Palestine

note

Given the conflicting and imprecise* dispatches on reports that Palestine seeks to join a raft of treaties including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the item above, just posted on the U.N. media website, is welcome. It states in full:

Notes to correspondents
Note to Correspondents in response to questions on documents submitted by the Permanent Observer of Palestine

New York, 2 January 2015

In response to questions, the Spokesman had the following to say about Palestinian submission of documents:

The Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations in New York has transmitted to the Secretariat copies of documents relating to the accession of Palestine to 16 international conventions and treaties in respect of which the Secretary-General performs depositary functions. These include the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The original versions of these documents were delivered on 1 January 2015 to the Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the PLO and the PA. The documents are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps.

 

* E.g., it has not been possible to “sign” the Rome Statute since Israel and the United States became the last 2 states to do so, on Dec. 31, 2000. Both of those latter (and with them, Sudan) later attempted to “unsign,” an act previously unknown to international law. None of the three has since ratified.

schabas3

Readers no doubt are well aware that in July the U.N. Human Rights Council resolved to set up

an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Soon after, the Council’s President, Ambassador Baudelaire Ndong Ella of Gabon, announced appointments to the Gaza Commission: as finally constituted, the commission comprises a chair, Professor William A. Schabas of Canada, who holds academic posts at inter alia London’s Middlesex Law and the Netherlands’ Leiden Law, along with 2 members: Dr. Doudou Diène of Senegal, who has served in the past as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and also as its Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire; and Mary McGowan Davis of the United States, formerly a state trial judge and federal prosecutor in New York.

The appointment of Schabas, my longtime colleague, was met with astounding commentary from some sectors. In the 9-minute video pictured above and available here – an interview broadcast yesterday on CNN – Schabas responds to that critique. He further outlines the work of the commission going forward, as well as its potential interrelation with the work of the International Criminal Court.

map_ALAACROSS THE POND – An array of signage has marked my 1/2-finished 2-week journey in Europe.

The first is at left. It’s a favorite feature of transatlantic flying these days, the seatback map by which the white silhouette of a jet tells passengers where they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re headed. This one especially caught the eye because of the markings accompanied by years. No, that’s not Egypt relocated to France’s western coast, but rather an indication of where a ship named Egypt sank in 1922. Many such shipwrecks were noted along the way: of historical significance to be sure is Lusitania 1915 to the left. But for the international lawyer, perhaps greatest interest is Alabama 1864, in the channel between London and Bayeux. As a Confederate ship outfitted by the British, the Alabama plied European waters to harass Union ships. That behavior and its sinking gave rise to a landmark dispute settlement proceeding known as The Alabama Claims. In the words of the U.S. Department of State:
The peaceful resolution of these claims seven years after the war ended set an important precedent for solving serious international disputes through arbitration, and laid the foundation for greatly improved relations between Britain and the United States.

LNS_genevaONUThe early years of international law also surface in the emblem at right, located in what is now the Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters of the United Nations. The premises initially housed the 1st effort to construct a global intergovernmental organization aimed at promoting peace and security. Founded just after World War I, that organization did not survive the tragedy of World War II. Yet its legacy lives on not only in its successor organization, but also in architectural flourishes like this bilingual monogram: “LNS,” for “League of Nations / Société des Nations.”

The final set of signs, below, were found in a grand assembly room of the U.N. Geneva building. Organizers were preparing for a large gathering related to the World Health Organization – hence the caduceus affixed to the golden U.N. emblem above the dais. But the most interesting signs are those in the foreground. It had not occurred to me that the 2 entities recognized as U.N. nonmember states would be so situated at such meetings. Not the least because of the imminent journey of Pope Francis to the Middle East, the notion of delegates from entities as different as the Holy See and Palestine sitting side by side both comforts and fascinates.who_stsiege

eventWASHINGTON – Yesterday I had the honor of serving as Distinguished Discussant for the 16th Annual Grotius Lecture, a keynote event at the ongoing joint meeting of the American Society of International Law and the International Law Association. Delivering the lecture was NYU Global Law Professor Radhika Coomaraswamy, whose former posts include Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on Children & Armed Conflict and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. (event video here) Her talk was entitled “Women and Children: The Cutting Edge of International Law.”

Below is a version of my remarks in response, prepared and delivered in my personal capacity. The final, fully footnoted article is set to appear in due course, along with that of Professor Coomaraswamy, in the American University International Law Review, thanks to the lecture’s cosponsor, American University Washington College of Law.

The Post-Postcolonial Woman or Child

“‘Let the child be excused by his age, the woman by her sex,’ says Seneca in the treatise in which he vents his anger upon anger.” So wrote the namesake of this lecture, Hugo Grotius, in his masterwork entitled The Law of War and Peace. With this 60862quotation, “Let the child be excused by his age, the woman by her sex,” Grotius traced to the writings of an ancient Roman philosopher the injunction against harming women and children in time of war. Grotius’ reiteration of Seneca’s words tacitly admitted that as late as 1625, armies still were violating the injunction. Sadly, the same is true 389 years later. Today neither women nor children are excused from wartime assaults, violence, and upheaval. In Syria alone, three years of conflict have left well over 100,000 persons dead, and forced another 2.5 million persons to flee their country. Women and children are included in those statistics. Conflicts elsewhere generate similarly grim numbers, as Professor Coomaraswamy indicated by her references to the Central African Republic, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to her own homeland of Sri Lanka. Indeed, outrage at the persistent violation of laws protecting women and children undergirds the Grotius Lecture that we have just heard.

Commensurate with her distinguished career in international law academia, policy, and practice, Professor Coomaraswamy has presented a vast and intricate tapestry of global developments. It would be impossible for me to comment in full in the time allotted. Instead, I propose to pull five strands out of the fabric of her lecture and to weave them anew, as a means to invite the imagining of a possible future, that of “the post-postcolonial woman or child.”
My first strand addresses Professor Coomaraswamy’s statements of concern about postcolonial theorists prevalent in the global south. These scholars, she said,

‘reject the human rights framework as part of the ‘liberal’ ‘imperialist’ project especially when it comes to cultural practices. … [They] rejec[t] the dominance of the European Enlightenment and the sacredness of the power of reason.’

My response might raise hackles among some of those scholars, for it begins with this claim: We are all postcolonials now.

By way of example, both of my own countries of citizenship are postcolonial states. Read Full Article

carter_church12jan14This time 2 weeks ago, my family, neighbors, and I were in Plains, Georgia, where former President Jimmy Carter taught us Sunday school. Age 89 and still active around the world, Carter does this every Sunday that he’s home in the southern Georgia town where he was born and has lived most of his life. According to the schedule, another group of congregants sits with him at his Maranatha Baptist Church even as I write this post.

Our mid-January visit began with a 3-1/2-hour Saturday drive across a rainy state, then a lovely overnight and elegant breakfast at a majestic, circa-1892 hotel in Americus. By 8:30 Sunday we’d driven 10 miles west, to Plains, and were waiting in line as visitor-friendly Secret Service agents checked our bags and ushered us into the simple church. There Miss Jan, a retired schoolteacher, delivered a wry primer on the history of Plains and the Carter family.

Right at 10 the Carters arrived. The former First Lady, Rosalynn (“It’s pronounced Rose-lun,” Miss Jan had told us), sat in a pew.  The man who’d served as U.S. President from 1977-1981 stood at front. He wore a striped shirt and grey jacket and sported a bolo tie with a turquoise pendant. Carter asked where everyone was from. Georgia, of course. But also Alabama, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington, not to mention Canada, China, Ireland, and Palestine. At that last, Carter interjected,

‘We go there almost every year, and my heart goes out to all the Palestinian people.’

He talked at length about his 28th book, set to be released this March. The subject, he said, is

‘the horrible plight of women and girls around the world.’

As examples, he spoke of genital mutilation, enforced second-class status, lack of educational opportunities, child marriages, sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, and honor killings. Carter’s move to another topic was halted by one word from the audience: “Jimmy,” spoken with a distinct Plains accent. “Jimmy,” Rosalynn continued,

‘You left out what’s happening in our country.’

me_peanut12jan14The former President flashed the smile for which he’s famous – a smile once captured on campaign buttons, and the foremost feature of the statue at right, which stands along the road not far from the Maranatha church. Carter then elaborated on Western countries, citing the still-low percentages of women in positions of government and the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. He concluded his account of the global status of women with these words:

‘I think it’s the worst human rights abuse on earth right now, and I hope this book will bring attention to it.’

Carter then donned glasses and read the Bible passage for the week, an Old Testament account of the gratitude that Hannah, despite hard losses, showed to God. Carter mentioned his own loss that week, of “the best friend I had on earth, Robert Pastor.” Pastor, who died at age 66 from colon cancer, had, among other achievements, helped to secure the Senate’s 2/3 approval of the Panama Canal Treaty – “my hardest political battle,” Carter said. Just weeks earlier, the two had co-authored an op-ed suggesting how peace might be brought to Syria. Pastor, Carter told us, was

‘the wisest person on how to bring peace, on how to solve a complicated problem.’

Pastor’s legacy still in mind, Carter returned to Hannah’s story, urging us to give thanks, as Hannah did, for “another day of life,” for the “blessings of freedom,” for being “able to spread to people around us health and safety.”

The uplift and inspiration of his message lingered long after our journey home.

unesco‘And so UNESCO is in the midst of a budget crisis, and the USA is poised to lose a great deal of influence over an organization that runs Tsunami warning systems, teaches literacy to the same Afghan police officers that are being trained by American soldiers, runs education programs for girls around the world, and has conferred “World Heritage” status on 22 American monuments and sites.’

– Mark Leon Goldberg, in a UN Dispatch post on events earlier today in Paris: having refused to pay its dues since UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, the United States lost its voting rights in that body, formally known as the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization. (credit for (c) UNESCO photo of Afghan schoolchildren)

Goldberg decried the federal  legislation that required the United States to become a UNESCO deadbeat. (See § 414(a) here and § 410 here.) And he worried what could happen, to the United States and to U.N. agencies with “more obvious connections to American security” (he named the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), if such agencies likewise were to admit Palestine to membership.