“Shari’a law & military ops” @ Siracusa

207“Shari’a Law and Military Operations” will be the subject of the NATO School/International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences Seminar, to be held November 24-30, 2013. The site will be the headquarters of the Institute in Siracusa – a lovely city on Italy’s island of Sicily, about which I posted a while back.

nato_school_oberammergauThe November gathering will mark the 6th annual joint seminar on this subject. Organizers write that the seminar aims “to provide instruction to military officers, legal advisors, operational planners, political and policy advisors,” but is open to all interested persons. The faculty consists of “internationally pre-eminent scholars on Shari’a.” As detailed in the draft program, topics will include:

► Introduction to Shari’a law
► Islamic Criminal Justice System
► Islamic International Law & International Humanitarian Law
► Shari’a’s Limitations on Jihad & the Use of Force
► Shari’a and Contemporary Post-Conflict & Transitional Justice
► Women’s & Minorities’ Rights
► Operational Issues

Deadline for registering is October 25. Details here.

In lovely Sicily, specialists discuss globalization & international criminal law

duomoSIRACUSA – For the 13th year in a row, this 2,700-year-old Sicilian city is playing host to a Specialization Course in International Criminal Law for Young Penalists. A hundred practitioners and scholars from around the world are considering sessions on the theme of “The Future of International Criminal Law in the Era of Globalization.” It’s my honor to join more than 2 dozen colleagues as a faculty member.

Sessions in the initial days of this 10-day course have provoked much thought, many questions, from attendees and presenters alike. This morning and last began with a lecture from our host, M. Cherif Bassiouni, Emeritus Professor at Chicago’s DePaul Law and President of ISISC, the Siracusa-based Istituto Superiore Internazionale di Scienze Criminali/International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences. He voiced concern for civilian victims of armed conflict,  and sounded concern that international criminal law may be too fragmented. With so many legal regimes and institutions at play, he said, what vans1is called a system of international criminal justice has troubling working in fact like a system. This in turn may weaken the normative core common to these enterprises. Exploring these issues yesterday were, as depicted above, Larissa van den Herik, Elies van Sliedregt, and Beth Van Schaack.

Today William A. Schabas and I offered our thoughts. Among many other points, Bill delved deeper into the character of our global society, citing Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker’s 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Meanwhile, I highlighted some positive effects that the multiplicity of regimes and institutions may have. To name 2:

► As demonstrated in external responses to the United States’ 2002 establishment of an indefinite detention center at its military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the presence of many sites for adjudication or other challenge to a state’s practice may compel a state to adjust; in contrast, if there is only one such legal regime or institution, a state more easily may circumvent its strictures. (A notable aside: back in D.C., President Barack Obama is slated to talk about GTMO in a policy address this Thursday afternoon.)

► As demonstrated by the fits-and-starts history of international criminal justice, it seems unlikely that policymakers will design a perfect institution on the 1st try. Inspired by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ description of experimentation within the “laboratory” of the subnational state as “one of the happy incidents of the federal system,” I observed that simultaneous operation of multiple institutions might make it easier for each institution to learn, and adjust, from the lessons of the others.

The sessions continued with a fascinating exploration of commissions of inquiry, with speakers including 3 experts who’ve served on such commissions, Christine Chinkin, Serge Brammertz, and Philippe Kirsch. Up tomorrow is a survey of tribunals other than the International Criminal Court. Then more as the week goes by…not to mention much opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this ancient city.sunset

MLK & rights movement honored at Birmingham site where 4 girls perished

barrierMemory is a touchstone of transitional justice.  Making a record of what happened – of conflict endured, of violence suffered – is seen to have societal value. In the short term, it preserves accounts that otherwise might be lost, and so aids the quest for truth. Stories of persons and groups survive, to inspire others in the future. In the longer term, the recording of memory may lay the groundwork for accountability, apology, and, if not reconciliation, societal recalibration.

Today we remember one such inspiring person: Martin Luther King Jr., the Nobel Peace laureate born 84 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia. A moving memorial to him may be found in that city (prior post). And 140 miles due west is another memorial well worth visiting.

Located in Alabama’s largest city, the 21-year-old Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tells the many stories of America’s civil rights movement through multimedia presentations that draw the visitor into history. Side-by-side displays of circa-1950s facilities expose the inequity of an era known as “separate but equal,” a misnomer borne of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (prior posts), the 8-to-1 Supreme Court decision that affirmed de jure segregation. One example is the display above: on close look, the visitor sees not only 2 water sources, but also that one is a clean and modern bubbler, the other a rusty spigot. (photo credit) Accompanying such tactile exhibits are photographs and artifacts from the movement’s heyday, as well as more recent, videotaped oral histories.

Dr. King is present, too, of course. The words of his April 1963 Letter from the Birmingham Jail appear, just outside a replica of the cell where he wrote them while detained for planning a nonviolent protest. Midway through the exhibit the visitor – having just been sobered by photos of attacks on demonstrators – is uplifted by the wall-sized projection of King declaiming, “I have a dream,” in the speech he delivered before thousands in Washington just a few months after his stay in Birmingham’s jail.

birm_churchAlso commemorated are the roles that children have played in the struggle for equality. Exhibits remind of the Children’s Crusade. Just weeks after penning his letter, King preached at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist:

‘Don’t worry about your children; they are going to be alright. Don’t hold them back if they want to go to jail, for they are not only doing a job for themselves, but for all of America and for all of mankind.’

More than 1,000 students skipped school and marched peacefully to oppose segregation. Authorities responded with dogs, clubs, and hoses. Global outrage at these images helped hasten an agreement to desegregate downtown.

birm_monumBut that success was followed by tragedy: as I’ve written, in September 1963, 4 months after the agreement and less than 1 month after King’s “Dream” speech, “a bomb exploded in an African-American church, killing Sunday School students Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, all aged between 11 and 14. Twenty-three others were wounded, and 2 boys were shot to death in the rioting that followed.”

Well into the Birmingham exhibit, the unsuspecting visitor realizes that the church was 16th Street Baptist, the immense brick structure across the way. (photos (c) Peter O’Neill) Memory sears when the visitor learns she is standing where these children played, prayed, and perished.

Alexandra Huneeus’ ICL/human rights paper wins AALS scholarship award

huneeus_2012Congratulations to Wisconsin Law Professor Alexandra Huneeus, whose paper entitled “International Criminal Law by Other Means: The Quasi-Criminal Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Courts” has been selected the 2013 winner of the scholarly paper competition sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools!

Here’s the abstract of her paper:

‘Scholarship on the international prosecution of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity has typically focused on two types of international courts, the criminal tribunals and the hybrid tribunals. This article proposes that there is an alternative international mechanism of accountability that has been overlooked: the jurisdiction exercised by international human rights bodies of ordering and supervising national prosecutions. Original empirical research reveals that the regional rights bodies have forged a quasi-criminal practice that strives towards the very same outcomes as the international and hybrid criminal tribunals: punishment and deterrence, restorative justice, processes of societal reconciliation, and justice system reform. Further, this form of jurisdiction has unique attributes: it promotes prosecutions that are local and paid for by the state (rather than the international community), even as its process is responsive to victims’ needs. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in particular has made national prosecution of gross state-sponsored crimes a center-piece of its regional agenda. And, like the international and hybrid tribunals, it has achieved some success. The article concludes that the quasi-criminal jurisdiction of the human rights courts should be considered as a complement and, in certain situations, an alternative to the work of the current international and hybrid criminal tribunals.’

Alex, whose contributions to IntLawGrrls blog may be found here, will present her paper during the upcoming AALS Annual Meeting, at 2 p.m. Sunday, January 6, 2013, in the Cambridge Room, 2d floor, Hilton New Orleans Riverside. (Yours truly will serve as a commentator at a “New Voices in Human Rights” panel that same day – 8:30 January 6 in the Hilton’s Jasperwood Room; hope to see you there.)

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of reading Alex’ manuscripts, and am delighted to see this worthy recognition of this work.