In a development that's getting far too little press, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a limited amnesty bill into law this weekend.
The bill absolves most individuals of any wrongdoing (read: war crimes) in the fight against the Soviets and the country's bloody civil war in the 1990s. Warlords and militia leaders can still be prosecuted, but the burden of proof is solely on the accuser. And with the lower house of parliament totally dominated by former militia commanders (unsurprisingly, they were the authors of the bill), the idea that victims will now come forward and charge some of the most powerful men in the country with wrongdoing seems preposterous.
The bill's authors argue that war crimes tribunals for deeds going back decades would tear the country apart. But it's interesting that those authors had the most to lose if the tribunals went forward. And now it's clear who (still) pulls the strings in Afghanistan.
The company formerly known as British Petroleum has finally acknowledged that it tried to cut corners on environmental safety in order to save money prior to the March, 2005, Texas refinery blast that killed 15 people and injured 500. BP successfully lobbied against stricter environmental controls in Texas, which would have forced BP to upgrade the exhaust system that ultimately exploded. Susan Moore, BP's lobbying chief, was even given a $1,000 bonus for saving BP $150 million in monitoring and equipment upgrades.
BP has been in hot water over the past few years for some questionable practices. In addition to facing accusations that it tried to manipulate propane prices in 2004, the company has also had to close down part of its Alaskan operations in March, 2006, after around 267,000 gallons of crude oil leaked out of one of its pipelines and prompted a safety investigation by U.S. regulators. Then six months later BP had to excavate a 50-year-old underground pipeline after 1,000 barrels of gasoil spilled in Long Beach, California. Despite these glaring errors, BP still managed to make a $22.3 billion profit last year. If BP is not intending to move "Beyond Petroleum" just yet, let's at least hope that it will stop cutting corners when it comes to environmental safety.
In its latest effort to dissuade troops from following the example set by 24's Jack Bauer, the Army is asking Kiefer Sutherland to explain to West Point cadets why they shouldn't imitate the Fox show's torture-happy protagonist. Sutherland, probably alarmed by the slew of reports that interrogators are adopting the Bauer approach to torture, has agreed to pay the cadets a visit. The Army is hoping Sutherland will have better luck than West Point professors, whose in-class attempts to explain that "Jack Bauer is a criminal" have yet to resonate, as revealed in the New Yorker's critical profile of 24 creator Joel Surnow:
Yet the motto of many of [retired West Point Professor Gary Solis' former] students was identical to Jack Bauer’s: “Whatever it takes.” His students were particularly impressed by a scene in which Bauer barges into a room where a stubborn suspect is being held, shoots him in one leg, and threatens to shoot the other if he doesn’t talk. In less than ten seconds, the suspect reveals that his associates plan to assassinate the Secretary of Defense.
The failure to temper future soldiers' enthusiasm for the Bauer approach—in addition to reports that interrogators in Iraq plagiarize tactics displayed on the show—had previously led West Point's dean to make a bizarre, on-set appearance before begging 24's producers to be gentler with the show's almost exclusively Muslim torture victims.
As Blake noted in the Morning Brief, Angelina Jolie makes a strong case for Darfur justice in today's Washington Post. The victims want justice, she argues, and Khartoum doesn't. Those are very good reasons to celebrate the International Criminal Court's recent moves. But I think she also inadvertently highlights the danger of the judicial strategy for advocates of action in Darfur:
There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene -- airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment -- but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice.
This, in a nutshell, is the problem. The ICC becomes the lowest common denominator, and politicians averse to taking the hard steps can point to the prosecutions as evidence of progress.
Jolie also points out that the situation in Darfur has worsened considerably since 2004. The deterioration on the ground is evidence that, at least so far, the threat of prosecutions has not done the job that ICC enthusiasts hoped it would. And as the recent Bosnia genocide ruling demonstrates, the wheels of justice can move very slowly indeed.
The ICC is in action now, and it should aggressively push its case. But I think activists would be wise not to celebrate its small steps, lest they create the impression that something has actually been done.
Hugh nicely summarized the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling on Bosnian genocide today. To my mind, the most remarkable thing about the ruling is that it is appearing in 2007, almost twelve years after the Bosnian war ended. Bosnia originally filed the case in 1993, but a variety of procedural maneuvers and jurisdictional questions delayed actual arguments until last year.
That time lag itself is quite a commentary on the impending irrelevance of the ICJ. Don't get me wrong: It's not that international law is dead, it's just that this particular court—which handles only certain disputes between sovereign states, and does so at a glacial pace—has little to contribute. The new International Criminal Court is handling crimes against humanity and genocide, and the World Trade Organization covers most economic disputes. The ICJ has become a dusty relic, and this verdict's tardiness is the proof.
As noted in today's Morning Brief, The International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s highest legal body, has cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for what it ruled was a genocide during the 1990s war in the former Yugoslavia. However, the court did rule that Serbia violated international law by not preventing the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Muslim men and boys. The court, which rules on disputes between U.N. member states, has been deliberating on the case since May of last year. In a nuanced statement that took nearly two hours to read, British judge Rosalyn Higgins said the Srebrenica genocide "cannot be attributed to the respondent's (Serbia's) state organs."
Bosnia's case rested on the argument that Serbia incited ethnic hatred within Bosnia, armed ethnic Serbians, and actively participated in the war, which killed over 100,000 people between 1992 and 1995. Serbia has always denied the charge, insisting the war was an internal Bosnian conflict. Indeed, Serbia disputed the legality of the whole proceedings, as the U.N. had suspended Yugoslavia's membership at the time in question. Today, however, Judge Higgins ruled that Serbia had inherited Yugoslavia's "legal identity," and was thus bound by the Geneva Convention at the time of the massacre. It's doubtful that most Bosnian Muslims—who were looking for justice, not legalisms, and likely see an ethnic Serb as inseparable from the Serbian state—will be satisfied by this result.
In the current issue of FP, we flagged the Terror Trial Report Card, a report by NYU's Center for Law and Security that tracks the U.S. government's courtroom response to the war on terror. NYU's findings are striking: Of more than 500 terror cases filed by the U.S. Justice Department since 9/11, just four individuals have been convicted of terrorism. NYU found that in the vast amount of cases, terror links that were often announced at big news conferences were later discreetly dropped before the cases reached court. The evidence for terror links often just didn't stand up.
Now, an independent government audit has come to the same conclusion, accusing the Justice Department of routinely counting cases as terrorism-related even when there are no evident links to terrorism. Republican Senator Charles Grassley even suggested there may be a nefarious motive behind the inflated statistics. Because Justice uses the numbers to cite successes in the war on terror and request resources from Congress, there may be something to his suggestion.
At the same time, what do the stats really reveal? Robert Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest who blogs at National Security Advisors, suggests that numbers tell us very little. Simply knowing the number of prosecutions detracts from the allegations in them, and that obscures what trends and crimes are emerging and keeping Justice officials up at night. In other words, I have little doubt that there's a stronger incentive to label a case as terrorism-related than not, but at the end of the day, I'm more interested in the facts of certain cases than the bottom-line statistics. What do you think?
Afghanistan's warlords and their followers are planning a major rally in Kabul tomorrow. Their cause? Impunity. Of course, they wouldn't put it quite that way. The country's warlords will be demonstrating in favor of a bill guaranteeing amnesty for the mujahidin who fought against Soviet occupation.
In the gathering, the people will show their support for the jihadi leaders and for the amnesty bill," said Waqif Hakimi, spokesman for Jamyat Islami, one of the Islamist factions involved in the country's 1992-1996 civil war. "It will be huge. I think 50,000 people will attend."
Afghanistan's warlords have become unsettled as international human rights groups push for prosecutions of the worst crimes committed during the country's long and bloody civil war. An amnesty bill has gotten the parliament's support, but now needs President Hamid Karzai's blessing.
It's not clear that he'll give it. The warlords now like to pretend that they were all fighting the good fight against the Soviet infidels (and some were), but many committed heinous atrocities against ordinary Afghans. Still, the amnesty issue puts Karzai—and the United States—in a tough spot. Battling the Taliban resurgence is the immediate priority, so delving into twenty years of atrocities would be damned inconvenient. Karzai's already unenviable job just got a little bit harder.
The man who gave us the "series of tubes" metaphor for the Internet now wants to take away MySpace, Wikipedia, and other social networking websites. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens's Senate Bill #49, introduced in January, would effectively ban any social networking website from public schools and libraries because of their potential to harbor online predators.
A similar bill was introduced by Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) last year, and passed the House, but died in the Senate. The problem with Stevens's bill (apart from the hail mary attempt to censor content available at public libraries), is that its language is so general, nearly any website could fall under the ban. Critics are especially concerned that Wikipedia would be off limits.
But what I find most disconcerting is the bill's requirement that every website enforce "a policy of Internet safety for minors that prevents cyberbullying."
Sounds like we would have to shut down the FP Forum, for sure.
Earlier today, Blake wrestled with the question of whether an attack on Iran would be legal under United States law. But what about under international law? After all, the vagaries of the War Powers Act and Congressional resolutions are a sideshow from the perspective of international lawyers. What really matters is whether a U.S. attack would violate the U.N. Charter's prohibition on the use of force. There are two main roads around that prohibition: the U.N. Security Council and a claim of self-defense (Article 51 of the Charter preserves the "inherent right" of self-defense).
The Security Council, of course, can bestow legality on just about whatever it pleases. If it says that Iran's nuclear program is a threat to international peace and authorizes force, the bombs can lawfully fall. But in today's political climate, that prospect appears remote. China, Russia, and France show no signs of being ready to authorize force, and they have carefully steered existing resolutions away from that dangerous ground. Unlike with Iraq, there's no web of pre-existing Security Council resolutions authorizing force against Iran. Remember: Creative State Department and British Foreign Office lawyers argued that the current Iraq war was lawful because Iraq never complied with the Council's demands on disarmament, thus activating the previous authorization of force. (I always thought it was a strained argument, but at least it was—in lawyer's parlance—"colorable.")
That leaves self-defense. The use and abuse of the legitimate doctrine of preemptive self-defense has been well documented. In light of Iraq, the United States would have a very hard time making such a claim stick. But Israel, interestingly, has a stronger case (what with Iran's military support for Hezbollah and the threats to wipe Israel off the face of the map). Could the United States legitimately piggyback on Israel's claim to preemptive self defense—making it collective preemptive self defense? I'm going to do some digging on what legal scholars think about that question and will report back.
Pelosi told her colleagues that if it appears likely that Bush wants to take the country to war against Iran, the House would take up a bill to deny him the authority to do so, according to Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.
BA: The president has to get another authorization for a war against Iran. It isn’t up to Nancy Pelosi or the House to prevent him; he doesn’t have the constitutional authority to just expand the war.
FP: What about actions short of invasion: air strikes or hot pursuit?
BA: Air strikes would be an invasion .... I think that the burden is very much on the president of the United States to ask for explicit authorization for an act of war against Iran. On every major military incursion, there is an elaborate ballet where the president says he has the power to do it and the Congress says, “You don’t have the power to do it.”
On a major incursion into another large Middle Eastern country ... the president will once again request the explicit authorization of Congress. When he was contemplating the invasion of Iraq, he was in a much stronger position politically—and he was still obliged to request authorization. And the same thing would happen again.
Ackerman may be optimistic here, given what we know about the Bush administration, and given Ayatollah Khamenei's repeated threat that Iran will retaliate if attacked. Matthew Yglesias outlines one scenario that could lead to war without Congressional authorization:
Say Israel bombs Natanz and Bush supports the Israelis diplomatically and warns Iran against retaliating. Then in Iraq there's some dramatic attack against US forces. In response, the President proclaims that the attacks were organized by Iran and orders, without first asking congress, a retaliatory bombing of Revolutionary Guard facilities. The military is going to obey that order, right? And congress isn't going to impeach and convict Bush, thus removing him from office, replacing him with Dick Cheney, right?
Yesterday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, FP's parent organization, launched its new vision for a global think tank centered in Washington, but with local offices in Moscow, Beijing, Beirut, and (soon) Brussels. The difference between a think tank that deals with international issues—those are a dime a dozen in this town—and a think tank that is itself international may sound like a fine distinction at first. But being based locally and working in the language is key to understanding other countries as they see themselves. With a dangerous political situation and the world's view of United States foreign policy lower than ever, it's vital that high-quality dialogue flow between places like Beijing and Washington. Carnegie's new global vision will help that tremendously.
But there are broader changes afoot that cross other boundaries. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, spoke about how technology is transforming the world (and simultaneously being transformed by it) in yesterday's riveting keynote address at Carnegie's launch event for the new vision.
One particularly intriguing question Schmidt asked was, What happens when the next billion Internet users go online? What are the implications for freedom of speech?
One billion is a lot of people. How will they communicate with each other?
Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland popped up to ask an interesting question: Are intellectual property rights a thing of the past in the Internet age? Schmidt responded by explaining how "intellectual property rights are fundamental to how we operate." Google Books, for instance, is raising all kinds of new and interesting questions about intellectual property.
To another questioner worried about how dictatorships or other forces could seize control of the Web, Schmidt was reassuring. Kind of:
I'm not as worried about it as you might be, because I understand how difficult it is to go in and impose your bias on a single node in the Internet .... You have to be able to shut down the borders .... Anyone who can do that on the Internet is quite dangerous .... The good news about the Internet is it's structured to make that extremely difficult .... Unless you're able to get control of all of the interconnection points, which is essentially impossible in most, at least, democratic countries, it's very very difficult to see how the kind of manipulation you're describing would occur."
Check out his response for yourself:
In case you haven't been following the multiculturalism debate up north, Québec has been embroiled for about a year in a debate over what it means to reasonably accommodate—their words, not mine—minority immigrants. It all started back in March of last year, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it was "reasonable" to allow a young Sikh boy to wear his kirpan, or ceremonial dagger, to school.
The court's use of the term "reasonable accommodation" has sparked a debate about how far is too far. One irate police officer in Montreal even penned a little ditty entitled "That's Enough Already." The tune, which is circulating on the Internet, includes the following choice refrains:
Reasonable accommodation, we're no longer able"
"We want to accept ethnics, but not at any price... if you're not happy with your fate, there's a place called the airport."
That's a sentiment that the small Québec town of Hérouxville seems to be endorsing. They've recently published some town "standards" for "new arrivals" who might want to bring with them "the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries." Among other things, Hérouxville's "standards" warn against publicly stoning women to death or attempting to burn them alive. And, just so you know in advance, women in Hérouxville, which has a minority population of one, are allowed to drive and vote too. Groundbreaking stuff, guys. Thanks for putting that on the record.
Don't get me wrong. I think Wikipedia can be a great resource for fast information, like background on the Karbala shrine in Iraq or the name of Qaddafi's son that you can't remember. But when we check facts at FP, we deliberately exclude the community-built encyclopedia. There's just too much room for error there, and we've all found inaccuracies at one point or another—some major and some minor, but enough to leave Wikipedia off the list of reliable first sources.
Which is why I'm slightly mortified that U.S. courts are using Wikipedia articles as the basis for decisions. The NYT did a simple search recently and uncovered more than 100 judicial rulings in the past few years that rely on Wikipedia, including more than a dozen in U.S. courts of appeal (the last step before the Supreme Court). The facts gleaned from Wikipedia range from the definition of "beverage," to the official language of the Republic of Guinea, to DHS threat levels (that last one in a case about illegal searches of anti-war protesters).
But the mere fact that Wikipedia can be unstable and continually edited (admittedly with an attribution trail, but a complicated one that's susceptible to manipulation) makes it terribly vulnerable to error. It just shouldn't be used in official decisions, particularly because, as legal scholar Cass Sunstein suggested to the NYT, articles could be deliberately edited in order to influence the outcome of cases. I'm all for the courts embracing the Information Age, and I've always believed that the Constitution is a living document. But Wikipedia is just a little too dynamic for the likes of Lady Justice.
After a four-year legal battle, an Israeli couple has won the right to use their deceased son's sperm to impregnate a woman and continue the family line.
The couple's son, a soldier, died in 2002 at the age of 20 without leaving a will, much less instructions about what to do with his sperm. The hospital storing the extracted sperm said that only a spouse could request to have it released, but the man was single when he died. More than 200 women offered to be impregnated, and the parents have a selected a 25-year-old woman to be the mother.
Beware, males: Your sperm can be used without your consent. Make sure to include sperm-related instructions in your living will.
The lively and ongoing debate at Opinio Juris on the legal aspects of the "war on terror" is getting a whole lot livelier now that John B. Bellinger III, Condi Rice's top legal advisor, has entered the ring with a series of lengthy posts defending the administration's conduct. In response to the routine criticisms lobbed at the administration for its seemingly indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, Bellinger argues that so long as we are engaged in distinct, parallel wars with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, detaining "enemy combatants" is appropriate. This raises the obvious question: When do these wars end? The responding bloggers, including the venerable David Sloss and Eric Posner, are grilling Bellinger on this question, judicial review of the detentions, his own role, and related legal issues in the war on terror. The entire debate, a rare instance of the Bush administration engaging its critics seriously and at length, is not to be missed.
(Thanks to Passport reader Peter J. Spiro for sending this in)
It was five years ago today that the first detainees in the war on terror left Afghanistan on a flight to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They arrived at Gitmo in the early morning hours of January 11, so most of the major protests against the facility will actually take place tomorrow on the official anniversary of their arrival. Doesn't it seem so long ago, before the hunger strikes, the detainee suicides, the release of so many prisoners without comment, the international outrage, the Supreme Court rebuke, and Bush's trump card of making the place home to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind? Despite Bush's admission last summer that he'd like to see Gitmo closed, new buildings are going up to house more prisoners and the military tribunals for them. It looks like Gitmo will be blowing out six candles next year.
Saddam Hussein is dead and buried, and the charges against him for the murder of as many as 180,000 Iraqi Kurds have been dropped. Nevertheless, the former dictator held center stage at yesterday's court proceedings for the remaining defendants in the Anfal case. John F. Burns reports for the NYT on how recordings played of Saddam coldly advocating the use of chemical weapons on Kurdish villages prove that the world just said goodbye to a brutal despot.
On one recording, Mr. Hussein presses the merits of chemical weapons on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice-president, and now, the Americans believe, the fugitive leader of the Sunni insurgency that has tied down thousands of American troops. Mr. Douri, a notorious hard-liner, asks whether chemical attacks will be effective against civilian populations, and suggests that they might stir an international outcry.
"Yes, they're very effective if people don't wear masks," Mr. Hussein replies.
"You mean they will kill thousands?" Mr. Douri asks.
"Yes, they will kill thousands," Mr. Hussein says. [...]
Mr. Hussein sounds matter of fact as he describes what chemical weapons will do. "They will prevent people eating and drinking the local water, and they won’t be able to sleep in their beds," he says. "They will force people to leave their homes and make them uninhabitable until they have been decontaminated." [...]
But it was Mr. Hussein's chilling discussion of the power of chemical weapons against civilians that brought prosecutors and judges to the verge of tears, and seemed to shock the remaining defendants. One of the recordings featured an unidentified military officer telling Mr. Hussein that a plan was under development for having Soviet-built aircraft carry containers, packed with up to 50 napalm bombs each, which would be rolled out of the cargo deck and dropped on Kurdish towns.
"Yes, in areas where you have concentrated populations, that would be useful," Mr. Hussein replies.
YouTube was recently blocked in much of Brazil when one of the country's largest fixed-line telephone operators responded to a judicial order banning a video of Brazilian supermodel Daniela Cicarelli, ex-wife of soccer star Ronaldo, apparently having not-so-surreptitious sex with her boyfriend on the beach.
The judge in the case said fixed-line operators that allow access to Internet providers must participate in the ban until YouTube complies with an order to prevent the steamy video from being viewed in Brazil.
It's a hot story in and of itself, but the case raises broader questions over who controls the Internet, or if regulation of any type is even possible. YouTube is based in the United States, but its videos are of course accessible worldwide. Whose laws should it obey, if it even can obey? YouTube says it has removed the racy clip, but people continue to upload it to the site using different names, according to the lawyer of Cicarelli's boyfriend.
The Cicarelli case proves that, for better or worse, the World Wide Web is still the Wild, Wild West—an unbridled force in a world with no universally recognized government.
The New York Times tells the astonishing tale of Kim Sung Hee, a North Korean refugee who gets married, has a baby, defects to China without her child, meets another man, can't marry him because she's an illegal alien, lives in constant fear of deportation, has another baby, flees to Vietnam with her second child, wins asylum in South Korea, lands a job and decides she wants to marry the Chinese man, but can't get a divorce from her North Korean husband in South Korean courts.
South Korean divorce law is ill-equipped to cope with situations like that of Kim Sung Hee. The reason? "A thicket of legal riddles," says the Times:
First, should South Korea even recognize a marriage sealed in North Korea, given that the South's Constitution calls the North part of its territory, and that such marriages are typically never registered in the South? With spouses on opposing sides of the border, which court should have jurisdiction? How can a spouse in North Korea defend his or her interests in a South Korean court?
Remember when Jose Padilla was arrested at O'Hare airport in May 2002? A few weeks later, then Attorney General John Ashcroft made a big show of interrupting a trip to Moscow to hold a press conference:
I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or "dirty bomb," in the United States.
But the dirty bomb charge didn't stick. After being held without any charges for three years in military custody, Padilla, an American citizen, was transferred to civilian court in 2005 and formally charged with the much less heinous crime of conspiracy. The Feds just couldn't back up their contention that Padilla posed a grave threat to national security.
Deborah Sontag's must-read about the flimsy evidence the government intends to present at Padilla's criminal trial later this month - even for just the conspiracy charge - is chilling. They're relying largely on tapped conversations to prove their case, yet not all of them are of Padilla and in none of them does he discuss violent plots.
And the government has still gone ahead with charging a detainee at Guantanamo with conspiring to detonate a dirty bomb with Padilla, the same charge the government couldn't make stick earlier.
That Mr. Mohamed faced dirty bomb charges and Mr. Padilla does not speaks to the central difference between being a terrorism suspect in Guantánamo and a criminal defendant charged with terrorism offenses in the United States....
David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown University and author of books on terrorism and civil liberties, sees the difference between the two systems more critically: "What this says clearly is that they feel that they can get away with using tainted evidence in the military commission system that they can’t use in the criminal court system."
We'll, of course, be watching the case - if it even goes forward. Padilla is undergoing evaluation this week as to whether he is mentally fit to stand trial. His lawyers contend that his long period of detainment and harsh interrogation have left him mentally damaged.
William, we hardly knew ye:
The FBI's file on former Chief Justice William Rehnquist - made public more than a year after his death - indicates the Nixon and Reagan administrations enlisted its help in blunting criticism of him during confirmation hearings.
The file also offers insight into the hallucinations and other symptoms of withdrawal that Rehnquist suffered when he was taken off a prescription painkiller in 1981. A doctor was cited as saying that Rehnquist, an associate justice of the Supreme Court at the time, tried to escape the hospital in his pajamas and imagined that the CIA was plotting against him.
Every day, men from all over Africa take the perilous journey through the continent and the open seas in search of a better life in Europe. They leave behind their families, paying hundreds of dollars for a square inch of space on a boat off the coast of West Africa.
From there, they battle rough weather conditions, malnutrition and trauma for several days on an open, overcrowded boat, in hopes of seeing the shores of Spain or Italy. Many of them, however, don't make it. Last week a overloaded fishing boat from Senegal capsized twice while sailing to Spain's Canary Islands, leaving at least 80 passengers dead.
The tale is sadly typical of migrant boats making their way to Europe. Many of the boats are ill-equipped for the journey, and rescue workers and police often intercept the journey and escort them back to shore. The migrants are then helped back to health, detained and either released or deported to their country of origin. For those sent back, the experience doesn't necessarily deter them. One man on his second attempt to reach Europe from Nigeria says, "I am, of course, very afraid of making this boat journey again but there is no other way. I and other Africans like myself feel we have no choice. I have to try and make a better life, I pray that God will see me through." As Austin Wainwright, a worker with the Spanish Red Cross, relates, the journey is harrowing, but far too many Africans "would rather die trying to make it to Europe than to stay in their country."
Europe has responded to illegal immigration by introducing patrol boats, planes and helicopters off the shores of Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde. Also, last month, the EU introduced new measures to deal with illegal immigration, including allocating 40 million euros to boost job creation in Africa. Improving the African economy is a great idea. Unfortunately, nobody has found a magic formula for Africa yet, and 40 million euros is nowhere near enough.
The San people of Botswana have won a landmark case today in a battle over their land in the Kalahari desert. Also known as the Bushmen, the San were forced to leave the land that their ancestors had inhabited for 20,000 years in order to make way for Botswana's wildlife and tourism industry, as well as lucrative diamond mining (including operations by De Beers, which has denied such claims). The Guardian takes the government line:
The government insists the Bushmen have changed their lifestyle so much that they no longer belong in the Kalahari reserve, an animal sanctuary the size of Belgium, and are affecting conservation efforts. They are better off in settlements, where they have access to clinics and schools, it says, adding that diamond mining has nothing to do with the decision. The government complains that the Bushmen's foreign supporters, including South African anti-apartheid hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and British actors Julie Christie and Colin Firth, are romanticising a hunter-gatherer lifestyle which no longer exists.
Advocacy group Survival International, by contrast, hailed the legal ruling in favor of the Bushmen as a "victory for indigenous peoples everywhere in Africa."
The shooting death of Lebanese Minister Pierre Gemayel and the poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko were the most prominent political murders of 2006. But, as this week's FP List shows, their assassinations aren't the only ones setting off political crises and stoking intrigue around the world. The truly sad part: This List of political killings is hardly exhaustive. Picking off an opponent or political foe is still a tragically common way of redrawing the political landscape in many countries.
Every day, journalists around the world risk their lives in the pursuit of truth. Their harrowing experiences go largely unrecognized, but the effects of their work are immense - from giving a voice to those often unheard to defending the freedom of expression. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently honored the recipients of its annual International Press Freedom Awards, distinguishing selected international journalists who continue their work despite continued attacks, imprisonment, and harassment. This week, FP caught up with the three awardees, Colombian photojournalist Jésus Abad Colorado, Yemeni editor Jamal Amer, and Gambian journalist Madi Ceesay to learn more about their work in unfree societies.
Medica Mondiale, an NGO working in Afghanistan, says that there is a worrying increase in the number of women who are committing suicide in the country. In a press release issued last week, it was revealed that women are increasingly escaping forced marriages and abuse by lighting themselves on fire. Though exact figures are difficult to identify, cases are reported daily in the city of Herat and thought to have doubled in Kabul, with 36 cases recorded this year. Women who reach the point of suicide tend to believe that, given their social standing in society, there is no judicial or cultural protection for them if they wish to escape - a feeling that is undoubtedly intensified by the condition of Afghanistan today.
According to the BBC, delegates from countries with similar female suicide rates (including Bangladesh, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka) came together in Afghanistan to discuss the issue on Tuesday. We'll keep you posted on their ongoing efforts.
The Washington Post's Nora Boustany describes the changed atmosphere in Washington regarding the International Criminal Court.
Now, as the court prepares to begin public hearings on its first case, the debate among senior U.S. military officials seems to be shifting away from staunch opposition, and a fresh assessment of the court seems to be underway. The new attitude has been prompted in part by the court's record since it began operations three years ago; Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, has dismissed hundreds of petitions for cases against the United States.
Iraq and Afghanistan have provided the ICC a quick opportunity to dispel the Pentagon's worst fears, and the court has seized the chance to show that it's after janjaweed - not GIs. With American hostility muted, the court now needs to catch and try those it has indicted. Appearing harmless to the superpower was an important challenge; inspiring fear among its targets is the next one.
Religious observance in the West is supposed to be a personal decision. That’s what makes it so upsetting when anyone tells someone else how they should practice their faith. Here's an example: just a week after the Jack Straw’s controversial remarks regarding veiling, the BBC reports that an observant Muslim English teacher in Dewsbury, England was suspended from work for wearing a veil in class. Supposedly, her students couldn’t understand what she was saying when her mouth was covered. Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik critcized the teacher, telling the BBC, "There is no religious obligation whatsoever for Muslim women to cover themselves up in front of primary school children."
Evidently his statement is supposed to hold more weight because he’s a Muslim. That assumption is wrong. Individual Muslims interpret the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad differently. (There’s an article from the October Atlantic Monthly that touches on the issue.) Some believe that a woman's veil should cover everything but her eyes; others believe that a woman only needs to cover her hair; and still others believe that any sort of head covering is unnecessary. Jews do the same thing. The book of Deuteronomy says that you shouldn't boil the meat of a calf in the milk of its mother, resulting in practices ranging from Jews who eat cheeseburgers to Jews who have separate sinks for meat and dairy products in their kitchens. We Westerners believe it's an individual's right to determine how to interpret religious guidelines.
To be fair, if the students couldn't understand their teacher, that is a problem. But there's language to avoid this kind of situation, without telling people how to practice their religion: Are there any physical or religious restrictions that would keep you from functioning in your job properly? Sound familiar?
Did she or didn't she? After a week of tabloid speculation, Madonna has indeed become the latest Hollywood celeb to adopt abroad. A judge in Malawi approved Madonna's application for adoption of a motherless one-year old boy named David. Although Malawi law does not allow for inter-country adoptions, and generally requires people who want to adopt to spend 18 months being evaluated by Malawian child welfare workers, officials waived these restrictions for the pop star, who is worth an estimated $460 million.
But as with Angelina Jolie when she adopted her son Maddox from Cambodia, did a poor country toss aside its standard operating procedures in the face of fame and fortune? Whether you think overseas Hollywood adoptions are admirable or a PR stunt (or both), the trend raises serious concerns about identity issues associated with international adoptions and international adoption laws and standards., It seems status and wealth shouldn't provide evidence of parental capabilities, the suitability of which should be scrutinized regardless of who is adopting where.
Nonetheless, there's no denying an upside. Her charity, Raising Malawi, is setting up an orphan care center that will also have projects based on Kabbalah. Material girl's all grown up.
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