org/sudan/2010/06/15/going-nowhere-in-doha/
07/19/2010 - 1:16pm
The indictment of Sudanese President al-Bashir on charges of genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a critical step forward for the victims of Darfur. This action sends a clear signal to world leaders that there is no immunity for genocide.
This is the first time the ICC has brought charges of genocide against a sitting head of state. The charges send a clear signal from the world community that crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes will not be tolerated. The message is "mass atrocities = jail."
The charges also provide an important opportunity for the Obama Administration to work with the Court to bring one of the world's worst criminals to justice and to create a more peaceful future for Sudan.
The situation in Sudan is devolving. The new indictment will help to increase international pressure on the Sudanese government. According to Save Darfur there has been a new escalation of violence in Darfur since the April 2010 elections. Tribal clashes, government obstruction of UNAMID peacekeepers and humanitarian operation, banditry and resource shortages are intensifying the situation on the ground. Many crimes, particularly violence against women go unreported. 600 new deaths were reported in May alone.
Dave Eggers and John Prendergast propose in the NY Times increased US pressure on Sudan including "placing sanctions on key ruling party officials, blocking debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, supporting International Criminal Court arrest warrants, tightening the United Nations arms embargo and providing further support to the south." This makes very good sense.
Monday's charges against al-Bashir are in addition to the 2008 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly orchestrating coordinated acts of murder, rape, torture and forced expulsions.
The charges stem from al-Bashir's campaigns against tribal groups Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa in Dafur. During the seven-year conflict in Darfur, the United Nations estimates that 300,000 people died and 2.7 million have been forced from their homes. ICC court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo accused al-Bashir of keeping an estimated 2.5 million refugees from specific ethnic groups in camps in Dafur "under genocide conditions, like a gigantic Auschwitz."
Don Kraus is the CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions and co chairs the CEDAW Task Force of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
What does the ICC do? It tries to bring justice to these individuals: http://usaforicc.org/mostwanted/
07/14/2010 - 9:17am
07/13/2010 - 1:32pm
As the hearings on the New START Treaty continue in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, support for the treaty has come from many sources, including the United States military. Gen. Kevin Chilton, U.S. Strategic Command Chief and the man responsible for the country’s nuclear forces, presented both financial and tactical reasons for ratification. Without the treaty, U.S. insight into Russian nuclear capabilities would be severely limited. Guesstimates would replace concrete Intel, leading to one of two possibilities:
Considering the budgetary quagmire the U.S. is currently faces, we can ill afford an unnecessary and unwarranted spending spree.
Does this treaty endanger America’s National Security?
But with a vocal minority up in arms over perceived limitations to missile defense, suspicion abounds that the New START treaty will critically hinder U.S. defenses. Are these concerns warranted? The answer is a resounding no, and it has been reiterated by steady stream of military officials and foreign policy experts from both political parties. During his testimony before the SFRC, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates emphatically noted, "The treaty will not constrain the United States from deploying the most effective missile defenses possible nor impose additional costs or barriers on those defenses."
At another SFRC hearing, Senator Lugar (R-IN) said “Yesterday, our treaty negotiators told us that missile defense language, including the unilateral Russian and American statements accompanying the New START Treaty, in no way inhibits future missile defense deployments.” As an afterthought for those conspiracy minded individuals who stubbornly resist ratification, the Senator added “And there are no secret deals with Moscow on missile defense.”
While a renewed treaty with Russia certainly appears to be in the best interest of the United Sates, the threat of a nuclear exchange between these two nations seems remote. Does this treaty take into account the threat posed by rogue states such as Iran or North Korea? According to Kerry (D-MA), Co-Chair of the SFRC, it does indeed. “Numerous witnesses, including the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have testified that the treaty will not affect America's ability to defend itself from an Iranian or North Korean missile now or in the future.” These statements hardly leave room for ambiguity.
The result of these hearings will reach far beyond the partisan gridlock that currently plagues Washington. The New START treaty allows us to renew and strengthen our relationship with the other major nuclear power. Considering the United States and Russia possess 95 percent of world’s nuclear weapons, a firm commitment for verification and reduction is essential to peace and security for both nations.
Following the end of the Cold War and passage of START I, the two countries have witnessed the benefits of mutual cooperation. START I created a watershed moment for the two nuclear powers. “Since Russia and the United States no longer presented an existential threat to each other,” explained Sen. Kerry, “they now had a common interest in cooperating to make their nuclear deployments smaller, safer, and more secure.”
The New START Treaty stands poised to continue this positive momentum built up over the last two decades. This security extends beyond the here and now. As gravely noted by Henry Kissinger during his testimony before the SFRC “This Committee's decision will affect the prospects for peace for a decade or more.”
Support New START? Join the New START Treaty's Week of Action.
07/12/2010 - 3:09pm
Posted by Melissa Kaplan
Sunday, July 11th marked a sober anniversary for Bosnia, Europe, and the world. Fifteen years ago, approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred at Srebrenica by Serb forces, in the worst incident of genocide on the continent since World War Two.
07/11/2010 - 6:24pm
Posted by Don Kraus
I just published this oped on the Huffington Post:
Our nation is blessed with a conscience that demands an end to unjust wars. During the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, tens of thousands of protesters chanted in the streets, crashed the phone system of Congress, and creatively made their collective shout of "No More War" heard.
Unfortunately, the anti-war movement was AWOL last month during one of the greatest opportunities humanity has ever had to put an end to war. During the first two weeks of June, representatives from 84 nations and more than 600 civil society groups met in Kampala, Uganda and took an historic first step towards criminalizing aggression. Imagine the impact on future tyrants and misguided leaders if the reward for planning and carrying out an offensive war was a trip to the slammer... Read More
07/08/2010 - 1:30pm
Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and failed presidential contender, now sets his sights on the 2012 election. He has decided the best way to secure the nomination is to ramp up the crazy.
Romney took to the Washington Post to decry the New START treaty currently making its way through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rather then add substantively to the debate, the former governor trotted out the same tired arguments that treaty opponents have been bleating since Senators Kerry and Lugar began hearings over two months ago. From Senator Inhofe and DeMint to the Heritage Foundation, Republicans focused on what they view as a glaring flaw in the treaty, missile defense. They claim the treaty will severely limit the development of a U.S. missile shield, and will signal to hostile powers that America lacks the will to defend itself. There’s one problem with these claims: they are flat out wrong.
Romney’s argument follows the rich tradition driving the Republican Party right now. The tea-partiers and other fringe groups require a certain level of cocksure militarism. Just look at McCain in 2008, with his impromptu hit song “Bomb Iran” set to the tune of the Beach Boy’s “Barbara Ann.” It evoked a jingoistic swagger that the Republican base ate up, akin to G.W. strutting on an aircraft carrier in his flight suit and codpiece. After all, what could be the harm in starting a third war with a far better equipped country while still hemorrhaging resources in America’s two current wars?
Numerous witnesses have repeated in SFRC hearings that the New START Treaty will not constrain missile defense in any way, shape, or form. Period. Seriously, look it up. Bi-Partisan support for the treaty makes this crystal clear. An op-ed written by under secretary of Defense for Policy and in collaboration with the under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics stated:
“The fact is that the treaty does not constrain the U.S. from testing, developing and deploying missile defenses. Nor does it prevent us from improving or expanding them. Nor does it raise the costs of doing so.”
This doesn’t sound like the Neville Chamberlain capitulation that Mitt Romney rails about in his piece. But is it an isolated opinion? The answer is a resounding no, unless, like Romney and friends, you choose to ignore the opinions of authorities like Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, Hillary Clinton, or the 30 top National Security leaders that came out in support of ratifying the treaty.
In this post 9/11 world, it’s interesting how quickly certain individuals revert to a Cold War mentality. In Romney’s article, he cursorily mentions rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, and doesn’t bother to discuss terrorist groups seeking to construct a dirty bomb. Instead it’s right back to the arms-races. Romney claims that “New-START gives Russia a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States,” noting the disparity of Russia’s arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons that currently outnumbers the United States by 10:1. He observes that while they cannot strike America “surely they can reach our allies, nations that depend on us for a nuclear umbrella.”
An interesting observation. The nuclear umbrella and the security provided by the U.S. and NATO have allowed European nations to invest in social programs rather than defense. Is this in the best interest of American citizens? Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul noted,
“After World War II, with…the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role…The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense.”
This doesn’t mesh with the foreign policy strategy of the former governor, who prefers to invoke a neo-Teddy Roosevelt policy that relies on the big stick, but ignores speaking softly. America should not turn its back on our allies, yet we must find another path to global security. Conveniently, the Reps’ indicated a common sense policy of protection:
“When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed.”
Until Mitt Romney and his obstinate brethren in Congress stop trying to score cheap political points, America’s national security continues to be put at risk. It’s time to move beyond the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell twenty-one years ago. The Soviet Union ceased to exist nineteen years ago. Ratifying New START will not drive Russia into a headlong pursuit of nuclear hegemony; instead it will provide verifiable benchmarks for the two major nuclear powers to reduce existing stock and monitor the development of new weapons and delivery systems. Passing the treaty will not harm America’s national security. Failing to pass it will.
For more on the New START Treaty, visit our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/newstarttreaty
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