CHAUTAUQUA - Addressing the 2nd International Law Dialogues, Omar Ishmael of the ENOUGH! Project gave the keynote address, a depiction of the current situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. The address chronicled the history of government violence in the region, where there is no consideration for human rights or the rule of law. Ishmael described the need for leverage in the international community to respond promptly and effectively to the crisis.
Ishmael's speech reflected the recent presentation to the Security Council by Louis Moreno-Ocampo with evidence that Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir, the president of Sudan, committed the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
''I never talked to one person who said 'I'm sorry this is happening to President Bashir,''' said Ishmael during his address.
Greg Peterson, Robert H. Jackson Center chairman, welcomes prosecutors and participants to the International Law Dialogues on Monday at Chautauqua Institution.
P-J photo by Benjamin Klein
His account of more than 160 internally displaced-person camps, and the complete lack of protection for the quarter of a million people who have fled the country to escape the violence, was a response to those in the international community who attempt to deride and discredit the International Criminal Court.
The depiction of 26,000 people living in a refugee camp where only a few security guards are on duty for 12 hours a day; the cold, calculated tactics of the Janjaweed militias who start their morning attacks in the center of town, where they can be most effective; the story of a young man who had identified attackers, only to have his eyes cut out; and the 60-year-old woman taking care of seven grandchildren were all calls to bring justice through the institution of accountability that is the International Criminal Court.
Following Ishmael was Mark Drumbl of Washington and Lee University School of Law, whose lecture entitled ''Power of a Word'' recognized the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention.
Drumbl began by exploring the origins of the word ''genocide'' and the difficulties that follow in the preparing an prosecuting intensely personal story as evidence.
''In my opinion, the narrative of the trial, the verdict and the sentence, has tremendous pedagogical power, which in many ways needs to be respected,'' he said.
Though there is no formal hierarchy for international crimes, genocide is often described as the ''crime of crimes.'' The prosecution of genocide as a civil liability, where survivors and victims file damages, is different from a criminal trial, as a ''civil liability claims victim is subject of the process.''
Drumbl noted that there have been civil liability claims filed here in the U.S. , perhaps most notably the case against suspected war criminal Radovan Karadzic, which began in the U.S. courts as a massive gender-based violence narrative.
The prosecution of genocide in national courts is beneficial because as Drumbl noted, genocide does not occur because of a small amount of people. The pervasive ideology is only possible with a vast majority of people, and stressed that in the search for justice, prosecution must go beyond the high-level offenders. Those who perpetrate the crimes in the light of fulfilling a bureaucratic duty are not immune to justice.
In his closing remarks, Drumbl said the legacy of the genocide convention is that a ''law is about much more than a person sentenced. It's about our own morality, bounds and limits of the global society.''.
MANDATES AND CHALLENGES
Leila Nadya Sadat of Washington University School of Law moderated the next event, the around-the-world report from the current prosecutors. Included in the panel were all five current prosecutors for the international tribunals. Serge Brammertz, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; Hassan Jallow, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court; Stephen Rapp, Special Court for Sierra Leone; and Robert Petit, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The collective prosecutors are responsible for bringing to justice criminals in their respective locations.
Major issues addressed by the panel included facing the challenges in gathering evidence for war crimes trials, how to work effectively without a police force, working underfunded, all the while being under the scrutiny of the international community.
Serge Brammertz conveyed the importance of the arrest of Karadzic as big success for the victims and international justice. He added, though, that justice starts at the local level, where there are hundreds of cases for lower-level perpetrators.
Hassan Jallow touched on the difficulties working without police and prisons as support systems, meaning that they are faced with the challenges entailed with co-operating with other states. In order to capture 13 wanted criminals suspected of hiding in the Congo and Zimbabwe, he said they ''need the help of the UN to capture and lobby governments who harbor these fugitives.''
Stephen Rapp described how tens of thousands of people stood on their roofs to watch as former Liberian president Charles Taylor flew overhead to be delivered to a detention center after being arrested. Taylor bears the greatest responsibility for a campaign of terror in Sierra Leone, even though he never set foot there.
On the difficulty of finding and working with key executors in Taylors administration, Rapp says ''we have to find the people inside the organizations to bring down the leader'' - which can be time consuming when Taylor may face the first conviction ever for acts of using children for sexual slavery, which is a war crime, and the first crime in history of the world for forced marriage.
Rapp said, ''It's been a great experience working in Sierra Leone, building on the legacy of my colleagues.''
Robert Petit said the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia works as a hybrid between the government of Cambodia and the international community. Working with national and international staff allows the application of Cambodian and international law, though this also entails the difficulty of blending and applying the law fairly. With such a large number of victims coming forward and admitting to being tortured - 12,038 to be exact - time span becomes an issue, as the court is limited to voluntary funding. The availability and the reliability of witnesses, as well as holding a trilingual court, all add to the difficulty of prosecuting war criminals.
Fatou Bensouda, the court deputy for the ICC, has had an interesting year with the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the 10th anniversary of the Rome Statute, and the call for arrest warrants for the perpetrators in Darfur. For the first time, the independent international criminal court will ask victims to participate.
''We need to remind ourselves that what is going on in Darfur is organized,'' she added.
Clint Williamson, Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, U.S. Department of State, detailed the evolution of the United States policy on the ICC. Williamson noted that the Bush administration in 2001 did oppose and view the ICC suspiciously, but now the prevailing sentiment has changed with U.S. engagement being very positive.
''The openly hostile opposition has faded away,'' said Williamson.
The current and former prosecutors were gathered and led in a panel discussion entitled ''Atrocity and Genocide: The Challenge of Semantics.'' The discussion was led by Michael Scharf of Case Western University School of Law and involved David M. Crane, Special Court for Sierra Leone; Petit; Brammertz; Jallow; Bensouda; Rapp; Benjamin B. Ferencz, United States Military Tribunals, Nuremberg; Henry T. King, International Military Tribunal and United States Military Tribunals, Nuremberg; and Whitney R. Harris, International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg.
The gathering of prosecutors who set the standard and legacy of establishing justice and accountability with the Nuremberg Tribunals, and the current prosecutors who carry on their legacy, was described by Scharf as ''an extraordinary event. Chautauqua is lucky to host this for a second year. To bring all the international criminal prosecutors together in one place is like bottling lightning.''
Highlights of the discussion included King and Ferencz both conferring that ''war is the supreme international crime.''
When asked if it is appropriate to drop the charge of genocide to admit to a lesser guilt, King responded, ''this is a crime we should never accept on basis of admission - a crime of such enormity that it must be proved.''
One of the final questions of the panel, concerning suggestions to the new President for United States foreign policy and the prosecution of genocide, Harris responded, ''If we're serious, the U.S. must not be afraid to be a leader. If we have the ICC, the U.S. shouldn't be hesitant to be a participant.''
Afterward, when asked to comment on the days activities, Greg Peterson, chairman of the Robert H. Jackson Center, said ''I'm overwhelmed by this morning's activities.''