Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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Is this the end of the ICC? No.

Paul Gora

Gambia is the smallest country in Africa with a total population 1.2 million and 4,363 square miles, which makes it slightly less than twice the size of state of Delaware. The Republic of The Gambia signed the Rome Statute on December 4, 1998 and ratified it on June 28, 2002, making it the earliest African country to ratify the treaty. Forty-seven African states were present for the drafting of the Rome Statute in July, 1998. Many of these countries were members of a like–minded group that pushed for adoption of the final statute, with the majority of the 47 voting in favor of adoption, which indicates their involvement in the negotiation and set up of the International Criminal Court.  Among those nations, South Africa, Senegal, Lesotho, Malawi, and Tanzania participated heavily in the discussion as early as 1993 when the International Law Commission presented a draft ICC statute to UN GA for consideration.[1]

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In light of the arrest warrant issued for Sudanese president’s Omar Al Bashir by ICC, there have been an allegations from some Arab and African leaders, as well as certain public figures, organizations, and academia criticizing the ICC as being a Western tool, designed to subjugate leaders of African continent and advance an imperialist/neo-colonial agenda. On the face of it, these criticism can be seen as plausible. The reality, however, is that these criticisms are misplaced, biased, increase and support impunity on the continent.

The recent decision by Gambia to withdraw from the ICC will have a consequential impact on the Court’s future in Africa because countries   like Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, etc. who have signed, but not ratified the Rome Statute, may decide to never ratify and even revoke their signature. Such a mass withdrawal from the Court hurts, primarily, victims in these African states, as it denies them justice.

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IS THIS THE END OF THE COURT? 

It is not. International criminal justice has always had its ups and downs, but this will not be the end of the ICC as we know it. According to Article 127 of the Rome Statute, parties are free to leave as they want. Of course, the withdrawal of few states may send a wrong message to international community about the ICC, but, in the end, the ICC is there for the victims, not the ones in power who decide to enter or leave.

WILL THERE BE MASS WITHDRAWAL?

Probably not. This move by Gambia and the two others may have opened a gateway for other countries, but it does not necessarily mean that many African countries will leave. For instance, Gabon last Month referred a case to the ICC after deadly unrest occurred in the nation over disputed election results.[2]

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IS AFRICA UNFAIRLY SINGLED OUT?

Of the current 10 full investigations, nine are underway in 8 African nations. The reasons for these investigations are easy to accept – The victims are in Africa.  The alleged crimes occurred in Africa. Theses situation have been referred to the ICC by the countries themselves or these situations have been referred by the United Nations Security Council under a Chapter VII resolution. [3] The spin that is put on these cases – that the ICC is targeting Africa – is false. Other situations in other parts of the world are also under investigation in the preliminary phase, including the Middle East, South America, and Europe.[4]

Time will tell. The arc of the moral universe is, after all, long, but it bends towards justice in the end.

Paul Obang Gora is an LL.M. student in the Law of the United States (LOTUS) program at UB Law. He has an LL.B. from the Ethiopian Civil Service College, Addis Ababa (2000) and a certificate for six-months’ training for judges and prosecutors. He served as an assistant prosecutor in Ethiopia from 2001-2003, but fled to Kenya because of political persecution. He was a community organizer in the refugee camps in Kenya and then served in the new South Sudan Ministry of Justice as legal counsel from 2008-12, prior to emigrating to the U.S. Paul is on the Elective Concentration Track, specializing in International Law, and working as an intern with the International Rescue Committee. 

 

[1] http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=icchistory

 

[2] https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=160929-otp-stat-gabon

 

[3] https://www.icc-cpi.int/pages/situations.aspx

 

[4] https://www.icc-cpi.int/pages/preliminary-examinations.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shifting Focus: The ICC looks to Prosecute Environmental Crimes

Jasmine Pope

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was created as a result of the Rome Statute. The ICC was not set up to replace domestic court systems. Instead, the ICC serves to complement domestic criminal systems, only prosecuting cases when States, countries that are party to the Rome Statute, are unable or unwilling to do so.[i]

What does the ICC do? How does it work?

The Rome Statute grants the ICC jurisdiction over four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.[ii] Genocide requires “specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means.”[iii] Examples of genocide include the Rwandan Genocide, the Holocaust, and the Situation in Darfur. The ICC prosecutes fifteen forms of crimes against humanity, including sexual slavery, murder, enforced disappearances, apartheid, rape, and murder, which are “serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population.”[iv] War crimes are considered to be violations of the Geneva conventions. Crimes of aggression are the “use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another State.”[v] The ICC only prosecutes individuals that commit any of the crimes over which it has jurisdiction. The ICC does not prosecute States.

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A Landmark Policy Decision

On Thursday, September 15, 2016, the ICC made a huge announcement. The ICC will broaden its focus to include environmental crimes.[vi] In the policy paper published by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC, the OTP stated that “the Office will seek to cooperate and provide assistance to States, upon request, with respect to conduct which constitutes a serious crime under national law, such as the illegal exploitation of natural resources, arms, trafficking, human terrorism, financial crimes, land grabbing or the destruction of the environment.”[vii] This is a big deal. For decades, the scientific community and activists have talked about climate and environmental change. But let’s be clear here: the ICC is not expanding its jurisdiction—it is simply assessing existing offences in a much broader context.[viii]

Environmental destruction and environmental issues have been a hot topic in recent years. Environmental issues and concerns deal with more than just cutting down trees in rainforests, since so much of our environment is affected by our daily actions. But it goes beyond the rainforest. Many of the situations currently under investigation by the ICC, where crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed, destruction of the environment is also an element. Warlords do not just magically come into a town or village, kill a few people, and then move on. No, they destroy the towns they come across. It is even possible that the actions of Royal Dutch Petroleum in the Niger Delta could be investigated by the ICC through their now broadened scope of jurisdiction.

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While the ICC usually prosecutes warlords, this decision opens the door for business executives, government officials, and heads of corporations to face the music, so to speak. No more outsourcing work to poor, undeveloped nations without a second thought as to the environmental consequences. The ICC can now start “holding corporate executives accountable for large-scale land grabbing and massive displacement happening during peace time.”[ix]

What Does it all Mean?

Can the ICC not only talk the talk: can it also walk the walk? That is the billion-dollar question. Instances of land-grabbing have plagued the world for decades, particularly in Africa, and in underdeveloped nations in Asia. Land grabbing deals with large-scale land acquisitions by governments and individuals, as well as domestic and international companies.[x] While land grabbing itself may not be a crime that the ICC can prosecute, the consequences of land-grabbing falls under the realm of crimes against humanity that the ICC can prosecute.

The international community is already speculating that Cambodia is the perfect place for the ICC to shift its focus.[xi] International lawyer with the international criminal law firm Global Diligence, Richard Rogers, has already filed a case with the ICC on behalf of ten Cambodian citizens. The complaint alleges that the country’s ruling elite “including government and military, has perpetuated mass rights violations since 2002 in pursuit of wealth and power by grabbing land and forcibly evicting up to 350,000 people.”[xii] If the ICC does choose to investigate the situation in Cambodia, it will be interesting to see who the ICC files charges against as having committed crimes against humanity. Does the ICC look to charge governmental officials? Does the ICC look to charge business executives? Who will the ICC deem responsible for the situation in Cambodia if they find they have jurisdiction?

 

This new expanding view of the ICC could open the door to prosecutions over climate change, in addition to land grabbing.[xiii]According to an ICC member who worked on the policy document, this decision allows for the ICC to “[exercise its] jurisdiction by looking at the context in which crimes are committed.”[xiv] Companies, government officials, business executives, and individuals must now think long and hard about their activities in certain countries, i.e. those that are party to and have accepted the jurisdiction the ICC. The ICC is watching, and so is the rest of the world.

Jasmine Pope is a second year law student at the University of Baltimore. She graduated from Towson University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a minor in History. Jasmine is extremely interested in and passionate about international human rights, particular the rights of women and children. She also participated in the Summer Study Abroad Program in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has also studied abroad in Benalmádena, Spain. Currently, she serves as the Secretary for the International Law Society. Jasmine is currently a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Team. Jasmine is also a Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law and works for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[i] https://www.icc-cpi.int/about/how-the-court-works.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] Brittany Felder, “ICC to focus on environmental crimes”, Jurist, September 16, 2016, http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2016/09/icc-to-focus-on-environmental-crimes.php.

[vii] https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/20160915_OTP-Policy_Case-Selection_Eng.pdf.

[viii] John Vidal and Owen Bowcott, “ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases,” The Guardian, September 15, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/15/hague-court-widens-remit-to-include-environmental-destruction-cases.

[ix] Chris Arsenault, “International court to prosecute environmental crimes in major shift,” Reuters, September 15, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-landrights-icc-idUSKCN11L2F9.

[x] Stop Africa Land Grab, http://www.stopafricalandgrab.com/.

[xi] Vidal and Bowcott, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/15/hague-court-widens-remit-to-include-environmental-destruction-cases.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id.


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I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Ali Rickart

TRIAL, short for Track Impunity Always, does just that. The Swiss organization was founded in 2002 as a way to track and watch international persons that have allegedly committed crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, and more. The association has consultative status before the United Nations Economic and Social Council and is an apolitical organization. After being inspired by the capture of Pinochet in 1998 and the subsequent establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002, the goals of TRIAL are to “put the law at the service of the victims of international crime.”[1] TRIAL wants to fight impunity, defend the victims of international crimes, and raise awareness of the crimes and perpetrators to show the need for coherent and effective national and international justice systems.

TRIAL 2

There are several areas in which TRIAL works: litigation, lobbying, informing the public, and research. Through these different areas, TRIAL works with people around the globe to successfully meet its goals. The litigation process has three different methods for pursuing international criminals and helping victims. First, the Advocacy Center TRIAL (ACT) works on filing complaints before international human rights bodies, to help victims of crime achieve justice. The second method is to distribute information to victims of armed conflicts and what legal methods they have to promote their right to justice. Third, TRIAL will actually file complaints in Swiss courts “against individuals present on Swiss territory suspected of international crimes.”[2]

TRIAL regularly lobbies with Swiss and international authorities, as well as working with the Swiss Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CSCPI). The research includes ICC Legal Tools, a digital library, which gathers, analyzes, and classifies documents of the 46 countries on national legislation and practice in relation to crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.  In collaboration with Pro Juventute, TRIAL is working on a video game project, showing the connection between video/computer games and international humanitarian law. The idea was created by TRIAL, but the study received an encouragement award at the 2007 International Human Rights Forum in Lucerne. Recently, TRIAL received the “Geneva grateful” medal (médaille “Genève reconnaissante”) on behalf of the Mayor of Geneva. If you can speak French, the link to the article is posted here.

TRIAL is also a partner organization of the Center for International and Comparative Law (CICL), allowing CICL Student Fellows at the University of Baltimore School of Law to work on profiles as a part of the TRIAL Watch Project.

The TRIAL Watch Project – Informing the Public of International Criminal Law Perpetrators

Informing the public is one of TRIAL’s biggest goals and biggest projects, which is done through TRIAL Watch. Its website is a database compiled of profiles of perpetrators and instigators of international crimes. They also distribute a trilingual TRIAL Journal, printed three times a year. Each day, a summary of news in international criminal law and the fight against impunity in the world is placed on the website and sent to subscribers once a week. As a way to become more known, TRIAL Watch organizes public discussions, lectures, and film screenings as well as  ‘actions’ on important days of the year such as International Justice Day (July 17) and International Day of the Missing (August 30).

TRIAL

The profiles that are shown on the website of TRIAL Watch are drafted by volunteers and in up to four languages – English, French, Spanish, and German.[3] The profiles include pertinent information such as the criminal’s name, aliases, status (indicted, sentenced, acquitted, etc.), position, as well as what they have allegedly done. Below each brief set of facts and information is a detailed profile including specifics as to the crime and the person, including the facts, the legal procedure, and the context in which the crime occurred (such as the Sierra Leone civil war or Bangladeshi Liberation War, for example).

The profiles also try to include photographs of the alleged criminal and their last known whereabouts. If possible, links to relevant documents are also included such as case documents, United Nations Security Council resolutions, books, judgments, and other related documents. This can help further research by anyone who wants more information on the person, the crime, or the case. It is also possible to be subscribed to a particular profile, in order to be informed if any updates are made on the profile. TRIAL Watch regularly updates all profiles if any new events, charges, indictments, sentencing, etc., occurs to an alleged criminal.

As a Fellow of the CICL and assigned to the TRIAL Watch team, I draft articles of alleged international criminals such as Sladjan Cukaric and Miodrag Josipovic. I have also drafted an update for Maulana Abdus Subhan, as part of the initiative to keep all profiles as current as possible, to help those tracking criminals and their progress through their respective judicial systems, stay up to date on information. It can be hard work, there is not always a lot of available information on people or what little information there is often comes from foreign sources that must be translated and checked for accuracy. The impact TRIAL Watch has on citizens of nations all around the world is worth every second of the work.

If you are interested in international criminal law or international humanitarian law, you can become a volunteer, donate, and become a TRIAL Watch member. You can also join the CICL Fellows program and work on the TRIAL Watch team! It’s absolutely possible to work on international law right here in Baltimore!

Alexandra Rickart is a second-year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, planning to graduate in May 2016 with a concentration in International Law. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2013 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Business. Her primary interests include international law, international criminal law, and domestic criminal law.

In addition to being a CICL Fellows, she is the Secretary of the International Law Society and a Staff Editor for the University of Baltimore Journal of International Law. She competed in the 2014-15 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region. During her first year of law school, she was a tutor for Baltimore elementary students as part of the Truancy Court program through the Center for Families, Children and the Courts. Alexandra is currently a law clerk for a criminal defense firm in Baltimore.

[1] Introduction, TRIAL, http://www.trial-ch.org/en/about-trial.html.

[2] Introduction, TRIAL, http://www.trial-ch.org/en/about-trial.html.

[3] The website itself, as a whole, can be translated into one of these four languages by a convenient button on the top right hand of the screen.


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Wake Up World! Boko Haram is Here to Stay!

Annielle Makon

Although Boko Haram (translated means “western education is a sin”) has been functi since 2002, until recently it did not have international name recognition.  Boko Haram is considered a terrorist, militant, and Islamic group, based in northeast Nigeria, but they also carry out activities in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. [1] Boko Haram, led by Abubakar Shekau, has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.[2] They have caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions, they are fighting to overthrow the government and create a pure Islamic state rule by sharia law.[3]  They have been labeled as a terrorist organization by several countries (including the United States), yet that is as far as the international community has gone in dealing with their actions (aside from the infamous #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign). Boko Haram acts with impunity. As they continue to gain notoriety, Nigeria and the international community need to start paying attention to them, hold them accountable for their actions, and resolveto prevent any future attacks from Boko Haram.

Boko Haram

Between July 2009 and June 2014, Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 civilians. [4]  Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, famously, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.[5] Their most horrific act was the massacre of 2,000 civilians in January 2015.[6] Most of the victims were women, children and elderly people who could not escape after fighters drove into the town firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons at local residents.[7] Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by the terrorist group have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.[8] 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.[9] Yet, Nigeria and the international community have failed to actively thwart Boko Haram efforts.

Should the World Care? Yes, absolutely!

Boko Haram Pie Chart

Boko Haram’s latest attack is part of a growing trend. Violence has drastically increased since 2009.[10] The number of deaths is rising year to year and that is an indication that the threat is growing in a relatively short time span. Boko Haram has killed as many people as the Islamic State.[11] The United States has made active strides to thwart ISIS because they pose a threat to the United States interest abroad and attempting to avoid another Middle Eastern conflict.[12] Yet, nothing has been done about Boko Haram. The violence is increasing because they have been left unattended to wreck havoc in Nigeria. Nigeria’s government is unable to combat Boko Haram alone. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and, even after the state of emergency, Boko Haram attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja (twice), and launched the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok.[13] Nigeria military lacks the modern equipment, training and motivation to sufficiently fight Boko Haram.[14]

As long as the world views Boko Haram as simply Nigeria’s problem, nothing will prevent them from committing more terrorist acts.  Many believe that Boko Haram is focus on Nigeria, with no interest in attacking the West.[15] However, the danger of this belief is that there is no guarantee that they will be satisfied with just turning Nigeria into a pure Islamic state.  What will the world do when Boko Haram is no longer isolated in Nigeria?

Boko Haram Attacks Graph

What Can or Should Be Done?

First, and foremost, reform needs to start within Nigeria.  President Goodluck Jonathan needs to focus on the issue of security and increase funds for the military to adequately train and equip these forces to combat Boko Haram.  Additionally, there needs to more effective allocation of national funds to the areas targeted by Boko Harm. Furthermore, the Nigerian government needs better intelligence gathering resources so that they can better prevent Boko Haram’s attacks. Most importantly, Nigeria needs to request and accept assistance from the international community. The United States has agreed to help combat Boko Haram by providing military and intelligence assistance.[16] France, too, can play role in pressuring neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad to ramp up information sharing and cooperation through the Multinational Joint Task Force.[17] The Nigerian government needs to put the priority of its citizens ahead of its own need to portray itself as a regional power of West Africa in order to combat Boko Haram.

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Andrew Walker, What is Boko Haram?, United States Institute of Peace (March 30, 2012),  http://www.usip.org/publications/what-boko-haram.

[2] Id.

[3] Farouk Chothia, Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? BBC News Africa (January 21, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Sophia Kleeman, One Chart Shows Why the World Should Care About Boko Haram, WorldMic  (January 13, 2015), http://mic.com/articles/108328/one-chart-shows-why-the-world-should-care-about-boko-haram?utm_source=policymicTWTR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Chothia, supra note 5.

[14] Chothia, supra note 5.

[15] Walker, supra note 1.

[16] Jason Warner & Jacob Zenn,  After kidnappings, Nigeria must step up, The Boston Globe (May 15, 2014), http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/15/boko-haram-kidnappings-nigeria-must-step/p69X3KAaGqTVpX4WnKMr2K/story.html.

[17] Id.


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Time to Break the Silence:  Shining a Light on the Conflict in the Central African Republic

Jillian Bokey

International human rights violations are the modern-day plague—wiping out hundreds of thousands of people in short periods of time and the international community is facing so many of these plagues today.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the world is unaware of the atrocities taking place every day across the globe.  The most well known violations are taking place in Ukraine and Syria—it seems that there is new coverage every day on Ukraine.  Every once in a while the media catches us up on Syria, where a civil war has taken the lives of well over 100,000 people and displaced millions.[1]  Recently, barrel bombs were dropped on a school, killing young children, two men were crucified in the streets, and the use of sarin and other poisonous gases has become more and more regular.[2]  It is the politically charged actions that get the most attention in the media.  But what about the rest of the world?

Ukraine and Syria are not the only places with human rights issues; they plague the entire world.  This post seeks to shed a little light on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR)—a place we never hear about and a people entrenched in havoc and tragedy.  It is important that we break the silence on the crisis and give a voice to the people that desperately need help. 

Image Source: BBC News

Brief Introduction of the Role of Human Rights in International Law 

I think it is fair to say that when people think of international law, they probably think about a couple of different topics:  war, terrorism, foreign policy and relations, and human rights.  Of course I make this statement without having conducted any poll or survey.  Human rights have become an extremely relevant and important topic in modern international law.[3]  The atrocities that took place during World War II prompted a change in international law—a change that brought human rights concerns to the forefront, starting with the creation of UN.[4]  The UN Charter included the importance of fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of each human person and the equal rights of men and women.[5]  Numerous conventions centering on human rights quickly followed, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[6]  Rights and responsibilities recognized under human rights law include the right to self-determination, the right to equality and nondiscrimination, the right to life, the right to not be enslaved or forced labor, the right to not be tortured or ill-treated, the right to fairness in the criminal process and the administration of justice, the right to not be detained or imprisoned, the right to privacy, the right to travel, the right to seek asylum and refugee status, the right to citizenship or nationality, the right of protection for family, the right to own property, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, the right to participate politically and vote, and many more.[7]  The recognition of fundamental human rights has had a dramatic effect on the treatment of peoples and public opinion across the globe.

Ignorance in the Media

It is unfortunate that media outlets, specifically those in the United States, do not share the stories of human rights violations.  Only those that are “popular” are shared with the American public.  That is a problem.  The United States, along with the international community, has a responsibility to stand for and respect fundamental human rights, to be the voice for others that cannot share their own stories, to be the people that somehow find a way to give others hope in their own future even if they are located in another country.  It is important that a conversation about these global human rights violations is started and shared throughout the world in order to educate our global society about the injustices taking place in and outside of the places we all live.  Picking and choosing the topics of discussion on human rights violations is just perpetuating an ignorance and false impression about the status of the people of our world.

Christian anti-balaka attack the property of Muslim civilians in an effort to destroy everything in their commumity

Image Source: The Telegraph 

Starting a Conversation about the Crisis in the Central African Republic

The current conflict in CAR can be traced back to the coup in 2003 that removed then President Ange-Félix Patassé from office.[8]  François Bozizé, the army’s chief of staff, formed a relationship with Chad’s President Déby, and seized control of CAR, remaining in power for the next eight years with the help of Déby and the Chadian troops.[9]  When Bozizé began to change the dynamic of the business relationship, and sought connections with South Africa, Déby began to encourage a coalition of Muslim rebels—The Seleka—from CAR to take over the country.[10]  The Seleka was comprised of factions of different organizations.[11]  The Seleka’s campaign to overthrow the government and President Bozizé started in December of 2012, stating that they sought to “liberate the country and bring peace and security to the people.”[12]  Violence ensued, resulting in the Seleka taking control of the capital of CAR, Bangui, and fifteen of the sixteen CAR provinces.[13]  One of the leaders of the Seleka appointed himself as interim president.[14]  The Seleka members have destroyed rural villages, looted all over CAR, have raped women and girls, have deliberately killed numerous women, children, and elderly individuals, deliberately destroyed homes, destroyed and stole food and seed stocks creating a massive food shortage, and have left residents to fend for themselves without clean water or shelter.[15]  The Seleka do not seem to be the only guilty party as there are reports of major human rights abuses taking place under the Bozizé government.[16]  The abuses by the Seleka forces prompted Christian militias to organize counterattacks and defenses—the groups are known as anti-balaka fighters.[17]  They too have committed abuses, but against the Muslim population.[18]  The anti-balaka fighters attack those they believe are supporting the rebel coalition.[19]  The use of child soldiers has been a widespread issue as well.[20]

Soldiers drag the lifeless body of a suspected Seleka rebel after he was killed. (Jerome Delay/AP)

Image Source: The Washington Post 

Some of the accounts of violence are shockingly brutal.  Human Rights Watch tells of a story of how one Muslim woman was forced to watch the anti-balaka fighters slit the throat of her three-year old son, two other young boys, and an adult relative.[21]  The organization also recounted the story of an adult man who witnessed anti-balaka fighters slitting the throats of 13 of his loved ones.[22]  Seleka fighters sought revenge by ravaging a Christian village killing numerous people and destroying homes.[23]  Although this sounds like a religious conflict, pitting Christians against Muslims, the violence is, at the root of it, economic and political. CAR ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index (ranked 180 out of 187).[24] 

Although the Seleka are no longer in power and a transitional government has been put into place, violence continues and the forced enlistment of child soldiers has not ceased.[25]  International efforts are woefully inadequate in addressing the issues, and the international community has not been keeping up with the crisis, even with troops on the ground.[26]  HRW calls upon the United Nations to deploy a full-scale peacekeeping effort in the region in order to provide protection to the civilians and provide aid to the displaced.[27]  The international community is slowly starting to be cognizant of the abuses, taking action one step at a time.  On May 13, 2014, President Obama ordered sanctions against five individuals tied to the violence and abuses and made way for the potential of future sanctions or penalties.[28]  In issuing the sanctions, President Obama noted that over 2.5 million people, which accounts for half of the population of CAR, need humanitarian assistance, and over 1 million are displaced.[29] 

Conclusion

The international community needs to do more to educate themselves on the status of the conflict in CAR.  Widespread atrocities, from killings to rape to the use of child soldiers are taking place daily.  The international community has a responsibility to act to help put an end to the human rights violations taking place in CAR.  The fighting between the anti-balaka fighters and the Seleka will not stop on its own—too much has happened for a ceasefire to be possible without international influence.  With over half the country in need of humanitarian assistance and a fifth of the country’s citizens already displaced, the time to act is now.  The more people that know about the conflict, the more support an international peacekeeping mission would receive, and the quicker that the millions of innocent CAR civilians can receive the aid, protection, and dignity that they so desperately need and deserve.

 

[1] Loveday Morris, 3 Grim Statistics from 3 Years of Conflict in Syria, Washington Post (Mar. 14, 2014 9:55am), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/14/3-grim-statistics-from-3-years-of-conflict-in-syria/

[2] Salma Abdelaziz, Death and Desecration in Syria:  Jihadist Group Crucified Bodies to Send Message, CNN (May 2, 2014 3:11pm), http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/01/world/meast/syria-bodies-crucifixions/; Holly Yand & Saad Abedine, 25 Children Killed in Elementary School Bombing, Syrian Activists Say, CNN (April 30, 2014 7:47am), http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/30/world/meast/syria-civil-war/index.html?hpt=imi_c2; Claims of New Poison Gas Attack in Syria, BBC News (Apr. 12, 2014 11:15am), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27001737.

[3] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 1 (2nd ed. 2005).

[4] Dinah Shelton, Remedies in International Human Rights Law 104 (2nd ed. 2005).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 105.

[7] David Weissbrodt & Connie de la Vega, International Human Rights Law:  An Introduction 30-119 (2007).

[8] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[9] Graeme Wood, Hell is an Understatement:  A report from the bloody, crumbling Central African Republic, New Republic (Apr. 30, 2014), http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117519/central-african-republic-conflict-africas-bloodiest-fight.

[10] Id.

[11] Human Rights Watch, “I Can Still Smell the Dead”:  The Forgotten Human Rights Crisis in the Central African Republic, p. 29 (Sept. 2013).

[12] Id. at 5.

[13] Id.

[14] Id. 

[15] Id. at 5-6.

[16] Id. at 7.

[17] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 1 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[18] Id.

[19] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[20] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[21] Human Rights Watch, “They Came to Kill”:  Escalating Atrocities in the Central African Republic, p. 5 (Dec. 10, 2013), http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/12/18/they-came-kill.

[22] Id.

[23] Id. at 6.

[24] Jim Wallis, Don’t Blame the Central African Republic Conflict on Religion, Time (Apr. 9, 2014), http://time.com/55813/dont-blame-the-central-african-republic-conflict-on-religion/.

[25] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[26] Human Rights Watch, Central African Republic: A Country In Turmoil, One Year On, Security, Aid, Justice Remain Essential (Mar. 23, 2014), http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/23/central-african-republic-country-turmoil.

[27] Id.

[28] Obama Orders Sanctions Against 5 Over Central African Republic Violence, Wall Street Journal (May 14, 2014 12:18am), http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304081804579560532520785604.

[29] Id.