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Anglican church struggles with 'occupy' response

The protestors of London's "Occupy" chapter have chosen to camp out in the forecourt of St. Paul's cathedral. The site of the tent city was originally to be further down the road at the home of the London Stock Exchange and rightful equivalent to Wall Street, but Paternoster Square is privately owned property and, right now, it's heavily guarded. But the cathedral locale has become a flashpoint of a larger, unexpected controversy: a schism in the Anglican Church.

A lawsuit has been filed by the City of London Corporation (CLC) to evict the protestors on the grounds that they are blocking traffic. While the demonstrators aren't actually occupying the streets or, more specifically, the highways which are the jurisdiction of the CLC's Planning and Transportation Committee responsible for the suit, committee member Michael Wellbank explained that "encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others."

In fact, the iconic St. Paul's Cathedral closed its doors to worshippers and tourists last week due to safety concerns for the first time since WWII and joined the CLC's lawsuit last Friday. But since the court action could lead to the forceful removal of protesters, and ultimately violence, the cathedral proceeds without three of its clergymen who have already resigned in protest. One of them, Canon Chancellor Giles Frase, explained his decision to the Guardian:

St. Paul was a tentmaker. If you looked around and you tried to recreate where Jesus would be born -- for me, I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent. The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence.

Church leaders seem divided between general sympathy for the protesters' goals, and a desire to have them advocate those goals somewhere else. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addressed the controversy for the first time today,  saying, "The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St. Paul's remain very much on the table and we need -- as a Church and as society as a whole -- to work to make sure that they are properly addressed."

Meanwhile, the bishop of London, Rev. Richard Chartres, was called a hypocrite by angry protestors as he tried to walk a fine line with his remarks supporting both their causes and their peacefully disbanding. On Sunday, he told the crowd, "You have a notice saying, ‘What would Jesus do? That is a question for me as well." 

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Saif to the Hague? Get ready for a long wait

The International Criminal Court reports today that it has made indirect contact with Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, and is attempting to negotiate his transfer to the Hague: 

An NTC source said on Thursday that Saif al-Islam wanted an aircraft, possibly arranged by a neighbouring country, to take him out of Libya's southern desert and into ICC custody.

Under such a deal, Saif al-Islam would be taken to The Hague where the ICC shares a detention unit with the UN Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal and the special court for Sierra Leone, where the former Liberian president Charles Taylor is on trial.

Given his father's grisly fate, it certainly makes sense that Saif would prefer the relative comfort of the Hague's jail, particularly given the glacial pace at which the institution moves.

Also this week, the court's president told the U.N. General Assembly that the ICC is busier than ever, with a whopping seven cases on its plate: 

On 26 October 2011, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Sang-Hyun Song presented the ICC’s seventh annual report to the United Nations General Assembly. “With two new investigations and several new cases, the Court is busier than ever”, he told the Assembly, adding that international support for the ICC had continued to grow as the Court’s membership reached 119. Stressing the common goals of the ICC and the United Nations, President Song appealed to all UN member states to “stand united behind the international efforts to suppress the gravest crimes known to humanity”.

President Song informed the Assembly that the ICC’s first trial concluded in August and the judgement in the case against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, charged with the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was expected before the end of the year. Two other trials are underway, and preparations for a fourth trial have begun.

Lubanga, the first person ever arrested under an ICC warrant, has been on trial since 2006. So anyone hoping for swift justice for Saif may be disappointed. If anything, Saif's trial may take longer to work through -- the extent of his operational role in the killing of Libyan protesters is a lot more ambiguous than Lubanga's well-documented crimes

In a piece for FP last week, University of Chicago legal scholar and international law skeptic Eric Posner wrote, "It must have been obvious to Libyans that an endless international trial [for Muammar al-Qaddafi] in a faraway country -- the Netherlands -- would not serve their immediate political needs, to say nothing of their sense of justice, which required death."

I'd still much rather see Saif al-Islam brought to trial than gunned down in a ditch, but it's safe to say that Libya's new rulers might not be satisfied with the idea of him spending the next decade playing board games with Ratko Mladic.

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