LOST-Battle Over State Sovereignty

Interestingly, the administration of George W. Bush is urging the United States to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, popularly referred by the acronym LOST. The objective of this treaty is to provide universal legal standards for shipping, fishing, mining, and managing the environment of the high seas.  In addition, the Law of the Sea Treaty also harmonizes navigation and transit principles in the high seas that are already part of the customary international legal practices among states, and some legal experts argue that it will also enhance United States National Security.  However, significant opposition is growing among conservative organizations and some US Senators have expressed serious reservations against ratification of this treaty because of the fear that it will erode American sovereignty and prevent dominance of the high seas.  This ratification battle underscores the constant struggle between international organizations and states, where each attempt to structure the rules of international games to their advantage.  Interest groups within hegemonic states such as the United States are strongly pushing back as what is termed the growing global legal jurisdiction over sovereign states.


Take a look at this illuminating video primer for starters:




Germans, Jews, and Palestinians–A Dialogue

The question before our panel was whether the trauma of the Holocaust and the ever-present Palestinian-Israel conflict make dialogue between Jews and Germans, and between Jews and Palestinians extremely difficult, if not impossible to bridge the impossible?

Julia Chaitin, Senior Lecturer from the Sapir Academic College, Hof Ashkelon, Israel, examined the barriers that often make conversations across the divide difficult.  Particularly, the focus of her discussion was on navigating the opposing narratives of the past and present in the context of “perpetrators” and “victims” through techniques of reflective storytelling and listening to open up dialogue within the setting of conflict. The lecture and the accompanying discussion provoked an interesting discussion on the possibility of dialogue among conflictual parties and the difficulty of such dialogue.

Can the parents of a Palestinian suicide bombers dialogue with the Israeli parents who have lost their son/daughter to that suicide bombing?  Could they look each other in the eye and potentially have a meaningful conversation? Can the sons and daughters of a Holocaust survivor visit the death camps in Germany and Poland and dialogue with the descendants of the camp guards? Can a Palestinian family talk to the Israeli family, which has occupied its Palestinian family’s former home?  These are eternally difficult questions to answers, rife with unfathomable ethical, moral, and emotional issues.

We Do Not Torture–Do I Need to Say More

Genocidal and Cynical Sudan

The Special Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has gathered strong evidence showing that Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Minister of State for the Interior of the Government of the Sudan, and Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Militia/Janjaweed, jointly committed crimes against the civilian population in Darfur. According to the evidence collected by the ICC over 20 month period the ICC special prosecutor’s office believes that

“there are reasonable grounds to believe that Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, (also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman) bear criminal responsibility in relation to 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes. The evidence shows they acted together, and with others, with the common purpose of carrying out attacks against the civilian populations. The crimes were allegedly committed during attacks on the villages and towns of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and Arawala in West Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004. The Prosecution has focused on some of the most serious incidents and the individuals who, according to the evidence, bear the greatest responsibility for those incidents. In early 2003, Ahmad Harun was appointed as head of the “Darfur Security desk”. The most prominent of his coordination tasks was his management of, and personal participation in, the recruitment, funding and arming of Militia/Janjaweed – forces that would ultimately number in the tens of thousands. During a public meeting, Ahmad Harun said that as the head of the “Darfur Security desk”, he had been given “all the power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur for the sake of peace and security.”

In an extraordinarily cynical move, the Sudanese government has appointed the genocidal Ahmad Muhammad Harun to form its own Human Rights Committee to investigate human rights violations in Darfur. This clearly demonstrates that the Sudanese government has no desire to address the barbaric tragedy in Darfur or any interest in bringing the perpetrators to justice. As the NY Times Editorial correctly points out, the actions of the Sudanese governments need to be strongly condemned by the United States and the United Nations. The INTERPOL has a search warrant out for Ahmad Muhammad Harun and we sincerely hope they get him.

Responses to a Student’s Question Via Email

I just had a couple of questions from yesterday’s class:

 Q.1) On the graphs it looked like USA give the UN the most amount of money as a percentage of the UN’s whole budget but if it was put down as percentage of GDP contributed would America still come out on top?

United States is the largest contributor to the UN budget (which is budgeted every two years). Approximately, the United States gives out 23 percent of the total UN budget. The UN Budget last year was approximately 3.8 billion dollars. So, you do the math here.

The United States has the largest economy in the world. In 2006 it was the number one economy with a GDP of over 13 trillion dollars.  I don’t think the UN wants that sort of money nor will the US Congress give such money.

Q.2) How does increasing the size of donation lead to increasing power over decisions? Wouldn’t the other countries object to this immoral political stance?

Size of the donation allows the United States to sway UN policies to its favor, however how successful the US is in this matter is subject to debate. Invariably, they end up influencing abortion policies or condom distribution or something like that. I am not sure that it really makes a dash on the foreign policy sector because other states have countervailing veto power. Well, money always influences world power. Other states are well aware of it and many of them have come to accept the American hegemony or at least they have no choice. Power Matters!

Q.3) So an international organization such as ASEAN is allowed to ask for advise from the ICJ but not Amnesty International since they are an NGO?

Yes, see my earlier post on this on the website. Some IO’s have international legal standing, not all of them though, I am not sure if ASEAN has the necessary IR legal standing or not, these things are decided on a subjective basis, besides ASEAN is a regional organization and not an IO.

NGOs are non-governmental organizations, whereas IO or IGO’s are categorized as Inter-Governmental Organizations, organizations composed of members who are states. NGOs are private organizations; hence they don’t have the same legal standing of the states. Imagine, NGO’s running around suing everybody and creating confusion and chaos for every little cause they believe in. Note: IR Law (that is public International Law) is about states, and it favors the states and not any other non-state entities.