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ICC Nabs Another Suspect

From the ICC:

11 October 2010, Mr. Callixte Mbarushimana, a leader of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), was arrested today, in Paris, by the French authorities following a sealed arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo thanked France for a smooth and efficient operation. He described the arrest of Mr. Mbarushimana as a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC”where over 15,000 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2009 alone. 

And another one bites the dust…except, there are far more suspects at large than there are behind bars.  In fact, it is a small miracle anytime the International Criminal Court is able to nab a suspect.

There are currently ten cases before the court involving fifteen suspects.  Only six of these suspects are currently in custody. The rest remain at large.

Some of the suspects evade arrest by staying far outside of any jurisdiction capable of arresting them, no matter how much governments would like to do so. This includes Joseph Kony and other leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army who are located somewhere in the lawless borderlands of the DRC, Central African Republic and Sudan.

Most of the wanted suspects, however, are hiding in plain sight.  Ahmed Haroun, wanted for crimes in Darfur, is a governor of South Kordofan province in Sudan.   Omar al-Bashir, wanted for Genocide, is, well, the president.   Unless these suspects turn themselves in, the only practical way to secure their transfer to The Hague is if the state somehow complies.  When the state dutifully protects a suspect, there is little chance he’ll find his way to a cell in Scheveningen.

This brings us to  one of the more vexing at-large suspects wanted by the ICC: the Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda.  His warrant was unsealed in 2008, but so far he has eluded capture by endearing himself to the Congolese government.  He is, in fact, a currently serving general in the Congolese National Army– a position he earned by signing a peace deal with the state.  In exchange, the Congolese government promised to ignore the ICC warrant.

Ntaganda may have changed uniforms, but he did not cease being a war criminal.  In fact, just today Human Rights Watch released a report implementing Ntaganda in a series of political assassinations since January.

Since January 2010, Ntaganda has been implicated in the assassination of at least eight people, arbitrary arrests of another seven, and the abduction and disappearance of at least one more. Some of these incidents occurred in eastern Congo, others in neighboring Rwanda.

Ntaganda, who lives and moves about openly in Goma, in eastern Congo, has also directly or indirectly threatened more than two dozen people whom he perceives as opposing him.

The ICC depends on states’ cooperation to arrest and transfer war crimes suspects. French police demonstrated the ideal by executing a sealed arrest warrant against a suspect living in France.  Unfortunately, that kind of cooperation with the court seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Unless the international community raises the political costs for states that evade their obligations to the ICC, the court’s value in preventing and punishing war crimes will remain limited.

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Who Knew Global Health Could be So funny? (Video)

This was about the funniest talk to occur during UN Week.  Thailand’s “Mr. Condom,” Mechai Viravaidya discusses his country’s very successful public health campaign around condom usage during the TedXChange event.  Penile Puns and vaguely inappropriate language are tucked into a very serious discussion about family planning and public health.


Who knew public health could be so funny?

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Photo credit CIVIC. "Children in North Waziristan with debris from drone missile"

More Civilian Casualties of War in Pakistan than Afghanistan

At what point do we stop calling it the “Afghanistan War?”

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Armed Conflict (CIVIC), released a new study of civilian casualties in Pakistan. They find, among other things:  “In 2009, an estimated 2,300 civilians were killed in terror attacks alone with many more injured. Counting losses from Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes, civilian casualties in Pakistan likely exceed in number those in neighboring Afghanistan.” [emphasis mine].

The majority of casualties are the victims of terror attacks and extrajudicial killings by the Taliban — but that is what you expect from a group like the Taliban.  Still, a not insignificant number of civilian non-combatant casualties are from Pakistani military action and U.S. drone strikes.   On the latter, the report provides strong evidence that the number of the civilian casualties from drone strikes are significantly higher than the United States admits.

The report draws on some existing surveys of US drone strikes and finds that approximately 120 drone strikes killed between 804 and 1367 people in 2009. The United States claims only 20 of those killed were civilians.  CIVIC investigated only 9 out of 120 attacks and found at least 30 alleged civilian deaths. In June, one attack alone took the lives of 45 to 60 people, up to 18 of whom were believed to be civilians.

What is most remarkable about this report is that CIVIC speaks directly to individual victims of drone attacks:

Daud Khan, from North Waziristan, was at his home with his 10 year-old son when a drone missile struck. He says, “The day before some Taliban had come to the house and asked for lunch. I feared them and was unable to stop them because all the local people must offer them food. They stayed for about one hour and then left. The very next day our house was hit… My only son Khaliq was killed. I saw his body, completely burned.” He said that while the drone strikes were effective against the Taliban, “they wander about the towns and villages and create problems for all the other people… they are violent and cruel actions.” Without the money to rebuild their home, Daud Khan and his family were forced to leave their village in North Waziristan.


In June 2010, Shakeel Khan was sitting in his home in North Waziristan with his family when a drone missile struck: “I was resting with my parents in one room when it happened. God saved my parents and I, but my brother, his wife, and children were all killed.” The children were 5 and 3 years old. Khan says, “I must support my aged parents now but I earn a very little amount which can hardly meet our expenses. We don’t have enough to reconstruct our house and fear that the drones will strike us again.”

As an organization, CIVIC lobbies for compensation for innocent victims in conflict. Their founder, Marla Ruzika was killed in Iraq in 2005 on a mission to document  civilian casualties.  As a result of her organization’s work, the United States now has a process to pay compensation to civilians harmed by American military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report shows that there is a haphazard mechanism by which local provincial officials compensate innocent Pakistani’s for damages incurred from wrongful attacks by the Pakistan military. Pakistani victims of American drone strikes, though, do not qualify for this kind of compensation. Neither are Pakistani victims given access to the same compensation mechanisms in place in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If, as the report says, the brunt of civilian casualties are now being incurred on the Pakistani side of the border, it would make moral sense (and likely benefit the counter-insurgency effort) to extend the same kind of compensation to innocent victims of U.S. military strikes in Pakistan.  An innocent victim is an innocent victim, no matter what the geography.

Photo credit CIVIC. “Children in North Waziristan with debris from drone missile”

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Tianjin Climate Talks Recap: Little Progress on the Policies

Since the outcome of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change summit in Copenhagen failed to meet the sky high hopes environmentalists had placed in it, international negotiators have been working hard ever since to lower expectations. Gone is talk of quickly crafting an binding successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which effectively expires in 2012. Diplomats have given up on a firm agreement until the 2011 summit in South Africa and are instead trying to do what is “politically possible.”

Yet even with those diminished goals, the six-day Tianjin climate talks, which concluded this weekend, made so little progress that some diplomats openly wondered whether continuing the UNFCCC process was even politically worthwhile.

The Tianjin talks were a big deal. An estimated 3,100 delegates from 177 countries attended the talks from October 4-9. Thousands of other representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations and research institutions also attended the event.

UNFCCC meetings like this exist because world leaders believe a global commitment to reducing emissions and cooperating on clean energy and carbon storage is necessary to address global warming. The problem has been getting nations with very different interests to find policy solutions that every country can agree on. While no country will benefit from uncontrolled climate change, some have more to gain–or lose–from preventing it.

Problematic policies

Negotiators came to Tianjin with four items on their agenda: Codifying the voluntary pledges made after Copenhagen (as inadequate as they are), setting up the rules for forest conservation and clean tech cooperation, creating a process for transferring and verifying climate aid, and–most vexing–determining the structure of an eventual climate treaty. The hope was that diplomats could start working on the broad outlines in China and then sign a pact combining the areas of agreement in Mexico next month.

“The agreements that can be reached in Cancun may not be exhaustive in their details,” UNFCCC chief negotiator Christiana Figueres explained in a statement. “But as a balanced package they must be comprehensive in their scope and they can deliver strong results in the short term as well as set the stage for long term commitments to address climate change in an effective and fair manner.”

Forestry rules are unlikely to be included in any “balanced package,” as Figueres and others referred to the hoped-for Cancun agreement. Discussions on REDD+, the updated program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation that now includes conservation, never happened. As an unfortunate result, a workshop and technical meeting on the policy planned for later this month in Japan was canceled.

The lack of certainty about the REDD+ rules also makes countries wary of agreeing to binding emissions reductions. Countries first want to know how much of their total emissions can be offset by their carbon storing forests or by carbon credits purchased from heavily forested emerging economies like Indonesia or Brazil. For example, New Zealand’s delegation told the press that a rule change could shift the country’s emissions reduction target by as much as 4 percent. In an interview with Bloomberg, EU Climate Adviser Jurgen Lefevere described China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil as the main blockers. Conservation groups fingered the Saudis as well as tiny Papua New Guinea.

“It now looks like there might not be a deal on [REDD+] at Cancun,” Peg Putts of the Wilderness Society said to the Guardian. “This was supposed to have been a confidence-building exercise but discussions this week have been shatteringly awful.”

Less money, more problems

Climate aid is another crucial area where the UNFCCC and NGOs hoped to see progress. The UN’s Figueres called fast-track finance “the golden key to Cancun.” Developing countries see delivery of the mitigation and adaption money promised to them in the Copenhagen Accord as a crucial test of rich countries’ commitment to collectively addressing climate change. The non-binding Accord pledges $30 billion before 2012 in so-called fast-track finance money, which will be ramped up to $100 billion a year by 2020. “I am confident that the golden key will be dutifully unlocked,” Figueres said. “Developed countries are all committed to the pledges they have made for fast track finance.”

But the real value of that commitment is being called into question. Is this just aid to Africa being re-branded as fast-track financing? It is difficult to know, because negotiators failed to work out the details.

“The US says it is doubling or tripling climate finance, but there is very little clarity and very little sense that it is new and additional from existing aid flows. A lot of countries are doing this,” Greenpeace’s Steve Herz told the Guardian. “They look at what they are doing in other parts of their aid budget, such as on food security, and double count it.”

UN treaty or bust?

On what is perhaps the most important issue that was discussed in Tianjin there was absolutely no progress: What to do after the Kyoto Protocol commitment period expires. Here, there two countries to blame, which together account for 40% of global emissions: China and the US.

For both political and practical reasons, the two countries have diametrically opposing viewpoints. China, the world largest CO2 polluter, wants to make new emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, which exempts developing countries like itself from binding, verifiable cuts. The US, the largest historic polluter, insists that the pledges China made under the Copenhagen Accord be internationally monitored. And with the two superpowers firmly opposed to the others plan, neither went forward. (More on that later this week.)

With no progress made on establishing a post-Kyoto legal framework, diplomats in the US and EU have begun to ask whether the UNFCCC process is capable of producing international climate protection measures. “The consequences of not having an agreement coming out of Cancun are things that we have to worry about.” US negotiator Jonathan Pershing said to AFP. “It is something to be considered seriously, because the process is going to be very hard-pressed to continue to meet and to continue.”

Artur Runge-Metzger, a negotiator with the European Commission, was more blunt: “If Cancun does not produce a solid outcome … then I think it risks becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the rest of the world,” he warned the Canadian Press. “Decision-making will go to some other forum.”

Figureres, the executive director of the UNFCCC, disagreed: “I understand there is disappointment with the multilateral process but this issue is not easy. This is the greatest societal and economic transformation that the world has ever seen.” If the frustrated talk coming out of Tianjin is to be believed, she may only have until December to prove that her organization can help the world make that change.

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Portugal beats Canada for Security Council seat in tight election

Security Council elections: this morning the GA elected Colombia, India, Germany, Portugal and South Africa to two-year non-permanent seats on the Security Council starting January 1, 2011.  They will replace Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda.  The Latin American & Caribbean, African and Asian seats went uncontested, while Germany, Portugal and Canada competed for 2 WEOG seats.  With Germany securing a 2/3 vote in the first round, Portugal and Canada continued to a second round, after which a 2/3 majority had still not been reached.  Canada ultimately withdrew its nomination and Portugal secured over the 2/3 necessary to win in a third round.  CBC news has an interesting piece on the dynamics behind Canada’s bid and the outcome.  Bill Varner also wrote on the strategic implications of India and South Africa winning seats.  All four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are now members of the Council.  Ambassador Rice’s statement on the elections is available here.

SG travels: though the details have not yet been elaborated, the SG’s Spokesperson confirmed the SG’s plan to visit Thailand soon.  The press is also reporting that he will attend the World Policy Conference in Morocco later this week.  Details are expected soon.

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George Clooney on South Sudan (Video)

George Clooney just returned from a trip to South Sudan with the Today Show reporter Ann Curry and the Enough Project’s John Prendergast.

This is about the best television reporting you will get on Sudan. It is just a shame that it takes a mega star like George Clooney to get the networks to finally pay some attention to South Sudan.  (To be fair, Ann Curry has reported from Sudan multiple times, but she is an outlier.)

Clooney and other Sudan activists are meeting with a number of officials around Washington today, including the President. Later tonight, they are holding a press conference  at the Council on Foreign Relations where I hope to get a sense of what these meetings accomplished.

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