Syria

Flag-Pins-USA-SyriaNot so long ago, the United States was looking to mend fences with Syria, as a 2008 Los Angeles Times interview with my colleague Derek Shearer, Occidental College diplomacy professor and former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, serves to remind.

Shearer had been interviewed on his return from a State Department-sponsored visit to Damascus, where he met with media and artists and gave SRO public lectures. He told the Times he was “excited … to see a country that has such great potential for doing well in this era of globalization,” and in that election year he looked forward to U.S. engagement with Syria if Barack Obama became President.

In an apparent easing of relations, in 2011, the 1st U.S. Ambassador to Damascus in years took office. But that thaw is a diplomatic casualty of more recent events.

child-silhouette‘There is a mile of distance between grieving for dead children and avenging those deaths through military force.
‘Furthermore, one can simultaneously express sorrow for the dead, particularly the children, and resist direct United States military intervention. This is a false choice that uses the dead children as a mask for America’s militaristic instinct, and one that I find repugnant.’

The New York Times’ Charles Blow, in an op-ed that criticizes governmental officials for singular invocations of the suffering of Syrian children as a casus belli (prior posts), even as those same officials maintain resounding silence about the suffering of other children at home and abroad – a host of ills that include malnutrition and gun violence.

icjDevoid from much of the U.S. debate about whether to use military force against Syria is any exploration of nonviolent ways to condemn the use of chemical weapons and to push for an end to Syria’s multiyear civil war. (Prior posts.)

While it’s true that Russia, in particular, says it will veto action in the U.N. Security Council, we’ve not seen any public effort to apply effective pressure on Russia to do otherwise. No threat of a Western boycott of the Sochi Olympics – to hearken to one tool used during the Carter Administration – or any other action that similarly might sting the Putin regime. (By no means am I advocating a boycott, which does unwarranted harm to athletes. I mention it, rather, as an example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we haven’t seen voiced in this runup to a possible Syrian intervention. As posted months ago with respect to Syria, in this sense diplomacy hasn’t been tried.)

And while there’s been much hand-wringing over Russia’s apparent opposition to a Security Council referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, we’ve heard no exploration of another Carter-era tool – a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice. (photo credit) My students and I have just studied that suit, brought against Iran after the November 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The ICJ’s May 1980 decision in the Diplomatic & Consular Staff Case (U.S. v. Iran) pronounced the wrongfulness of Iran’s failure to protect the embassy and its personnel during and after the takeover. The court’s order that the two sides negotiate an appropriate remedy fueled a bilateral settlement which resulted in the release of the 52 U.S. hostages and the establishment of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which to this day arbitrates disputes between the 2 countries.

Why not pursue a similar course in the current crisis, in lieu of or in tandem with other avenues?

A possible vehicle for such a suit would be the 1984 Convention Against Torture. Article 1(1) defines torture as

any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Surely, this definition is satisfied by the conduct alleged against the Syrian government: attacking civilians with chemical weapons – nerve agents that bring long-lasting injury or death to human beings – for the purpose of exacting punishment against or coercing capitulation by rebel forces.

The Convention Against Torture may serve as a vehicle for litigation because Article 30(1) contains a clause conferring ICJ jurisdiction:

Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which cannot be settled through negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the Parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those Parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

The United Nations’ online treaty database indicates that when Syria joined the Convention on August 19, 2004, it did not limit the effect of Article 30. That seems to open a path for a state party – if not the United States, which did place some limitations on its own joinder, one of the many other countries calling for action against Syria – to insist on negotiation of this dispute over chemical weapons use, with an eye to suing in the ICJ 6 months’ hence if negotiations come to naught.

An ICJ judgment that explores the relation of a chemical attack to the universal ban against torture could do much to enhance the current claim that such an attack crosses an “international redline.” Even if some snag prevented the issuance of a judgment as unequivocal as that in the Diplomatic Staff case (maybe a lex specialis concern, to name one), resort to negotiation/litigation might enable a more deliberate, less violent resolution to this grave situation.

Capitol-SenateThe newly released draft of what the Senate calls the “Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons” is, well, longer than the President’s version. The objectives remain quite broad; indeed, the terms of this draft seem to contemplate more than a single strike. Differences on 1st glance in this version, expected to be the basis of Senate debate today:

► Deletion of the President’s preambular reference to “international norms,” counterbalanced a few paragraphs down with a list of treaties;

► Requirement that the President deliver his determination of necessity to high-ranking Senators and Representatives, plus other reports to and consults with Congress; and

► More references to limitation of scope, including a 90-day sunset on operations, with possibility of a single 30-day extension.

(photo credit; h/t Lawfare for Senate draft)

decwarsAmericans judge U.S. intervention abroad based on the success of the military operation, concludes Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin in an insightful analysis published today. Americans’ hindsight perception of military success – or failure – matters more than whether the President in power had the foresight to secure congressional authorization for the operation, Bravin adds.

He bases his analysis on a survey of the “mixed record” of military operations, dating to the 1941 declarations of war that launched U.S. military involvement in World War II. (credit for photo of President Franklin  D. Roosevelt signing declaration against Japan) Considered inter alia are:

doc_098_big► Interventions conducted pursuant to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (right) that led to escalation of the U.S.-Vietnam War, the 2001 post-9/11 authorization that preceded the U.S.-led counterassault in Afghanistan, and the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq.

► Many interventions that were not preceded by congressional authorization – including the United States’ role in the months-long 1999 bombardment of Serbia, waged, as Bravin put it, “to stop Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s forces from attacking in Kosovo.”

Nacionalni_automobil_Yugo_1999The Kosovo effort emerges as a foreign policy success in American eyes – Bravin writes that it was “conducted under the aegis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, subdued Milosevic; resulted in no U.S. casualties; and ended 12 days before the 90-day deadline the War Powers Resolution of 1973 sets for a president to withdraw U.S. forces unless he obtains congressional authorization.” (credit for 1999 photo captioned “A street in Belgrade destroyed by NATO bombs”)

In short, the Kosovo operation’s perceived success as a matter of policy – its contravention of the terms of the U.N. Charter is an altogether different matter – depended in no small way on its limited character. That policy lesson of constraint also informs Bravin’s quotation of my own comment on the draft Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria that the Obama Administration has sent to Congress. Here’s my quoted critique:

‘The draft uses multiple verbs to characterize the ‘objective’ of intervention – deter, disrupt, prevent, degrade. All are vague and thus susceptible to expansive as well as restrictive interpretation. The breadth of the authorization, and the consequent potential for an eventual widening of operations in Syria, should spark concern even among those who favor a limited strike.’

map_syriaKudos to President Barack Obama for deciding to put to the test of democratic deliberation his support for using military force against Syria in the wake of the August 21, 2013, chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. (image credit)

The decision is welcome not just because of the Obama Administration’s failure so far to build, within or without the U.N. Security Council, a global coalition – a  failure signified most starkly by Thursday’s “No” vote in the British Parliament. The decision to debate is also welcome because the proposed use of force raises serious questions of international and national law and policy. Deliberation offers opportunities for legitimation and education, not to mention further exploration of nonforcible measures like sanctions or a referral to the International Criminal Court, both of which were deployed in the 2011 Libya crisis. (Prior Syria posts here.)

Below, thanks to CNN.com, is the full text of the Administration’s draft Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria. The draft likely will form the basis for ensuing debates in the House of Representatives and Senate.

* * * *

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;
Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;
Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;
Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;
Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;
Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and
Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.
SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to —
(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. —
(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) Applicability of other requirements. — Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

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.

Did regime-change overreach in Libya seal the awful fate that civilians have endured these last years in Syria? A new article in a Beijing-based law journal, China Legal Science, strongly argues “Yes.”

liAmong the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are 3 from the West – Britain, France, and the United States – plus China and Russia. The latter 2 countries have incurred much criticism for blocking Council action on Syria. ‘Way back in October 2011, for example, the United States’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, “storm[ed] out” after the latter 2 P-5 countries refused to join what she called “a watered-down resolution” against Syria. Criticism has tended to center around Russia’s commercial and geopolitical relationships with Syria. But the new article, “Responsibility to Protect: A Challenge to Chinese Traditional Diplomacy” (no. 1-2013, pp. 97-120), indicates that other concerns also have been at play. Asserts Dr. Zhu Wenqi, Professor of International Law at Renmin University (formerly a diplomat in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an attorney in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and holder of a doctorate from the University of Paris II):

‘The Council’s failure to take action in the Syrian case is because of reflections by China and Russia upon what happened after the resolutions adopted by the Security Council in the case of Libya.’

Zhu cites Resolution 1970 (Feb. 26, 2011), which imposed certain sanctions against Libya and referred the situation to the International Criminal Court, and Resolution 1973 (Mar. 17, 2011), which authorized member states “to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians.” China voted in favor of 1970 and abstained from voting on 1973. In positing “the Libyan authorities’ responsibility to protect” its people, each resolution invoked the responsibility to protect doctrine. With admirable clarity and conciseness, Zhu recounts the 15-year history of that doctrine, by which:

► 1st, each state has a duty to protect its own population; and

► 2d, should a state fail in its duty, the international community has the responsibility to step in and protect the threatened population.

What happened right after adoption of Resolution 1973? NATO mounted a many-month military operation, which ended only after Libya’s longtime ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, was deposed, put on the run, and ultimately killed. The Security Council had not made regime change an explicit aim in either Resolution 1970 or Resolution 1973; a month into the intervention, however, an op-ed by the leaders of the Western P-5 members insisted that Gaddafi “must go, and go for good.” Zhu writes that this ouster effort led China to criticize the resolutions as “pretextual” and as costly in the numbers of civilians harmed.

The Libya lesson has prompted China to resist calls for intervention in Syria, Zhu states. (credit for AP photo above, captioned “Chinese Ambassador to the UN Li Baodong sitting with his hands down as Security Council members vote on resolution to back an Arab League call for Syria’s Assad to step down, Feb. 4, 2012”) What’s more, it has led China to revert to skepticism toward the doctrine of responsibility to protect. In an account that echoes writings of Judge Xue Hanqin on which I recently posted, Zhu sets out not only the value that China places on the sovereignty guarantees in Article 2(4), (7) of the U.N. Charter, but also the relation of that value to the desire to maintain independence from “‘the remnants of imperialist and colonialist oppression'” (quoting the late Wang Tieya). Quoting from this article, Zhu writes that China’s opposition to regime change in Syria is seen as reinforcing the Charter:

‘In the eyes of many Chinese evaluators, China’s attitude toward the Syrian issue actually demonstrated that China “is assuming more responsibilities and obligations” in international affairs.’

Amid this week’s reports that the United States may be backing off from demands for the resignation of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, the article is timely – and its explication of the Chinese legal perspective on global security has value any time.

(What follows are the remarks I delivered earlier today at the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington. The footnoted version of this speech is available at SSRN here.)

asil_logoI am very honored, and most deeply humbled, by this Prominent Woman in International Law award. I am humbled when I look at the list of prior recipients. They include: Pat Wald and Mireille Delmas-Marty, two women whose lifework has inspired my own. Stateswomen like Pat Schroeder and Geraldine Ferraro. ASIL leaders like Lucy Reed and Edie Weiss. Another woman who serves as a Special Adviser to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Patti Sellers. And Carol Lee, a woman who, like me, once clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens. (Indeed, as of today Justice Stevens may add “feeder judge for PWIL award” to his long list of accomplishments.)

I am even more humbled when I think of all the amazing international law women who deserve this award. Let me name a very few: Our new ASIL President-Elect, Lori Damrosch (who is here with her mother, Jean Fisler, a WILIG stalwart), not to mention ASIL fearless leader Betsy Andersen. Joan Donoghue and her sisters on the International Court of Justice. The ICC Prosecutor whom I am honored to serve, Fatou Bensouda, as well as my sister Special Advisers, Leila Sadat and Brigid Inder. Stateswomen like Mary Robinson and Hillary Clinton. And still another woman whose lifework has inspired my own, Martha Minow.

(You know, I never had a sister, and my mother has been gone for more than a decade now. But I would like to give shout-out to the men in my life: my husband, Peter O’Neill, and our son, Tiernan O’Neill. Tiernan is in school today, so they had to stay at home, but they are here today in my heart.)

I am humbled, finally, to accept this award not only on my behalf, but also on behalf of my three co-editors, Kate Doty, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, and Beth Van Schaack, and, indeed, on behalf of the more than 300 women (plus a few men) who have contributed to IntLawGrrls. Those of you who are with us here today, please stand. Thank you. This award belongs to every one of you.

Even though we are all winners, our general dislike for cacophony demands that only one of us speak today. That honor falls to me, and given that this is a lunch talk, I have chosen a light and modest topic. Well, no, I’m afraid I have not. My title is, in fact, “International Law and the Future of Peace.” For this audience, it might more fittingly be called “Peace: A Feminist Project.”

As many of you know, IntLawGrrls often dedicated their contributions to transnational foremothers. Consistent with the assumption that we women are more nurturing than other humans, helena3contributors frequently chose to honor pacifist heroines. Many from this group of foremothers rode what is sometimes called the first wave of feminism – that period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when many women (plus a few men) campaigned for change. Members of this movement are best known for winning women the vote. That goal, however, was but one of several that animated them. Equally important to many of these feminists was pacifism. Theirs was an all-out quest to end war. One such campaigner was Jeannette Rankin (above). (photo credit) As a rare woman member of Congress, Rankin voted “No” on legislation by which the United States entered World War I – and twenty-three years later, World War II.

Another was Jane Addams (below), who lectured for peace and against war, and led the U.S.-based Women’s Peace Party. In 1915, Addams chaired the International Congress of Women at The Hague and became the founding President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an organization that thrives to this day. For her efforts Addams eventually would receive the Nobel Peace Prjane-addams-3ize. (photo credit) It must be noted that despite her achievements, the American Society of International Law denied Addams’ application for membership. As chronicled in a 1974 AJIL article co-authored by Alona Evans, Addams was “invited, instead, to subscribe to the Journal ‘for the same amount as the annual dues ….’” In fact, no woman was admitted to membership until 1921, when the Constitution’s guarantee of women’s suffrage appears to have forced the Society’s hand.

It must also be noted that not every foremother was a woman of peace. Quite to the contrary. The pirate Gráinne Ní Mháille, or Grace O’Malley, was cited by me and by nearly every other Irish IntLawGrrl. Selected from Asia were Lakshmi Bai and Trưng Trắc; from Africa, Ndaté Yàlla; and from the Caribbean, Anacaona and Nanny of the Maroons. At times, each of these women resorted to combat as a means to keep her people free from conquest or exploitation.

That we IntLawGrrls chose to honor warriors and pacifists alike points to a central paradox of peace. In its purest sense, pacifism connotes opposition to violence. And surely, the human condition is advanced every time that a life-threatening attack is averted. But the absence of that sort of violence – the non-use of force, as we lawyers call it – is not, in and of itself, peace. Whenever a careful examination reveals an apparent absence of violence to be little more than a veneer that masks exploitation, there is no peace.

mlkIt is in recognition of this fact that the peacemaker who died forty-five years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (left), made clear his preference not for “negative peace which is the absence of tension,” but rather for “positive peace which is the presence of justice.”  (photo credit) Similarly, a leading theorist of peace, the Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, distinguished attacks, which he called “direct violence,” from exploitation, which he called “structural violence.” Galtung insisted on attention to the latter as well as the former, “not only because exploitation may lead to direct violence,” but also, and perhaps most importantly, because exploitation “is violence in itself.” This fuller understanding of peace, this acknowledgment that exploitation is itself violence, poses a challenge, Galtung wrote. The challenge is to reduce direct violence – to promote the non-use of force – without simultaneously enabling exploitation. In short, there is a line to be drawn. And in our world, the task of drawing that line often falls to the shapers of international law.

We all know in broad outline the rules that govern the use of force. They appear in the foundational text of modern international law, the Charter of the United Nations. From 1945 onwards, U.N. member states promised to “settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered,” and further to “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” States reserved an “inherent right” of self-defense, but only “if an armed attack occurs, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” We know too that at Nuremberg and in Tokyo, convicted leaders were hanged for committing aggressive war – called crimes against peace – and for the atrocities that ensued. Taken together, these developments signaled that no state would be permitted to launch an offensive attack, that none therefore would need to exercise self-defense, and that leaders who acted in violation would be punished. That legal framework ought to have put an end to war, or at least to war between states. It did not. Read Full Article

ahmedTo be honest, it’s just too disturbing to embed, in full, this video of 8-year-old Ahmed smoking a cigarette and shooting his AK-47.  Ahmed’s struggle with the weight of his weapon, which is nearly as long as he is tall, is evident. He told Ruth Sherlock, reporter for the Telegraph of London:

‘Weapons are heavy I still have a difficult time shooting them, I can only shoot resting on the floor.’

Ahmed is a resistance fighter in Aleppo, Syria, an orphan since his parents were killed in a mortar attack. In the video, he says,

‘My mother died, and I kissed her.’

His adult comrades in arms say there are many children like Ahmed in Aleppo. These children are caught up in the conflict no less than those described in a prior post. No less than those in another video, which UN Dispatch embeds here as it notes that “only 20% of the $1.2 billion pledged to support humanitarian efforts has been received.” That shortfall adds an aid crisis to the list of woes that have befallen Syria.