Friday, March 30, 2007

What’s International Law worth to you?

Looking at the debacle the world seems to have its self in; one might say that international law is either a thing of mystery, or inconsequential to the worlds’ dictators and rules. Is this really the case? International law is violated by leaders all over the world, to be sure. The US still refuses to join the ICC based on unfounded claims of the potential for politically motivated cases being brought against it, joined, I might add, by countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan and China- and what great role models they turned out to be. This however has not stopped the other 100 or so countries now signatory to its Statute, the latest of which is Yemen. Anti-personnel mines are sold by China to Sudan who seems to be ignoring every law concerning internal-conflict. The special court in Sierra Leone, The International Criminal Tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia are also proof that international law has been violated and ignored. The cases of violations go on, much too numerous to know and list here. Is there any hope then, for the further development and compliance of international law?

One of my professors said something in class the other night that I have spent the following days thinking about. He said that the documents and briefs written by the Attorney General and other White House (stooges) officials on the ‘legality’ and rational of the Iraq War and Guantanámo and recently aired BBC TV movies about indicting Tony Blair on violations of international law, is an indication that international law has become a matter of importance to the public and also indicates the need for governments to follow it, or at least to be appearing to follow it. My professor made the point that 50 years ago one would not have found briefs written on the legality of national and foreign policies or entering into a war. The fact that the BBC airs segments devoted to the entertainment and edification of the viewing public based on their leaders actions and possible violations of international law indicates a change in public knowledge and or opinion. The public wants legitimacy. They want their leaders to follow the law. The general public knows what the Geneva Conventions are and when Attorney General Gonzolas calls them “quaint” an out roar of many can be heard. Even if the US currently refuses to sign and ratify the Statute of the ICC, it did, at least at one time, recognize the need for an international court. The US was a major participant in the writing of the Rome Statute despite its current meandering of international law. I think it does go to show that international law is not an obscure idea but a real point of issue and belief for the international community, for both its leaders and citizens.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Last year I mentioned in a blog entry that Zimbabwe had over 1,000% inflation rate. Well here is another gem of information – For its report to the African Commission (submitted six years late) the country of Zimbabwe’s 1992 report was “a shameless copy of the annual United States Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices between 1986 and 1991. The U.S. reports were plagiarized verbatim in some parts and in other areas poorly edited where strong “negative” statements were made regarding the status of, in particular, civil and political rights” (Patrick Tiger “State Reporting to the African Commission: The Case of Zimbabwe” Journal of African Law, Vol. 38, No. 1 (1994) pgs. 64-66). I literally laughed out loud when I read this. Now that is a very sad statement for a state’s human rights record not to mention ethical mentality when a national report handed to an international legal body is nothing more than a botched photocopy of anther states human rights analysis of your state! The U.S. suddenly looks glowingly honest, compared to Zimbabwe at least.

As a side note-
The life expectancy for men in Zimbabwe is 34 years.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reflections and comments from a law student.

Studying International Law, and specifically Human Rights law at that, in another country has been more than a unique experience. It should be no surprise that the United States comes up quite often within class discussions and relevant readings in books, journal articles and court cases. This has put me in an interesting position – feelings wise. I am an American, for better or worse. There is nothing I can do about it and on a good day I might even be proud of that fact. After all, in my country woman can vote, hold public office, become ministers, there are child labor laws, social services, widely entertaining tv shows and movies, a free independent media (for the most part, Fox news being the exception and according to J.S. CNN as well), the rule of law and an independent judiciary among other things. However, compare us with Europe’s social net and the millions of Americans living without medical care/insurance suddenly looks more than disconcerting. Then examine the legal black hole that the U.S. has created- better known as Guantánamo Bay, as well as the fact that we have yet to sign or resign our names to the International Criminal Court (nevermind that we thought it was a great idea and even were large participators in the drafting of the Rome Statute), or the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Those minor details coupled with the fact that we have had significant questionable participation in coups around the world in the form of arming, training and funding. The other obvious examples of clear negligence and questionability would also be Darfur, Rwanda, and Iraq (again to only name a few).

I do not think that my nationality should be something to be ashamed of yet I do find myself a little embarrassed at times. I hope if anything though, that my studying abroad, pursuing Human Rights and not looking nor acting (I hope) as though I just walked out of some Hollywood movie set will give some indication to those I meet and encounter that not all Americans are the ones they see portrayed on TV or read about in the news. There are people back home, as well as all around the world, who do not fit into that stereotype of a loud mouthed, ignorant, gun toting, hypocritical American. So this leaves me with an awkward feeling when in classes someone brings up yet another example of American influence gone awry. I should mention that Europe has its own list of dark deeds. Yes, my country isn’t great. But it is my home, it’s the culture that has raised me for better or worse and it is where I place my allegiance and hope to return one day to make the slightest of impacts for a better future for each citizen of humanity.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Well, Im in the home stretch now. I feel completely over whelmed with it all. I am happy to see the end is in sight but freak'd out with all that I still have yet to accomplish before that end comes. I have begun the much anticipated and highly nerve-racking process of job searching. I widened my search to include D.C., from the original list of London, Geneva, Bath and most of Africa. I am increasingly finding my lack of experience to be a big issue. This sadly however, does not come as a surprise.

Before I even find this wonderful first real job, I must write two paper proposals, four papers, a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. Not to mention I will be entertaining a guest for a week, and flying to Switzerland twice between now and the end of May.

I am constantly reminding myself to have faith through this all. "I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" - Jeremiah 29:11. After all, I am in England and I am well on my way to receiving a LLM Human Rights degree and there has been many a time when it looked quite questionable if any of that would happen. It will all work out one way or another... in the end.