Friday, November 20, 2009

COP 15's offensive invitation

So here's the story of the day! :

I'm excited for the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December. Even as the US stalls on climate change legislation and remains uncommitted to signing long term treaties at the meeting, I am eager to see what the conference will, or will not achieve and I remain hopeful that the issue of climate change will remain at the forefront of national and international debate.

But Climate Change May Not be the Only thing Heating up COP 15.

Amnesty learned today that the one and only President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan has been invited by the Danish government to attend the Climate Change Conference. Oh snap!

Al Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bashir is held responsible for "masterminding and implementing" much of the violence that has occurred in Darfur. Violence that the US describes as a genocide.

Amnesty describes the situation in Darfur in its news release today stating:"Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have lost their lives since the Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003. Systematic human rights abuses have occurred, including killing, torture, rape, looting and destroying of property by all parties involved in the conflict, but primarily by the Sudanese government and government-backed Janjawid militia. Over 2 million civilians have been internally displaced by the conflict and more than 215,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Chad."

If Al Bashir were to travel to Denmark, Danish authorities must arrest him and turn Al Bashir over the ICC. Denmark is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC and the nation is legally obligated to abide by the international law of the court.

So is this a less than sneaky trap? Does Denmark think that Al Bashir will forget the international warrant for his arrest and saunter into the Climate Change Conference with his head held high and his invitation in hand?

Unlikely. The Sudanese president cancelled his planned visit to Turkey (another nation held to the Rome Statute) earlier this month after being invited by the Turkish government to attend the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

I'm not sure what is more troubling - the possibility that world leaders believe that inviting Al Bashir to leave the safety of Sudan to attend international conferences would actually be effective and lead to his capture or that despite the fact that Al Bashir is wanted for crimes against humanity he still receives invitations to the premiere events of world politics.

I doubt Al Bashir will go to Copenhagen. Looking at his travel history since the ICC issued the warrant for his arrest last spring, the Sudanese President is clearly unwilling to visit any nation that could possibly arrest him and bring him before the court.

Denmark's decision to invite Al Bashir to Copenhagen is at best tactless and from the perspective of those who believe in the protection of human rights, Denmark's invitation is offensive.

Treating Al Bashir like a true world leader, someone who is responsible to the citizens of his nation as well as the global public is unprecedented based on his legacy as president. Al Bashir lost the last of his legitimacy as a leader by escaping the ICC warrant earlier this year. It is shocking to think that a man wanted for enabling the systematic destruction of his people can be given the international respect of representing his nation at COP15.

It is tragic that the people of Sudan remain ruled over by an outlaw who continues to allow mass violence and brutality in the nation but it is idiotic to think that the fact that Al Bashir calls himself president makes this criminal worthy of international respect.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Talking to China

President Obama visits China today. The New York Times reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to focus talks on the economy, both China's booming development and the financial recovery of the US.

The environment and human rights are mentions within the meeting. Visiting Japan this week, Obama referenced the wrongful imprisonment of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, though the situation's application to Japan seems fairly unconnected.

It appears that strengthening ties with China will come at the expense of voicing concern over China's continuous violations of human rights. Here are 3 areas that Obama should address in his talks with China -

(1) Repression of Minority Groups: 9 Uighurs were executed in China this month in response to the July riots over the racism faced by the ethnic minority in Northern China. Abuse, unjustified imprisonment and violations of rights for Tibetans, Mongolains and Falun Gong practitioners remain informally sanctioned by the Chinese government

(2) Imprisonment and "black/secret prisons" : Amnesty reports "an estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances." Additionally Human Rights Watch released a report this week on their findings on China's secret jails where, within formal detention centers, there are secret areas where prisoners are tortured. HRW also reported that men, women and teenagers face sexual abuse, intimidation, robbery and violence from prison guards in the prisons of China

(3) Violence towards human rights defenders and critics of the Chinese government: Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment are all routine procedure when the Chinese government deals with human rights defenders. In addition, bloggers and citizens who produce "dissident media" are under attack as censorship of the internet rapidly increases. In 2007 Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft aided China's censorship of the internet and sold the government names of Chinese citizens who were searching or blogging about "anti-nationalist" topics.

The United States needs an international ally who not only offers economic power but also a progressive understanding freedom and rights for citizens. The US can not respect a nation that can not respect its citizens.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Spies in Italy

Every now and then the public get a glimpse at the real life spy novels that are played out in modern international relations.

On Wednesday a judge in Italy convicted a base chief for the Central Intelligence Agency and 22 other Americans, almost all C.I.A. operatives, of kidnapping an imam, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from the streets of Milan in 2003.

The Muslim cleric claimed that he was abducted and tortured during the year that he was missing.

And where where was he taken?

Although it is unclear, the New York Times reported that Omar was taken from Italy to Germany and then Egypt.

Nothing is specified about what occurred during the kidnapping and few of the parties involved in the capture have been identified, with a number of notable former CIA agents claiming diplomatic immunity.

While the ruling will most likely be appealed and many of the people involved will walk away free from the crimes they committed, what needs to be addressed in response to this court case is the US practice of extraordinary rendition!

Omar was abducted under a US sanctioned practice where terrorism suspects are captured in one nation and taken for questioning in another, often a country more open to "coercive interrogation techniques."

Extraordinary rendition became a favorite tool for dealing with suspected terrorists during Bush's years in office and now Obama must take a stand to end this criminal practice.

I was proud to see Amnesty quickly respond to the news on Wednesday. Counter Terror with Justice policy director, Tom Parker aptly explained AI's stance on rendition in the press release sent out on the fourth.

"The United States shouldn’t need a foreign court to distinguish right from wrong. The Obama administration must repudiate the unlawful practice of extraordinary rendition – and hold accountable those responsible for having put this system in place -- or his administration will end up as tarnished as his predecessor’s," said Parker.

Rendition is a truly outrageous policy practiced by the US abroad, it is everything that contradicts the American sense of freedom and respected for the justice system. It's terrorists who take hostages in the light of day to inspire fear and gain information and it's authoritarian regimes who hold outspoken religious leaders without due process. It should not be America.

read the before and after articles -