Categories
Conflict Justice

JiC’s 2011 International Criminal Justice Awards

2011 JiC International Criminal Justice Awards. Image: JiC/dreamstime

Over the course of the past few months, we have regularly featured posts from our friends at Justice in Conflict (JiC). Mark Kersten and Patrick Wegner, the authors of the blog, write about the competing conceptions and ideas of justice and the challenges of pursuing justice in conflict. Expectations and demands for international justice have risen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, but perhaps with the exception of 1945-46 there has never been the same level of interest and scrutiny to the work of international criminal justice as in 2011. As Mark writes, “We will almost surely still be talking about 2011 in 2031.”

To reflect these developments, JiC has inaugurated the ‘International Criminal Justice Awards.’ The 2011 awards, listed below, represent the best and the worst in international justice from the last year. You can read the full version of Mark’s blog article here.


Biggest Catch: It was a close call, but the prize for the biggest catch in international criminal justice in 2011 goes to Laurent Gbagbo, narrowly edging out Ratko Mladic. Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be in the custody of the ICC, marking a significant political coup for the Court and (hopefully) justice in Ivory Coast. Quite simply, in terms of victories for international criminal justice, Gbagbo is a head (of state) above the rest.

Categories
History Conflict

Christmas at War

British and German troops meeting in no man’s land during the unofficial truce. Photo: IWM Collections

Happy Christmas, war is over. The song has been played to death on the radio, but with Washington’s declaration that the Iraq war is now officially over, John Lennon’s lyrics will likely bring a tear to the eyes of many American mothers. With Christmas being a time when families travel sometimes thousands of miles to reunite, the separation between those on the front lines and those worrying at home becomes all the more pronounced.

Perhaps the most famous – and undoubtedly the most touching – account of Christmas at war stems from the early 20th century. In 1914, only months into WWI, a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires took place along the Western Front. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, German and British soldiers (and to a lesser degree some French) independently ventured into ‘no man’s land’ and exchanged greetings and souvenirs, and even played a friendly game of soccer. The last survivor of the Christmas truce gave a haunting account of how he witnessed this spontaneous act of humanity:

“The words drifted across the frozen battlefield: ‘Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles Schlaft, einsam wacht’. After the last note a lone German infantryman appeared holding a small tree glowing with light. ‘Merry Christmas. We not shoot, you not shoot.’”

The Christmas truce of 1914 was deemed “one human episode amid all the atrocities,” but there is evidence that small-scale Christmas truces between opposing forces continued throughout WWI.

Categories
Foreign policy

Turkish Delight

Fying high? Photo: Sergey Melkonov/flickr

Earlier this week, the ISN looked at the ‘Arab Spring’ from a geopolitical perspective – or more precisely, at how regional powers benefited from the recent political changes to further their own influence in the Middle East. Let’s now take a closer look at Turkey to see how the recent events impact upon Ankara’s geopolitical ambitions.

Unlike most advanced economies, Turkey survived the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. Indeed, Turkey’s steady economic growth partially explains why the country is of renewed importance to the West’s foreign policy agenda. Its close proximity to the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia means that it is critical to US, European and NATO policy objectives. Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO and is home to a US air-force base at Incirlik. Add to that a relatively moderate, secular democracy with a Muslim population of more than 75 million, and it becomes clear why Western powers simply cannot afford to ignore the geopolitical importance of Turkey.

Yet for Turkey, the balance between an east- and westward orientation in its foreign policy is a delicate one. Internally, there is a deep split within Turkish society between the mainly secular, Europe-oriented faction of the Sea of Marmara region and the religious faction of Anatolia. When Prime Minister Erdogan came to power in 2002, he seemed to restate the country’s long-standing allegiance to the West by making Turkey’s eventual accession to the EU a top priority. Yet accession talks have long stalled. This is mainly the EU’s decision, but Turkey’s desire to be a more integral part of Europe seems to be fading too.

Categories
Social Media Internet Humanitarian Issues

The Development Impact of Information and Communication Technologies

Libya Crisis Map deployed by the Standby Task Force (Standbytaskforce.com) using the Ushahidi platform.

From mobile applications to improve the livelihoods of illiterate farmers to water-management and crisis mapping, the broad spectrum of research and projects presented at the ICT4D – The development impact of information and communication technologies conference on 10 November in Zurich was representative of the wide range of applications and impacts information and communication technologies (ICT) can have in the field of development. Organized by the ETH’s North-South Centre (which has repeatedly focused on the question of how ICT can best serve as a driver for development), the conference highlighted the need for a shift away from a technology-led approach towards one that emphasizes the creative use of already established technologies. Speakers included researchers and practitioners who were not only addressing classical development questions but also shedding light on the political dimensions of the use of ICT.

You’ll find a list of all speakers and their presentations at the end of this blog post. For now, let me pick out a few key themes and challenges that kept recurring throughout the discussion.

Categories
Government Elections Foreign policy

Switzerland: Less Polarized, More Fragmented

Switzerland’s political landscape after the elections: less polarized but more fragmented. Photo: twicepix/flickr

Last Sunday’s elections unexpectedly bucked the trend of growing polarization in the Swiss political landscape. All major established parties lost support, while two new center parties – the Liberal Greens and the Conservative Democrats – were the big winners.

But, to many, the biggest surprise was the weak showing of the Swiss People’s Party, the SVP. For two decades, the proportion of the electorate voting for the anti-immigration, anti-European party had steadily increased. With a number of controversial popular initiatives and xenophobic campaigns (most famously the ‘black sheep‘ campaign, which the UN denounced as racist), the party mobilized voters and more than doubled its percentage between 1991 and 2007.