Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sudanese Citizenship: Khartoum’s Egregious Violations of International Law

Amid the oil disputes and aerial bombardment that have defined the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan, a more technical, more insidious issue has been largely overlooked. Since Southern independence, more than half a million ethnic Southerners in the North have suddenly found themselves stripped of their Sudanese citizenship. Worse, like the expulsion of Jews during World War II, they are set to be forcibly relocated from Sudan -- the only home that many have ever known.

Over at the Enough Project, I analyze the legal issues and suggest a way that legal intervention -- coupled with concerted activism -- might be able to prevent these illegal mass deportations.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The U.S. Loosens Sanctions on Sudan: Reasons for Optimism and Vigilance

Last Thursday, just before this week’s Development Conference for South Sudan, the Treasury Department lifted vast swaths of OFAC’s Sudanese Sanctions Regulations. This opens up South Sudan’s oil fields for investment by American businesses, which could have a positive impact on the development of that new nation.

However, it also means that at least some revenue from those projects will flow to Omar al-Bashir, the indicted war criminal who remains the president of (North) Sudan. Over at the Enough Project, I offer an analysis of the changes and what it means for peace and development in both Sudans.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Victims’ Justice: Promises Broken on the Road to Trying the Khmer Rouge


The Khmer Rouge trials recently got underway (again) in Cambodia. In connection with this, I was asked by the amazing Lisa Reinsberg, founder of the International Justice Resource Center, to contribute my reflections on the Tribunal. The IJRC is the type of comprehensive, user-friendly source for international law research that I wish I’d had when I was at the ECCC, when I was trying to pull research from dozens of disparate sources across a 14.4 modem. It compiles all the major human rights documents and databases, provides training for advocates, and offers a toolbox for advancing international law claims, not only in tribunals and regional bodies, but also in domestic courts around the world. I encourage you to check it out and consider supporting its work with a small, tax-deductible donation before the end of the year.


The piece itself can be accessed at Victims’ Justice: Promises Broken on the Road to Trying the Khmer Rouge.


The ECCC has been on my mind a lot lately. Last week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with Samkhann Khoeun, a leader in the Cambodian diaspora in Lowell, MA, and Kho Tararith, a poet and Harvard University Fellow. Both of these men, Khmer Rouge victims who suffered unspeakable tragedies, said unequivocally that they do not believe the Court could bring them justice. They see it as a tool of Hun Sen and as having no connection to the pain that they and their families suffered. Whether these accusations about the ECCC are true or not is barely relevant. If they are perceived as true, the damage is already done.


My contribution is balanced by a piece from Christopher “Kip” Hale, Senior Counsel to the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights and a former Legal Officer in the Office of the Prosecutor at the ECCC. We have vastly different views, which I hope will advance a conversation about the work that the ECCC is doing, how it is being carried out, and on whose behalf.


A link to Kip’s rebuttal can be found at The Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Cambodia's Pursuit of Justice Has Value and Merit, Despite Flaws.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sudan's Violations of Geneva Law Demand an International Response

Earlier this month, Sudan launched assaults against unarmed civilians in Upper Nile state and at the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan. In addition to condemning Bashir’s ruthlessness, it is useful to remember that these attacks are not merely immoral – they are illegal. The world has a duty to ensure that the perpetrators are held to account.


In my latest piece for the Enough Project, a look at the legal implications of what is now an international armed conflict between the genocidal regime in Khartoum and the new nation of South Sudan. Please share, comment, and demand action from our leaders before it is too late.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Atrocities Prevention Board: Fixing America's "Plumbing and Wiring" to Prevent Genocide

On August 4, 2011, Barack Obama issued a groundbreaking Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities (“PSD”). A PSD is a form of Executive Order that is promulgated with the advice and consent of the National Security Council and used to initiate policy review procedures. David Pressman, the President’s Director for War Crimes and Civilian Protection and one of the architects of the Mass Atrocities Directive, describes this work as “important plumbing and wiring.” While streamlining the way that bureaucrats communicate with one another may seem dull, the results of this endeavor could be phenomenally important for America’s ability to respond to and prevent future genocides and crimes against humanity.


The PSD sates that “[p]reventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” In the realm of law, words are power, and the inclusion of this short sentence in a Presidential mandate is cause for great optimism. In the past, the inability to frame genocide prevention as part of America’s national interest has stymied US responses until the only option left was the least palatable one – military intervention. Yet, as the PSD recognizes:

Our security is affected when masses of civilians are slaughtered, refugees flow across borders, and murders wreak havoc on regional stability and livelihoods. America’s reputation suffers, and our ability to bring about change is constrained, when we are perceived as idle in the face of mass atrocities and genocide….

In the face of a potential mass atrocity, our options are never limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing. The actions that can be taken range from economic to diplomatic interventions, and from non-combat military actions to outright intervention.


As the PSD also recognizes, “ensuring that the full range of options is available requires a level of governmental organization that matches the methodical organization characteristics of mass killing.” Genocides, whether at the hands of the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, the Bosnian Serbs, the Hutus in Rwanda or the Janjaweed in Sudan, require planning, coordination, and time. With early warning and early action, this creates a window for intervention. The lives of thousands can quite literally become a matter of the efficiency of our bureaucracy versus theirs.


Recognizing this, the PSD directs the establishment of an interagency Atrocities Prevention Board (APB) that will be charged with “coordinat[ing] a whole of government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide.” National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was given 100 days to conduct a study of how best to design the APB: who should be on it, what its mandate should be, and most importantly, how the APB will collect information on potential genocides and make sure that it gets in front of key decision makers – including the President – in time for meaningful action to be taken.


More than half the study period has now elapsed, and Mr. Donilon’s report is due to hit the President’s desk on or before November 12, with the Atrocities Prevention Board slated to open its doors twenty days later on December 10. While the precise details of the APB remain to be determined, we already know much about its likely composition and function. The PSD specifically directs Donilon to consider recommendations issued in 2008 by the Genocide Prevention Task Force, which was chaired by former Secretaries of State William S. Cohen and Madeline Albright.


This series of posts will summarize the recommendations made by that task force and offer a roadmap to how the US government is likely to talk to itself and act in the world to prevent future genocides and crimes against humanity. The new “plumbing and wiring” will not be in place in time inform America’s response to the looming attack by Sudan’s Armed Forces in Blue Nile State. But as people from Libya to Syria and possibly Sudan push their dictators’ backs against the wall, the risk of catastrophic retaliation looms large. An effective, empowered Atrocities Prevention Board cannot come soon enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brandeis University -- Training Ground for Upstanders

Several weeks ago, my alma mater, Brandeis University, asked me to write a piece linking social justice work to my time in undergrad. I thought long and hard about the best use I could make of this platform and this network. Brandeis, like all institutions, has the potential to catalyze the hopes and frustrations that many of us feel in the face of issues like genocide and crimes against humanity. It can be a training ground for putting into action the old adage that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

This is my vision of what Brandeis -- and each of us -- is at its best and can continue to become. The post can be accessed here in its entirety.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Closing Loopholes in Sanctions Against Sudan

America's sanctions against Sudan are the strictest in the world, yet the Bashir regime continues to commit grave human rights abuses with impunity. The Treasury Department already has all the authority it needs to prevent the legal money laundering that keeps cash and weapons flowing to Khartoum. Head over to the Enough Project to see how easy -- and how impactful -- this could be.