Posts tagged ‘International Court of Justice’

12/02/2011

Congo: How Long Will Joe Kabila Rule?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kinshasa (DRC), a large country of 69 million in South-Central Africa, which borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, to the east, and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville, to the west, held elections this week, but only time will tell if they are on the road to democracy.

After the Portuguese navigated the mouth of the Congo River in the west (1482), Henry Stanley located its source in the east, and followed it down to the Atlantic (1874-77), where he claimed the entire area for Belgium’s King Leopold II, who exploited rubber and ivory, upon declaring the land his personal property (1885).

Belgium soon defeated Arab traders in the War of the Eastern Congo (1892-94), and gained control of the Katana Province, in the southeast. The country became the Belgian Congo, when the King transferred his personal property to the Nation of Belgium (1908).

Anti-colonial rioting in 1959 led to a Declaration of Independence in 1960. The Crisis in the Congo (1960-66) followed, as the West took out and executed their first leader, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Belgian troops finally vacated the country, as UN Peacekeepers replaced them, and tried to disarm secessionists in Katanga, near Zambia and Tanzania (1961). The UN later turned security over to the Organization of African Unity (1964).

Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup in 1965, and ruled for the next 32 years. He re-named the capital Kinshasa (1966), and the country Zaire (1971). Non-Africans were expelled to erase the colonial past. European coats and ties were banned. Foreign-owned businesses were seized and sold to locals (1974).

Real trouble started in the east, in the 1st Congo War (1996-98), as Mobuto supported the Hutus of Rwanda and Burundi. Tutsi armies, with soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, entered the Congo, attacked the Hutus, and ousted Mobutu, ending his 32 dictatorship (1997). When Laurent Kabila replaced Mobutu, he renamed the country the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (1997).

The 2nd Congo War (1998-2003) was primarily fought in the Nord Kivu Province, in the east. Forces from Uganda and Rwanda advanced into the Congo, as troops from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the DRC to resist. A ceasefire signed by all was monitored by a UN Organization Mission in the DRC (1999), but trouble continued, when Laurent Kabila was assassinated (2001).

Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent, assumed power in 2001. He negotiated a Rwandan troop withdrawal, and signed the Pretoria Accord (2003), in which all countries agreed to stop fighting. The conflict finally ended, under the Gbadolite Agreement (2003).

During the conflict, 2.5 million were estimated to have died from disease, famine, and violence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Ugandan troops violated the ban against unilateral force, and the rules of war, as they killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property. Dem. Rep. of Congo v Uganda (2000). The ICJ also dismissed a Congolese complaint that alleged citizens of the Congo were murdered, raped, and otherwise violated by Burundi and Rwanda soldiers, who occupied the Congo in 1998. DRC v Burundi and Rwanda (2000).

It has been eight years since the war ended, and the question now is whether Congo-Kinshasa will become a stable democracy. Joseph Kabila, who replaced his father in 2001, and was re-elected in 2006, should have stepped down in 2011, after 10 years in office. Instead, he ran for a third term, and it appears he will win. The Congo should have instead elected a new leader, and moved towards a more democratic system, by limiting the terms of their leaders to no more than 10 years. Now, only time will tell if a third term for Joseph Kabila will be the correct path for the Congo, or a road to a lifetime of unchallenged rule.

11/30/2011

Iran: History Behind Embassy Seizures

While the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked yesterday by an angry mob, this was not the first time this kind of thing has happened. We all remember the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by armed Iranian students in 1979. To understand why Iranians distrust the U.S., Britain, and the West, a review of history is needed.

Iran (historically Persia) is a relatively large country of 66 million. It is in the Persian Gulf, and borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the east. The people are predominately Shiite Muslim. Ethnically, they are Persian, but some are Kurd. Their economy is fueled by the Khuzestan oil fields, in the northwest.

After colonial Britain severed Afghanistan from Iran in the Anglo-Persian War (1856-57), a British Protectorate was attempted, but the Persians resisted. England did however create an Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (1909), and started taking the resource. The English Army subsequently occupied the Iranian oil fields at Khuzistan in WWI, and again in WWII (1941). This is also when Muhammad Reza Pahlavi became Shah of Iran (1941).

Upon the election of Mohammad Mossadeq as Prime Minister (1950), Iran nationalized their oil, and gave British and U.S. firms one month to get out of the country (1951). The UK sued on behalf of Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., but the case was dismissed, on a jurisdictional issue. UK v Iran (1951).

When the Shah of Iran subsequently lost a fight against Mossadeq, he fled, but soon returned, when CIA and British intelligence executed the Prime Minister (1953). The Shah allowed Anglo and American oil companies to resume their businesses (1954). These events were never lost on the collective memory of the Iranian people.

Under the Shah’s brutal dictatorship, the country joined the Central Treaty Organization, and helped to encircle the Soviet Union (1954). To Shiite Muslims, the Shah added insult to injury, as he launched a White Revolution to westernize Iran, by allowing women to vote (1963). Islamic resistance to the Shah’s puppet regime grew, as hundreds were executed, and political opposition was banned. Following riots against the Shah, religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and other important Shiites, were exiled (1963).

The Iranian dictator became a U.S. ally. During the Arab-Israeli War (1967), Iran thwarted a brief Arab oil boycott by increasing oil production by 20%. President Nixon supported the Shah during a visit, as Iran purchased U.S. Phantom jets and SAM missiles (1972).

Opposition to the Shah grew, as protests swept through the country (1978). Iran fell under military rule, when Shiites threatened civil war. Fundamentalist uprisings finally forced the Shah to flee, allowing the Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile (1979). Scores who had backed the Shah were lined up and shot. The Ayatollah said: “Our final victory will come when all foreigners are out of the country.” He ordered women, who ventured in public, to wear veils and robes, and if they refused, they were to be called whores, and stoned. Alcohol was removed from the hotels.

A major international incident occurred when armed students took 62 American hostages at the U.S. Embassy (1979). They demanded a return the Shah, so he could be put on trial. Although four women and six blacks were freed promptly, the other 52 were held for 444 days. The UN reminded Iran of their treaty obligations to diplomatic and consular staff, and warned that international law made the taking of hostages illegal.

After a failed rescue attempt by U.S. forces, the Shah died in exile (1980), and the Iranians finally freed the hostages, one day after President Carter left office, in consideration for a release of frozen assets (1981). The International Court of Justice ruled Iran had an obligation to protect the U.S. Embassy, and they violated that duty by failing to stop the students. U.S. v Iran (1980). An Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was convened at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Holland, where financial claims for the hostages, as well as 683 others adversely affected, were settled (1981).

The U.S. then enlisted Saddam Hussein to invade Iran on the pretext the oil-rich Iranian Khuzestan Province was actually in Iraqi territory. Even though Hussein started the Iraq-Iran War (1980-88), the U.S. supported Iraq, and opposed fundamentalist Iran. Meanwhile, President Reagan simultaneously sold more than one billion in military equipment to Iran, during the so-called Iran-Contra Scandal. He did this even though Persia was labeled a terrorist state, and the sales were illegal under U.S. law.

In the war, the U.S. helped Iraq by attacking three Iranian Persian Gulf offshore oil production complexes, acts the International Court of Justice found were not justified by self-defense. Iran v U.S. (1987). The U.S. also shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, while in flight over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 defenseless passengers, including 65 infants and children. President Reagan apologized for the conduct of the USS Vincennes, and agreed to pay wrongful death damages. Iran v U.S. (1988).

The U.S. subsequently accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism, and imposed trade sanctions (1995). The Congress passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (1996). President George W. Bush named Iran a part of an axis of evil (2002). The International Atomic Energy Agency found Iran violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, triggering UN sanctions (2006). Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad defended Iran’s right to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes (2007).

Over the years, the Iranians have not forgotten Britain was a 19th Century colonial power that severed Afghanistan from them, and tried to conquer them. They know Britain took their oil from 1909 onward, and occupied their lands in WWI and WWII to guard it. When Iran seized their own natural resources in 1950, to keep the profits for themselves, they have not forgotten the 1953 CIA intervention that took out their elected leader, and made them give their oil to Western corporations, while they were forced to live under a brutal dictatorship for the next 26 years. The Iranians have not forgotten the U.S. prompted Saddam Hussein to invade their country in 1980, in an 8-year war that caused many thousands to die. They remember the attacks by the U.S. military against their facilities in the Persian Gulf, and particularly the killing of 290 defenseless civilians, when the U.S. shot down one of their passenger airliners. They are aware of Israel’s paranoia regarding nuclear weapons, and they know the U.S. will foolishly and blindly follow.

One could ask: Why would any Iranian like the U.S. or Britain? Iranians lash out against U.S. and British embassies, because they are not a superpower, and that is all they can do to vent their anger. We should all pause, and think about why the Iranians get angry at us, before we do something really foolish, like bomb or invade Iran.

09/19/2011

Palestinian State: Listen To Jimmy Carter

Since the question of a Palestinian State is heading to the UN this week, now is a good time to review the contents of former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid, (2006), which is the source of the information in this article.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine for 402 years, from 1516 through 1918. Only 30,000 Jews lived there as of 1880. In WWI, former British Prime Minister Balfour issued the Balfour Declaration (1917), promising Palestine for the Jews, if Turkey surrendered. Following Turkey’s defeat, the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate in 1922 to govern Palestine, a territory that spanned from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. As Jews from Europe moved into Palestine, their numbers grew to 150,000 by 1930, and increased another 608,000 by 1945.

Following WWII, the United Nations partitioned Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish areas in 1947, over Palestinian objection. The Arabs received only 45% of the territory, as the Jews were given 55%. Jerusalem was internationalized. Jewish groups, such as Irgun, then intensified their terrorist acts against the British, forcing them to withdraw from Palestine in 1948.

Once Britain had vacated Palestine, Israel declared independence, triggering an Arab-Israeli War (1948), in which 420 Palestinian villages were destroyed, and 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes. Under a 1949 Armistice, new borders, accepted by the UN, increased Israel to 77% of what was formerly Palestine.

In 1967, Israel started another Arab-Israel War, by launching pre-emptive strikes against Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. As Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and other areas, they forced even more Palestinians from their homes. UN Res. 242 (1967) labeled Israel’s taking of land by force a violation of international law, and ordered a withdrawal from the occupied territories. UN Res. 465 later instructed Israel to dismantle all settlements erected in the occupied areas, since 1967. When the right-wing Likud Party came to power in Israel in 1980, the construction of settlements on Arab lands simply escalated.

Although Israel finally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, to this day, they tightly control it, by denying any access by land, sea, or air.

Israel also built a Wall through the West Bank which surrounds Bethlehem and other Palestinians cities, and separates Arabs from each other. The demolition of Palestinian homes in the process violated international law, as the 4th Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from deporting civilians. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 the Wall was illegal, and ordered Israel to remove it, but Israel ignored the judges, and instead declared the Wall in 2006 to be the new Israeli-West Bank border.

The U.S. must resolve the Palestinian question, since it is a major source of anti-Americanism. Although official U.S. policy labels Israeli settlements in Palestine illegal, Israel’s friends in the media keep Americans unaware of the situation. Few Americans know that the U.S. stands alone in supporting Israel, and that the U.S. is widely condemned for supplying weapons. Carter correctly said the U.S. has squandered international prestige and goodwill, and intensified global anti-American terrorism, by unofficially condoning Israeli confiscation of Palestinian territories.

The U.S. has various forms of leverage over Israel to make them compromise. The U.S.: 1) supplies their weapons; 2) allows Israel to control economic aid to Palestine; and 3) has used the UN veto over 40 times to block resolutions critical of Israel.

Israel argues the Palestinians refuse to recognize their right to exist, but the truth is Arab states acknowledge a permanent Israel, and most Palestinians accept the reality they will never be erased from the map. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said in 1988 they would accept UN Resolutions recognizing Israel within the pre-1967 borders, and they again in a 1993 letter unequivocally recognized that Israel had a right to exist.

Israel must now comply with international law, stop colonizing Palestine, dismantle settlements, and recognize a Palestinian state. Although Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised never to exchange land for peace, Israel’s borders must return to those used from 1949 through 1967, and the Jewish state must once share the City of Jerusalem with the Palestinians.

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/09/2011

Morocco: Sultans, Sahara & Insurgents

The news reported a bomb blast at a café in Marrakech, Morocco that killed 14, and wounded 23. Although the perpetrators are not known, the bombing could be in protest of the monarchy, linked to the Western Sahara, or part of the Insurgency in the Maghreb.

A monarchy has ruled Morocco since independence (1956). Sultan Mohammed V held the throne (1957), followed by his son, King Hassan (1961). After he survived two assassination attempts (1971-72), his son, Mohammed VI, took over (1999-now).

During the recent Arab Spring (2011), Mohammed VI pledged reform, but refused to step down, or install a republic. Whether or not the recent bombing was specifically directed at the king, he should now abdicate in favor of a republican form of government.

The recent bombing could also be related to Western Sahara, a territory south of Morocco, previously governed by colonial Spain. After the UN called upon Spain to allow a vote on self-determination (1966), the Spanish instead set the area free (1975). After both Morocco and Mauritania seized Western Sahara, Mauritania gave it up, and Morocco gained sole control (1979).

The International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion as to Western Sahara (1975), saying the people there favored independence, and though there was a historic legal tie to Morocco, they had an overriding right to self-determination.

Guerillas in Western Sahara, formed a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which has since been recognized by 81 UN states, and the African Union. SADR fought Morocco, in the Western Sahara War (1975-91), until a ceasefire was monitored by a UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (1991).

Although the vote as to whether Western Sahara would become independent, or be integrated with Morocco, was set for 1992, Morocco never permitted it. Morocco should now finally allow a vote and eliminate this possible cause for domestic violence.

The third source of the recent bombing could be the Islamist Insurgency in the Maghreb (northwest Africa), which started in 2002. It includes a Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group. Since the insurgency started, there were a series of suicide bombings in Casablanca (2003), a second set of Casablanca bombings (2007), and now a deadly bombing in Marrakech (2011).

Morocco needs to work on all three issues. First, it should deal with the things it can control, and then tackle the more difficult issues. Morocco should: 1) eliminate the monarchy and replace it with a republic; 2) solve the lingering issues regarding Western Sahara, by allowing a self-determination vote; and 3) deal with Islamic groups who have been barred from the political process.

05/05/2011

Thailand’s Claim to Ancient Cambodia

Fighting broke out again last month along the frontier between Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia, over which country has the right to control certain ancient sites along their mutual border

The ancient areas were historically within the Kingdom of Siam. When Colonial France arrived, they took Cambodia (1863), and made it part of French-Indochina. As the French moved further inland, they pressured Siam to give up what is now western Cambodia, under the Franco-Thai Treaty (1904). A Boundary Commission set the border between Siam and Indochina (1904-07), and a Frenchman prepared a map that put the ancient sites in Cambodia, which they agreed to under a treaty protocol (1907). Cambodia thereafter owned the temples, pyramids and stone figures at Angkor Wat, the Preah Vihear Temple, and other sites.

When France surrendered in WWII (1940), Siam (now Thailand) invaded Cambodia in the Franco-Thai War (1940-41), and seized the ancient lands, but they had to give them back five years later, as France threatened to veto Thailand’s UN membership (1946).

After France surrendered in Vietnam (1954), they withdrew from Indochina, and Cambodia became independent. Thailand filled the void by sending troops to seize the ancient sites (1954), causing Cambodia to sue in the International Court of Justice (1959).

In Cambodia v Thailand (1962), the issue was whether the Preah Vihear Temple was inside of Thailand or Cambodia. Even though the French border map contained mistakes, and the Preah Vihear Temple should have been located on the Thai side of the border, the court found Thailand accepted the old map 50 years earlier, and ruled they were now barred from arguing otherwise.

International law has ruled upon the border, and even though Siam had the famous temples before the colonial French arrived, the world has lived by an international rule-of-law since WWII, and Thailand must now make every effort to keep the peace with Cambodia, by staying on their own side of the fence.