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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Not out of hot water yet, Bashir

As if being indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity was just a lukewarm bath…But prosecutors are going to go for the full boil — a charge of genocide — again, as the ICC will re-hear evidence for the crime that it declined back in its original March ruling.

The court, set up in 2002 by international statute, could change its decision if the prosecution could gather additional evidence, the ICC said in March.

My friend Kevin Jon Heller has much more on this, but I didn’t think this was (or at least should be) about gathering additional evidence. Any overturning of the rejection of the genocide charge would seem to require an acceptance that the Sudanese government demonstrated intent to target a specific ethnic or racial group; and I’m not sure how additional evidence would prove this intent beyond the extent to which it’s already been demonstrated. I’ve read plenty of accounts, for example, of the prevalence of racial epithets during Janjaweed attacks, some of which was conducted by the UN’s own Commission of Inquiry.

So while I think a genocide finding would be legally correct, I have to assume that it was a political decision (albeit a kind of bizarre one) not to indict Bashir with the g-word, and I thus don’t hold out too much hope of the ICC changing its mind.

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U.S. troops may be leaving Iraqi cities…

…but the UN is staying. Almost 500 international personnel (and again that many Iraqis) work for the UN in Iraq, maintaining a key presence in cities like Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk. And as pretty much everyone acknowledges, what’s most important for the country in the coming months is national dialogue, political reconciliation, and regional cooperation — the very areas where the neutral brokers wearing the blue berets are taking the lead.

Somewhat ominously, though, the reasons why the UN is going to be so important in Iraq are also the reasons why its job might become even more difficult — and dangerous. I know that today, June 30, is more symbolic than anything else, but with the gradual drawdown of U.S. forces, UN officers are losing their primary source of security. August 2003 showed us what can happen when UN outposts are not sufficiently protected, and, unfortunately, insurgents are not likely to shy away from targeting UN blue. With the departure of the most prominent targets — U.S. military — I worry that, in addition to terrorizing civilians, spoilers may increase their attacks on UN personnel.

Here’s what the UN’s outgoing Special Representative in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, had to say about today’s Day of National Sovereignty:

While the Iraqi people and government is today celebrating the withdrawal of the MNF-I forces from Iraqi cities, towns and villages the SRSG said that “what has been achieved is a real source for congratulation. I know that the Government is fully aware of what remains to be done in providing better services to the people, greater inclusiveness at many levels, and improved security for all. But significant progress has been achieved on many fronts. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq has worked hard to contribute to this progress in a number of areas, and my colleagues who will remain behind in the country are totally dedicated to continuing these efforts.”

(image of Fijian members of UNAMI, from UN Photo)

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Tim Wirth: Where’s the Natural Gas?

UN Foundation President Senator Tim Wirth laments that there is little in the recently-passed Waxman-Markey climate change legislation to encourage the natural gas industry.   In the video below, Wirth explains how natural gas can be a bridge between carbon intense energy, like coal, and renewables.  

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Might the U.S. contribute more personnel to UN peacekeeping missions?

U.S. Permanent Representative Susan Rice suggested as much, in a statement during a Security Council debate on peacekeeping yesterday:

The United States, for its part, is willing to consider directly contributing more military observers, military staff officers, civilian police, and other civilian personnel—including more women—to UN peacekeeping operations. We will also explore ways to provide enabling assistance to peacekeeping missions, either by ourselves or together with partners. Let me single out one immediate priority: we will assist with generating the missing forces and enabling units required for UNAMID, MINURCAT, and MONUC to better protect civilians under imminent threat of physical, including sexual, violence. [emphasis mine]

Both of these would be pretty bold promises.  The United States currently contributes just 75 police officers and 10 military observers to UN peacekeeping missions, good for 68th place in the ranking of troop-contributing countries (right behind Romania and Mali) and a tiny fraction of the almost 100,000 personnel operating around the world.  This paucity of U.S. personnel in the field has long been a blight on U.S. support for the UN, and it will be quite the accomplishment for Rice’s team if she succeeds in increasing the numbers.  The United States supports every UN mission that currently exists, and the country should be honored to send its troops police officers and military observers (U.S. troops are not likely to be forthcoming, because that “would mean putting American soldiers under U.N. command” — a condition that no other country seems to find an impediment) alongside the others who risk their lives for the sake of global peace and security.

The second part of Rice’s statement above — that the United States will work to fully deploy the heinously understaffed missions in Darfur, Chad, and DR Congo — may just prove even more difficult than contributing a few dozen more American personnel.  Thousands of troops for these missions have been supposed to arrive for many months, but due to a combination of host government resistance and reluctance on the part of troop-contributing countries, the missions have struggled on short-handed, unable to fully carry out their mandates.  Nudging the right countries behind the scenes will require deft diplomacy, and finally gathering the equipment and vehicles that these troops need will take an investment from wealthy nations that we have not yet seen.  One thing’s for sure, though: Ambassador Rice will have a hell of a lot easier time going around asking other countries to contribute troops if her own country coughs up a few of its own.

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The long arc of international justice…

…bends toward ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Yesterday, Chile became the 109th member of the ICC and the last South American state to ratify the treaty.  Bienvenidos! 

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Paul Collier’s Ted@State lecture

Paul Collier has been on my mind recently.  He’s written tons about coups and how they can sometimes provide useful checks on unrestrained power of emerging democracies.  Of course, Honduras isn’t exactly and emerging democracy. It’s been there for years.  Still, Collier, who wrote The Bottom Billion and, more recently, Wars Guns and Votes, is a wealth of knowledge about conflict in the developing world. 

Here is Collier giving a Ted@State lecture at the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters earlier this month on how the international community can do post-conflict recovery better. 

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