Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Prosecutor Speaks

In this brief interview on the Foreign Policy website, Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, discusses the prospects for bringing five of Serbia's most wanted fugitives, including Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić, to justice before the tribunal is phased out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TIP 2007

The U.S. State Department released the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report yesterday. Sixteen states were placed in Tier 3, which is reserved for the worst of the worst--those states that "do not fully comply with the minimum standards [to fight trafficking] and are not making significant efforts to do so."

Among the states making their first appearance in Tier 3 are Qatar, which has been the subject of recent scrutiny in the United States as a result of an ATS suit on behalf of camel jockeys and their parents, and Equatorial Guinea. Of the latter, the Report states,

Equatorial Guinea is primarily a destination country for children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and possibly for commercial sexual exploitation, though some children may also be trafficked within the country from rural areas to Malabo and Bata for these same purposes. Children are trafficked from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, and Gabon for domestic, farm and commercial labor to Malabo and Bata, where demand is high due to a thriving oil industry and a growing expatriate business community. Reports indicate that there are girls in prostitution in Equatorial Guinea from Cameroon, Benin, Togo, other neighboring countries, and the People's Republic of China, who may be victims of trafficking.

The "thriving oil industry" noted by the report has been a catalyst for many forms of corruption in Equatorial Guinea and elsewhere.

For a brief report on the TIP Report, see this Washington Post story.

Visa Advice

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Vietnam (about which I plan to write more later), I came across this bit of advice: "If you think that getting arrested may be a part of your itinerary, try to get your visa issued on a separate piece of paper from your passport."

It was intended to be a joke . . . I think.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another General Speaks Out

According to The Onion, another military expert has decided to express his views on the Iraq War:

Breaking a 211-year media silence, retired Army Gen. George Washington appeared on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday to speak out against many aspects of the way the Iraq war has been waged.

Washington, whose appearance marked the first time the military leader and statesman had spoken publicly since his 1796 farewell address in Philadelphia, is the latest in a string of retired generals stepping forward to criticize the Iraq war.

The Onion really nails the Bush administration's response to expert critics:

White House response to the former general's criticism was swift and sharp. Spokesman Tony Fratto dismissed Washington as "increasingly irrelevant" and "a relic" who "made some embarrassing gaffes" during his own military career, such as the Continental Army's near destruction in the Battle of Long Island in 1776.

Read the whole thing here.

[Via Opinio Juris.]

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Beginning of the End

From the Washingon Post:

A federal appeals court today ruled that President Bush cannot indefinitely imprison a U.S. resident on suspicion alone, and ordered the government to either charge Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri with his alleged terrorist crimes in a civilian court or release him.

The opinion is a major blow to the Bush administration's assertion that as the president seeks to combat terrorism, he has exceptionally broad powers to detain without charges both foreign citizens abroad and those living legally in the United States. The government is expected to appeal the 2-1 decision handed down by a three-judge panel of the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which is in Richmond, Va.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, yesterday, on Meet the Press:

Guantanamo has become a major, major problem . . . in the way the world perceives America and if it were up to me I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow but this afternoon . . . and I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Camel Jockeys and the ATS

I don't have time to comment on this right now, but please note this article by Adam Liptak in Sunday's New York Times concerning a class-action lawsuit filed in Florida last September against a number of wealthy individuals in the United Arab Emirates. Asserting the federal court's jurisdiction under the 1789 Alien Tort Statute, attorneys for the plaintiffs--young camel jockeys who worked in the UAE, and their parents--allege that the owners of racing camels in the UAE abducted children from their homes in various South Asian countries and kept them in conditions of slavery, both violations of the law of nations as required by the Alien Tort Statute.

[Via Opinio Juris.]

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Gators

Washington Post writer Laura Blumenfeld, whose book Revenge: A Story of Hope recounts her effort to find the terrorist who shot her father in Jerusalem in 1986, has an interesting story in today's paper about three interrogators (or "gators," as they're called in the U.S. military)--one who worked in Iraq, one who worked in Northern Ireland, and one who worked in Israel.

A Ruling at Guantánamo

A military judge at Guantánamo Bay has ruled that the military commissions there do not have jurisdiction over detainees who have not been declared "unlawful enemy combatants." Col. Peter Brownback's ruling halted--at least temporarily--the prosecution of Omar Ahmed Khadr, the Canadian national who was captured in Afghanistan five years ago.

For more on the ruling, see this story in the International Herald Tribune.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Military I," Five Years Later

The trial of Théoneste Bagosora and three co-defendants on charges of plotting the genocide that decimated Rwanda in 1994 has concluded in Arusha, Tanzania.

Considered "the most important genocide trial" since the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948 and designated "Military I" by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the trial spanned 408 trial days over the course of five years and involved 242 witnesses, 1, 584 exhibits, and over 300 written decisions from the bench.

Bagosora, who held a cabinet position in the Rwandan defense ministry at the time of the genocide, took over the armed forces on April 6, 1994, when President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down. The following morning, Bagosora allegedly ordered existing plans for the genocide to be carried out.

According to the Guardian, Bagosora never presented himself before the tribunal as a very sympathetic character: "Asked to illustrate how a subordinate would carry out an order, he gave the example of assigning someone to kill a member of the courtroom. Asked about a report that he had appeared at roadblocks alongside the death squads, he said it was an insult to a man of his rank."

Verdicts in the "Military I" case and in a number of other recently completed cases are expected later this year.

For more on the trial, see the Guardian story here and the ICTR website here.


Michael Kinsley, writing in today's Washington Post, exposes a number of the inconsistencies in the arguments being made on behalf of continued support for the war in Iraq. Here's a sample:

There was a time, circa 1999, when Republicans considered it the height of naivete, irresponsibility and indifference to the fate of American soldiers to commit any troops to action in a foreign country without what used to be called an "exit strategy." That was when the president was a Democrat. Now it is considered the height of naivete, irresponsibility and indifference to the fate of American soldiers to suggest the possibility of any exit strategy short of triumph. If you do, you are betraying the troops. And no one sees actual triumph in the cards, so there is no exit strategy.

After noting the Wall Street Journal's suggestion that Democrats use the power of the purse if they really want to end the war--and pointing out that the same Wall Street Journal applauded the Reagan Administration's illegal efforts to get around congressionally imposed funding restrictions in the Iran-Contra affair--Kinsley parses the argument that Bush, being democratically elected, has a certain democratic legitimacy for his policy of going to war in Iraq:

Of course, the president is elected, and in that sense he is acting as proxy for the citizens when he decides to take our country into a war. Right? Well, not quite. Let's leave aside the voting anomalies of the 2000 election. When this president first ran for national office, he campaigned on a platform of criticizing his predecessor for engaging in military action (in Kosovo and Somalia) without an exit strategy. He mocked the notion of trying to establish democracy in distant lands. He denounced the use of American soldiers for "nation-building." In 2000, if you were looking for a way to express your disapproval of the policies and prejudices that later got us into Iraq, your obvious answer would have been to vote for George W. Bush.

Read Kinsley's essay. It's an important contribution to the current debate.