“We must”: Obama’s calls to action

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So many aspirations in the inaugural address that President Barack Obama delivered yesterday. Drawing less attention than other lines in the address were 2 moving calls to reduce violence. One kept close to home, reminding of the Obama’s just-released proposal on guns:

‘Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.’

The other, hearkening to the Marshall Plan, ventured abroad:

‘But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war; who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends – and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.’

The full text of the speech  is here; video is here.

“No purple tickets”: Looking forward to a fresh start for a 2d Presidential term

DSC01183“No purple tickets.” In a glance that e-mail subject line sent me back 4 years. On this weekend in 2009, I’d flown cross-country for the sole purpose of seeing 2 swearings-in: that of incoming Vice President Joe Biden, by my former boss, Justice John Paul Stevens, and, of course, that of the incoming President by the Chief Justice. Prompting my there-and-back-again journey? Without asking, I’d been sent an inaugural ticket, truly an invitation not to be refused.

Setting off the engraved ticket was a border in purple – a color code that would steer me into a Capitol Hill tunnel, to stand in line, for hours. And hours. As I posted then of that tunnel:

‘There thousands of us spent more than 3 hours, emerging only to find that the purple gate had not opened and none of us would get in. We could see little more than the spire of the Capitol, and could hear nothing.

‘Thank goodness for the 1 among us who’d had the good sense to bring a transistor. Clustered around her at the intersection of Louisiana and C, we heard a musical interlude, then the oath that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered to Barack Hussein Obama, and then the speech. The sounds alone brought smiles even to the faces of the purple dispossessed.’

Thus it is that a friend just e-mailed me while she waits in line to join the festivities on the Mall:  “No purple tickets … They didn’t even use that color this time because everyone has PTSD.” And NBC reports that today “the Purple Tunnel of Doom … will be closed” all day.

Here’s hoping for all good things at today’s inauguration – which I’ll be watching from the comfort of home.

Workshop on persistent perpetrators of armed-conflict violence against children

“How to Deal with Persistent Perpetrators?” will be the question at hand when experts gather at Princeton University next month. Princeton’s Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination is convening the February 7-8 Workshop on Children and Armed Conflict in cooperation with Liechtenstein’s Permanent U.N. Mission and a New York-based nongovernmental organization, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. Regarding the topic (also see here and here), organizers write:

children‘In armed conflict around the world, hundreds of thousands of boys and girls face serious violations of their safety and human rights, including forced recruitment and abduction. Girls are often disproportionately affected by sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse in conflict zones. The day-to-day lives of children in areas of armed conflict are further impacted by attacks on schools and hospitals. Although the United Nations’ Children and Armed Conflict agenda has made tangible progress in recent years to hold perpetrators accountable and to prevent future violations, there remains an urgent need for more effective programs and policies to address the needs of children and families affected by armed conflict.’

The public session on Thursday, February 7, will begin with a director-led screening of the short film Ana’s Playground (2009). Thereafter, Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, will deliver a keynote on “The Role of the United Nations in Protecting the Rights of Children Affected by Armed Conflict,” and a panel composed of  Jo Becker, Advocacy Director for the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, and Eva Smets, Director of WatchList on Children and Armed Conflict, will examine “The Role of the UN and NGOs in Protecting the Rights of Children Affected by Armed Conflict.” The gathering will conclude the next day with a closed-door experts’ workshop. (image credit)

Details and RSVP here.

MLK & rights movement honored at Birmingham site where 4 girls perished

barrierMemory is a touchstone of transitional justice.  Making a record of what happened – of conflict endured, of violence suffered – is seen to have societal value. In the short term, it preserves accounts that otherwise might be lost, and so aids the quest for truth. Stories of persons and groups survive, to inspire others in the future. In the longer term, the recording of memory may lay the groundwork for accountability, apology, and, if not reconciliation, societal recalibration.

Today we remember one such inspiring person: Martin Luther King Jr., the Nobel Peace laureate born 84 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. A moving memorial to him may be found in that city (prior post). And 140 miles due west is another memorial well worth visiting.

Located in Alabama’s largest city, the 21-year-old Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tells the many stories of America’s civil rights movement through multimedia presentations that draw the visitor into history. Side-by-side displays of circa-1950s facilities expose the inequity of an era known as “separate but equal,” a misnomer borne of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (prior posts), the 8-to-1 Supreme Court decision that affirmed de jure segregation. One example is the display above: on close look, the visitor sees not only 2 water sources, but also that one is a clean and modern bubbler, the other a rusty spigot. (photo credit) Accompanying such tactile exhibits are photographs and artifacts from the movement’s heyday, as well as more recent, videotaped oral histories.

Dr. King is present, too, of course. The words of his April 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail appear, just outside a replica of the cell where he wrote them while detained for planning a nonviolent protest. Midway through the exhibit the visitor – having just been sobered by photos of attacks on demonstrators – is uplifted by the wall-sized projection of King declaiming, “I have a dream,” in the speech he delivered before thousands in Washington just a few months after his stay in Birmingham’s jail.

birm_churchAlso commemorated are the roles that children have played in the struggle for equality. Exhibits remind of the Children’s Crusade. Just weeks after penning his letter, King preached at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist:

‘Don’t worry about your children; they are going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail, for they are not only doing a job for themselves, but for all of America and for all of mankind.’

More than 1,000 students skipped school and marched peacefully to oppose segregation. Authorities responded with dogs, clubs, and hoses. Global outrage at these images helped hasten an agreement to desegregate downtown.

birm_monumBut that success was followed by tragedy: as I’ve written, in September 1963, 4 months after the agreement and less than 1 month after King’s “Dream” speech, “a bomb exploded in an African-American church, killing Sunday School students Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, all aged between 11 and 14. Twenty-three others were wounded, and 2 boys were shot to death in the rioting that followed.”

Well into the Birmingham exhibit, the unsuspecting visitor realizes that the church was 16th Street Baptist, the immense brick structure across the way. (photos (c) Peter O’Neill) Memory sears when the visitor learns she is standing where these children played, prayed, and perished.

As conflict in Mali globalizes, trials filmed in “Bamako” (2006) worth re-viewing

lemondeThe news out of Paris is all about Mali, as evidenced by this screenshot from LeMonde. That’s because last week France sent troops to fight rebels who’ve held the north for months. It did so on request of the government that still holds power in the southern region where Mali’s capital, Bamako, is located. (The BBC reported that other countries, in the West and in Africa, are lending support to the French efforts, while a New York Times article contended that U.S. missteps helped fuel the crisis.)

Groups holding the north are said to include AQIM, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Unrest began last April, and drew global attention because of last summer’s destruction of a UNESCO World Heritage site – adobe Timbuktu tombs held sacred by some Muslims but loathed by persons who’d seized the city. In October, a U.N. official alleged that rebels were “buying child soldiers,” among many other human rights offenses.

President François Hollande said (my translation) of last week’s decision:

‘France will respond … strictly within the boundaries of U.N. Security Council resolutions, on request of Malian authorities fighting armed Islamist groups.’

France once was the colonizer of much of West Africa – Mali won independence in 1960 – and LeMonde reports that although there’s evidence of approval in Bamako, an array of Algerian publications have decried what some characterized as a return to a kind of colonialism. These differences of opinion invite further inquiry.

bamakoA great starting place is Bamako, a 2006 film that portrays 2 trials unfolding within the walls of a neighborhood compound. (IntLawGrrl Karen E. Bravo’s review here.) One is a figurative trial – that of a husband, wife, and daughter pulled in different directions by the challenges and lures of modernization. The stops-and-starts of modernization also crop up in the compound: one night, many cluster around the lone TV to watch a Western shoot-’em-up (starring the American actor Danny Glover, a producer of Bamako) titled Death in Timbuktu. The other trial is literal – an outdoor proceeding in which ermine-clad judges hear individual witnesses give evidence in support of an anti-globalization complaint that a partie civile described as “African civil society” has lodged against the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and unnamed other international institutions. Immediately at issue is closure of stops on a once-public railroad, occasioned by the railway’s forced privatization – closure that is said to have deprived many Malians of jobs and transport, and to have sent many on a peril-fraught emigration toward hoped-for work on the other side of the Mediterranean. These trials add layers to understanding of today’s news.

2 P-5 states among scores seeking referral of Syria to International Criminal Court

France and the United Kingdom were among the 57 states who today sent a letter asking the U.N.  Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The 3 other permanent members of the Council, China, Russia, and the United States, were not signatories.

Of note given last week’s post, this letter, initiated by Switzerland and available in full here, contains language that implies a request for a more robust resolution than those previously approved for Darfur and Libya. Specifically, it asks:

  • For a referral “without exceptions and irrespective of alleged perpetrators,” phrasing that may be inferred as an argument against any ex ante grant of immunity; and
  • For “the Council to fully commit the necessary resources,” the last word often a synonym for monetary, as well as other, support for any ICC efforts that would ensue.

8th Georgia Law international colloquium brings world of perspectives to Athens

Delighted to announce who will discuss their works in progress with my students this semester. The lineup constitutes the 8th annual International Law Colloquium series at the University of Georgia School of Law – a  series that not only permits international and comparative law professors to welcome colleagues to Athens, but also, and more importantly, gives our students an opportunity to converse with leaders in various subfields of international law. Here’s the Spring 2013 series, which I have the honor of coordinating:

Julie Suk January 25
“Quotas and the Global Future of Equal Protection,” by Julie C. Suk, Harvard Law School / Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
Discussants: Jaime L. Dodge and Lori A. Ringhand, University of Georgia School of Law
Ertharin Cousin February 5
Annual Georgia Journal of International & Comparative Law symposium. Keynote: Georgia Law alumna Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme.
Speakers include: Kristen E. Boon, Seton Hall University School of Law; Lillian Aponte Miranda, Florida International University College of Law; Anastasia Telesetsky, University of Idaho College of Law; Aparna Polavarapu, University of South Carolina School of Law; Gabriel Eckstein, Texas Wesleyan School of Law; José Cuesta, World Bank; Felix Mormann, Stanford Law School; and Lincoln Davies, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law
William Schabas February 8
“The Drafting and Significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” by William A. Schabas, Professor of International Law, Middlesex University, London; former member, Sierra Leone Truth & Reconciliation Commission
Discussants: Diane Marie Amann, University of Georgia School of Law, and Andrea Everett, University of Georgia School of Public & International Affairs
*Note: As part of his visit to Athens, Professor Schabas will deliver a public lecture on “Human Rights and Culture” at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, February 8, in Room J of the law school’s Hirsch Hall. Cosponsored by the Dean Rusk Center for International Law & Policy and the Willson Center for Humanities.
Anthea Roberts February 15
“State-to-State Investment Treaty Arbitration: A Theory of Interdependent Rights and Shared Interpretive Authority,” Anthea Roberts, Columbia Law School / London School of Economics
Discussants: Harlan G. Cohen and Peter “Bo” Rutledge, University of Georgia School of Law
James Gathii February 22
“Strength in Intellectual Property Protection and Foreign Direct Investment Flows in Least Developed Countries,” by James Thuo Gathii, Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Independent Expert, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment & Human Rights Violations in Africa
Discussants: Fazal Khan and Christian Turner, University of Georgia School of Law
Joost Pauwelyn March 1
“The End of Differential Treatment for Developing Countries? Lessons from the Trade and Climate Change Regimes,” by Joost Pauwelyn, Stanford Law School / Harvard Law School / Graduate Institute of International & Development Studies, Geneva
Discussants: Robert B. Ahdieh, Emory University School of Law, and Timothy L. Meyer, University of Georgia School of Law
Leila Sadat March 29
“Crimes Against Humanity in the Modern Age,” by Leila Nadya Sadat, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, and the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Crimes Against Humanity
Discussants: Michael J. Perry, Emory University School of Law, and Logan E. Sawyer III, University of Georgia School of Law
Laurie Blank April 12
“Extending Positive Identification from People to Places: Terrorism, Armed Conflict, and the Identification of Military Objectives,” by Laurie Blank, Emory University School of Law
Discussants: Kevin Cieply, John Marshall Law School-Atlanta, and J. Stephen Shi, University of Georgia School of Law
Jaya Ramji-Nogales April 19
“Long Live Sovereignty? The Human Rights of Undocumented Migrants,” by Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Temple University Beasley School of Law, Philadelphia
Discussants: Mehrsa Baradaran, University of Georgia School of Law, and Joshua Barkan, University of Georgia Department of Geography