Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Charles Taylor verdict shows that future despots have nowhere left to hide

by Mark Malloch-Brown

Financial Times

April 26, 2012

As Kofi Annan’s number two at the UN, I recall a long few days painstakingly monitoring with lawyers the procedures for the handover of the exiled Charles Taylor by his Nigerian hosts-turned-captors to the Liberian authorities and thence in mid-air to the UN and so to the Hague and his trial. Everything had to be done by the book to avoid later appeal but we were writing the book as we went along. This had hardly been done before. Until then international justice when it came to leaders who had run amok had been with the exception of Nuremberg more mouse than lion when it came to action. Indeed when Mr Taylor went to Nigeria he thought he had a deal ensuring him lifelong sanctuary.

Now the outcome of this special court, the verdicts of the International Criminal Court and the Balkan trials of Slobodan Milošević and fellow military and political leaders, Cambodia’s internationally supported prosecution of Khmer Rouge leaders and others tell a very different story of gathering international judicial activism. Leaders usually cannot get away with mass crimes against citizens anymore. Even if their own judicial and institutional systems are too weak to hold them to account, there is now a higher international authority that will.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Το έλλειμμα στα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα

του Διονύση Γουσέτη

Athens Voice

25 Απριλίου 2012

Έχει επανειλημμένα ειπωθεί ότι τούτη η κρίση δεν είναι μόνο οικονομική. Σε ψηλότερο επίπεδο είναι πολιτική και σε ακόμη ψηλότερο πολιτιστική. Καίριος δείκτης του πολιτισμού μια κοινωνίας είναι η εφαρμογή της νομοθεσίας και των κανόνων για τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα. Θυμίζω τρία περιστατικά παραβίασης ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων που έγιναν μόλις τον περασμένο μήνα.

Το πρώτο μας το προσφέρει ο εκπρόσωπος της Ελλάδας, πρέσβης Γ. Κακλίκης. Στις 2/3/2012 βεβαίωσε την 19η Συνέλευση του Συμβουλίου του ΟΗΕ για τα Ανθρώπινα Δικαιώματα, ότι «η Ελλάδα έχει ισχυρή νομοθεσία κατά των διακρίσεων, η οποία απαγορεύει, μεταξύ άλλων, τις διακρίσεις με βάση τον σεξουαλικό προσανατολισμό και την ταυτότητα φύλου». Ο κ. πρέσβης παραπλανά τον ΟΗΕ. Το «Παρατηρητήριο Ελσίνκι», μαζί με ομοφυλοφιλικές οργανώσεις, μας πληροφόρησε ότι η Ελλάδα όχι μόνο δεν διαθέτει την «ισχυρή νομοθεσία» που ισχυρίστηκε, αλλά δεν έχει καν ενσωματώσει, ως όφειλε από το 2008, τη σχετική δεσμευτική απόφαση - πλαίσιο 2008/913/ΔΕΥ της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, την οποία έχει υπερψηφίσει. Αντ’ αυτού, υπήρξε ένα νομοσχέδιο που ήλθε στη Βουλή και απήλθε με το φόβο της …καταψήφισης!

Το δεύτερο περιστατικό αφορά τον Άρειο Πάγο. Απέρριψε την εφαρμογή απόφασης του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου. Συγκεκριμένα, απέρριψε αίτηση της Τουρκικής Ένωσης Ξάνθης για την αναγνώρισή της ως νόμιμου σωματείου παρά την προηγούμενη δικαίωσή της στο Στρασβούργο. Το χειρότερο είναι το σκεπτικό του Αρείου Πάγου, κατά το οποίο οι αποφάσεις του Ευρωπαϊκού Δικαστηρίου Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου δεν είναι δεσμευτικές! Το ίδιο είχε κάνει ο Άρειος Πάγος και το 2009 με το σωματείο «Στέγη Μακεδονικού Πολιτισμού». Φαίνεται ότι το καθεστώς της ελληνικής ανομίας ο Άρειος Πάγος θέλει να το περάσει και στην Ευρώπη!


In Afghanistan, underground girls school defies Taliban edict, threats

Washington Post
April 25, 2012

Every morning in this mountain village in eastern Afghanistan, four dozen girls sneak through a square opening in a mud-baked wall, defying a Taliban edict.

A U.S.-funded girls school about a mile away was shuttered by insurgents in 2007, two years after it opened. They warned residents that despite a new government in Kabul and an international aid effort focused on female education, the daughters of Spina were to stay home. For a while, they all did.

Then two brothers, among the few literate men in the village, began quietly teaching math, reading and writing to their female relatives in a living room on the edge of town. They wanted to keep the classes small, they said, to stay off the Taliban’s radar. That turned out to be impossible.

The United States and its allies have spent millions of dollars on female education in the past decade, and Afghan and Western officials have pointed to the issue as one of the most hopeful changes of the post-Taliban era. Female enrollment in public schools has risen from 5,000 under the Taliban to 2.5 million, according to the Afghan Education Ministry.

But Afghanistan is rife with places like Spina, where formal efforts to educate women and girls have crumbled. About 2 million Afghan girls do not attend school.

Those who do sometimes face threats. Last week, suspected militants poisoned more than 100 schoolgirls in northern Afghanistan, according to Amanullah Iman, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, who said an investigation into the incident was ongoing. The girls are recovering.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

North Korea’s gulag: Never again?

April 21, 2012

In labour camps across its remote northern reaches, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea detains an estimated 150,000-200,000 political prisoners. The regime claims to hold precisely none. Or rather, in the formulation of the late Kim Jong Il, punishing the enemies of the state protects the North Korean people’s human rights.

The gulag’s captives are not told of their crimes, though torture usually produces a “confession”—which might admit to defacing an image of the “Great Leader” or listening to a foreign broadcast. There is no defence, trial, judge or sentence, though most inmates remain in the camps for life, unless they escape. They are victims of forced disappearances, in that neighbours, colleagues and distant family members know nothing about the fate of those who vanish. Inmates are held incommunicado, without visits, food parcels, letters or radio. Chronically malnourished, they work in mines, quarries and logging camps, with one rest-day a month. Infractions of camp rules, such as stealing food meant for livestock, damaging equipment or having unauthorised sexual liaisons are punished with beatings and torture. Guards rape women prisoners, leading to forced abortions for the pregnant, or infanticide. Inmates are under pressure to snitch. Executions are routine—and fellow prisoners must often watch (see article).

Consider the case of Shin Dong-hyuk, the subject of a new book (Escape from Camp 14). He was born of “model” prisoner parents in Camp 14, Kaechon in 1982 and spent his first 22 years inside. As punishment for dropping a sewing machine, his finger was cut off. He was also suspended over a fire, and a hook was thrust through his belly, to make him “confess” to joining an escape supposedly being planned by his mother and brother. He was then made to witness their executions.


North Korea’s prison camps: The gulag behind the goose-steps

April 21, 2012

Looking down on members of a 1.1m-strong army that applauded his every remark, Kim Jong Un giggled with delight during the centenary on April 15th of the birth of his late grandfather, Kim Il Sung. The contrast with his unsmiling father, Kim Jong Il, who died in December, could not have been clearer.

Unlike his father, the mop-haired Mr Kim spoke directly to the nation, in a resonant voice that masked the monotony of his message. His regime invited international television crews to film the festivities. Unexpectedly, it admitted that a mission to put a satellite into orbit in honour of his grandfather had failed. It all made for good television, and some commentators claimed to detect signals from the young ruler of a new openness in the regime.

Yet fresh reports in recent weeks about the victims of repression in North Korea are a reminder of how ruthless the dictatorship still is. It insists that “political prisoner” is not in its vocabulary. Yet growing numbers flee persecution. According to David Hawk of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, some 23,000 recently escaped North Koreans now live in South Korea. They include hundreds of former political and other prisoners. They bring with them harrowing tales of the brutality they have suffered.

Their stories have enabled Mr Hawk to update The Hidden Gulag, which first shed light on the slave-labour conditions in North Korea in 2003. The new edition provides testimony starting in 1970 about different types of forced-labour camps: the kwan-li-so for political prisoners, from which there is usually no release; the kyo-hwa-so penitentiaries mostly for those serving out sentences as common criminals; and detention centres for those forcibly repatriated from China. All appear to involve mistreatment that frequently ends in death. In the detention centres near China, North Korean women suspected of being made pregnant by Han Chinese are subject to forced abortions, the report says. (The state preaches an extreme gospel of racial purity.)


Thursday, April 19, 2012

No real justice in Guantanamo

by Reed Brody

Los Angeles Times

April 19, 2012

Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, wearing white prison clothes, seemed by turns amused and bewildered as he sat in a bright room last week during a pretrial hearing at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nashiri is charged with being a key organizer of Al Qaeda's attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, off the coast of Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. servicemen, as well as of two other attacks. He faces the death penalty if convicted in a trial before a military commission that is scheduled to begin in November.

The Nashiri case is seen as a dry run for the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged planners of the Sept. 11 attacks, who will be arraigned in Guantanamo on May 5. But it is also important in its own right. He is accused of dreadful crimes, but even if he is found guilty, his execution would be a deeply disturbing end to a long ordeal of abuse in an archipelago of secret U.S. prisons around the world.

Nashiri was captured in Dubai in October 2002 and secretly transferred to CIA custody. He was reportedly first taken to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the "Salt Pit," then to another secret jail in Bangkok, Thailand.

A report by the CIA's inspector general details a range of abuses to which Nashiri was subjected, including waterboarding. He was sent on to Poland, where he was, according to the report, threatened with a power drill revved near his head while he was hooded but otherwise naked. His captors also cocked a semiautomatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled, held him in "standing stress positions" and threatened to sexually abuse his mother in front of him.


Guantánamo Trials Should Be Open

by David A. Schulz

New York Times

April 18, 2012

Last week I stood before a military judge at Guantánamo Bay to argue that the press and public had a constitutional right to observe the proceedings of military commissions. It is an argument I’ve made scores of times on behalf of news organizations objecting to closed proceedings in criminal and civil trials, but this was the first time that a military commission — part of a system of tribunals created in 2006 to try terrorism suspects — agreed to hear such arguments from the press.

Whether this marks a new openness, or is another in a long line of false starts, remains to be seen. But the government has a real opportunity to show its commitment to the rule of law by acknowledging that the public’s First Amendment rights apply at Guantánamo. The values served by open criminal proceedings — public acceptance of the verdict, accountability for lawyers and judges, and democratic oversight of our government institutions — apply there with particular urgency.

The controversy over public access to the Guantánamo trials has come to a head in the prosecution of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole. Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers want to meet with him unshackled, asserting that shackling brings back memories of torture and interferes with his ability to assist in preparing his defense. They proposed to call both Mr. Nashiri and a psychologist to testify in support of their request.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nostalgia for the land of opportunity

by John Plender

Financial Times

April 15, 2012

Luigi Zingales, a noted economist at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, knows a thing or two about crony capitalism. The reason he emigrated to the US from his native Italy in 1988 was because he had had enough of living in a country where promotion was based on who you knew, not what you knew. Competition there was suppressed, corruption rife and clientelism rampant. Even emergency-room doctors in Italy were promoted on the basis of political affiliation instead of ability, he says, in a new book to be published shortly.

In the US he found a country that had built a system of capitalism that was the pre-eminent exemplar of the free-market ideal of economic liberty and open competition. He thrived on this meritocratic ethos. Yet now he is beginning to have his doubts, detecting hints in America of the kind of crony capitalism that afflicted Italy in the years of economic stagnation and corruption under Silvio Berlusconi.

A clear case in point is the extent to which the legislative process has become hostage to the lobbyists, while politicians increasingly depend for campaign finance on big business. The land of opportunity is thus turning into a land of rent seekers in which business has acquired excessive power and regulators have been captured by those they regulate.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Martha Nussbaum, "Teaching Patriotism"

University of Chicago Law School
April 10, 2012

Schools teach patriotism all the time, but many people think that this is a bad idea. Patriotic rituals may convey misplaced and hierarchical values; they may coerce conscience; and they may promote a dangerous type of uncritical homogeneity. On the other hand, it seems difficult to motivate sacrifices of self-interest for the common good without patriotic emotion. Prof. Nussbaum argues that there is a way of negotiating these difficulties and teaching a type of patriotism that is rooted in good values, protective of conscience, and friendly to critical thinking and dissent. Prof. Nussbaum illustrates her argument from the history of the U. S. and India, discussing Lincoln, King, Gandhi, and Nehru. This talk was recorded on April 10, 2012, as part of the Chicago's Best Ideas lecture series and was sponsored by Winston & Strawn LLP.

Martha Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School.