– Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program of Human Rights Watch, arguing for an International Criminal Court referral of Syria and pushing back against an unofficial proposal for a special tribunal. My Saturday post on the potential role of the ICC in the Syria situation is here.
What began as a multifaceted assault on warfare in Syria ended last night with a U.N. Security Council resolution sapped of accountability strength. (credit for UN photo)
The draft resolution France had circulated in mid-September condemned the August 21 chemical attack that killed more than a thousand persons outside Damascus, restricted chemical weapons and components, and set up a travel ban and asset freeze against violators. What is more, it called for the Council
to refer the situation in Syria since March 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court ….
That referral clause was significant because it would have engaged the world’s only permanent international criminal forum in Syria – not just the August 21 attack but the entire situation in Syria, since the violence began. (Prior posts.) The need for a large frame is evident in the 1st sentences of the August 2013 Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic:
The Syrian Arab Republic is a battlefield. Its cities and towns suffer relentless shelling and sieges. Massacres are perpetrated with impunity. An untold number of Syrians have disappeared.
Notwithstanding, the ICC referral effort appears soon to have fallen by the diplomatic wayside. Thus Security Council Resolution 2118, adopted unanimously last night, said nothing of asset freezes or travel bans. It said nothing about the ICC. What little it did say was limited to chemical weapons and said with rather soft verb forms:
The Security Council,
15. Expresses its strong conviction that those individuals responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic should be held accountable; ….
During this week’s General Assembly sessions, the United Nations set aside 3 days for a “Treaty Event,” in effect an open house where countries are encouraged to sign, ratify, accede, and otherwise show their support for any and all of the many multilateral conventions for which the United Nations serves as depository. Compilation of Tuesday’s joinder activities here; Wednesday’s activities here; Thursday’s here. The next such Treaty Event is set for September 30 and October 1, the last couple days of the Assembly’s general debate.
Countries were nudged toward the 36 treaties closest to universal – that is, 100% – participation. (Treaties deposited elsewhere, such as the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their protocols, weren’t part of the event.) Oldest on the United Nations’ list – set forth in full at the bottom of this post – is the Convention on the 1946 Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which enjoyed 159 parties as of the June 2013 list-compilation date; youngest is the 2003 U.N. Convention against Corruption, with 167 parties. Tied for the top spot, with 195 parties, were the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 1994 U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa.
Notably, the United States is a full member of all the U.N. treaties just named. Indeed, it belongs to 23 of the 36 treaties on the U.N. list, including nearly all that are intended to step up the enforcement of criminal law. That said, many of the 13 treaties from which it’s steered clear – highlighted in yellow below – are aimed at significant issues, ranging from protection of human rights to protection of health and the environment to protection of global security. They include 2 treaties for which the United States is a nonparty along with only 1 or 2 other U.N. member states; to be precise, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Here’s the “outlier” list in full:
Neither signed nor ratified by the United States
► U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (December 10, 1982)
► Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (September 18, 1997)
► Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity (January 29, 2000)
Signed but not ratified by the United States
► Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 29, 1989)
► Convention on Biological Diversity (June 5, 1992)
► Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (December 18, 1979)
► Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (September 10, 1996)
► Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (December 11, 1997)
► World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (May 21, 2003)
► International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (December 16, 1966)
► Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (May 22, 2001)
► Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal (March 22, 1989)
► Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended (August 8, 1976)
A treaty worth noting that fell just below the most-ratified cut: the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which has 152 parties, one of which is the United States.
More than once in the last year or so my posts have made mention of Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law & Policy written by Washington & Lee Law Professor Mark A. Drumbl and published in April 2012 by Oxford University Press. I’m pleased to say that my review of this superb book is just out. An excerpt:
‘Reimagining Child Soldiers first reviews both the combat roles children have played over the centuries—teenaged Joan of Arc makes an appearance—and the global efforts in the last quarter century to put an end to child soldiering. Drumbl juxtaposes the longstanding fact of children’s participation in conflict, a practice that “endemically persists”, with contemporary contentions that even young people who do not carry weapons qualify as “soldiers,” and that all such child soldiers are “vulnerable victims bereft of agency”. The book proceeds to counter those contentions ….’
Delighted to read that Margaret Stock has been named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. I first met Margaret when she was on the law faculty at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After a decade there, she retired from the Army, withthe rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and took up the practice of law in Alaska. For the last several years she’s been an outspoken advocate for the rights of immigrants in the U.S. military, writing a book on the subject and contributing commentaries to IntLawGrrls blog and other media. Her recognition for this important work, in the form of a $625,000 grant, is well deserved.