Monday, December 8, 2008

Editor's Introduction - December 2008

"The Activist." Harper's Magazine. November 2008.

An Annotation

The ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has been illustrative of the need for improved international diplomacy in conflict resolution and peace building. In an account of his experiences traveling in Darfur with academic and diplomat Alex de Waal, author Nick McDonell raises compelling questions about the role of traditional diplomacy in creating lasting peace. For McDonell, the establishment of lasting peace in the region demands recognition of the complex realities on the ground. Specifically, McDonell writes that the numerous obstacles to the peace process, such as natural resource depletion, ethnic strife, and competing political rivalries, must be addressed.

“Issue-awareness campaigns may draw attention to important causes, but they can also motivate counterproductive demands among warring factions.”

For McDonell, traditional diplomacy has not been effective in securing peace and stability in the region. According to the international community, the arrest warrant request for Omar Hassan al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July marked a significant turn of events for perceived perpetrators of the conflict. However, as McDonell discusses, de Waal asserts that the need for the international community to hold Bashir responsible for acts of genocide and crimes against humanity is detrimental to the fragile peace that has been made. Since July, de Waal has been outspoken about the adverse effects of unintended consequences that may have drastic and deadly repercussions on the ground in Darfur, and that the ICC warrant “will endanger the people we wish to defend.”

“[Alex de Waal’s] primary argument was that a threatened Bashir could do much to damage the already fragile peace, and that the ICC had no ability to back up its threat with an actual arrest or trial.”

The delicate peace among warring ethnic and political factions within government and among rebel groups cannot be sustained indefinitely. Importantly, there are various challenges to peace in the region such as determining who has the authority to make an agreement, defining who exactly the janjaweed are, and deciding how justice should be achieved, all of which must be addressed if peace is to be secured for all. McDonell, as a former student of de Waal, suggests that in order for lasting peace to be established in Darfur, conventional forms of international diplomacy that seek to place blame and accountability for crimes committed must look to the complex situation on the ground. However, the points raised by McDonell and de Waal speak more generally about the need for improved and diverse forms of international diplomacy in conflict resolution and peace building. Moreover, as McDonell emphasizes, peace processes and the establishment of lasting peace is not simplistic. The establishment of peace in Darfur, and in future violent conflicts, must address the reality of the welfare and safety of those on the ground in addition to ensuring justice and accountability for crimes committed.

These issues and others are considered in this month’s Roundtable.


Peace without Justice, or Justice without Peace?

by Clair Apodaca, Florida International University
"Seeking justice by ending the impunity for crimes and seeking redress for the victims is the only way to build a stable long-lasting peace. Such justice allows for social reconciliation, restoration and perhaps forgiveness."

Peace without justice is an illusion. The use of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute human rights violations not only provides restorative justice for those harmed by the wrongdoing but also retributive justice towards the perpetrators. Restorative justice seeks to help heal the wounds of the victims and community by acknowledging and witnessing the pain and suffering of the victim. Retributive justice seeks to punish the offenders. The hope is that retribution will deter or prevent future acts of violence by holding perpetrators accountable for the violations of human rights, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Many people believe that the path to justice is through criminal prosecution of the offenders. McDonell succinctly summarizes the relationship between restorative and retributive justice when he describes the victim’s viewpoint as follows: “if peace comes, and I know the person who killed my brother, raped my sister, killed my mother, how can I live with this person?” Seeking justice by ending the impunity for crimes and seeking redress for the victims is the only way to build a stable long-lasting peace. Such justice allows for social reconciliation, restoration and perhaps forgiveness.

However, a question remains. When should the process of retributive justice begin? Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, submitted an application for an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir before the Sudanese situation could even be characterized as post-conflict. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in 2005, is a fragile truce at best. Because Bashir can expect to be prosecuted once peace is established or when/if he leaves power, the likelihood that Bashir will turn over power to more moderate and restrained leaders is very low. Furthermore, the early issuance of the arrest warrant would make it in Bashir’s interests to see to it that the conflict and the killings continue. Will the ICC risk future carnage in order to make a forceful, yet premature, gesture of justice? If the arrest warrant is issued it may well be that the civilian population will suffer Bashir’s scorn and contempt. The Sudanese Congress already warned of the unleashing of more blood and violence in the Darfur region of Sudan if the warrant is issued. The Sudanese military and government supporters may retaliate directing their attacks against the international staff and facilities, namely the UNMIS and UNAMID. Or we may see the expulsion of humanitarian aid organizations altogether, the very lifeline for the millions of desperate and vulnerable internally displaced Dafuris—those most in need of aid and protection. Thus, the possibility of any restorative or retributive justice is greatly hindered by a lack of a negotiated and stable peace agreement.

On the other hand, in the interests of justice, the international community cannot allow the genocidal leadership in Sudan to threaten the tenuous peace prospects in order to escape prosecution for their crimes. To do so would betray the victims of Darfur. Furthermore, this would send the message to future tyrants that ignoring international law has no consequences. Therefore, I am not convinced that, in the words of Sadiqu al-Mahdi as quoted by McDonell, in the “conflict between accountability and stability… [avoiding a trial is] a case of accepting the lesser evil.” It may be the choice of exiled leaders wishing to regain power. But can we be sure that it is also the choice of the Darfuri victims who lost loved ones, had their human dignity stolen, their bodies abused, and are deprived of their homes and livelihoods? In the debate between which comes first between justice or peace, the ultimate determination ought to be the people of Darfur. Certainly, the issue should not be decided by international humanitarian “experts” such as de Waal who took it upon himself to notify Bashir’s regime of the impending announcement of Moreno-Ocampo’s application for the arrest warrant. Perhaps Moreno-Ocampo should issue a warrant for hindering prosecution too.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo may have put the cart before the horse. Pursuing justice before a stable peace is established can threaten the survival of the victimized population, and endanger humanitarian aid workers and peacekeepers. David Rieff of the New York Times wrote: “to secure a peace in Darfur means negotiating with Bashir rather than fantasizing about arresting, trying and imprisoning him.” It may be that the Darfuri population values peace and stability over justice. However, in the end, without justice there will be no lasting peace. It is unlikely that Darfur will find peace if Sudan remains governed by a regime bent on committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This leaves human rights advocates, political leaders and international lawyers with a Catch-22: without justice there will be no peace but there can be no justice without first securing peace.

Clair Apodaca is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. Dr. Apodaca has published extensively in the areas the international protection of human rights, women’s human rights and refugee studies. She is the author of Understanding U.S. Human Rights Policy: A Paradoxical Legacy (Routledge 2006). Her work has appeared in the Journal of Human Rights, International Studies Quarterly and Human Rights Quarterly among many others. In recognition of her scholarship in the field, human rights scholars and practitioners elected her to the first Executive Committee for Human Rights at the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 2001. Presently, Dr. Apodaca serves on the Executive Committee for Human Rights Section of the International Studies Association.


Human Rights or Inhuman Wrongs

by Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"More is at stake in this debate than the fate of millions of innocents in Darfur, though that would be more than enough. The deeper issue is whether the universal human rights agenda in general will even survive, let alone flourish. But should promoters of human rights surrender or struggle?"

The project of promoting universally recognized human rights, that is, the commitments of the U.N. General Assembly-ratified Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), is in danger. Military and political intervention, including economic sanctions, to stop genocide and ethnic and other political mass murder is under attack. Apparently the lessons of Hitler’s holocaust, the Turkish genocide of Armenians, Pol Pot’s slaughter of innocents, and the loss of life in Rwanda are being rethought and un-taught. So-called peace is now preferred over prevention. The dead may have died in vain.

Ethnic struggles (actually political struggles in which demagogues mobilize haters utilizing social stereotypes) are found to be too complex—Jews and Germans, Armenians and Turks, Khmer Rouge and non-KR, Hutu and Tutsi—who can sort it out? It is better to do nothing, it is claimed, than to try to end the annihilation of non-Arabic-speaking Black Africans in Sudan. We are advised to heed the propaganda of the killers that the victims are also responsible. All stories have two sides, we are told.

Personally, I’d heed the cries of the victims. Preventing their gratuitous suffering is largely what a commitment to human rights is about.

To be sure, no one doubts that “ Sudan’s army and a variety of militia” have “caused 300,000 deaths in Darfur since 2003.” But, hey, “everyone” commits atrocities, we are told. The African Union actually wants “all of the parties involved in the Darfur conflict” to talk. But, we are instructed, we should empathize first and foremost with the view of the genocidal regime in Khartoum, Sudan that “such meetings would…unify the rebels.” Apparently peace is possible only on the terms of the executioners. Human rights activists are dismissed as trouble-makers. This kind of analysis reflects a transvaluation of values similar to finding fascist racism superior to multicultural constitutionalism.

Yes, ending the slaughter requires talking to the leaders of the murderers, especially if one rules out organizing to control, stop and punish the murderers. But getting involved in trying to actually stop the genocidaires risks, it is said, being used by “the rebels and bandits…and the distinction between the two is frequently unclear.” Worse yet, lord alone knows what the head of the government of the killers might do if the International Criminal Court (ICC) moves ahead with an effort to bring the leader of the genocidaires to the bar of justice. Isn’t it better to maintain “stability,” we are asked, the stability and peace of the killing fields? Surrendering to the blackmail of the killers leaves no space for promoting human rights.

The general critique of human rights intervention that has been rising goes even further. It suspects human rights motives and highlights political interests. Didn’t the EU invite the U.S. to lead an effort in Yugoslavia to stop the killing by the Serb racist Milosevic in part because of European interests in keeping Europe democratic and not solely because the Europeans cared about rights and wrongs? Given these selfish interests, we are told, isn’t the most basic issue whether one is for or against the imperialist intervention of the capitalist West? Human rights activism is re-presented as evil imperialism.

In this discourse, the actual victims become irrelevant. It is enough to know that Pol Pot was against the CIA, that Hitler was against liberalism, that Khomeini stood against the so-called “West.” Which side are you on is the question. The wrong side is liberal constitutionalism. Potential victims of systemic crimes against humanity are not to be saved; they are to be found guilty of being on the side of universal human rights, supposedly a bourgeois imperialist agenda.
But these are not isolated individuals who have launched this assault on human rights. Underlying this screed against human rights is the rise of authoritarian powers, from China to Saudi Arabia. China backs the genocidaires in Sudan. It armed Pol Pot. It provided machetes to the killers in Rwanda. It backed Milosevic. It saw the attempt to democratize Yugoslavia—as the Color Revolutions in Asia—as practice runs for trying to subvert Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authoritarianism in Beijing, with the supposed hidden motive of restoring American global hegemony. To be on the side of human rights, it is claimed, is to be on the side of American imperialism.

That any serious person takes this CCP type propaganda amazes me.

Actually, human rights are the agenda of societal groups who embrace the UDHR as truly universal. They criticize capital punishment by the government in the USA and the torture policies of outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush. They denounce discrimination against Muslims by governments in Europe. They in fact do embrace universal values. They are on the side of the cause of humanity, of the democratizers in places like Burma and Zimbabwe and Iran. They try to pressure their governments and international organizations to act on some basic moral principles.

More is at stake in this debate than the fate of millions of innocents in Darfur, though that would be more than enough. The deeper issue is whether the universal human rights agenda in general will even survive, let alone flourish. But should promoters of human rights surrender or struggle?

According to democracy-promoter Larry Diamond in his book, The Spirit of Democracy, the freedom agenda is increasingly unattractive to the international community. “ Singapore…could foreshadow a resilient form of capitalist-authoritarianism in China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia” in an age where authoritarian “ Asia will determine the global fate of democracy” and human rights.

Right now, it is not looking good for human rights. The apologists for the killers—hiding under a cloak of non-intervention and anti-imperialism—fare winning. The world is changing for the worse.

Edward Frieman's teaching and research interests include democratization, Chinese politics, international political economy, revolution, and the comparative study of transitions in Leninist States. His most recent books are Chinese Village, Socialist State (1991), The Politics of Democratization: Generalizing the East Asian Experience (1994), National Identity and Democratic Prospects in Socialist China (1995), and What if China doesn't democratize? Implications for war and peace (2001).


Challenging the International Criminal Court over al-Bashir

by Emma Gilligan, University of Connecticut
"The most problematic issue, however, that is not addressed adequately by either McDonell’s article or by de Waal himself rests in the question, if not through the ICC, how will the problem of justice be handled for those thousands of victims in Darfur?"
As of late November 2008, we are still awaiting the decision of the U.N. Security Council with regard to the request for the arrest of Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide put forward by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July. With former Presidents Charles Taylor of Liberia and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia as the only two heads of state formally indicted by the ICC since its inception in 2002, the question remains whether the U.N. Security Council will allow this controversial indictment of al-Bashir by Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo or invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute to defer it?

The prospects for an indictment of the Sudanese President look discouraging. Britain, China, France and Russia have indicated that they may well support a plan to defer the investigation and prosecution of al-Bashir for the purported task of preserving the delicate 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement to stabilize the 22-year-old Sudanese civil war and to encourage the fulfillment of the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement. Similarly, the Arab League and the African Union have employed the same legitimate, but problematic arguments, calling for the suspension, but not the cancellation of the indictment.

One of the chief supporters of this approach is the scholar, activist and consultant, Alex de Waal of Harvard University’s Department of Government. In all his permutations, de Waal has made a remarkable contribution to disentangling the conflict in Darfur, historicizing the problems in social, economic and political terms through his publications, as well as acting as a consultant to various bodies, including the African Union’s mediation team.

De Waal’s preferred approach to the crisis in the Sudan is diplomatic. He unequivocally rejects the ICC’s indictment of al-Bashir as a provocative gesture capable of destroying a negotiation process that demands a collaborative and inclusive approach. To pursue that end, he joined the politically neutral Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation organization formed in 2006 to popularize the terms of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Nick McDonell’s article in Harper’s Magazine follows de Waal into his meetings in Khartoum and Addis Ababa, as the British scholar seeks to shore up alliances. These meetings not only illustrate the extent of de Waal’s political contacts in the region, but the entrenched positions of the political factions in Sudan. These disturbing vignettes include de Waal’s meeting with Musa Hilal, the former government leader of the janjaweed forces, General Oyai Deng Ajak of the Southern People’s Liberation Army as he seeks munitions support in Ethiopia, Sudan’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Mohieldin Salim and most unnerving—a meeting with Abdullah Safi-al-Nur—the figure responsible for arming Hilal’s janjaweed.

De Waals’s arguments against the indictment of al-Bashir are legitimate and they resonate the same concerns others have had with regard to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and Criminal Tribunals in transitional democracies. Would the President’s arrest only incite further civil war? Is this an appropriate time to deal with issues of accountability over Darfur? Will issues of accountability, as de Waal has claimed elsewhere, be marginalized in the negotiation process precisely because of the indictment?

These concerns are no doubt speculative and whether the negotiation process succeeds or fails in the Sudan depends on any number of historical contingencies that are by no means always predictable. And de Waal is not without his critics. The Save Darfur Coalition, a group of 180 faith-based, advocacy and human rights organizations rejects his position and leaders of the Darfuri diaspora have called it a “bartering of accountability.” Moreover, de Waal’s argument that issues of accountability may be sidelined in the negotiation process precisely because of the indictment is difficult to sustain. One wonders whether al-Bashir would ever allow for accountability clauses in any peace agreement, with or without the threat of an arrest.
The most problematic issue, however, that is not addressed adequately by either McDonell’s article or by de Waal himself rests in the question, if not through the ICC, how will the problem of justice be handled for those thousands of victims in Darfur? If not through the indictment of a leader responsible for perpetrating and sustaining such a gruesome and cruel conflict, through what channels will the ever-marginalized civilian victims be answered in moral terms? This too is a vision worth pondering.

After completing her doctoral studies in Russian history at the University of Melbourne, Australia, Emma Gilligan was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of History at the University of Chicago from 2003-2006. During this time, she completed her book Defending Human Rights in Russia; Sergei Kovalyov Dissident and Human Rights Commisioner, 1969-96 (Routledge, 2004). This book traces the evolution of the Soviet human rights movement from the 1960s in Moscow to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It analyzes, in particular, the rise of Sergei Kovalyov, Russia's first human rights commissioner under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the impact of former Soviet dissidents on the discourse of human rights in the post-Soviet era. Her second book, War Crimes in Chechnya (Princeton University Press, forthcoming 2008) examines the war crimes committed by Russian soldiers against the civilian population of Chechnya. The study places the conflict in Chechnya within the international discourse on humanitarian intervention in the 1990s and the rise of nationalism in Russia. Emma Gilligan is the author of articles for the Chicago Tribune, ‘Why there is no Peace in Chechnya,’ 2005 and ‘US Loses High Ground on Human Rights,’ 2006 and the International Herald Tribune. She is a member of the Gladstein Committee for Human Rights and a joint hire with the Human Rights Institute. She teaches courses on the history of human rights and genocide after the Second World War.


Alex de Waal’s Shuttle Diplomacy

by Sarah Stanlick, Harvard University
"The multiplicity of actors, logistical issues, historical grievances, and mistrust has festered in the stalemate to create an environment rife for misunderstanding and miscommunication. The situation is broken, with unclear parties, unclear needs, and an unclear roadmap."

This month’s discussion piece, “The Activist,” is a critical look at one of the most renowned scholars of the turmoil in Sudan. Alex de Waal, a man with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the different factions, aspects, and issues surrounding the conflicts in Sudan, is profiled under a careful eye. De Waal, a competent critic—as McDonell notes who “takes pride in his competence, and he does not hesitate to criticize activists he deems inexpert”— has built a career on a meticulously researched understanding of the conflict. He honed that reputation through careful action, critical thinking, and a critical voice for actors who do not hold the same academic and experiential pedigree; namely, activists.

Despite his disdain for activist intervention in the region, de Waal may be the best person to carry out activist’s biggest hope. In December 2007, the Enough Project (ENOUGH), an offshoot of the Center for American Progress, called for “aggressive shuttle diplomacy” to help bring about a transformation in Darfur. Shuttle diplomacy, recommended in cases of extremely complex and seemingly intractable conflicts, allows for mediated communication in rapid-fire succession to bring about a solution and limit outside input from those who could set the process off course. ENOUGH’s reasoning for this recommendation is that swift, controlled mediation would limit negative influence of regional actors, counter the unwillingness of rebel leaders to travel and meet official mediation teams, and address the fractured nature of the conflict.

As a member of the African Union’s mediation team in 2005 and 2006, de Waal has the official capacity and the legitimacy to undertake this shuttle diplomacy tack that is advocated by the Enough Project. As evidenced by de Waal’s work with Abdul Mohammed and his condemnation efforts against Bashir’s indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC), de Waal is already working his brand of shuttle diplomacy. Rather than use his shuttling skills to undermine the ICC—a legitimate construct that is indicting Bashir, who will get a fair trial—de Waal could turn his attention to shuttling information between parties to resolve the conflict. Breaching the divide between academic analysis and conflict “street smarts,” de Waal has the potential to usher peace into the region for the first time in decades.
The multiplicity of actors, logistical issues, historical grievances, and mistrust has festered in the stalemate to create an environment rife for misunderstanding and miscommunication. De Waal himself admits that the government in Khartoum is fractured, and it is apparent the power base is ill-defined in the region. The situation is broken, with unclear parties, unclear needs, and an unclear roadmap. However, if there is any singular person who can bridge the gap between the many factions, it would be de Waal. Leveraging connections which he has cultivated from his Ph.D. research days until now gives him ample resources and lines of communication that he could tap into. His vast wealth of cultural understanding, legitimacy, and credentials puts de Waal in a unique position to thrive in this position.

Furthermore, what de Waal can gain from his work in this capacity would be the ability to show his students that there is a nexus between passionate activism and pragmatism. De Waal's caution against hot-blooded activism is understandable. Action without understanding could prolong or worsen an already complex conflict. However, level-headed, logical approaches to activism surrounding genocide should not be shunned completely. The danger in staunch anti-activism is the ability to inspire passivity in others, including his students. McDonell notes that there has been many a frustrated student who has angrily asked the activist-wary professor, “What do you want us to do?!” Through his role as a shuttle diplomat, de Waal could concede that activists can be competent decision makers, and that their collaboration with academic heavyweights can yield great things.

Shuttle diplomacy is one approach that could be beneficial, and it is important to note that it is not a fail-safe strategy. Olusegun Obasanju’s recent efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo yielded a tenuous ceasefire which was quickly violated, and Henry Kissinger’s work in the Middle East did not forge a lasting peace. But shuttle diplomacy could also yield peace—as is evidenced by George Mitchell’s work in Northern Ireland. While academics argue about credentials, labels, cultural competency, and remedies, people continue to die. The impetus is on those who know the region best to take steps to forge a peace that lasts long enough to make inroads for a more permanent solution.

With a new administration swiftly being compiled, the hope for Sudan-watchers is that a massive policy shift will occur that will compel the United States to quick action. It remains to be seen, however, exactly what policies and plans will be put into place. In the interim, this remains a dire situation that commands immediate attention. The International Crisis Group notes that the changes to the conflict over the last year have been great, and not for the better. While shuttle diplomacy can yield results, the participants must be willing and the mediator must be both swift and careful—characteristics de Waal possesses and could leverage for positive action.

Sarah Stanlick is currently heading a health and human rights project working to alleviate health burdens on the underserved population of Lawrence, MA and as a teaching assistant at Harvard University. She formerly served as Research Associate to Samantha Power at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and was also affiliated with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at HKS. She graduated as a Trustee Scholar from Lafayette College and holds a Master’s degree in Conflict and Coexistence from Brandeis University.