Sunday, 7 October 2012

One Month

Well, as with all good things, there is usually some sort of expiration date. As of a week ago, I officially chatted with the folks at ICJ Kenya, and we agreed that this would be my last month of work. I'll be back home in Canada at the beginning of November. Just in time for winter.

The decision to leave was mine. I have a fiancĂ©e in Canada, and it would be incredibly difficult for her to get married by herself. Plus, she's now in medical school, and I may or may not have promised her a high-five and a high-end bottle of wine. That, and I'm incredibly excited to be with her and support her in all her med school, global health program, Chair of the Student Run Clinic adventures.

Of course, there are mixed feelings about leaving. Most of which will probably be more eloquently expressed when I'm back in Calgary, jobless, and severely crippled by reverse culture shock.

For now, I have managed to fill my agenda for the month with a nigh-impossible amount of winding-up activities. Two conferences (one on genocide prevention, the other on Journalism and the ICC in Kigali), two presentations at the University of Nairobi (on the role of CSOs and the ICC on Kenyan elections), a funding proposal, office templates and policy documents, and all the frantic picture-taking, socializing and to-doing I can possibly muster. I love this place, the people, and the work, so I feel obligated to cram as much 'experience' as I can into my cranium. I'll see if I can keep you up to date.


In other news, the biggest thing that I can possibly think of happening, happened. The three Kenyan victims of torture during the Mau Mau uprisings were given the right to take the UK government to trial. Morally, this decision is outstanding. The victims were unsurprisingly ecstatic. In Nairobi, and, I assume, other places in Kenya where ex-Mau Mau fighters reside, there was similar jubilation - they won against the Brits, in Britain! That's pretty huge.

Of course, being a lawyer, there's always a little bit of skepticism when a legal decision of this magnitude actually makes sense. Hopefully I'll get some time to read the decision myself. In the meantime, the UK will appeal (they kind of have to, otherwise the 'ex-colonies' will have a field day filling the UK Courts with decades-old cases of torture, abuse, pox-ridden blankets, etc). And the victims, (one of whom has already passed away due to old age), will continue to wait for their day in court.


The ICC cases in Kenya continue to be a frolicking joy ride, as per usual. Kenya's Attorney General, Githu Muigai (who, after being a champion of civil society, is now regarded as a colossal disappointment), in a speech in Nuremberg, Germany (probably the birthplace of international criminal law), waxed poetic on, well, everything, apparently. Read The Standard's recap here. Here are my favourite parts:

1. Telling the ICC to postpone the trial because of Kenya's elections in 2013. The Office of the Prosecutor has already publicly stated that the date for trial was set on the basis of timelines for preparing for trial, and that the ICC doesn't really care about how it fits into Kenyan politics. Using the best retort I've ever heard, the AG (I imagine him puffing up his cheeks for this one) stated,

"up to the last minute, the defence can seek a postponement for any reason, including ill-health or a million other reasons" [my emphasis added]

So, they may as well save everyone the trouble and just postpone the trials. I mean, they are just so inconvenient.

Not persuaded by the 'million-plus reasons' argument, a spokesperson from the OTP noted that the defence lawyers for the 4 accused Kenyans hadn't actually lodged any applications for postponement. Right. Because that's what the defence lawyer's JOB is. Not the AG, who, last I recall, represents the Government of Kenya, and, by proxy, the entire citizenry of Kenya. Not just the 4 suspects accused of Murder, Rape, Forced Evictions, etc. (i.e. Crimes Against Humanity). Ahem.

2. Calling out Luis Moreno-Ocampo as being patronising, discourteous, and disrespectful. I actually kind of agree with him on this - I think I'll even devote an entire blog post for Ocampo, and his legacy.

3. The sheer irony of countering Kenya's perceived 'non-cooperation' with the ICC by saying - 'we're cooperating!' That's a tough sell, since, for example, the President of Kenya, in his State of the Nation Speech, basically called for the cases to be brought back to Kenya. Then the Kenyan government lobbied for criminal jurisdiction for international crimes to be included at the East African Court of Justice (Kenya is the chair of the East African Community), and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. And members of the government have called for the ICC cases to be 'repatriated'.

In my humble opinion, 'cooperation' amounts to a little bit more than simply filing documents when the Court tells you to. There's the whole 'attempting to discredit the court' issue, which seems to be, at the very least, a little inconsiderate, don't you think?

4. "The ICC was not created to be a monopoly". I don't know if this was a direct quote, or a paraphrase by the Standard journalist. In any event, it's fantastic(al)! The phrase is in reference to the aforementioned attempt by the African Union to expand the jurisdiction of the African Court to include international crimes. It would serve the same function as the ICC, except it would be African. There are all sorts of issues with this statement - blahblah complementarity blah blah State Party blah blah how would it ever get funding blahblah - but the main issue is this: The ICC was created to be THE court of last resort for international crimes. Not just one of many courts of last resort, that anyone can pick and choose, depending on what continent they are on.

The whole idea was to monopolize the ICC as the place be for last resorts on international crimes, sindio*?

*The only translation I could find for this swahili phrase on the interweb was here.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Mostly Pointless Sidenote

I recognize that there are a lot of major issues going on around me right now (this, this, and this), but I feel like I've been slightly 'low-energy' over the past few days. Not that I haven't engaged with the issues - they've been a focal point of work, meetings, and discussions - I just haven't had the inspiration to write a particularly insightful or clever post about them.

Instead, I took to reading other blogs. On international justice. And then I read this one, and it made me self conscious about blogging. So, I've moderately changed the title of the blog (see if you notice). Hopefully it maintains some semblance of credibility.


In other news, I have noticed that Invisible Children continues to try and resurrect itself, through 'post-breakdown' interviews on Oprah (I had no idea she had a new show). I have also noticed their 'Defection Campaign' (see here and here), which is actually founded on good principles and is a great initiative, especially reaching out through radio media. It would just be nice if they recognized somewhere, anywhere, that the defection process has been severely hampered by the lapse of the Amnesty Law in Uganda back in May 2012. Or that there are ongoing challenges with resettling and reintegrating ex-combatants.

I blogged last month about attending a forum with victims in Gulu, which focused specifically on the Amnesty Law. Amnesty granted the ex-combatant immunity from prosecution, a small amount of money, some food, and some household and agricultural appliances. In fact, one of the documents that IC cites notes that the Amnesty Act is the "single most significant pull factor" (Page 8) for rebels to leave the bush (there have been around 26,000 amnesties granted). In the forum, one thing that was mentioned was that the rate at which rebels had left the bush, from when the Amnesty Law had been enacted (2000), had diminished over time. So it would seem logical that ending the granting of amnesty would certainly throw a major roadblock into any defection campaign. And I'll be repetitive and say that issues of resettlement (getting ex-rebels into homes) and reintegration (community acceptance of the ex-rebels) continue to be major challenges. And that is not even delving into the complicated matter of the actual victims of the conflict.

I would think that those issues would be fairly important to address or at least acknowledge, before engaging in mass littering in the forests of Uganda/DRC/CAR.