In mid July, the international community renewed its efforts to curb the spread of small arms and light weapons (SALW). After failing to even adopt a report at their last meeting in 2006, this year’s delegates found a way through Iranian procedural objections to vote for modest next steps on a program of action to address the illicit trade of the deadly devices. Watchers of the small arms trade will now be looking to see if successful conclusion of the meeting adds momentum to a separate process examining the possibilities for a broader global arms trade treaty. In 2001, U.N. […]

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — These are busy times for Dutch residents who toil in the trenches of international justice and for those who work along side them in this country’s prisons. Since the arrest of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade last week, preparations are moving feverishly in the city of The Hague, home of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where Karadzic will, at some time in the near future, face the judges and prosecutors who will conduct his trial on charges of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Nearby, in the resort town of […]

Rights & Wrongs: Argentina, Burma, Karadzic and Pakistan

ARGENTINEAN COURT CONVICTS ‘DIRTY WAR’ PERPETRATORS — An Argentinean court sentenced eight men, including former army commander Luciano Benjamin Menendez, to long jail terms July 25, finally delivering a measure of justice to the thousands of Argentinean who fell victim to the military government’s murderous 1976-1983 campaign of state-sponsored violence. The court sentenced Menendez to live out the rest of his days behind bars for the kidnapping, torture and murder of activists who were held at the notorious La Perla detention center, a secret facility used by the military dictatorship where only 17 of more than 2,000 detainees survived incarceration. […]

The runaway war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has been arrested after eluding the international court for 12 years. Karadzic’s famous self-regard prevented him from accepting the cautious obscurity most would think appropriate for Europe’s most wanted man. Instead, he transformed himself into a striking, long-haired, bearded, mystic healer called “Dr. Dragan Dabic,” making appearances at live events, and on local television, and making regular contributions to a magazine called “Healthy Life.” But professional recognition was not enough. He often went to a cafĂ© around the corner from his home at 5 Yuri Gagarin Street in Novi Belgrade, where he would […]

On July 14, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), presented “evidence showing that Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.” The motives of the Sudanese head of state were “above all, political,” the prosecutor declared. He used the “alibi” of counterinsurgency in order to try “to end the history of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people.” In fact, “his intent was genocide.” Let us leave aside the assessment that Gen. al-Bashir’s motives were “political” in nature, which seems to constitute an aggravating factor in the […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs covers the world’s major human rights-related news and appears every week. Click here to browse past installments. NEW U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF TO BE NAMED — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week will name South African Judge Navanethem Pillay as the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to various press reports. Under apartheid, the Harvard-educated Pillay, who is an ethnic Tamil, was the first woman to establish an independent legal practice in South Africa’s Natal province in 1967. In post-apartheid South Africa, Pillay became the first woman named as a high court judge in […]

Rights & Wrongs: Singapore, Afghan Boys, Cluster Bombs, and More

INTERNATIONAL BAR REPORT ON SINGAPORE — Singapore has achieved phenomenal economic development but still fails to meet international standards on freedom of assembly and expression, and an independent judiciary, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released July 8. “As one of the world’s most successful economies, Singapore should be a leader in human rights and the rule of law, and should now have the confidence and maturity to recognize that this would be complementary, not contradictory, to its future prosperity,” institute Executive Director Mark Ellis said at its release. Singaporean authorities continue to restrict media […]

On Friday, July 11, senior British and American leaders denounced China and Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution that would have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his closest supporters for using violence and other manipulations during last month’s presidential elections. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, criticized Moscow and Beijing for having sided “with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.” In his remarks to the council after the vote, Khalilzad observed that, “The u-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing.” Khalilzad then made the stinging comment that, “The […]

Nigerian author Wole Soyinka — the first African to win the Nobel prize in literature — famously described the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as a “collaborative club of perpetual self-preservation.” Part of the reason the continental body re-branded itself as the African Union (AU) in 2001 was to distance itself from the days when the most brutal of dictators took a break from killing the opposition and stealing state funds to mingle with colleagues in fancy hotels. As the African Union summit in Egypt closed July 1, its failure to take any serious action on Mugabe’s crumbling Zimbabwe was […]

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is accused of committing some truly awful crimes. Forcibly conscripting children as young as 10 into the brutal, tribal combat of eastern Congo tops the list, which is why he was turned over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in 2006. Lubanga’s trial was supposed to be the ICC’s first case and its first test. But with the trial now indefinitely delayed due to prosecutorial misconduct, the ICC has failed the test. No one should be surprised by this. The problems with the ICC’s ability to try the Lubanga case stem from the prosecution’s […]