Wanted: Omar al-Bashir -- and Peace in Sudan

by Khalid Mustafa Medani | published March 5, 2009

For the first time, the international community has indicted a sitting president of a sovereign state. Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stands accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague of “crimes against humanity and war crimes” committed in the course of the Khartoum regime’s brutal suppression of the revolt in the country’s far western province of Darfur. Having indicted two other figures associated with the regime in 2007, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo began building a case against the man at the top, and on March 4, the court issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest.

Grave Injustice

Maher Arar and Unaccountable America

by Lisa Hajjar | published June 24, 2010

On June 14, the Supreme Court buried the prospect of justice for Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin who was “extraordinarily rendered” by the United States (via Jordan) to Syria in 2002. Arar was suing the US officials who authorized his secret transfer, without charge, to a country infamous for torture. With the justices’ 22-word statement, the case of Arar v. Ashcroft exited the American legal system and entered the annals of American legal history under the category “grave injustice.” Alphabetically, Arar precedes Dred Scott v. Sanford, which upheld slavery, and Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. In this case, however, the grave is literal: Arar spent ten months of his year in Syrian custody confined in what he describes as “an underground grave.”

Grave Breaches

A View from Jenin and Nablus

by Kathleen Cavanaugh , Jamil Dakwar
published in MER223

There are several things that strike you when first entering Jenin refugee camp: images of the Star of David spray-painted on the walls, the exposed fronts of houses which had been bulldozed, half-set tables, children’s toys scattered and then, as you approach Hawashin, a strong sweet odor. The Hawashin area of the camp, some 400 by 500 square meters in size, and comprised of about 140 homes and several hundred families, has been erased. An elderly man stands near the remains of a house at the area’s western edge; his daughter’s body lies underneath.

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Will Iraqis Find Justice in War Crimes Tribunals?

by Hassan Fattah
published in MER229

Muhan Jabr al-Shuwaili no doubt knew the risks he faced when he ventured out of his house in Najaf on November 3, 2003. But the head judge of the Najaf governorate, member of a commission collecting evidence against former Iraqi officials possibly complicit in crimes against humanity, quickly discovered just how dangerous his job had become. That morning, Shuwaili and a prominent Najaf prosecutor, Arif Aziz, were kidnapped by unknown parties who told them that “Saddam has ordered your prosecution.” The two men were driven out into the desert.

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Does International Justice Have a Local Address?

Lessons from the Belgian Experiment

by Laurie King-Irani
published in MER229

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From Nuremberg to Guantánamo

International Law and American Power Politics

by Lisa Hajjar
published in MER229

All that is needed to achieve total political domination is to kill the juridical in humankind.
-- Hannah Arendt, On the Origins of Totalitarianism

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US, George W. Bush used terms like "punishment" and "justice" to assert what his administration would make happen and why. Using such legalistic terms was the logical means of legitimizing the American state's planned response to the violence. This logic became all the more apparent when Bush also used the distinctly non-legal term "crusade," for which he was roundly criticized.

From the Editors

published in MER229

"If Saddam had nuclear weapons, Iraq's geographic location at the head of the Persian Gulf would allow him to threaten the destruction of a number of targets of great importance to the United States. The Saudi oilfields are a particularly worrisome target." These lines do not come from a pilfered Halliburton notepad doodled upon by Dick Cheney before he was summoned to lend gravitas to George W. Bush's presidential ticket.

Elusive Justice

Trying to Try Saddam

by Joost Hiltermann
published in MER215

Saddam Hussein's regime has long been one of the world's worst human rights violators. But the international community largely ignored Iraq's record of human rights abuse -- brutal repression of internal dissent, atrocities during the eight-year war with Iran -- until after Hussein crossed the red line by sending his forces into Kuwait. Even since 1990, evidence of human rights violations has been marshaled solely to score political points or justify military action, and not to hold a vicious regime accountable for its crimes.

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