September 2011

The following is a guest-post by David Glazier, Associate Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.  Our thanks to him for providing it. As Kevin noted on Wednesday, the Department of Defense approved military commission charges against Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri, alleged USS Cole bombing mastermind, clearing the way for his arraignment and subsequent trial. ...

Luke Peterson passed along a tip about this interesting declaration attached to the U.S.-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty: Articles 3 through 10 and other provisions that qualify or create exceptions to these Articles are self-executing. With the exception of these Articles, the Treaty is not self-executing. None of the provisions in this Treaty confers a private right of action. Articles 3...

How should we think about targeting Al-Aulaqi?  Here's a quick take, trying to put the main questions in some logical order.  As the reader can see from other posts on this blog, many issues are contested, including what the proper legal questions are, so please understand that this is simply one way of looking at the issues - though I believe (without any special inside information) that it is more or less in line with the US government legal position. Who? As an international law matter, is Al-Aulaqi a lawful target? The US government sees him as taking part in hostilities, part of the operational leadership of an associated force with Al Qaeda, the AQAP.  So, yes, he can be targeted with lethal force — and targeted without warning, without an attempt to arrest or apprehend as a law enforcement matter.  (Although many in the international law academic and advocacy communities have essentially taken on the ICRC's full DPH views as expressed in its interpretive guidance, the US government has not; and although there seems to be a bit (as predicted by critics of the ICRC's issuing of the "interpretive guidance") of believing that if you repeat it often enough, you make it so, again that is not the US government's view.  State practice still matters.) Where?  Does it matter that he was in Yemen, and not an “active battlefield” in a conventional hostilities sense?The US government does not accept the idea that the armed conflict with Al Qaeda — or armed conflict generally — is confined as a legal matter to some notion of “theatres of conflict” or “active battlefields” or related terms that have been used in recent years by academics and activist groups as though these were terms with recognized legal meanings.  As I understand the US government position, it sticks by the traditional concept of “hostilities” as the legal touchstone, and that where the hostiles go, the possibility of armed conflict goes too (I try to explain this evolution of these views in this short essay).  So the fact that he was present in Yemen does not make him beyond targeting, because he is not present in some “active” battlezone such as Afghanistan. This claim — the conflict follows the participants — frequently leads to a complaint that this means the US might target him in Paris or London.  The US position is that the standard for addressing non-state actor terrorists taking safe haven somewhere depends on whether the sovereign where the terrorist is hiding is “unwilling or unable” to address the threat.  No, there won’t be Predators Over Paris; Yemen or Somalia is another matter, as President Obama has repeatedly and without cavil said in speeches over the last few years.  And indeed, as the President said in his statement yesterday on the raid - no safe havens anywhere. By whom can he be targeted?  The military or the CIA? US domestic law provides authority for the President to direct either the US military, or the CIA, or both acting together, to undertake the use of force abroad.  In this case, it appears from first reports that the operation was “directed” by the CIA — presumably on account of intelligence roles — and carried out operationally by the military.  As I have said on other occasions (and, heads-up, Robert Chesney is finishing an important new paper on this topic) I think there are important ways in which the legal authorities, oversight and reporting, and other activities associated with an intermingling of CIA and military special operations should be re-examined.  One in particular is some way of recognizing a category of “deniable” operations that are not truly covert. US citizenship?  What difference, if any, does being a US citizen make? The fact of US citizenship is the factor in this situation that has most excited the blogosphere.  Insofar as Al-Aulaqi was targeted for taking operational part in groups engaged in armed conflict with the United States, historically the fact of citizenship has been neither here nor there.  That’s the easy answer — essentially just asserting the existence of the armed conflict like any other — and as a legal basis for targeting, I think the US government is on solid ground if that’s its claim.  Al-Aulaqi has entered into operational roles with a group acting in armed conflict with the United States, and is targetable on that basis, and citizenship has historically been no bar to attack.  To reiterate what is said above: in order to reach the conclusion that he is targetable, the US government has been very careful to rely not upon “internet preacher shooting his mouth off,” but instead on distinct operational roles.

Moreno-Ocampo has always had the reputation of being more politically savvy than legally savvy.  Frankly, he seems completely politically tone-deaf to me.  Witness his recent comments on the implications of a possible UN General Assembly decision to give Palestine "observer state" status: A few blocks away from the UN this week, the man at the centre of the controversy said...

A few weeks ago I spoke with a senior transitional justice researcher and aspiring politician from northern Uganda about the trials (if you excuse the pun) and tribulations of achieving peace and justice in the region. He described sentiments familiar to those who have engaged in the “peace versus justice” debate:
“I don't see it as a debate. It is common sense that in situations of what we have been experiencing, strategically we should be sequencing these issues, prioritizing and looking at what is best in the short-term and what is best in the long-term. It is very legitimate in any process that we must create an enabling environment that can guarantee justice can be done...If you start asking for justice even before you create that enabling environment, it is not even a debate, it is foolery...We must sequence them.”
I subsequently challenged him on the effectiveness of his argument to which he responded that Argentina was the ideal example of a state which had successfully sequenced peace and justice. The “sequencing argument” has become a popular feature in the rigid and harshly dichotomous “peace versus justice” debate. The argument is attractive because it represents an attempt to find ground between the polarizing views that there is “no peace without justice” and “there is no justice without peace.” While the sequencing argument is closer to the latter in suggesting that justice may have to follow peace it largely acknowledges that justice is necessary in the long term. Unlike scholars of a realist bent who are sceptical of any attempt to achieve justice in conflict and post-conflict contexts, the point is not to reject accountability and reconciliation but to create an environment in which pursuing justice enforces rather than destabilizes peace. The sequencing argument is rather nuanced and intuitive. It weaves together the two major strands of thinking on peace: positive peace and negative peace. Negative peace, the cessation of large-scale, direct violence, is required before justice can be pursued. If justice is sought prior to the “silencing of the guns”, then it risks prolonging the conflict. However, once a negative peace is secured, justice should be pursued. Only by identifying and rectifying past wrongs – including human rights abuses – can a more encompassing, positive peace be achieved. In short, the sequencing argument suggests a trajectory of:
violent conflict –> negative peace –> justice and accountability –> positive peace
Proponents of the sequencing argument have, however, not thoroughly scrutinized how their theory translates into practice. On the ground, the sequencing argument presumably looks a little like this: in order to achieve a cessation of violence, parties enter inclusive peace negotiations to achieve a power-sharing agreement and peaceful transition. The parties discontinue active conflict while even the most brutal and unsavoury of leaders are guaranteed amnesties as an incentive to cease violent activity. Once stability is assured and the time for accountability is ripe, those amnesties are revoked and the leaders of the conflict are brought to account, ushering in positive peace and justice.

The United States has formally referred military-commission charges against Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri for his alleged involvement in a number of terrorist attacks between 2000 and 2002.  Here is Bobby Chesney's helpful description of the charges: Charge 1: Using Treachery/Perfidy (10 USC 950t(17)) – the idea here is that the use of a civilian boat, civilian clothing, and so forth to...

This past summer, Uganda did something it had never done before: it put a rebel from the notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on trial for international crimes. The trial of Thomas Kwoyelo marked yet another fascinating twist in Uganda's experience of confronting past atrocities. The government's Directorate of Public Prosecutions alleged that Kwoyelo was guilty of 12 charges of grave breaches of the fourth Geneva Convention and 53 counts of violating Uganda's penal code. Last week, however, judges deemed prosecuting Kwoyelo unconstitutional and ordered him to be set free. The primary obstacle to trying any former rebels in Uganda is the state's Amnesty Law (2000) which was passed with the backing of powerful local northern Ugandan leaders. It effectively guarantees that any individual who either escaped or was captured and subsequently renounced rebellion can be granted reprieve from any prosecution. The trial of Kwoyelo raised, once again, unresolved issues about the use of amnesty laws in societies emerging from violent political conflicts characterized by widespread atrocities. During three months of research, I had the opportunity to attend much of Kwoyelo's trial and speak to many of those involved and affected by his case. From its inception, there was always something peculiar and uncomfortably political about the proceedings. The case opened, quite literally, to the tune of a marching band. While rather clumsy in their approach – much to the chagrin of the presiding judges – Kwoyelo's defense team argued that prosecuting their client was unconstitutional. Because other former combatants, including some who were senior to Kwoyelo, had been granted amnesty, trying Kwoyelo constituted an infringement of his right to fair treatment and equality before the law. Not being able to decide on the constitutionality of the case, the ICD referred it to the Constitutional Court, which agreed with the defense and ordered Kwoyelo to be granted an amnesty and be released:
"We are satisfied that the applicant has made out a case showing that the Amnesty Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions have not accorded him equal treatment under the Amnesty Act. He is entitled to a declaration that their acts are inconsistent with Article 21(1) (2) of the Constitution and thus null and void. We so find. We order that the file be returned to the court, which sent it with a direction that it must cease the trial of the applicant forthwith."
The importance of the Kwoyelo trial, both legally and politically, is rather obvious. Had Uganda successfully tried and convicted Kwoyelo (and they still might), it would have given the government a plank upon which to build a complementarity challenge to the ICC's jurisdiction, something the government had expressed interest in doing. However, the spectre of a successful trial also instigated fears in northern Uganda. Former senior rebel commanders explained their uneasiness of potentially becoming the Government's next targets for trial if Kwoyelo was denied amnesty. The instability incurred by revoking thousands of amnesties would be absolutely devastating to a region and people eager to move forward. Of course, the granting of an amnesty and the defeat of the government's case against Kwoyelo is equally as controversial. International human rights groups sent representatives to monitor the trial and provide assistance to government lawyers. Predictably, Human Rights Watch argued that amnesties “for crimes such as war crimes and crimes against humanity run counter to international law and practice.” In the wake of the Kwoyelo verdict, Amnesty International released a statement which declared that:
“What we are witnessing here is simply pervasive impunity for serious crimes and human rights violations...Neither Thomas Kwoyelo, nor others accused of committing war crimes should be granted amnesty.”
Human rights groups and fervent human rights advocates and scholars have been engaging in what amounts to talking amnesties out of reality. They claim not only that it is morally and legally wrong to grant amnesties but ominously warn that doing so is to risk ever becoming a functioning, liberal democracy. However, that granting amnesties for crimes such as those allegedly committed by Kwoyelo “run contrary to international law and practice” is not obvious. To borrow from the decision in an Appeal's Chamber ruling at the Special Court for Sierra Leone: a duty to prosecute international crimes and a prohibition on the use of amnesties may be crystallizing, but has not yet crystalized.

Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has asserted immunity under international law from the lawsuit filed by Nafissatou Diallo, the maid who is accusing him of sexually attacking her.  “Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity under customary international law not only while he was head of the IMF, but also for the period of time after he had resigned from his post and...