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Tag: "human rights"

60 Minutes Expose on Haiti’s Children

[ 2 ] March 21, 2010 |


Watch CBS News Videos Online

I knew about some of the issues of unaccompanied children in Haiti (like other disaster areas) but I did not know about Haiti’s hidden slave population and the way the earthquake may have exacerbated the problem.

How to Run a Maritime Militia

[ 14 ] March 18, 2010 |

The UNSC-mandated Monitoring Group on Somalia presented its report to the Security Council Tuesday. The part of the report detailing corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid is getting all the press, but for my money the most interesting part of the report is the discussion of piracy, which has morphed into a multi-million dollar business replete with investors and an informal business model. It’s all outlined on p. 99 of the report, but I’ve reproduced it below the fold for inquiring minds.

Read more…

Force Protection, Civilian Protection or Both?

[ 1 ] March 18, 2010 |

The DoD’s updated rules of engagement in Afghanistan beg the question. These rules – such as holding your fire unless you are certain a target is an actual combatant, withdrawing from fire-fights in civilian-populated areas, more reliance on ground troops and less on air raids – are meant to reduce collateral damage from military operations. But critics have claimed it leaves US troops to fight with one hand tied behind their backs, increasing the risk to soldiers in order to protect civilians.

Sarah Holewinski and James Morin have an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor arguing that it’s not necessarily a zero-sum arrangement:

Safeguarding civilians and taking care of soldiers are not mutually exclusive. Killing civilians fuels distrust and hatred among the population. That increases the risks for troops and their mission. Protecting the population isn’t political correctness; it’s a vital military objective and a distinct advantage over an enemy that uses civilians as shields.

They’re on track in a strategic sense: winning the support of the civilian population is crucial in COIN wars, and it’s only possible if you can protect civilians. But I’m not sure that a confluence of strategic-humanitarian gains mean net gains or absence of net losses in force protection. I can see plenty of cases in Afghanistan and elsewhere where the more precautions one takes to avoid collateral damage, the more troops will be put at risk. In Kosovo, it was the difference between using air power vs. putting boots on the ground; and between flying at 15,000 feet where pilots were safe from ground-to-air fire v. flying lower where they could actually see their targets. In Gaza more recently, it was the difference between accepting military casualties from sniper fire and using white phosphorous smoke bombs for troop cover, albeit in areas where collateral damage from was likely to be high. So there may indeed be trade-offs between force protection and civilian protection, and we might as well admit it.

But so what? Read more…

Current “Current Intelligence”

[ 0 ] March 13, 2010 |

It’s been a busy week for me adjusting to new blog formats in multiple spaces. So while LGM readers wait for their heads to stop spinning at this site’s facelift, I encourage them to hop on over and check out the new Current Intelligence site, also just renovated this week.

Current Intelligence
, where I post from time to time about the laws of war, used to be an off-shoot of Complex Terrain Lab but is now an online journal with a blog, a set of more formal foreign policy columnists including my Duck of Minerva co-blogger Jon Western, and a “Letters from Abroad” series in which the site’s bloggers report from places they visit, like Durban, South Africa and Varanasi, India. Our illustrious editor actually convinced me to contribute a piece on New Orleans as a “letter from abroad” – something you can actually do at an online journal where political community is understood to be delimited by something other than sovereign territorial boundaries. Snippet:

“It was corporate hotel culture I and my colleagues visited, not New Orleans per se.The gap between physical and social place-ness struck me all week, just as it does when I “pass through” sovereign territorial-legal spaces while never leaving the neo-medieval corridors of international airports – each of which aims to present a caricature of national culture but all of which function as carriers instead of a global culture, one characterized by spaces of liminality and heterogeneity. And yet one’s experience in such spaces borders on strictly homogeneous from a class perspective. We find ourselves compartmentalized from others around us not by geography or language but by norms, rules, uniforms and political economies… Transnational conference sites are like this too. They are hyped up as opportunities to visit a locale, interface with a population, affect local understandings, but they are actually transnational sites in which cleavages are based on capital.”

Anyway. Current Intelligence covers foreign affairs, asymmetric conflict, war law and post-Westphalian political geography. It’s a fabulous community that includes a number of excellent bloggers such as Chris Albon (ConflictHealth is one of the finest human security sites I know of), Tim Stevens who also blogs at Ubiwar, and of course Mike Innes who blogs at Monkwire and is behind the whole thing.

[cross-posted at Duck of Minerva]

Equal Opportunity Water-boarding

[ 8 ] March 12, 2010 |

Karl Rove defends mock drowning once again in his new memoir. After all, we do it to our own troops during training to help them learn to withstand torture. Not that it is.

A more forgiving assessment from Peter Feaver. Helpful roundup of responses from The Atlantic Wire.

Human Security Stuff I’m Too Busy To Blog About

[ 1 ] March 11, 2010 |

JEM fighters will put down their arms for the opportunity to join the Sudanese army at 500 euros a head. Perhaps this will slow conflict-related violence in the region, perhaps not. Human Security Report data from earlier this year reminded us that most of the deaths in Darfur since 2005 are from diarrhea, not violence, so question is will this new deal make it easier or harder to get aid to civilians?

Julian Ku reports that the HRC is weighing in on military commissions… and being ignored by the Obama Administration.

India has passed a law requiring 33% of parliamentary seats to be reserved for women. But why only 30%? (Finland’s quota requires parity.) Recent research on the proliferation of gender quota norms worldwide asks us to consider variation in the percentage of quotas enshrined in election laws and also the conditions under which they’re effective.

An interesting debate is happening at DoDBuzz about the US refusal to join the Cluster Munitions Treaty, about to come into force. Jason Sigger comments here.

Nigeria is conducting arrests and investigating suspects involved in last week’s ethnic violence.

On top of the notorious problem of pirate attacks on aid shipments, looks like half of the aid that reaches Somali shores gets diverted before it reaches the hungry. Don’t forget this is often the price humanitarians pay in conflict zones for access to civilians. Still, one would think the UN should at least be able to prevent its local staff from stealing it for themselves.

Brian Greenhill has a new paper in International Studies Quarterly analyzing the relationship between international organization membership and the human rights performance of states.

Sweden has approved a parliamentary resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians by Turkey as genocide.
Last week a Congressional Committee in the US approved a similar resolution; Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from the US in response.

Finally, Christopher Albon reviews the advance version of DoD’s new handbook on what GIs should do when faced with – wait for it! – civvie NGO workers in complex emergencies. You can download the pre-release draft here.

The Political Economy of Human Rights Advocacy

[ 1 ] March 10, 2010 |

James Ron has a guest post at Steve Walt’s blog about the problems of NGO dependence on Western funding. His argument is a logical extension of his earlier work with Alex Cooley on the negative externalities associated with the political economy of the NGO sector, and it also builds on newer scholarship critically assessing the relationship between domestic NGOs, targets of influence, third-party governments and private donors.

Ron offers an answer to the question in the title of his post: no, foreign funders should not stop donating to local human rights NGOs, but they should donate more wisely: Read more…

Happy International Women’s Day. Unless You’re Born Female in China.

[ 0 ] March 8, 2010 |

The Economist has a damning article about son preference and female infanticide in East Asia, and the negative impacts on societies and regional stability as well as on girls. Heartening to see an important global gender issue make the front page of such an influential weekly (though why it took them so long escapes me – Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer’s influential article, appeared in International Security almost ten years ago; now the Economist is writing as if it has “discovered” high sex-ratio societies just in time for International Women’s Day.)

Well, so be it. But while the Economist has global elites’ attention fleetingly focused on gender and “gendercide,” because of how it affects the state-system, let me update the framework on offer slightly:

a) In the past decade since Hudson and den Boer first called attention to Asia’s “Bare Branches” problem, they have also been working on developing a dataset of gender empowerment indicators that among other things has allowed them to test the hypothesis that gender equality, not democracy, is actually the best predictor of pacifist relations between sovereign governments. And gender equality means a whole lot more than keeping little girls alive. Let Obama think about that as he revamps Bush’s democracy promotion agenda in the service of global stability.

b) Ultimately, let’s not confuse global stability with human rights. “Securitizing” a problem like this can be useful, as I’ve often argued, but it can backfire. Natalie Hudson’s new book argues that the advocacy language that got women’s rights on the agenda at the UN Security Council has also hobbled it at the policy implementation stage. I can see the point of making policymakers care about female infanticide because the knock-on effects are bad for whole societies. But I’d like to think that we’d want it to end even if that weren’t the case: killing anyone because of the genitals they were born with is simply wrong.

c) This brings me to a final comment. As an advocacy trope it works… sort of. But as a concept “gendercide” ala Mary Warren has been usefully picked apart and expanded to include a whole range of mass killing practices in the last two decades – including those targeting men. It would be a shame to see it become synonymous now primarily with the issue of sex-selective abortion as a security problem.

Happy International Women’s Day. Unless You’re Born Female in China.

[ 0 ] March 8, 2010 |

The Economist has a damning article about son preference and female infanticide in East Asia, and the negative impacts on societies and regional stability as well as on girls. Heartening to see an important global gender issue make the front page of such an influential weekly (though why it took them so long escapes me – Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer’s influential article, appeared in International Security almost ten years ago; now the Economist is writing as if it has “discovered” high sex-ratio societies just in time for International Women’s Day.)

Well, so be it. But while the Economist has global elites’ attention fleetingly focused on gender and “gendercide,” because of how it affects the state-system, let me update the framework on offer slightly:

a) In the past decade since Hudson and den Boer first called attention to Asia’s “Bare Branches” problem, they have also been working on developing a dataset of gender empowerment indicators that among other things has allowed them to test the hypothesis that gender equality, not democracy, is actually the best predictor of pacifist relations between sovereign governments. And gender equality means a whole lot more than keeping little girls alive. Let Obama think about that as he revamps Bush’s democracy promotion agenda in the service of global stability.

b) Ultimately, let’s not confuse global stability with human rights. “Securitizing” a problem like this can be useful, as I’ve often argued, but it can backfire. Natalie Hudson’s new book argues that the advocacy language that got women’s rights on the agenda at the UN Security Council has also hobbled it at the policy implementation stage. I can see the point of making policymakers care about female infanticide because the knock-on effects are bad for whole societies. But I’d like to think that we’d want it to end even if that weren’t the case: killing anyone because of the genitals they were born with is simply wrong.

c) This brings me to a final comment. As an advocacy trope it works… sort of. But as a concept “gendercide” ala Mary Warren has been usefully picked apart and expanded to include a whole range of mass killing practices in the last two decades – including those targeting men. It would be a shame to see it become synonymous now primarily with the issue of sex-selective abortion as a security problem.

Are You Smarter Than a Human Rights Prof?

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

Take this short test and find out. I only got 85% of the answers right. Plus it’s all for a good cause.

CSMonitor: Kenyan Street Embraces ICC Investigation

[ 0 ] March 2, 2010 |

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has become an iconic figure in urban Kenya. Or at least so says Scott Baldaug, reporting from Nairobi. Aside from getting Mr. Moreno-Ocampo’s name wrong, his is an insightful little piece:

It may not be scientific, but a quick way to see what’s trendy in Kenya is to look at the back of a matatu, which is what Kenyans call their minivan taxis.

Some are highly adorned with the spray-painted faces of American hip-hop stars such as Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and the late Tupac Shakur, and play those artists’ music at deafening decibels. Some are covered with pious statements such as “In God We Trust” or “Mashallah” (Arabic for “by the grace of God”).

One matatu I saw in Nairobi even had a portrait of Osama bin Laden, chosen presumably more for shock value than for ideological reasons, as the side of the van was emblazoned with the words “Thug Life.”

But the new king of the matatu is neither a rap star nor a terrorist. He is Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Mr. Ocampo has recently taken up the criminal investigation of top Kenyan politicians who allegedly organized ethnic violence in the wake of the December 2007 elections, violence that killed some 1,500 people and displaced nearly 300,000 from their homes.

During the elections, matatu drivers endorsed political candidates, but, in the violent aftermath, many drivers became as disillusioned as the voting public. Now they are showing their disillusionment with giant posters of the Argentine-born lawyer holding a sheaf of documents. Others simply display the word “OCAMPO” in capital letters.

Be careful, Kenyan politicians: Your people are watching you.

Or they would like to think someone is, anyway.

Libel laws

[ 1 ] February 26, 2010 |

Like any good traitorous socialist lefty, I am supposed to treat European culture and politics as decidedly superior to the American alternative. And I often do! But on the subject of libel laws, it seems quite clear to me that Americans have a much more sensible approach than, at a minimum, the English and the French. The appalling nature of English libel laws became known to me through McDonald’s decision to turn a couple of environmental activists into free speech martyrs with a libel suit in 1990. This was, predictably, a bit of PR fiasco for McDonalds, and many of the claims made by the activists were determined in court to be true. Still, it’s appalling that McDonalds was able to drag a couple of protesters into court for the better part of a decade, and the burden of proof fell squarely on the defendants.

In looking up the case I’m pleasantly reminded that five years ago the European Court of Human Rights agreed with me:

The ECHR ruled that the lack of official funding had effectively given rise to procedural unfairness and denied the litigants a fair trial. It was held to have contributed to an unacceptable inequality of arms with the Corporation. The court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 6.1. The award of damages ordered against the litigants was deemed disproportionate to the legitimate aim served. The court found that the damages awarded “may also have failed to strike the right balance”, The subsequent awards were £36,000 for Steel and £40,000 for Morris.

Now, via Henry Farrell, I learn the French appear to have similar issues. Henry’s post and the EJIL summary and statement are well worth reading, but the executive summary is: Karin Calvo-Goller writes a book, it recieves a negative review in the European Journal of International Law, she demands the editor take down the review from the website, he refuses, she sues him for libel, and now he will be forced to defend himself in a criminal proceeding at his own expense. The substance of her complaints seem quite specious to this non-expert on her subject, and the review itself is a pretty run of the mill negative review. In the pretrial hearing, he was told by the examining judge that she couldn’t rule on substance and the case would be going to trial. Obviously, the idea that book review editors could be subject to criminal sanction, or even defending themselves against criminal charges, could certainly have a chilling effect on free speech and academic freedom.

As with the McDonalds case, it’s difficult to grasp why the complainant finds this particular course of action wise. Even if the book review in question contained actionable libelous claims, which seems doubtful, the notoriety of effectively declaring oneself an enemy of academic freedom will surely do more damage to her reputation than a couple of unfair critical remarks in a book review.

I’d certainly be curious to hear a defense of the “burden of proof lies on the defendant” approach to libel law on the merits, because it’s not easy for me to imagine what that would look like.

In the EJIL editorial linked above, the editor who is headed to court makes the following appeals for assistance:

a. You may send an indication of indignation/support by email attachment to the following email address EJIL.academicfreedom@Gmail.com Kindly write, if possible, on a letterhead indicating your affiliation and attach such letters to the email. Such letters may be printed and presented eventually to the Court. Please do not write directly to Dr Calvo-Goller, or otherwise harass or interfere in any way whatsoever with her right to seek remedies available to her under French law.
b. It would be particularly helpful to have letters from other Editors and Book Review Editors of legal and non-legal academic Journals concerned by these events. Kindly pass on this Editorial to any such Editor with whom you are familiar and encourage him or her to communicate their reaction to the same email address. It would be
especially helpful to receive such letters from Editors of French academic journals and from French academic authors, scholars and intellectuals.
c. Finally, it will be helpful if you can send us scanned or digital copies of book reviews (make sure to include a precise bibliographical reference) which are as critical or more so than the book review written by Professor Weigend – so as to illustrate that his review is mainstream and unexceptional. You may use the same email address EJIL.academicfreedom@Gmail.com

I think I’ll send in Brian Barry’s review of Nozick, and perhaps Okin on Sandel or Nussbaum on Butler.

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