Balkinization  

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just keeping our options open: U.S. declines to sign treaty banning secret detentions

JB

The Washington Post reports:
Representatives from 57 countries on Tuesday signed a long-negotiated treaty prohibiting governments from holding people in secret detention. The United States declined to endorse the document, saying its text did not meet U.S. expectations.

Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the treaty was "a message to all modern-day authorities committed to the fight against terrorism" that some practices are "not acceptable."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment, except to say that the United States helped draft the treaty but that the final wording "did not meet our expectations."

The Associated Press reported that McCormack declined to comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the Bush administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which President Bush acknowledged in September.

"Our American friends were naturally invited to this ceremony," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said after the signing here. "Unfortunately, they weren't able to join us. That won't prevent them from one day signing on in New York at U.N. headquarters, and I hope they will."

Some U.S. allies in Europe also declined to join, among them Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy.

The convention defines forced disappearance as the arrest, detention or kidnapping of a person by state agents or affiliates and subsequent denials about the detention or location of the individual.

The treaty, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December, has been pushed for nearly a quarter-century by rights groups and the families of individuals who have disappeared at the hands of various governments. It also addresses the international debate over the rights of terrorism suspects.

Here is the text of the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance.

Comments:

Gee, I dunno, on the one side Congo, Chad, Sudan and Uganda, and on the other, Britain, Spain, Germany and the U.S. I find it hard to imagine an issue which requires further study than what I have just said to know which side is the right one.
 

Sean said:

Gee, I dunno, on the one side Congo, Chad, Sudan and Uganda, and on the other, Britain, Spain, Germany and the U.S. I find it hard to imagine an issue which requires further study than what I have just said to know which side is the right one.....

Would it help you if one side wore black hats and the other white? That's probably a more indicative marker as to the merits here, wouldn't you say?

Cheers,
 

sean: maybe even clearer - what if one side *were* white and the other black, would that help work out which is the right one as well?

The treaty is only two pages long; read it then let us know what you disagree with.
 

Here is the pdf-version. It's actually 17 pages...
 

It's not clear whether the treaty obliges states to make "enforced disappearances" retroactively.

Why the US won't ratify? It's clearly spelled out in article 6: Article 6
1. Each State Party shall take the necessary measures to hold
criminally responsible at least:
(a) Any person who commits, orders, solicits or induces the commission
of, attempts to commit, is an accomplice to or participates in an enforced disappearance;
(b) A superior who:
(i) Knew, or consciously disregarded information which clearly indicated, that subordinates under his or her effective authority and control were committing or about to commit a crime of enforced disappearance;
(ii) Exercised effective responsibility for and control over activities which were concerned with the crime of enforced disappearance; and
(iii) Failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress the commission of an enforced
disappearance or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution;

Considering that the president is the Commander in Chief of the Armed forces, and that Director of National Intelligence directly report to the President, this treaty could affect the presidency.
 

Sean said...

Gee, I dunno, on the one side Congo, Chad, Sudan and Uganda, and on the other, Britain, Spain, Germany and the U.S. I find it hard to imagine an issue which requires further study than what I have just said to know which side is the right one.

Actually, what I take from the fact that countries with a history of disappearing their citizens by the hundreds of thousands agree to this treaty is that this piece of paper has no real effect and is pure propaganda.

Where were the sponsors of this treaty when Saddam disappeared nearly half a million of Iraq's citizens starting in the 80s with the Kurds?

If, by chance, a handful of the sponsors of this treaty actually took note of Iraq's mass disappearances, what did they propose doing about them? Did they support the liberation of Iraq to remove the regime which was committing the mass murder?

No?

In that case, how do they intend to enforce this treaty against say Sudan as it continues to ethnically disappear the black Christians and animists from its country? Maybe they can hold another conference and voice disapproval? More probably, they will blame Sudan's genocide on George Bush for not signing this silly piece of paper.
 

Silly, indeed, to confuse the value of a rule with one's ability to sue over it. Law exists outside the court room as well. (Not to mention the fact that there is always the even more unpopular ICC, where enforced disappearance is listed in art. 7 (1) (i) of the Statute, as a crime against humanity.)

Particularly international law is by definition unenforceable, and using violence to enforce this treaty would be a violation of art. 2 (3) of the UN Charter, unless the UNSC has judged that the violation is a threat to the peace. Nevertheless, states have a variety of peaceful means to assure compliance, including diplomacy.

Oh, and by the way, there is a reason why countries that have a history of disappearing people have signed up to this treaty: they don't want such things to happen again.
 

Le Monde on Wednesday (in the interest of providing a fair and balanced view):

Droits de l'homme : un traité international sur les disparitions forcées

Parce que la France s'est fortement mobilisée, au côté de l'Argentine, pour que la Convention internationale pour la protection de toutes les personnes contre les disparitions forcées, adoptée par l'Assemblée générale de l'ONU le 20 décembre 2006, voie le jour, c'est à Paris que s'ouvre, mardi 6 février, la cérémonie d'ouverture de signatures du texte.

Il s'agit du premier traité à interdire, en toutes circonstances, la pratique des disparitions forcées, c'est-à-dire l'enlèvement de personnes et leur détention dans des lieux secrets - souvent accompagnée de tortures - et cela quels que soient les auteurs de ces forfaits, qu'ils soient les agents d'un Etat (police, armée) ou tout groupe non étatique, telles milices ou guérillas.

Les premiers efforts diplomatiques français en la matière remontent à la fin des années 1970, en réaction aux disparitions forcées perpétrées sous la dictature militaire en Argentine. Une vingtaine de pays, représentés par leur ambassadeur ou leur ministre des affaires étrangères, devaient signer, mardi à Paris, ce texte qui, pour entrer en vigueur, doit être ratifié par vingt Etats.

La cérémonie doit se dérouler au Quai d'Orsay en présence notamment de la sénatrice Cristina Kirchner, épouse et représentante du président argentin, du Haut Commissaire des Nations unies pour les droits de l'homme, Louise Arbour, du président du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge, Jakob Kellenberger, et de la représentante des "Mères de la place de Mai" en Argentine, Marta Vasquez Ocampo.

Pour les militants des droits de l'homme, cette convention marque un tournant. Elle qualifie de crime contre l'humanité "la pratique généralisée ou systématique de la disparition forcée". Elle instaure un régime important de prévention et de protection, reconnaissant notamment aux proches des victimes de disparitions forcées et à leurs défenseurs un droit à l'information, à la vérité, et à des réparations. Ces éléments reprennent certaines dispositions figurant dans les statuts de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) siégeant à La Haye.

La nouvelle convention contraint les Etats parties à prendre les mesures nécessaires pour faire traduire en justice un responsable présumé de disparition forcée s'il se trouve sur leur territoire, ou bien de l'extrader, ou de le remettre à une juridiction internationale.

Le texte qualifie par ailleurs la disparition forcée de crime continu, c'est-à-dire que la prescription ne commence à courir qu'à partir du moment où le crime a été élucidé. Ce qui peut permettre aux familles de victimes de bénéficier de longs délais pour se porter devant la justice.

Enfin, la convention, fait observer Antoine Bernard, directeur de la Fédération internationale des droits de l'homme (FIDH), "consacre la responsabilité du supérieur hiérarchique", autrement dit, elle empêche que le donneur d'ordre soit soustrait à la justice sous prétexte que ce n'est pas lui qui a commis directement le crime.

La convention prévoit, en outre, la création, pour une période de quatre ans, d'un Comité des disparitions forcées, composé de dix experts indépendants. Celui-ci pourrait, en cas de violations massives et systématiques, porter une situation à l'attention du secrétaire général des Nations unies, lancer des appels urgents, ou effectuer des visites sur place.

La nouvelle convention, dont les militants des droits de l'homme espèrent qu'elle entrera rapidement en vigueur, a été négociée dans un contexte chargé, marqué par le scandale, apparu fin 2005, des "prisons secrètes" de la CIA dans le cadre de la lutte antiterroriste.

Loin de s'être raréfié depuis l'époque des dictatures militaires en Amérique latine, le crime de la disparition forcée "connaît un tragique regain d'actualité", souligne la FIDH. Les régions et pays comptant actuellement le plus de disparitions forcées au regard de la population locale sont le Népal, la Tchétchénie et la Colombie.



Natalie Nougayrède

---------------------------
Lexique

La Convention :


- définit le crime de disparition forcée ;

- fait reconnaître de nouveaux droits, en particulier le droit des victimes à connaître la vérité sur les circonstances des disparitions forcées, ainsi que leur droit à la protection et à la réparation ;

- oblige les Etats à prendre des mesures préventives en renforçant les garanties autour de la détention ;

- stipule que les adoptions issues de disparitions forcées peuvent être annulées. Elle met en place un mécanisme de suivi doté de pouvoirs d'enquête ;

- crée un organe de suivi général : le Comité des disparitions forcées. Composé de 10 membres, pour une durée de 4 ans, il remplira, outre les fonctions classiques d'un organe de traité (examen des rapports des Etats), une fonction préventive en lançant des appels et en effectuant des visites sur place.

Article paru dans l'édition du 07.02.07
 

Bart,

Given that humanitarian intervention is a labor-intensive business and that our resources (and the resources of the world community) are limited, do you have any objective criteria as to when we are under moral obligation to invade another country on such grounds?
 

Dude, you're under a moral and legal obligation not to.
 

"Bart" DePalma says cluelessly:

Where were the sponsors of this treaty when Saddam disappeared nearly half a million of Iraq's citizens starting in the 80s with the Kurds?

Oh, I dunno. Maybe complaining about it while Rummy was over there shaking Saddam's hand? Just a Google search away, "Bart", but then again, you can't handle the truth. And then there's this:

"Peter Galbraith, a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, drafted punishing legislation for his boss, Senator Claiborne Pell, that would have cut off U.S. agricultural and manufacturing credits to Saddam Hussein in retaliation for his 1987-1988 attempt to wipe out Iraq's rural Kurds. The Reagan administration, protective of U.S. agribusiness, defeated the sanctions package and granted Baghdad generous financial support while the regime gassed and executed some 100,000 Kurds."

There's your Republican take on that kind of stuff....

Cheers,
 

martinned said...

Particularly international law is by definition unenforceable, and using violence to enforce this treaty would be a violation of art. 2 (3) of the UN Charter, unless the UNSC has judged that the violation is a threat to the peace. Nevertheless, states have a variety of peaceful means to assure compliance, including diplomacy.

The only time international human rights law is actually enforced is when the United States and/or Britain take the initiative to send in troops to enforce human rights.

Diplomacy did not save the millions murdered by their governments in the USSR, China, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and the Sudan, just to name a few killing fields.

Oh, and by the way, there is a reason why countries that have a history of disappearing people have signed up to this treaty: they don't want such things to happen again.

Tell that to Sudan and the victims of the genocide who are begging for troops to protect them the same way the victims pled in Rwanda.

For anyone who shares this illusion (delusion?), I would strongly recommend that you watch the film Hotel Rwanda.
 

Enlightened Layperson said...

Bart, Given that humanitarian intervention is a labor-intensive business and that our resources (and the resources of the world community) are limited, do you have any objective criteria as to when we are under moral obligation to invade another country on such grounds?

I completely agree with your point about the limits of our military manpower, otherwise I would join the call to send US troops to Sudan to stop that slaughter.

If I had to come up with some criteria for intervention if we had the troops, here are some suggestions:

1) Act while you can still stop the murder. Intervening after the ethnic cleansing was largely finished in Yugoslavia and Iraq allowed hundreds of thousands to die.

2) Finish off the regime which is murdering or the problem will not go away.

3) If you have multiple genocides, send the troops against the regime which threatens US interests the most. If we had to choose between Iraq and Sudan, I would send troops to Iraq. Sudan's Islamic fascist government is reprehensible, but it does not threaten us.
 

martinned said...

Dude, you're under a moral and legal obligation not to.

These are general aspirational principles, not international law.
 

I take it you did not check the UN Charter reference I provided. Here it is:

2(3): "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."

There are two exceptions: art. 51 (self-defence) and art. 42 (force authorised by the Security Council). Not only is this law, it is the UN Charter, the single most undisputed piece of international law there is.
 

"Bart" DePalma, whose only tool in the toolbox is a hammer:

Diplomacy did not save the millions murdered by their governments in the USSR, China, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and the Sudan, just to name a few killing fields.

"Diplomacy". Like this? Or, in the case of Cambodia, this:

"As the genocide progressed, for geopolitical reasons Washington, Beijing, and Bangkok all supported the continued independent existence of the Khmer Rouge regime." (emphasis added)

"Bart": You really ought to read Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow" to get a good idea of what the "success" rate is of military operations (and the actual goals of such). Only ten bucks for a good education....

Cheers,
 

martinned said...

I take it you did not check the UN Charter reference I provided. Here it is:

2(3): "All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered."

There are two exceptions: art. 51 (self-defence) and art. 42 (force authorised by the Security Council). Not only is this law, it is the UN Charter, the single most undisputed piece of international law there is.


This is the single most ignored general aspirational "principle" in the world today.
 

arne:

In order to make a partisan snark, you are erroneously coflating the utilitarian issue of whether diplomacy can stop government mass murder and whether past governments have exercised any means to stop genocides.

As for the Kinzer book, does the author claim that the US changing out a genocidal regimes like Nazi Germany, Fascist Japan, the USSR and Iraq was somehow a bad thing? If so, feel free to tell us what that argument might be.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

2) Finish off the regime which is murdering or the problem will not go away.

Applied to Bosnia and Rwanda, that makes no sense. Applied to Iraq, it's appallingly wrong.

3) If you have multiple genocides, send the troops against the regime which threatens US interests the most. If we had to choose between Iraq and Sudan, I would send troops to Iraq. Sudan's Islamic fascist government is reprehensible, but it does not threaten us.

"Ben, one word. Just one word. Oil."

"Bart", BTW, is not only a "global warming" denier (although he seems to have absented himself from that thread when things got too hot), but he also disputes the Lancet report, despite having no substantive alternative explanation for the data reported nor any substantive criticism of the methodology. Iraq is a hellhole, moreso since the ousting (and subsequent capture and hanging) of Saddam but "Bart" thinks this is a good thing. Pretty much everyone else including the maladministration is deserting him, but he's one of the "dead-enders", I guess.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma:

arne:

In order to make a partisan snark, you are erroneously coflating the utilitarian issue of whether diplomacy can stop government mass murder and whether past governments have exercised any means to stop genocides.


No, I am not conflating them. I am not arguing, based on prior practise (which is agurably not an attempt to stop mass murder), that diplomacy is incapable of such. I was just pointing out that Republicans and their sycophantic minions are hardly in a position to be proclaiming high ideals. It was you that brought up the bona fides of the human rights organisations, and I chastised you for your (unfounded) criticism, particularly since you so hypocritically support the Republicans uncritically today.

As for the Kinzer book, does the author claim that the US changing out a genocidal regimes like Nazi Germany, Fascist Japan, the USSR and Iraq was somehow a bad thing?...

Ummm, when did we go to war with the Soviet Union? Guess I dozed off for a second there.... Or liberate their people through "Shock and Awe", regime change, and an occupation?

... If so, feel free to tell us what that argument might be.

Why don't you read it and see what he says? Wouldn't want to spoil the ending fer ya.... ;-)

Cheers,
 

Clients of Lisa's brother contesting his legal charges might check his time sheets for "non-billable bilious hours" devoted to Balkinization. It's intoxicating.
 

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