Monthly Archives: December 2013

gtmoVia a flight to Slovakia, United States has relinquished custody of all Uighurs – Muslim men from western China who’d been held at Guantánamo many years after executive and judicial officials agreed the men posed no threat to national security.

It didn’t have to take so long.

‘Way back in 2008, a federal judge (interviewed today by the Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg) ordered release of the men. And in spring 2009, some of these detainees came thisclose to freedom in the United States. They were to be hosted by the Uighur community in Northern Virginia. A plane was readied for their journey to the mainland. According to a May 2009 Newsweek report:

‘Then on May 1, Virginia GOP Rep. Frank Wolf got tipped off. Furious, he fired off a public letter to President Obama …. The flight never took off.’

Wolf’s stated concerns that, among other things, “the detainees might attack Chinese diplomats in D.C.,” ended the 2009 plan. Indeed, within a month, The New York Times then reported,

‘Congress overwhelmingly passed a rider to an appropriations bill for the war in Afghanistan that banned resettling any of the Guantánamo detainees in the United States …’

That stalled the release of the 22 Uighurs (now living in 6 different countries) and other detainees at GTMO (photo credit), for years. Things have picked up this year, thanks to a congressional ease-up and to work by newly appointed State and Defense envoys. But as The Times’ Charlie Savage reports today, there’s still a way to go before the camp closes:

‘There are 155 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo. Of those, about half have long been approved for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country, the bulk of whom are Yemenis.’

ihlybkAccountability for child soldiering figures prominently in the just-published 2012 Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law. Part II of volume 15, titled “Child Soldiers and the Lubanga Case,” comprises 3 articles:

Between Consolidation and Innovation: The International Criminal Court’s Trial Chamber Judgment in the Lubanga Case. This article focuses on aspects of the 2012 International Criminal Court judgment in Lubanga; specifically, the Trial Chamber’s: definition of the war crimes of conscription, enlistment, and use of child soldiers, as well as its determination that the underlying conflict was not of international character. The author is Dr. Sylvain Vité, now at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.

The Effects of the Lubanga Case on Understanding and Preventing Child Soldiering. The author of this survey of the Lubanga judgment is Washington & Lee University Law Professor Mark A. Drumbl, whose most recent book, Reimagining Child Soldiers, I reviewed in the American Journal of International Law.

Sexual Violence Against Children on the Battlefield as a Crime of Using Child Soldiers: Square Pegs in Round Holes and Missed Opportunities in Lubanga. This article takes the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to task for “[m]isconceptions … which saw the crime of use conflated with conscription/enlistment,” in a way that the author, Joe Tan, an attorney at the British NGO Human Dignity Trust, maintains undercut the prosecution of sexual violence.

(credit for photo of new IHL Yearbook, which also discusses cyberwarfare and the Tallinn Manual)

bailarSAN JUAN – What a treat to spend the winter holiday in this 500-year-old city.

A 3-hour flight transported us from the cold rains of north Georgia to the warmth (and some warm rains) of Puerto Rico. Old San Juan was in full holiday swing. Quite literally: in the nights before Christmas, the department store windows featured humannequins, dressed as presents and dancing to blares of Latin music.

mural_pajaroQuieter corners featured brilliant murals, of birds, lizards, and other island flora and fauna.

Wrapping the old quarter are ancient stone walls, built by Spain to protect this Caribbean holding against encroachments by other would-be colonizers, among them the Dutch and the British. The walled coast is seen here through an artillery turret that the United States added to one of San Juan’s forts, Castillo de San coldwar_viewCristóbal, in the days of the Cold War. It’s just one of many reminders of the island’s territorial relations with the United States.

Another was a placard in one restaurant, telling us that at that site, in the room just above our table,

Pedro Albizu Campos (September 12, 1891-April 21, 1965) fue arrestado.

Albizu Campos was a leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement. After being denied (on account of his “mixed racial heritage”) the valedictory speech he’d earned at Harvard Law, he went home to practice law and foment change. For his efforts he spent 26 years in U.S. prisons, in Georgia and elsewhere.

teachContemporary tensions were evident even last week. Teachers were protesting the government’s slashing of already earned pensions. During a march on Puerto Rico’s capitol, doors were forced and a couple police officers reportedly hurt. That provoked a shutdown of streets all ’round the building, and with it, a massive traffic jam. Police presence diminished by Christmas, but the pension problem lingers.

yellow_gingerFar from that madding crowd lies El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest among the United States’ national parks. Part of the Luquillo biosphere preserve recognized by UNESCO, it’s a wonderful trove of plants and animals, a place to hike amid the rush of waterfalls and the hush of rain that falls yet mostly is caught by the canopy above.

In all, a welcome respite from the grid.


icrcProfs looking to learn more about the laws regulating war are encouraged to take part in the annual Teaching International Humanitarian Law Workshop (prior posts here and here).

This year’s workshop will be held February 7-8, 2014, at Brigham Young University Law School in Provo, Utah, home institution of my colleague, Professor Eric Talbot Jensen. BYU joins the International Committee of the Red Cross in cosponsoring. Organizers write:

 The Workshop is targeted at law professors interested in teaching an IHL (otherwise known as the Law of Armed Conflict) course for the first time, integrating IHL modules into their current courses and/or rethinking their current teaching of this important subject. The Workshop provides an opportunity for law faculty to think creatively about teaching IHL, network with others, exchange ideas, and expand teaching of these topics.

Details and registration here.

unscMy colleague Beth Van Schaack, newly returned to academia after a stint as Deputy at the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, has posted at Just Security on what the presence of 11 International Criminal Court states parties on the U.N. Security Council could mean for ICC-Security Council relations.

In the past, states parties like Guatemala have used their seat to sponsor ICC discussions at the Council, she writes, and notes that the newest member will hold the Council presidency next month. That would be Jordan, whose Permanent Representative, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, has worked for years on ICC issues and has served as President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties. (credit for 2009 photo of Council in session)

One nagging problem for the Court has been state noncompliance with ICC orders – in particular, of arrest warrants for fugitives like Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – and to date the Council has done little to command compliance by U.N. member states. Another, Van Schaack writes, is the Council’s withholding of sanctions against persons accused by the ICC. Yet another  is the resolution boilerplate by which the Council:

► 1st, declined to contribute funds to aid the investigation and prosecution of the Libya and Darfur situations that it referred to the Court; and

► 2d, immunized any national of a ICC nonparty states (read the United States) from ICC investigation, even if the national were suspected of committing ICC crimes in the referred situation.

(And see here.) In theory, the large presence of states parties could change these dynamics. Or not: Van Schaack writes of criticism that states “‘forget’ that they are ICC members when they are elected to the Council.”

And there is also the matter of the Council’s 4 members who are not ICC states parties, China, Rwanda, Russia, and the United States. Their attitudes toward the ICC range from ambivalent to downright hostile, and 3 of them are permanent members able to veto Council resolutions. Van Schaack indicates that this may have contributed to a “zeitgeist,” an opening for the proposal that the Council ought not veto measures aimed at stopping atrocities. As I detailed in An old new idea to break P-5 impasse, the idea’s been around for more than a decade, but gained new steam when France, a  Council permanent member, embraced it this autumn. The other P-5 ICC state party, Britain, has yet to weigh in.

ibc_chad_7093-1Looking forward to this week’s exploration of issues related to children in and affected by armed conflict – the subject on which I have the honored of serving as a Special Adviser to Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. (My prior posts on this issue here.)

The occasion is a 2-day event entitled “Children and Armed Conflict: Strengthening Implementation of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Agenda,” cosponsored by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at New Jersey’s Princeton University and by the New York-based nongovernmental organization Watchlist on Children & Armed Conflict.

The program begins at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2013, with a public, plenary session – a panel discussion on “UN Efforts to End Grave Violations against Children in Conflict Situations.” Speaking will be:

► Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations and Chair of the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict.

► Under Secretary-General Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

► Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière, formerly the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations.  The first Chair of the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict, de la Sablière is the author of a pivotal report on this subject.

Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

Then on Friday,  December 13, will be a closed workshop, at which representatives of states and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations (as well as academics like myself) will examine the issue of children and armed conflict. Particular emphasis will be placed on the monitoring and reporting process launched U.N. Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and succeeding resolutions, overseen by the Special Representative Zerrougui, and watchdogged by NGOs.

At the core of the U.N. process are efforts to combat the 6 Grave Violations, a half-dozen offenses against children deemed especially reprehensible. Commission of these offenses, by state and nonstate actors alike, may result in action within the U.N. framework. The 6 are: killing or maiming of children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; attacks against schools or hospitals; denial of humanitarian access for children; and abduction of children. (credit for AP photo)

human-rights-watch-logoHuman Rights Watch is accepting applications for a full-time Researcher on Children’s Rights, who will be responsible for developing and implementing a research and advocacy agenda focusing on children’s right to education.

As detailed in the full job notice, the Researcher’s duties will include monitoring and documentation, fact-finding missions, preparation of reports and other writings, development of strategy, media relations, liaising with HRW staff and partner NGOs, and advocacy. The Researcher will report to the Executive Director of HRW’s Children’s Rights Division.

Qualifications sought include “advanced (graduate) degree in international relations, journalism, law, social sciences, or a related field,” and at least five-years’ experience in “human rights reporting and advocacy.”

Application deadline is January 15, 2014; details here.