Showing posts tagged as "Louise Arbour"

Showing posts tagged Louise Arbour

30 Jun
Crisis Group thanks outgoing President & CEO Louise Arbour
Brussels  |   30 Jun 2014
The International Crisis Group wishes to thank Louise Arbour for her five years of service as President & CEO. A long-time supporter of Crisis Group, Louise served on the Board of Trustees before taking up her post at the helm of the organisation in 2009. As she concludes her tenure today, the Board of Trustees and the staff send to her all best wishes upon returning to life in her native Canada.
In recognition of Louise’s remarkable career and, in particular, her impact on the field of conflict prevention and resolution, Crisis Group recently launched The Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts. This fund will serve to ensure the organisation is equipped to respond swiftly to new and deadly conflicts and will stand in tribute to Louise’s legacy.  
Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, recently said of Louise that her “energy, dedication, and intellectual and moral integrity are inspiring for all of us”. Crisis Group would like to echo that sentiment and end by saying thank you to Louise for her tireless work on behalf of the organisation these past five years.
Crisis Group will soon be making an announcement regarding the appointment of the next president.

Crisis Group thanks outgoing President & CEO Louise Arbour

Brussels  |   30 Jun 2014

The International Crisis Group wishes to thank Louise Arbour for her five years of service as President & CEO. A long-time supporter of Crisis Group, Louise served on the Board of Trustees before taking up her post at the helm of the organisation in 2009. As she concludes her tenure today, the Board of Trustees and the staff send to her all best wishes upon returning to life in her native Canada.

In recognition of Louise’s remarkable career and, in particular, her impact on the field of conflict prevention and resolution, Crisis Group recently launched The Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts. This fund will serve to ensure the organisation is equipped to respond swiftly to new and deadly conflicts and will stand in tribute to Louise’s legacy.  

Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, recently said of Louise that her “energy, dedication, and intellectual and moral integrity are inspiring for all of us”. Crisis Group would like to echo that sentiment and end by saying thank you to Louise for her tireless work on behalf of the organisation these past five years.

Crisis Group will soon be making an announcement regarding the appointment of the next president.

4 Jun
Open letter to the UN Security Council on Mali
Brussels  |   3 Jun 2014
Excellencies,
The recent clashes between the army and rebels in the Kidal region show that Mali’s crisis is unresolved. The violence is directly linked to the lack of progress in talks between northern groups and the government that have stalled mostly because the main actors have been reluctant to engage in meaningful dialogue, despite their pledge in last June’s Ouagadougou agreement. Multiple and confusing diplomatic initiatives have not helped. The UN mission (MINUSMA) has struggled to reconcile its mandate to facilitate talks with that of helping to restore state authority; some perceive it as pro-government and compromised. I urge the Security Council, with the support of its main partners in Mali, to establish a UN-led international mediation mechanism.
The negotiations that started a year ago with signing of the Ouagadougou agreement are in jeopardy. Crisis Group’s January report, Mali: Reform or Relapse, warned that deadlock would have major security consequences. The provisional ceasefire reached in May under auspices of the African Union’s president, with the aid of the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, is fragile. Unless talks are revived promptly, new clashes will occur, undermining the substantial international efforts since MINUSMA’s deployment last July.
The Malian authorities and the northern-based movements have mostly used the dialogue to voice grievances, not resolve differences. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s government considers the “northern question” a matter of national pride and has stalled to avoid serious concessions. The three main rebel groups – MNLA, HCUA and the Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad – are fragmented, unable to offer realistic or coherent claims.
Regional and other international actors share responsibility. They have been unable to reconcile diverse, often competing interests to promote a common vision of a solution. Initiatives have often been uncoordinated. Mediation needs new impetus to re-launch talks.
For months, MINUSMA has played a vital role in calming tensions between the army and the northern movements, but without political progress, this can only delay new violence. The mission has struggled to facilitate implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement, in part due to perceptions about its neutrality. Resolution 2100 (25 April 2013) calls for it to both “restore the authority and the sovereignty of the Malian State throughout its national territory” and “to facilitate progress towards an inclusive national dialogue”, which by its nature involves bringing in the very armed groups that challenge the state’s authority in the north.
Building the capacity of Malian institutions is of course important. But the mandate’s tension raises competing expectations from the parties. Some members of the northern movements believe the mission backs the government, citing inter alia its provision of armoured vehicles to the defence ministry and that talks have been held almost solely in Bamako. They requested MINUSMA support for talks to be more balanced. The government believes the mission should focus primarily on helping the state recover its full sovereignty, as requested by the prime minister in his 29 April speech to the National Assembly.
The 30 May, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit asked the Burkina Faso and Nigeria presidents to renew mediation efforts, but these have been dormant for months and are unlikely to revive the talks. Mali accuses Burkina Faso of harbouring the MNLA’s political wing; ECOWAS is a key regional institution but does not include countries with influence in the north, such as Mauritania and Algeria. It is thus crucial to establish an international mediation mechanism that is coherent, backed by the region and other major powers and empowered to broker compromises. This new initiative should be UN-led.
The Security Council could consider two options. Neither will be easy, given politics in the region and beyond, but existing arrangements are proving insufficient.
The first would be to strengthen MINUSMA’s political mandate and have it mediate, not just facilitate. The Secretary-General’s special representative would become a full-time mediator. This would allow the UN to use its good offices and, together with Mali’s partners, press parties to resolve deadlocks. To achieve this, the Council must resolve the tension in the mandate by shifting it away from state building. An emphasis on state building might be necessary again in the future – and the gap would need to be filled by others now — but for the moment talks must be the priority.
The second would be to appoint an envoy of the Secretary-General, with African Union and ECOWAS agreement, independent of MINUSMA. The parties could express preferences from a list of names with high-level West Africa experience. The envoy would be an official mediator to whose team MINUSMA would give logistical help while continuing its state building role. This would require greater effort to build consensus, internally and regionally, but might be more likely to break the deadlock.
Whatever the preferred option, the mediator will need the support of Mali’s main partners. They should form a contact group whose membership should be relatively restricted, to ease coordination. It must include France and Algeria, who, working together, have enough influence to bring all the parties to the negotiating table. Algeria’s pivotal role in the region should be recognised, but it must exercise its influence within a multilateral framework.
The mediator, consulting with the main parties and the contact group, should quickly revive the Ouagadougou agreement’s negotiation framework. The current stalemate is not the result of flaws in that agreement but of parties’ refusal to implement it and insufficient pressure on them from Mali’s regional and other partners. The monitoring and evaluation committee established by the agreement has not met since October. It should be resuscitated and, chaired by the mediator, convene monthly to allow international actors to coordinate their efforts. The parties should urgently agree on and commit to a detailed schedule of such sessions.
As the Council prepares to renew MINUSMA’s mandate, it should draw the right conclusions from the challenges the mission faces. In appointing a new UN-led mediation mechanism, whether within the mission or external to it, it has another opportunity to help Malians reach a sustainable solution; it should not assume such an opportunity will come again soon.
Sincerely,
Louise Arbour 
President and CEO, International Crisis Group

Open letter to the UN Security Council on Mali

Brussels  |   3 Jun 2014

Excellencies,

The recent clashes between the army and rebels in the Kidal region show that Mali’s crisis is unresolved. The violence is directly linked to the lack of progress in talks between northern groups and the government that have stalled mostly because the main actors have been reluctant to engage in meaningful dialogue, despite their pledge in last June’s Ouagadougou agreement. Multiple and confusing diplomatic initiatives have not helped. The UN mission (MINUSMA) has struggled to reconcile its mandate to facilitate talks with that of helping to restore state authority; some perceive it as pro-government and compromised. I urge the Security Council, with the support of its main partners in Mali, to establish a UN-led international mediation mechanism.

The negotiations that started a year ago with signing of the Ouagadougou agreement are in jeopardy. Crisis Group’s January report, Mali: Reform or Relapse, warned that deadlock would have major security consequences. The provisional ceasefire reached in May under auspices of the African Union’s president, with the aid of the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, is fragile. Unless talks are revived promptly, new clashes will occur, undermining the substantial international efforts since MINUSMA’s deployment last July.

The Malian authorities and the northern-based movements have mostly used the dialogue to voice grievances, not resolve differences. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s government considers the “northern question” a matter of national pride and has stalled to avoid serious concessions. The three main rebel groups – MNLA, HCUA and the Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad – are fragmented, unable to offer realistic or coherent claims.

Regional and other international actors share responsibility. They have been unable to reconcile diverse, often competing interests to promote a common vision of a solution. Initiatives have often been uncoordinated. Mediation needs new impetus to re-launch talks.

For months, MINUSMA has played a vital role in calming tensions between the army and the northern movements, but without political progress, this can only delay new violence. The mission has struggled to facilitate implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement, in part due to perceptions about its neutrality. Resolution 2100 (25 April 2013) calls for it to both “restore the authority and the sovereignty of the Malian State throughout its national territory” and “to facilitate progress towards an inclusive national dialogue”, which by its nature involves bringing in the very armed groups that challenge the state’s authority in the north.

Building the capacity of Malian institutions is of course important. But the mandate’s tension raises competing expectations from the parties. Some members of the northern movements believe the mission backs the government, citing inter alia its provision of armoured vehicles to the defence ministry and that talks have been held almost solely in Bamako. They requested MINUSMA support for talks to be more balanced. The government believes the mission should focus primarily on helping the state recover its full sovereignty, as requested by the prime minister in his 29 April speech to the National Assembly.

The 30 May, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit asked the Burkina Faso and Nigeria presidents to renew mediation efforts, but these have been dormant for months and are unlikely to revive the talks. Mali accuses Burkina Faso of harbouring the MNLA’s political wing; ECOWAS is a key regional institution but does not include countries with influence in the north, such as Mauritania and Algeria. It is thus crucial to establish an international mediation mechanism that is coherent, backed by the region and other major powers and empowered to broker compromises. This new initiative should be UN-led.

The Security Council could consider two options. Neither will be easy, given politics in the region and beyond, but existing arrangements are proving insufficient.

The first would be to strengthen MINUSMA’s political mandate and have it mediate, not just facilitate. The Secretary-General’s special representative would become a full-time mediator. This would allow the UN to use its good offices and, together with Mali’s partners, press parties to resolve deadlocks. To achieve this, the Council must resolve the tension in the mandate by shifting it away from state building. An emphasis on state building might be necessary again in the future – and the gap would need to be filled by others now — but for the moment talks must be the priority.

The second would be to appoint an envoy of the Secretary-General, with African Union and ECOWAS agreement, independent of MINUSMA. The parties could express preferences from a list of names with high-level West Africa experience. The envoy would be an official mediator to whose team MINUSMA would give logistical help while continuing its state building role. This would require greater effort to build consensus, internally and regionally, but might be more likely to break the deadlock.

Whatever the preferred option, the mediator will need the support of Mali’s main partners. They should form a contact group whose membership should be relatively restricted, to ease coordination. It must include France and Algeria, who, working together, have enough influence to bring all the parties to the negotiating table. Algeria’s pivotal role in the region should be recognised, but it must exercise its influence within a multilateral framework.

The mediator, consulting with the main parties and the contact group, should quickly revive the Ouagadougou agreement’s negotiation framework. The current stalemate is not the result of flaws in that agreement but of parties’ refusal to implement it and insufficient pressure on them from Mali’s regional and other partners. The monitoring and evaluation committee established by the agreement has not met since October. It should be resuscitated and, chaired by the mediator, convene monthly to allow international actors to coordinate their efforts. The parties should urgently agree on and commit to a detailed schedule of such sessions.

As the Council prepares to renew MINUSMA’s mandate, it should draw the right conclusions from the challenges the mission faces. In appointing a new UN-led mediation mechanism, whether within the mission or external to it, it has another opportunity to help Malians reach a sustainable solution; it should not assume such an opportunity will come again soon.

Sincerely,

Louise Arbour 

President and CEO, International Crisis Group

Click above to listen to Crisis Group President & CEO Louise Arbour speak to UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Goldberg about the mass atrocities committed in the waning days of Sri Lanka’s civil war (7:42), how her early experiences in Quebec shaped her work (17:28), and her experience as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (29:45). Toward the end, Ms. Arbour discusses the challenge of bridging criminal law and human rights (43:03).

3 Jun

Click above to listen to Crisis Group President & CEO Louise Arbour speak to UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Goldberg about the mass atrocities committed in the waning days of Sri Lanka’s civil war (7:42). President Arbour discusses accountability for war crimes at 12:05.

Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, speaks with Mark Goldberg of UN Dispatch about overlooked mass atrocities in Sri Lanka and her hopes for war crime accountability.

22 May
U.N. Will Weigh Asking Court to Investigate War Crimes in Syria | Somini Sengupta
The Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria.
Russia is certain to veto the resolution. Its Western rivals are equally certain to seize on that veto in an attempt to isolate the Kremlin diplomatically. Supporters of the resolution, which was drafted by France, have spent days drumming up support from more than 50 countries.
Syria has undertaken its own countercampaign, distributing a letter castigating France for promoting what the Syrian ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, called a “biased draft resolution in order to sabotage any chance of peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis led by the Syrians themselves.”
France said the resolution was necessary to send a message to Russia, the Syrian government’s most important backer, even in the face of a veto.
FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo: Freedom House/flickr

U.N. Will Weigh Asking Court to Investigate War Crimes in Syria | Somini Sengupta

The Security Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution that would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria.

Russia is certain to veto the resolution. Its Western rivals are equally certain to seize on that veto in an attempt to isolate the Kremlin diplomatically. Supporters of the resolution, which was drafted by France, have spent days drumming up support from more than 50 countries.

Syria has undertaken its own countercampaign, distributing a letter castigating France for promoting what the Syrian ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, called a “biased draft resolution in order to sabotage any chance of peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis led by the Syrians themselves.”

France said the resolution was necessary to send a message to Russia, the Syrian government’s most important backer, even in the face of a veto.

FULL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo: Freedom House/flickr

12 May
Reduced to eating grass, Afghanistan’s forces are in dire need of our help | Louise Arbour and Graeme Smith 
Louise Arbour is the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Graeme Smith is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.
When Canadian troops were surrounded by insurgents in a desolate part of southern Afghanistan known as Ghorak district in 2007, trapped in the stony desert under a relentless sun, their lives depended on supplies dropped by parachute from transport planes.
Today the situation is even more desperate in Ghorak. The war has grown in ferocity since the departure of Canadian combat troops in 2011. American helicopters stopped bringing medical relief last year. Shipments of food and bullets are no longer drifting out of the sky from the hatches of Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
Afghan forces are holding the district by themselves, so far, but Taliban roadblocks are causing food shortages. Ghorak’s defenders recently started to eat boiled grass.
It’s the same story in many other rural areas: Afghan police and soldiers are keeping the insurgency at bay, but they need more support from the international community.
That’s the conclusion of International Crisis Group’s new report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition. Based on case studies of four provinces – Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar – it analyzes the directions of the conflict since the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally took responsibility for security from NATO in mid-2013.
Insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and a few areas have even experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops.
Still, the overall trend as foreign troops withdraw is escalating insurgent attacks, with a continued rise in violence expected in 2014 and 2015.
Kandahar, the focus of Canada’s mission, remained the country’s most dangerous province in 2013. The worsening trend continued into 2014, with 20 per cent more attacks in the province during the first three months of the year as compared with the same period 12 months earlier, according to one Western analysis.
The news is not entirely bad from Kandahar: Afghan security forces have firm control of the provincial capital and the urban neighbourhoods are enjoying declines in violence for the first time in a decade.
Still, across the country, the job of fighting insurgents weighs more heavily than ever on Afghanistan’s security forces. In 2013, for the first time, the insurgents inflicted almost as many casualties on government forces as they suffered themselves – which is among several indicators that in some places the sides are nearly matched in strength.
Canada’s own troops returned home safely this spring. Their bravery in Afghanistan was commemorated on May 9 with a parade, two minutes of silence, and other honours. The Canadian government is encouraging schoolchildren to make dog tags from laminated cardboard to remember the 158 Canadian soldiers killed in the conflict.
Perhaps the best way, though, for Canada and other donors to respect the sacrifices of their soldiers would be to help the Afghan government survive after their departure.
Current plans for international support of the ANSF are insufficient. Donors must go beyond the annual commitment of $3.6-billion (U.S.) made at the Chicago 2012 summit and provide funding for maintenance of an ANSF personnel roster approximately equal to its current size, until stability improves in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government also needs international assistance with logistics, air support, intelligence and other technical aspects of security operations sometimes known as “enablers.” There is, for example, a pressing need for more helicopters and armoured vehicles. Currently, Afghan police and soldiers, far from urban centres, die of minor injuries while they wait for scarce helicopters or armoured convoys to transfer them to medical facilities.
Some of the responsibility for the Afghan government’s future belongs to the new leadership in Kabul. Afghanistan will get a freshly elected president this summer, and he must sign the necessary agreements to keep a small number of American and other NATO forces in the country. The Afghan government must also take urgent steps to reduce casualties among Afghan forces, and strengthen anti-corruption measures to ensure that security personnel receive salaries, ammunition, fuel and other basic requirements.
But the fledgling Afghan state does not have the ability to pay for its own security forces, and countries such as Canada have an obligation to continue funding the unfinished war.
Such immediate action on military issues will buy time for Afghanistan and its donors to resolve issues that will be decisive for the country’s long-term stability, including ethnic and social grievances, political inclusiveness, economic concerns, unemployment and weak rule of law.
Extensive work remains to be done on strengthening the rule of law and shoring up the state’s political legitimacy. Eventually, a post-election, post-transition government would have better prospects for reviving peace talks. The insurgents, for their part, may also be willing to talk seriously after testing the state’s military strength – once international forces have left – and finding it resolute.
That will not happen while the Taliban continue to believe they are winning, which is why remote places such as Ghorak still have the same political significance they held when Canadians were battling to defend them.
“The Taliban want to capture all of Afghanistan,” a former district official told us. “But they’re starting with small places like Ghorak.”
Canada can still make a big difference in those small places, which will play a significant role in the country our troops are leaving behind.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The Globe and Mail)
Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

Reduced to eating grass, Afghanistan’s forces are in dire need of our help | Louise Arbour and Graeme Smith 

Louise Arbour is the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. Graeme Smith is Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan. This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.

When Canadian troops were surrounded by insurgents in a desolate part of southern Afghanistan known as Ghorak district in 2007, trapped in the stony desert under a relentless sun, their lives depended on supplies dropped by parachute from transport planes.

Today the situation is even more desperate in Ghorak. The war has grown in ferocity since the departure of Canadian combat troops in 2011. American helicopters stopped bringing medical relief last year. Shipments of food and bullets are no longer drifting out of the sky from the hatches of Canadian CC-130 Hercules aircraft.

Afghan forces are holding the district by themselves, so far, but Taliban roadblocks are causing food shortages. Ghorak’s defenders recently started to eat boiled grass.

It’s the same story in many other rural areas: Afghan police and soldiers are keeping the insurgency at bay, but they need more support from the international community.

That’s the conclusion of International Crisis Group’s new report, Afghanistan’s Insurgency after the Transition. Based on case studies of four provinces – Faryab, Kunar, Paktia and Kandahar – it analyzes the directions of the conflict since the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally took responsibility for security from NATO in mid-2013.

Insurgents have failed to capture major towns and cities, and a few areas have even experienced more peace and stability in the absence of international troops.

Still, the overall trend as foreign troops withdraw is escalating insurgent attacks, with a continued rise in violence expected in 2014 and 2015.

Kandahar, the focus of Canada’s mission, remained the country’s most dangerous province in 2013. The worsening trend continued into 2014, with 20 per cent more attacks in the province during the first three months of the year as compared with the same period 12 months earlier, according to one Western analysis.

The news is not entirely bad from Kandahar: Afghan security forces have firm control of the provincial capital and the urban neighbourhoods are enjoying declines in violence for the first time in a decade.

Still, across the country, the job of fighting insurgents weighs more heavily than ever on Afghanistan’s security forces. In 2013, for the first time, the insurgents inflicted almost as many casualties on government forces as they suffered themselves – which is among several indicators that in some places the sides are nearly matched in strength.

Canada’s own troops returned home safely this spring. Their bravery in Afghanistan was commemorated on May 9 with a parade, two minutes of silence, and other honours. The Canadian government is encouraging schoolchildren to make dog tags from laminated cardboard to remember the 158 Canadian soldiers killed in the conflict.

Perhaps the best way, though, for Canada and other donors to respect the sacrifices of their soldiers would be to help the Afghan government survive after their departure.

Current plans for international support of the ANSF are insufficient. Donors must go beyond the annual commitment of $3.6-billion (U.S.) made at the Chicago 2012 summit and provide funding for maintenance of an ANSF personnel roster approximately equal to its current size, until stability improves in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government also needs international assistance with logistics, air support, intelligence and other technical aspects of security operations sometimes known as “enablers.” There is, for example, a pressing need for more helicopters and armoured vehicles. Currently, Afghan police and soldiers, far from urban centres, die of minor injuries while they wait for scarce helicopters or armoured convoys to transfer them to medical facilities.

Some of the responsibility for the Afghan government’s future belongs to the new leadership in Kabul. Afghanistan will get a freshly elected president this summer, and he must sign the necessary agreements to keep a small number of American and other NATO forces in the country. The Afghan government must also take urgent steps to reduce casualties among Afghan forces, and strengthen anti-corruption measures to ensure that security personnel receive salaries, ammunition, fuel and other basic requirements.

But the fledgling Afghan state does not have the ability to pay for its own security forces, and countries such as Canada have an obligation to continue funding the unfinished war.

Such immediate action on military issues will buy time for Afghanistan and its donors to resolve issues that will be decisive for the country’s long-term stability, including ethnic and social grievances, political inclusiveness, economic concerns, unemployment and weak rule of law.

Extensive work remains to be done on strengthening the rule of law and shoring up the state’s political legitimacy. Eventually, a post-election, post-transition government would have better prospects for reviving peace talks. The insurgents, for their part, may also be willing to talk seriously after testing the state’s military strength – once international forces have left – and finding it resolute.

That will not happen while the Taliban continue to believe they are winning, which is why remote places such as Ghorak still have the same political significance they held when Canadians were battling to defend them.

“The Taliban want to capture all of Afghanistan,” a former district official told us. “But they’re starting with small places like Ghorak.”

Canada can still make a big difference in those small places, which will play a significant role in the country our troops are leaving behind.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The Globe and Mail)

Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

7 May
We are proud to announce the Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts.
In July 2014, Louise Arbour will leave the International Crisis Group after serving as President & CEO for five years. The new Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts will honour her extraordinary contribution to our cause and ensure that Crisis Group remains at the forefront of preventing and containing future deadly conflicts.
Learn more.

We are proud to announce the Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts.

In July 2014, Louise Arbour will leave the International Crisis Group after serving as President & CEO for five years. The new Louise Arbour Fund for Emerging Conflicts will honour her extraordinary contribution to our cause and ensure that Crisis Group remains at the forefront of preventing and containing future deadly conflicts.

Learn more.

4 Mar
Let the U.N. Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War | Louise Arbour
Louise Arbour, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is the president of the International Crisis Group
In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.
The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka, in which ethnic Tamil rebels rose against a government dominated by the ethnic-majority Sinhalese, was regularly punctuated with massacres and rights abuses by government forces, as well as by suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the government’s crushing defeat of the rebels, the predominantly Tamil northern province has been under de facto military occupation, with widespread reports of serious rights violations against the civilian population.
As the fifth anniversary of the war’s end approaches this spring, Sri Lankan officials say they need more time for reconciliation initiatives to take root. They argue that an international investigation will only further polarize Sri Lanka. They have reacted angrily to a new report by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, that advocates an international investigation and heavily criticizes the government.
As the International Crisis Group has documented in a series of reports, the government’s postwar policies have entrenched an increasingly authoritarian regime in Colombo, deepened the rift between Tamils and Sinhalese, and drawn dangerous new lines of ethnic and religious conflict. To date, the government has rejected calls by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into war crimes allegations against both sides that have been documented by the United Nations secretary general’s panel of experts and by nongovernmental organizations like ours, and to adopt reforms that could foster postwar reconciliation.
The United States, which has a record of leadership within the Human Rights Council, would be the best sponsor for a resolution seeking an inquiry. The other members of the council should give it their strong support. They should also reject the Sri Lankan government’s endless delaying tactics and its global public-relations counterattack, which includes a half-hour infomercial that has been shown on American television.
Momentum for such an investigation is building. Six United States senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called for an international commission of inquiry in a letter sent this month to Secretary of State John Kerry. Three days later a resolution was introduced in the Senate calling for an independent investigation (not necessarily by a commission). Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, other senior European Union politicians and Indian officials also have taken clear exception to Sri Lanka’s failure to pursue accountability for atrocities. Meanwhile, in response to victims’ pleas for justice, a newly elected northern provincial council in Sri Lanka has joined the calls for an international investigation.
But the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected all such recommendations, even when they came from Sri Lanka’s own reconciliation commission. He has also gravely weakened the independence of the judiciary and the police with the impeachment last year of Sri Lanka’s chief justice, placing the possibility of using Sri Lanka’s courts to achieve accountability further out of reach.
An inquiry mandated by an intergovernmental body like the Human Rights Council would produce a more complete record of the scale of civilian suffering, and would challenge the Sri Lankan government’s denials that government forces were responsible for any significant loss of civilian life.
A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.
By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity.
Such an inquiry won’t solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems; the island’s crisis of accountability and democratic governance runs too deep and is too complex to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, increased authoritarianism, Sinhalese ethnic triumphalism and simmering Tamil resentment are clearly not the ingredients for a secure future. Both justice and reconciliation are needed for the Sri Lankan body politic to one day be healed.
The Human Rights Council has an opportunity, and should seize it. A number of the council’s current member states — for instance Chile, Costa Rica, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Macedonia — have led on other human rights issues and should press the council on this one. Sri Lanka’s government is playing a waiting game, hoping the international community will lose interest, while also proffering the crude argument that reconciliation is attainable without justice.
But the costs of doing something now would be very small compared with the years of strife that would be the likely result of letting impunity win in Sri Lanka.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (New York Times)
Photo:  springm / Markus Spring/flickr

Let the U.N. Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War | Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour, a former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is the president of the International Crisis Group

In early 2009, as many as 40,000 civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, having been herded into an area about the size of Central Park and subjected to relentless shelling. No one has been held accountable for these crimes, and even now the government in Colombo remains intent on burying the past. Only an international commission of inquiry stands any chance of rectifying this omission. So when the United Nations Human Rights Council meets Monday in Geneva, it should seek an investigation. It would be a decisive step toward justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka, in which ethnic Tamil rebels rose against a government dominated by the ethnic-majority Sinhalese, was regularly punctuated with massacres and rights abuses by government forces, as well as by suicide bombings and other attacks on civilian targets by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Since the government’s crushing defeat of the rebels, the predominantly Tamil northern province has been under de facto military occupation, with widespread reports of serious rights violations against the civilian population.

As the fifth anniversary of the war’s end approaches this spring, Sri Lankan officials say they need more time for reconciliation initiatives to take root. They argue that an international investigation will only further polarize Sri Lanka. They have reacted angrily to a new report by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, that advocates an international investigation and heavily criticizes the government.

As the International Crisis Group has documented in a series of reports, the government’s postwar policies have entrenched an increasingly authoritarian regime in Colombo, deepened the rift between Tamils and Sinhalese, and drawn dangerous new lines of ethnic and religious conflict. To date, the government has rejected calls by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation into war crimes allegations against both sides that have been documented by the United Nations secretary general’s panel of experts and by nongovernmental organizations like ours, and to adopt reforms that could foster postwar reconciliation.

The United States, which has a record of leadership within the Human Rights Council, would be the best sponsor for a resolution seeking an inquiry. The other members of the council should give it their strong support. They should also reject the Sri Lankan government’s endless delaying tactics and its global public-relations counterattack, which includes a half-hour infomercial that has been shown on American television.

Momentum for such an investigation is building. Six United States senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, called for an international commission of inquiry in a letter sent this month to Secretary of State John Kerry. Three days later a resolution was introduced in the Senate calling for an independent investigation (not necessarily by a commission). Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, other senior European Union politicians and Indian officials also have taken clear exception to Sri Lanka’s failure to pursue accountability for atrocities. Meanwhile, in response to victims’ pleas for justice, a newly elected northern provincial council in Sri Lanka has joined the calls for an international investigation.

But the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has rejected all such recommendations, even when they came from Sri Lanka’s own reconciliation commission. He has also gravely weakened the independence of the judiciary and the police with the impeachment last year of Sri Lanka’s chief justice, placing the possibility of using Sri Lanka’s courts to achieve accountability further out of reach.

An inquiry mandated by an intergovernmental body like the Human Rights Council would produce a more complete record of the scale of civilian suffering, and would challenge the Sri Lankan government’s denials that government forces were responsible for any significant loss of civilian life.

A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.

By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity.

Such an inquiry won’t solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems; the island’s crisis of accountability and democratic governance runs too deep and is too complex to be resolved quickly. Nonetheless, increased authoritarianism, Sinhalese ethnic triumphalism and simmering Tamil resentment are clearly not the ingredients for a secure future. Both justice and reconciliation are needed for the Sri Lankan body politic to one day be healed.

The Human Rights Council has an opportunity, and should seize it. A number of the council’s current member states — for instance Chile, Costa Rica, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Morocco and Macedonia — have led on other human rights issues and should press the council on this one. Sri Lanka’s government is playing a waiting game, hoping the international community will lose interest, while also proffering the crude argument that reconciliation is attainable without justice.

But the costs of doing something now would be very small compared with the years of strife that would be the likely result of letting impunity win in Sri Lanka.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (New York Times)

Photo:  springm / Markus Spring/flickr

19 Feb
Syrian conflict “looking more like a regional war with an epicentre in Syria”, says envoy | Arthur Beesley
The deadlock in Syrian peace talks may yet prompt a revival of demands for a western military intervention in the conflict, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned.
Louise Arbour, the recipient of an award at Trinity College Dublin last night for her work in international law, also said the looming withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan carried potential to destabilise the country itself and the wider central Asian region.
Ms Arbour, a former member of the Supreme Court of Canada, is president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group, an independent non-governmental organisation for the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. In the 1990s she was chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.
FULL ARTICLE (Irish Times)
Photo: Matchbox Media Collective/flickr

Syrian conflict “looking more like a regional war with an epicentre in Syria”, says envoy | Arthur Beesley

The deadlock in Syrian peace talks may yet prompt a revival of demands for a western military intervention in the conflict, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned.

Louise Arbour, the recipient of an award at Trinity College Dublin last night for her work in international law, also said the looming withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan carried potential to destabilise the country itself and the wider central Asian region.

Ms Arbour, a former member of the Supreme Court of Canada, is president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group, an independent non-governmental organisation for the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. In the 1990s she was chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

FULL ARTICLE (Irish Times)

Photo: Matchbox Media Collective/flickr