Slán abhaile, Seamus Heaney

Poetry lost its voice today. One of its more wondrous voices, that is, given the news of the death of Seamus Heaney today, 74 years after his birth in Ireland’s County Derry.

One best heard Heaney – the simple words and complex verse that earned him the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature – when the poet delivered his poetry in his own voice. Listen here to his wonderful 2001 translation of Beowulf, the 10th-century epic poem. And see below Heaney’s rendering of his own work, the love poem Scaffolding:

Slán abhaile.

“Fatwa Does Not Apply”: Bennoune urges democracy, equality in Arab Spring region

photo CHAUTAUQUA, New York – People in many countries have glimpsed the Arab Spring – and endured the Arab Autumn, and the Arab Winter, California-Davis Law Professor Karima Bennoune told an after-dinner audience here on Monday, the same day that W.W. Norton & Co. published her book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism. Karima, a longtime colleague and a contributor to IntLawGrrls blog (among many online and print media), delivered the Katherine B. Fite Lecture, which honors the U.S. State Department lawyer who helped establish the post-World War II International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The lecture was a highlight of the just-concluded 7th Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs.

Karima began by relating what she called “a genealogy of impunity” – the story of her father and other relatives who, like many others in Algeria, had suffered harms that never have been addressed by truth commission or any other accountability mechanism. Then she surveyed developments across swaths of the Middle East and Africa, recounting stories of rights activists, dissident journalists, and artists whom she met and KarimaBennoune_wrinterviewed over the course of years of field research. Not to mention ordinary persons, like the man she called The Chickpea Vendor of Tahrir Square. Such people, Karima said, are caught between two unacceptable poles: at one end, autocratic despots; at the other, repressive fundamentalists. She insisted:

‘The only solution is to build an alternative, a democracy that respects all voices.’

Bennoune’s impassioned prescription bore echo with the dispassionate comments Dialogs participants had heard earlier in the day from Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. As I already have posted, in his Monday morning keynote lecture, Zeid indicated that stability in the region depended on the emergence of an “authentic,” indigenous “liberal philosophy.” And later in the day, the noted Egyptian-American who is Emeritus Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Chicago’s DePaul University, M. Cherif Bassiouni, likewise cited the need for a democratic ideology based on traditions of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The repetitions of this exposure of a troubling void, delivered as they were against the backdrop of reports of repression and human rights violations in many Arab Spring countries, no doubt stirred bleakness among the audience. Yet Karima, whose book sits on my desk awaiting a close read, offered glimmers of a brighter future:

‘I do believe there is still hope, because of the courage of the people on the ground … the extraordinary resistance of the people.’

Jordanian diplomat on Arab world & international justice & accountability

zeidCHAUTAUQUA, New York – Without the emergence of a genuine, contemporary Arab philosophy, a top Jordanian diplomat predicted today, stops and starts likely will remain the present and near future in the Middle East. To be precise, the diplomat, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told participants in the 7th International Humanitarian Law Dialogs here in upstate New York:

‘When we look at the Arab world, there is no authentic Arab liberal philosophy, and no authentic Arab liberal philosopher, at this moment.’

Citing developments in Iraq since 1968, Zeid said that an earlier such philosophy, the Baath movement, “a strong socialist Arab tradition,” fell apart. The “absence of a genuine drive to articulate something from within” has left a void:

‘If you don’t have an authentic Arab liberal philosophy … what you have in default is the Islamic ideologies which are authentic to the region.’

A new tradition rooted in Arab tradition is essential to “escape” from “mimicking” Western liberal philosophy, he said, noting that citations to documents like Rousseau’s Social Contract invite “the charge that these are important Western ideas. And so he urged liberals to “start writing,” to theorize liberal traditions “in Arab terms” and “grammar.” Until that happens, he predicted:

‘For a long time we are going to see this rather jerky movement backward and forward. … That will be the narrative for sometime to come.’

Zeid’s comments formed the opening lecture for a conference ostensibly devoted to accountability; after all, the centerpiece of the Dialogs is the coming-together of chief prosecutors from each of the international criminal tribunals and courts. Yet Zeid – who helped draft founding documents of the International Criminal Court and served as the 1st President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties – stopped far short of recommending a rush to judgment. Citing history in post-World War II Germany as his example, Zeid called for creating post-conflict “space” within which fighters might come to terms with the conflict, before the onset and investigation of trials. Having spoken of events in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, he said:

‘Many of us have been very passionate supporters of inserting courts into events where a tremendous amount of blood has been spilled. I really think we have to revisit this – not reduce support for the ICC, but we need to develop a more nuanced field.’

Given Zeid’s role in the establishment of the ICC, the comments seem to herald a new moment in the field accountability and transitional justice. Should that be, one hopes for a comprehensive, effective, and well-resourced mix of responses – not confusion that amounts to a retreat from the field.

Arms treaty garners some states parties

instrument - CopyWith the joinder last week of the Republic of Nigeria, the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty has 4 states parties. That leaves 46 to go for entry into force – a number that seems achievable, given that 83 states have taken the 1st step of signing the treaty since its April 2 approval by the U.N. General Assembly. As previously posted, the Assembly’s vote (154 aye-3 nay-23 abstain) became necessary when Iran, Syria, and North Korea blocked adoption by consensus at the late-March conclusion of a final treaty-drafting conference.

Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed in June: “The United States welcomes the opening of the Arms Trade Treaty for signature ….” But to date the United States is not a signatory.

As detailed in the final text and previously posted, the treaty is intended to regulate “conventional arms”; that is: heavy weapons like battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles, and missile launchers; ammunition; and small arms and light weapons.

After depositing the instrument of ratification, Olugbenga Ashiru, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as follows:

‘This landmark event represents our deep commitment to a treaty which establishes common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms … We remain resolute and unyielding in our efforts to uphold the principle of ATT and, in particular, ensure that small arms and light weapons are appropriately transferred and access denied to terrorist groups, pirates, bandits and the like.’

His reference to nonstate actors occurred against the backdrop of Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram, a group responsible in recent years for attacks against civilians in the northern and central parts of the state. (According to the BBC, “Boko Haram,” “roughly translated means ‘Western education is forbidden’ in the local Hausa language.”) Earlier this month, a report by the Office of the Prosecutor found reasonable basis to characterize some attacks as crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. And just this week, a report surfaced that the armed group’s leader may have been killed.

Nigeria joins Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, and Iceland as an early ratifier of the Arms Trade Treaty.

(above, detail from August 14, 2013, photo of Nigeria’s instrument of ratification, in the hands of Minister Ashiru, left, and D. Stephen Mathias, the UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs)

Seafarers’ rights pact now in force

shipsRomantic allusions to Years Before the Mast aside, working aboardship is hard labor. That work gained more protection today, as the Maritime Labour Convention of 2006, aimed “to secure the right of all seafarers to decent employment,” entered into force.

Promulgated within the framework of the International Labour Organization, the convention collects rights and norms contained in many earlier treaties. MLC 2006, as it’s been dubbed, complements 3 treaties advanced within the framework of another intergovernmental entity, the International Maritime Organization. These 3 are; SOLAS, the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea; MARPOL, the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships; and STCW, the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers. (photo credit)

In Article III of the newly-in-force Maritime Labour Convention, member states pledge to respect 4 “fundamental rights”:

► “freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining”
► “elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour”
► “effective abolition of child labour”
► “elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation”

Article IV, meanwhile, proclaims that each member state “shall ensure, within the limits of its jurisdiction,” what’s been called a seafarers’ “bill of rights” –  rights to:

► “a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards”
► “fair terms of employment”
► “decent working and living conditions on board ship”
► “health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection”

Entry into force followed upon the recent ratification by a 48th state, the United Kingdom. The United States has not ratified, but 3 out of 5 permanent members of the Security Council have (France and Russia as well as Britain). Eight of the top 10 flag states – leaders in the registry of ships – also have joined: Bahamas, Cyprus, Greece, Liberia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Panama, and Singapore. (China and Hong Kong are the 2 leaders not listed.) Other ratifying states include island countries as large as Australia and as small as Barbados, and landlocked lands like Switzerland.

Music sounds & conflicts echo in Salzburg

salz7SALZBURG – I’m newly returned from this Austrian city, years ago my first European home during a semester abroad. Drawing me to the edge of the Alps was the Summer Session of Salzburg Law School on International Criminal Law, Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.  The overall theme for this 15th annual session, organized by Executive Director Astrid Reisinger Coracini, was the relationship of international criminal justice to the states and peoples of Africa. It was an honor to present a mini-course on “Children and International Criminal Law” to the scores of scholars and practitioners in attendance.

Other scores were on prominent salz1display throughout the baroque Altstadt. Concerts and opera, not to mention sculptures, paintings, and plays, filled indoor venues and outdoor squares – all part of the Salzburg Festival that runs through September 1. Though unschooled in opera, I was tempted to plunk down the considerable cost of a ticket to see Zubin Mehta conduct Verdi’s Falstaff just blocks away from Mozart’s birthplace. But then my colleagues William Schabas and Roger Clark, also there to teach at the summer school, alerted me to a more affordable option: an al fresco meal in front of a free Jumbotron broadcast of a 2004 Festival production of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier.salz5rosen

(As Schabas pointed out, this opera’s premise was not unrelated to my mini-course, for the libretto stresses the young age of the eponymous Kavalier, or member of the Austrian cavalry. By today’s standards the wily 17 year old was a child soldier.)

Echos of war could be detected not only in the strains of that just-before-World-War-I opera, and not only in the international criminal law classroom, but also in the news of the week. Likening foreign policy to salz8household intimacy, the media made much of the Entfremdung, or estrangement, between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, leaders of the countries that from the late ’40s through the late ’80s waged a Cold War (a period of conflict during which Austria had remained decidedly neutral). The paper’s account of sticking points between the 2 powers – nuclear disarmament; Snowden and spying; Syria; LGBT rights and the rights of dissidents like Magnitsky – made for quite a long détente to-do list.

salz7stagThat sobering morning note called for night-time levity. And so we visited a favorite local amusement, the 400-year-old Hellbrunn Palace. There a whimsical Prince-Archbishop, as Salzburg’s erstwhile rulers were called, had built a garden of fountains. Some are lovely; some, like that of a mask whose tongue darts in and out, are goofy. All entailed an element of risk. For the mischievous had builder rigged seats, steps, and sidewalks with sprinklers. They turned on and off at unexpected points, leaving everyone both drenched and delighted.salz6wasser

Disparition: Jacques Vergès (1925?-2013)

?????????????????????????????A lightning-rod figure in international criminal law has left the bar: Jacques Vergès died in Paris Thursday. He’d been born in what was then Siam 88 years earlier – “theoretically,” according to Le Monde. The obituary hedges because Vergès’ birth, to a Vietnamese mother and a father who was the head of the French consulate, may in fact have occurred many months before the date that his parents married and proclaimed his arrival. Vergès made that personal history part of his public identity, even titling a 1997 memoir Le salaud lumineux (The Shining Bastard).

As an attorney, he took part in the defense of persons charged with heinous international offenses, such as genocide and crimes against humanity. These included Klaus Barbie, the German Nazi officer charged and eventually convicted in French national courts of World War II-era crimes (prior posts); Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia who died in custody midway through his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (prior posts); Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan, still on trial before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (prior posts available here) (credit for 2008 photo of Vergès at the ECCC); and Laurent Gbagbo, the former President of Côte d’Ivoire who awaits trial before the International Criminal Court.

Vergès’ signature technique was the défense de rupture, a turning of the tables that put not the accused, but rather the judicial institution and the instant prosecution, on trial. Such challenges compelled close examination of the courts and the proceedings. Put succinctly, Vergès’ techniques gave concrete reality to the notion of adversary proceedings. French legal experts remembered him as “courageous,” “provocative,” “intelligent.” And infuriating: his opponent in Barbie, attorney/author Serge Klarsfeld, told Le Monde (my translation):

‘Having conveyed my hostility to Jacques Vergès sufficiently while he was alive, I will refrain from speaking at this moment of his death.’