Has Egypt’s Judiciary Become the New Theatre of the Absurd?

Young Egyptians protestig Morsi and the military. Image: Hamada Elrasam for VOA/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 July 2015.

The recent death sentence passed down on former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, along with 106 others, is far from being the only politically motivated conviction made by the Egyptian courts. Mass trials have become common since the July 2013 coup, which ousted Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

Collectively, these court decisions have raised serious questions about the independence of the judiciary, and suggest that the courts are merely an extension of the military regime, rather than an independent arm of the state.

Characteristic of these trials is the lack of due process throughout investigation and trial proceedings, the absence of objective evidence presented during trials and increasing numbers of defendants held incommunicado without access to legal representation. Lack of transparency is also evident, with courts refusing to make judgements public, proof that the judicial functions in the country are fast becoming politicised. » More

A Balanced Perception of Religion in International Relations

Mosque and Church. Image: David Evers/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 9 July 2015.

In the ongoing discourse on constructing the world order many new but also “new-old” approaches are being developed. One of the more discussed and controversial issues is the recognition of a religious dimension in international relations. While some authors refer to the “return”, “resurgence” or “renaissance” of religion (Thomas 2005; Petito, Hatzopoulos 2003; Fox 2001), others rather admit to discovering a “hidden reality” that has always been there but became more visible recently (Haynes 2006: 539).

Over the last two decades rich literature has been published on this topic and numerous initiatives have been undertaken to introduce a balanced perception of the roles played by religion within the global arena. Yet a fair assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of religion in IR is only a far-out hope and still “even the charismatic virtuosi of peace are less well known than the Yigal Amirs and Osama bin Ladens of the world.” (Appleby 2000: 122).

The notion of the “ambivalence of the sacred” (Appleby 2000) coined by Scott Appleby is widely acknowledged. Marc Gopin calls religion the “creator and destroyer of peace” (Gopin 2012: 271-279) and Jose Casanova refers to this phenomenon as the “Janus face” of religion (Casanova 1994: 4). Religion is undoubtedly a double-edged sword. But it seems that any discussion on the many different roles played by religion in the area of international relations is too often one-sided and the perspective in which the religious factor is recognized far too uneven.

The purpose of this article is to highlight that there is also this second face of religious activism and a faith-based oriented world view that enables religious peacemakers to resolve conflicts that others could not resolve. It is also to underscore that the very non-political notions such as reconciliation, forgiveness, healing of relations, and apology that developed in social science over the last decades are often rooted and connected with religious world views. » More

Why the AU Needs to Get Policing Right

A Nigerian police officer, as part of AMISOM’s Foreign Police Unit, conducts a foot patrol near Lido Beach in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Image: TOBIN JONES/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 1 July 2015.

While the role of police in peace support operations used to be limited to tasks of monitoring and observing, it has changed to encompass complex and substantive roles. These include helping to rebuild the capacity of police and broader law enforcement institutions that have suffered the consequences of violent conflict.

Usually in the aftermath of conflict, these institutions are critical in rebuilding public confidence in the rule of law, which has typically been either diminished by the conflict or, in some cases, totally destroyed. Following the Brahimi Report (2000), police roles were viewed in the wider context of the rule of law, protection of civilians and human rights. New areas of focus include emerging threats such as terrorism, organised transnational crime and corruption. » More

Nietzsche, Morgenthau, and the Roots of Realism

Edvard Munch’s 1906 painting of Friedrich Nietzsche. Image: http://www.munch150.no/no/Presse/Pressebilder/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 24 June 2015.

Thucydides. Hobbes. Machiavelli. Realists have (re)turned to these thinkers time and again in order to construct and fortify the basic contours of their theories of global politics. From their texts, realists have extracted and put to use a series of ontological arguments concerning the nature of power, the human, the state, and the global milieu through which these forces traverse. The consequent interpretations of global politics tend to be ones that dramatize a tragic and unending struggle for power among nation-states that takes place under a condition of anarchy and insecurity, where morality holds little hope for redemption. While the discourses of realism substantiate this agonistic sense of global politics with rotating reference to a pantheon of classical and modern philosophical figures, they nonetheless consistently fail to mention one particular name: Nietzsche. This is a remarkable absence considering the fact that Nietzsche was the most decisive intellectual influence for realism’s principal modern architect, Hans J. Morgenthau. It was Nietzsche, more than any other thinker, who served as Morgenthau’s ‘foremost intellectual authority’ (Frei 2001: 94). From his lifelong encounter with Nietzsche, Morgenthau developed his basic way of looking at people and things, the ontological and conceptual coordinates that would ground the realist paradigm (Frei 2001: 94). This intellectual convergence between Nietzsche and Morgenthau presents a serious challenge to realists. It reveals to them that one of their most important philosophical forerunners remains a little known figure, an unnamed origin. » More

PKKistan: Brought to You by American Close Air Support

Parts of the Kurdish autonomous territory (red and blue) in northern Syria. Image: PANONIAN/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 22 June 2015.

Last week, Kurdish forces fighting for the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD) wrested control of the border town of Tel Abyad from the Islamic State. The seizure of the town cut off a key supply line to the Islamic State’s de-facto capital in Raqqa and allowed for the unification of two Kurdish controlled cantons, Kobane and Jazira, between which sits Tel Abyad.

The victory came after the Islamic State nearly defeated PYD forces in Kobane last October, before the dramatic increase in coalition air strikes helped turn the tide of the battle. During the Islamic State’s siege of Kobane, the United States set up a conduit for the PYD to provide targeting data to a military planning office in Erbil, which is then relayed to coalition aircraft. The PYD has since relied heavily on U.S. airpower to aid in their advance and eventual capture of IS-held territory. » More

Page 1 of 43