After Senate committee’s Torture Report, U.S. must pursue 3 accountability pillars

torturereportThis week has marked the 66th anniversaries of 2 watersheds: on Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the 1948 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and on Wednesday, the same assembly’s adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Together, they form 2 essential pillars of post-World War II human rights and human security.

This week also marked the release, on Tuesday, of the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Programa study that, in full, spans 6,000 pages.

I was honored by an invitation to contribute my thoughts on the release of this so-called Torture Report to The New York Times‘ online Room for Debate forum, and so on Tuesday published an op-ed entitled “Officials Must Be Held Responsible for Torture.” Joining me in this forum were Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, Georgetown Law Professor David Luban, and Texas Law Professor Robert Chesney.

My own op-ed referred to structures of accountability common in the international arena; that is, truth commissions or commissions of inquiry. In this context, I saw the committee report as a step toward establishment of an historical record, yet advocated the pursuit of two additional pillars of accountability: a comprehensive analysis of aimed at reforming laws and institutions that permitted torture to occur, and Department of Justice investigation of the matter, with prosecutions to follow as appropriate. With regard to the latter, I wrote:

‘And those prosecutions must occur in courts of the United States. If they do not, indictments of Americans by other countries, or by international tribunals, must be expected.’

As a consequence of that op-ed, yesterday I joined American University Law Professor Steve Vladeck and Security Studies Professor Sebastian Gorka of the National Defense University, on a live segment of the Al Jazeera English program “Inside Story,” hosted by Ray Suarez. No public link’s available; suffice it to say that the spirited discussion included my reiteration of the need for 3-pillar accountability, as indicated below:

Program Officer sought for project on accountability for crimes against children

Conflict Dynamics International, a Massachusetts-based nongovernmental organization established in 2004, welcomes applications for a Program Officer to work on project relating to accountability for violations committed against children in armed conflict. The multiyear project, on which I am honored to serve as an advisor, is now in its second year. It is described as follows:

This initiatiCDI_logo_regve builds on CDI’s previous work in this area and aims to contribute substantially to the achievement of effective accountability for these violations through national and international mechanisms. CDI is developing a conceptual and practical framework aimed at practitioners working on accountability in the CAC context. Through this initiative CDI will also develop several other related resources that will provide guidance and technical support to practitioners.

As detailed in this complete job notice, duties of this full-time Program Officer will include communications and publications, fundraising and grant management, and monitoring. Sought is someone with inter alia a minimum of 3-5 years’ experience in relevant fields; working knowledge of French or Arabic is desirable.

Deadline for applications is soon: September 12, 2014. Details on job duties and desired qualifications, and on how to apply, here.


Human Rights Watch on siting accountability for Syria atrocities

icc1‘What makes ICC involvement so critical is the reality that atrocities have been committed on both sides. It’s imperative that you have impartial application of the law.’

– 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.

Syria accountability put on back burner in UN Security Council Resolution 2118

syriaWhat 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; ….

‘Nuff said.

ICC’s Bensouda on accountability & peace

2bensouda‘If we have learned anything from history, it is that accountability and the rule of law have been recognized as fundamental preconditions to provide the framework to protect individuals and nations from massive atrocities, to promote peace and international security, and to manage conflicts. Not only was prosecuting crimes seen as satisfying conceptions of fundamental justice, but also as a means to prevent their perpetration.’

Fatou Bensouda (left), the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in “International Justice and Diplomacy,” an op-ed which was posted online today at the New York Times website and will appear in print tomorrow in the International Herald Tribune. The commentary outlines the Prosecutor’s approach to the role of the ICC in a geopolitical world.