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Journal Archives

Franco is still dead… by Scott Horton

… but his spirit seems to have inspired a courtroom drama in Madrid the past few weeks. Baltasar Garzón—the crusading investigative judge who once sought the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, probed crimes against humanity in Central America, exposed massive corruption in public-works projects in Spain, and tried to open the lid on the mass killings of the Franco era—was himself placed in the dock, accused of misuse of his judicial powers. In the end little was left to chance in the rush to destroy him, an effort that brought into alignment the many powerful figures he had offended: the now-governing conservative Partido Popular, which was richly embarrassed by the corruption disclosures of the Garzón-led Gürtel investigation; the United States government, which was angered by his pursuit of a torture investigation focusing on Guantánamo and was openly working for his removal; the heirs of the Franco era, who were whipped into a state of hysteria about the prospect of an investigation into the mass murders of that era.

Even Spain’s leftists and liberals seemed uneasy with the quixotic and sometimes politically tin-eared jurist. Only a ragtag group of human-rights advocates and bar associations from around the Hispanic world stood with Garzón, remembering how he had stood with them against the atrocity crimes of dictatorships, which the polite and the powerful preferred simply to ignore. Now Garzón stands convicted of abuse of power, in comically politicized proceedings that he is not permitted to appeal.

The Guardian reports:

Garzón’s career effectively came to a dramatic end on Thursday as he began an 11-year suspension for illegally wiretapping conversations between remand prisoners and their lawyers in a corruption case involving the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy’s People’s party (PP).

Human-rights advocates, generally eager to press for the procedural rights of the accused in criminal cases, acknowledge that Garzón seems to have exceeded his authority, even as they express puzzlement about how judicially reviewed and approved surveillance can be a grave offense. (The thrust of human-rights protection is, of course, aimed at insuring that it is judicially reviewed.) Count that a special flourish of the Spanish legal system, enforced with special vehemence in order to shield compromised leaders of Spain’s governing party. The irony of this action lies in the still more bizarre fact that the political figures whose corruption Garzón convincingly exposed remain at liberty, while the furor of Spain’s criminal-justice system was turned against their accuser.

remainder: http://harpers.org/archive/2012/02/hbc-90008446

All the Missing Souls: Six Questions for David Scheffer

By Scott Horton

Ambassador David Scheffer steered America’s engagement with the concept of war-crimes accountability throughout the Clinton years, and has been one of the nation’s leading observers and commentators on the subject since then. He has now published a major work, All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, that chronicles America’s pursuit of war criminals during the Nineties and offers clear insights into the issues these efforts raised for future generations. I put six questions to Scheffer about his book:

1. In the Wall Street Journal, torture-memo author John Yoo argues that you “fail to understand” that the humanitarian challenges of our age demand the robust use of military force, and that international tribunals “will do little to stop the killing.” As a defendant in pending litigation in Spain, Yoo has pressing personal reasons to oppose the concept of universal jurisdiction, but aside from that, how do you respond to his critique?

If John Yoo had bothered to check the record, he would have found that I have been an advocate of humanitarian intervention and the “responsibility to protect” principle, both of which contemplate the utility of using military force to protect civilian populations from atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes). During the Balkan conflict, Ambassador Madeleine Albright and I repeatedly sought more effective use of air power, and I personally sought the introduction of U.S. troops years before the Dayton Accords. The Clinton Administration’s use of air power over Kosovo and Serbia, followed by the introduction of NATO troops into Kosovo in June 1999, was no small measure of commitment to the utility of military force. So I really do not need Yoo’s counsel on the utility of military force to stop the killing. The fact that such intervention did not occur during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was a terrible mistake. But had I resigned at that time, as Yoo advocates, I would have been unable to help address situations in the field and in the newly created tribunals drawing upon the lessons of 1994.

Yoo is also employing a straw man to denigrate international justice. The primary purpose of the international criminal tribunals is to render justice and reveal some of the truth of what transpired. That means investigating massive crimes and leadership suspects, indicting and prosecuting some of them, and rendering judgment followed by either conviction or acquittal. It is a false burden to place on the shoulders of the tribunals to assess their legitimacy and utility by whether they “stop the killing” or deter further atrocity crimes. Such deterrence is a tremendous bonus if it occurs, and we hope for it, but that is not the purpose of the tribunals. Victims want top perpetrators to suffer punishment and that is precisely what criminal courts are designed to achieve, particularly when there are hundreds of thousands of victims and those responsible for such horrors grasp the levers of power.

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/02/hbc-90008440

Exposed: The Arab agenda in Syria

By Pepe Escobar

Here's a crash course on the "democratic" machinations of the Arab League - rather the GCC League, as real power in this pan-Arab organization is wielded by two of the six Persian Gulf monarchies composing the Gulf Cooperation Council, also known as Gulf Counter-revolution Club; Qatar and the House of Saud.

Essentially, the GCC created an Arab League group to monitor what's going on in Syria. The Syrian National Council - based in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries Turkey and France - enthusiastically supported it. It's telling that Syria's neighbor Lebanon did not.

When the over 160 monitors, after one month of enquiries, issued their report ... surprise! The report did not follow the official GCC line - which is that the "evil" Bashar al-Assad government isindiscriminately, and unilaterally, killing its own people, and so regime change is in order.

The Arab League's Ministerial Committee had approved the report, with four votes in favor (Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and GCC member Oman) and only one against; guess who, Qatar - which is now presiding the Arab League because the emirate bought their (rotating) turn from the Palestinian Authority.

remainder: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NB04Ak01.html

Sharp increase in administrative detention in 2011; one detainee on hunger strike for 46 days

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel reported on 29 January that Khader ‘Adnan, has been on hunger strike since 18 December 2011. Thirty-four year old 'Adnan, from the village of ‘Araba near Jenin, was detained on 17 December 2011 and placed in administrative detention. ‘Adnan is on the hunger strike in protest against his administrative detention and the manner in which he was arrested and interrogated. According to PHR, “his condition is life-threatening.”

In 2011, there was a sharp increase in the number of Palestinian administrative detainees held by Israel, from 219 in January to 307 in December, according to figures B'Tselem received from the Israel Prison Service. Twenty-nine percent of the detainees had been held for six months to one year; another 24 percent from one to two years. Seventeen Palestinians had been in administrative detention continuously for two to four and a half years, and one man has been held for over five years. At the end of 2011, Israel was holding one minor in administrative detention. This year marks the first time since 2008 that there was an increase in the number of administrative detainees, after the number had fallen from 813, in January 2008, to 204 in December 2010.

Administrative detention is detention without trial, intended to prevent a person from committing an act that is liable to endanger public safety. Such a detention is inherently problematic since, unlike a criminal proceeding, administrative detention is not intended to punish a person for an offense already committed, but to prevent a future danger. The manner in which Israel uses administrative detention is patently illegal. Administrative detainees are not told the reason for their detention or the specific allegations against them. Although detainees are brought before a judge to approve the detention order, most of the material submitted by the prosecution is classified and not shown to the detainee or his attorney. Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it. The detainees also do not know when they will be released: although the maximum period of administrative detention is six months, it can be renewed indefinitely. In fact, of the administrative detainees held in December, over 60% had their detention extended at least once beyond the first detention order.

Administrative detention violates the right to liberty and the right to due process, since the detainee is incarcerated for a prolonged period on the basis of secret evidence, without charge or trial.

in full: http://www.btselem.org/administrative_detention/20120201_sharp_rise_in_administrative_detention
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