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Friday, April 27, 2012

Until international justice proves “blind to political maneuvering”

It will forever suffer “virus of illegitimacy”
By Carolyn Bennett (incl. news editing)

The rule of law cannot exist until and unless all  without exception submit to the rule of law

Exhibit A: Charles Taylor at the ICC viewed by Robtel Neajai Pailey

ICC Pre-trial chamber
“What Charles Taylor’s verdict signifies for me is the need to reconfigure Africa’s domestic systems of justice so that we don’t have to rely on the West to judge when, where, and under what circumstances we can punish for transgressions that we deem unacceptable,” the Liberian scholar, Robtel Neajai Pailey, wrote yesterday at Pambazuka News.

“If a mob can stealthily execute an alleged rogue for stealing a loaf of bread from a local market anywhere on the continent, then surely we can channel that kind of misappropriated anger and violence to constructively tackle the most egregious criminals who break the public trust.

Surely we can ensure that wielding money and power and influence cannot cloak a common criminal from facing the full weight of the law, no matter who she or he is.”
International Criminal Court 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent international judicial body capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

Yesterday the Court found former Liberian president Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting acts of terrorism, murder, violence to life, health or physical well being of persons, rape, sexual slavery, outrages upon personal dignity, violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of persons, other inhumane acts, a crime against humanity, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into the armed forces, enslavement, and pillage. At the end of May, the Court will announce Taylor’s sentence and he will be moved to a prison in Britain.

Former UK and U.S. (Blair-G.W. Bush)
heads of state

Malaysian tribunal found
Bush and Blair 
guilty of
crimes against humanity 
during the Iraq war
The rhetoric of the prosecution in the Charles Taylor case suggests theoretical agreement on an international level with his position. However, in response to an apparent selective use or abuse a judicial system, Robtel Neajai Pailey continues, “International justice is clearly blind to the atrocities committed by Western agents as well as non-Western countries that wield international clout or power.

Russia, China and the United States never ratified the International Criminal Court because they were concerned that their nationals could be held accountable for crimes committed in other countries.

In May 2009, backed by India, Russia and a majority of Asian, African and Latin American member states, Sri Lanka successfully organized a counter resolution [and] a UN resolution accused the administration of war crimes.”

Exhibit B: criminal West, convenient allies
Lawlessness, impunity, ‘select justice,’ refusal to submit to rule of law

In early April, according to a Press TV report, the International Criminal Court announced its refusal “to investigate the Israeli regime’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip during Tel Aviv’s December 2008-January 2009 offensives against the populated enclave.” The reasons reportedly given by the Court were that Palestine was not an official state and the ICC had no jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.

That December-January Gaza War executed by the Israelis “killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and inflicted a damage of more than $1.6 billon on the already impoverished people of the Gaza Strip.” The Palestinian Authority has persisted in its plea to the ICC for justice. Some major human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes during the invasion.

“… It is not enough,”  Pailey says, “for the likes of Taylor, Bashir, Kony and other Africans to be called before an international tribunal.” As argued by Charles Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, “all who commit atrocities around the world deserve the same kind of justice — from the former Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, to former President of the United States, George W. Bush, for their participation in an illegitimate war in Iraq.” It will likely be “a long time indeed before three Africans in black robes sit in judgment of the likes of [former U.S.Vice President] Dick Cheney and [former U. S. Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld for their endorsement of torture, or [Russian Federation President] Vladimir Putin for his war in Chechnya, or Chinese officials for their actions in Tibet.”

A news article at the blog on international justice, iLawyer, reported that at the end of oral arguments in the Taylor trial, Alternate Judge Malick Sow of Senegal attempted to voice his dissenting opinion and was effectively silenced. Judge Sow reportedly said this before is microphone was silenced.

Under any mode of liability, under any accepted standard of proof, the guilt of the accused from the evidence provided in this trial is not proved beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution and my only worry is that the whole system is not consistent with all the principles we know and love, and the system is not consistent with all the values of international criminal justice.

I’m afraid the whole system is under grave danger of just losing all credibility…

U.S. allied with Taylor

Al Jazeera reported in a January that Charles Taylor had been used as an “asset” to U.S. officials.

The Pentagon’s spy arm, DIA or Defense Intelligence Agency, “confirmed” without revealing details that “its agents and CIA agents worked with Taylor in the 1980s.” A former investigative campaigner in West Africa with the NGO Global Witness, Alexander Yearsley, reportedly told Al Jazeera “Taylor was DIA asset” in 1989 when he (Taylor) led a rebel army invasion of Liberia from the Ivory Coast that left took control of most of Liberia and killed thousands of people.

When George W, Bush assumed the U.S. presidency in 2001, Al Jazeera reported, he discovered that Taylor was on the CIA payroll and “put a stop to it.”
U.S. drone murders (update)

Press TV reports today, “A U.S. assassination drone attacked Somalia’s southwestern region of Gedo. The attack left 22 (est.) people dead and caused injuries to dozens of people.

Washington’s unmanned aircraft have attacked several countries in addition to Somalia. Among them are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Yemen. These CIA-run attacks the United States claims aim at ‘militants.’ Local authorities’ witness reports and figures in these countries show the attacks have caused “massive civilian deaths.” The United Nations has repeatedly condemned the use of U.S. assassination drone strikes, saying they pose a challenge to international law. Instead of ending these attacks, the current government in Washington has increased this lawlessness against the region, the countries and their people.

Is there any surprise then that a new opinion poll deems the United States “the biggest threat to global security”? This latest negative response by half of Spain’s population indicates a drop in U.S. popularity in that country.

Exhibit C: Root of impartial adjudication

Pailey concludes with thoughts on the consequences of the status quo and what must happen to arrest the capriciousness of power, strengthen the rule of law to which all peoples and nations submit, and ensure access for all peoples to justice without prejudice.

Eleanor Roosevelt
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“… Until international justice proves that it is blind to political maneuvering and power,” Robtel Neajai Pailey writes, “it will always suffer from the virus of illegitimacy….

 “If we are serious about the idea that basic human rights belong to all people on Earth, no matter where they live — a principle enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights — then a justice system that can cross national boundaries is essential.”
The former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Louise Arbour, said in 2010 —

 Louise Arbour
If international criminal justice is ever to be effective, its enforcement cannot be selective.

Sources and notes

“One man, two wars, one guilty verdict — Charles Taylor judgment reveals selective international justice” (Robtel Neajai Pailey). April 26, 2012, Issue 582, http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/81694

Monrovia, Liberia-native Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Mo Ibrahim Foundation scholar currently pursuing a doctorate in Development Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Pailey notes continued: “Much has changed since I covered the first day of Charles Taylor’s trial for Pambazuka News on June 4, 2007. That day, he failed to show up to court, calling the case against him a ‘farce.’ Today, he was in full view, stoic, resolute and somber. As I sat in the public gallery of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon building at The Hague, peering at the man portrayed as the most notorious African warlord in contemporary history, Taylor’s fate was solidified by one word: ‘GUILTY.’…

“It is clear, however, that the decision to convict him was not unanimous. After Taylor’s verdict was announced, Judge Malick Sow disagreed with the judgment openly while being rebuffed by colleagues, who stormed out of the court: ‘I disagree with the findings and conclusions of the other judges…the guilt of the accused from the evidence provided in this trial is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.’ Judge Sow, like others before him, had argued that Taylor did not make or break the war in Sierra Leone…

“Regardless of the dissenting judge, Taylor’s sentence will be announced on May 30, two weeks after the prosecution and defense have given their oral arguments in a hearing. He will be transferred thereafter to a British prison to serve whatever sentence he is given. Again, another non-African prison will hold Taylor for crimes committed in Africa.

“Lest we have selective amnesia, Taylor walked out of a Plymouth prison in Massachusetts while undergoing extradition charges to Liberia in 1985. That was the beginning of Liberia’s tragic epic. Presumably it was also the beginning of Sierra Leone’s.”

Pambazuka’ in Kiswahili means the dawn or to arise as a verb

Pambazuka News is produced by a pan-African community of some 2,600 citizens and organizations - academics, policy makers, social activists, women's organizations, civil society organizations, writers, artists, poets, bloggers, and commentators who together produce insightful, sharp and thoughtful analyses and make it one of the largest and most innovative and influential web forums for social justice in Africa.

Pambazuka News also publishes podcasts, videocasts and books and has won a number of international awards; and, in a competition organized by PoliticsOnline and the World E-Gov Forum, it has been voted (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008) one of the ‘Top 10 sites that are changing the world of internet and politics.’ http://www.pambazuka.org/en/about.php

Pambazuka News is produced and published by Fahamu (Networks for Social Justice).
Fahamu Ltd & Fahamu Trust: 2nd floor 51 Cornmarket Street Oxford OX1 3HA, UK; Fahamu South Africa,  19 Nerina Crescent, Fish Hoek, Cape Town, 7945, South Africa; Fahamu Kenya
 Physical Address: Block C, 3rd Floor, Peponi Plaza, Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya,  Postal address: P.O. Box 47158, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya; Fahamu Senegal, Physical Address: 9, Cité Sonatel 2 Postal address: BP 13083 Dakar Grand-Yoff, Dakar, Senegal http://www.fahamu.org/

The International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent international judicial body capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=court

“Justice Sow’s Statement/Dissent at the Charles Taylor Judgment” (Shannon Torrens), April 27, 2012 by http://ilawyerblog.com/justice-sows-statementdissent-at-the-charles-taylor-judgment/
iLawyer: a blog on international justice

As Alternate Judge Malick Sow made this statement, the other three Judges walked out of the room. Court technicians cut off an in-house video feed to reporters, turned off the Judge’s microphone and closed the public gallery. Mr. Taylor’s Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths Q.C. later quoted from the Judge’s speech at a press conference. An Alternate Judge does not have a vote or a right to dissent but sought to publicly state his concerns that the evidence against Mr. Taylor did not reach the threshold necessary for conviction. Justice Sow made his statement as Justice Lussick, Justice Doherty and Justice Sebutinde rose and prepared to leave the court at the conclusion of the verdict.

Former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, convicted at international court, •Length: 4:59 minutes (4.57 MB), •Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR), News Segments
Thursday April 26, 2012

 Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has been found guilty on eleven counts of aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war in Sierra Leone. The decision came at an international criminal court in The Hague. Taylor is the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials, and was the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted by an international court. Although human rights groups are calling the decision historic, some are questioning the court’s verdict and the court’s credibility. FSRN’s Hermione Gee reports., http://fsrn.org/audio/former-liberian-leader-charles-taylor-convicted-international-court/10204

“Accused war criminal Taylor worked with CIA’ — Liberia's ex-president, now on trial in The Hague, worked with U.S. intelligence agencies, officials admit” (Chris Arsenault), January 21, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/01/2012120194243233526.html

“Decision on former Liberian leader is first ever judgment of a former African head of state by an international court,” April 27, 2012,

“U.S. drone attack in SW Somalia kills at least 22,” April 27, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/238376.html

“Spaniards say U.S. biggest threat to global security: Survey,” April 26, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/238274.html

“ICC declines to probe into Israel’s war on Gaza,” April 4, 2012, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/234632.html

Former United Nations high commissioner for human rights and former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Louise Arbour is president of the International Crisis Group, which in 2010 released the report “War Crimes in Sri Lanka.”

credit ICC International Criminal Court premises. Credit: ICC-CPI
An empty courtroom at the temporary ICC headquarters in The Hague. Credit: ICC-CPI

Louise Arbour, former High Commissioner for Human Rights

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