Newspaper report on Saif's arrest last November. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
It was fitting that news and commentary on justice in Libya was thoroughly confusing today. The conflict in Libya and the post-Gaddafi era have been rife with contradictory storylines: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was captured. Wait, he’s touring Tripoli! Abdullah al-Senussi has been detained in the south of the country, but we haven’t heard or seen from him since (he is almost certainly not in Libya). International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says Libya can try Saif and Senussi but the Pre-Trial Chamber says ‘hold your horses!’
In short, the narratives emerging from Libya as they pertain to the ICC have been anything but coherent. Even for the most keen observers and commentators, it has been tough to keep track of and distinguish between what was information and what was mis-information. » More
Burmese kyat. Photo: onourownpath/flickr
On the eve of a critically important IMF Article IV Consultation Mission to Myanmar, the basic question is: where’s the beef on economic reform? After over a year of post-election policy debate, meaningful economic reform initiatives have been meager. Allowing more room for union rights is an important step, and holding national conferences to talk about strategies for poverty alleviation and agriculture sector improvement are extremely welcome.
But the economic underpinnings needed for a successful democratic transition have not yet been addressed. These include: (a) policy reforms and actions to tackle emerging macroeconomic problems such as exchange rate appreciation and inflation; (b) concrete measures to stimulate the private sector; and (c) reforms in the exchange rate, financial system, investment policies, and state-owned enterprises that address entrenched military interests and control over economic resources that are impeding national economic development. » More
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights inside the United Nations Head Quarters. Image: riacale/flickr
A couple of weeks ago the Russian Foreign Ministry released a report, criticizing human rights violations in the United States. By giving examples like the Guantánamo Bay prison, the ministry said that “the situation in the United States is a far cry from the ideals that Washington proclaims”. While the report wasn’t received too seriously by the international community, it nevertheless illustrates an interesting phenomenon in international relations: states using human rights rhetoric regardless of their own human rights record. Prior to Russia, China accused the US of undermining Internet freedom through its campaign against WikiLeaks. While Beijing may have a point, it is nevertheless provocative to hear such claims made by the likes of Russia and China. So are human rights nothing more than a rhetorical tool utilized by states?
Since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of World War II human rights have experienced an institutional expansion at the international level. This resulted in a worldwide system of treaties and other sources of law (including international customary law) that seek to safeguard human rights. Over the last few decades, many countries have become increasingly democratic and free. For scholars of international law, this worldwide relative improvement of human rights is a sign of the success of the international human rights regime. Paradoxically though, results from studies that examine the impact of human rights treaties on state behavior show almost no significant effect. On the contrary, treaties are sometimes even used as a shield to hide worsening state practices. » More
The sun setting on justice. Image: mindgutter/flickr
With our Editorial Plan discussing changing international norms and laws over the next two weeks, it is worth remembering that this discussion serves the wider purpose of helping to illustrate the elusive character of structural change in our world today. One consequence of this approach, at least for this particular discussion, is that we ultimately treat norms and laws as effects of underlying causes – as symptoms, so to speak, of the underlying condition we are trying to diagnose. A different but complementary approach is that of international political theory, which, as a variety of ‘ideal’ or ‘normative’ theory, often operates (if sometimes only implicitly) on the opposite assumption: that changes in ideas, norms and laws are themselves causes of structural change instead of vice versa. Today we consider an example of this other approach to international norms and laws, by way of a short introduction to the international thought of John Rawls.
In reaction to the November 2011 kidnapping and killings of EU nationals in Northern Mali, Catherine Ashton, the High-Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, stated that: ‘These incidents show the need to continue and intensify the efforts against insecurity in the Sahel. Through its Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, the EU is committed to help the Sahel countries in this endeavor.” Nevertheless, the complexity of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region, and its connection to transnational criminal activities, makes me wonder whether the EU counter-terrorism strategy for the Sahel region is fit to confront this challenge.
The terrorist threat in the Sahel region is mainly posed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM has its origins in the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédiction et le Combat (GSPC). Largely as a result of the effectiveness of the Algerian army’s counter-terrorism strategy, GSPC was forced to move its headquarters to northern Mali, where it associated itself with al-Qaeda in 2007. The GSPC — rebranded as AQIM — targets the foreign presence in the region, mainly kidnapping European tourists in order to destabilize the Algerian government and convince Western governments to withdraw their troops. » More