Can you reconcile without forgiving?

July 27th, 2015 Comments off

19067627964_0250aeceb5_oby Elissa Al Roumi, Lebanon 

“What is forgiveness? Can you reconcile without forgiving?” this was the opening question of our last session after a four weeks Symposium. Robi Damelin stood there listening to our “scientific” answers inspired by the philosophy of conflict resolution that we’ve been dwelling on during our workshops. But we had forgotten that reconciliation and forgiveness belong to two different worlds. One is governed by the brain whereas the other lies within the heart. And while the brain can be swayed by reason, the heart only speaks the language of the soul.

The topic of the session was “dealing with trauma/ personal reconciliation”. We were expecting an Israeli to come and tell us about how she lost her son in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about the process of reconciliation she went through with the perpetrator. However, what happened next is something we did not see coming. A series of videos about the Families Circle (the organization that brings families from both sides of the conflict that have lost loved ones) and a couple of rounds of self-reflection brought the whole class to tears.


I don’t think that the drama in the videos was behind this burst. In fact, for a month, we had been discussing the problems of the world, the conflicts, the injustice and the undermining of the human value. And truth is, after this symposium, we’re going back to our countries with a toolkit of peacebuilding; some of us are going back to conflict havens and others to less dangerous areas.

Just a couple of days ago we were participating in a final simulation. It was about Beladusham, the fictional version of Syria, where we were brought back to 2013 and put in the shoes of UN ambassadors, NATO representatives, the “Beladushami” president and political leaders of the opposition as well as activists, journalists and other regional actors in the conflict.

And between mixed feelings and personality crisis, reality aroused. In a fictional state, actors were real and tensions were authentic. We were fusing our characters’ needs and interests with our identity and negotiating for our states’ interests. We were trying to bring in all the skills we’ve been learning, from R2P and nonviolent activism to negotiation skills and mediation, with the burden of human atrocities and imminent ISIB (Islamic State in Iraq and Beladusham) genocides on our shoulders. Two days of continuous talks followed by Pamela Aall’s feedback were mentally and psychologically draining. Nevertheless, they were an eye opener. Why is Syria submerged today in this vicious cycle of war? Why did the world leaders fail to reach an agreement to stop the conflict from taking this futile turn? Too many actors, conflicting interests and political and national greed were put ahead of the most important priority: the dignity of human beings. However, these leaders are human, and humans make mistakes; but sometimes failing to make concessions leads to unforgivable mistakes. So the question remains: Can we forgive them? If we ever reconcile with the perpetrators will we ever find enough love in our hearts to forgive their irreversible mistakes?

We are all human beings, with our own pasts, struggles, families, hobbies, passions, emotions and weaknesses. We want to make a change in this world because we are tired of witnessing injustice and standing still. Many times, doing nothing is more harmful than failure in intervention. And so we were one soul in the SAIS auditorium yesterday, one big family longing for peace in a world where love is struggling to plant its seeds.

I hope our tears sent a prayer to world. Because you see, we are the seeds of love. We are the change. And where there is will, there is power.

Categories: Bologna 2015 Tags:

Negotiating in an International Context

July 23rd, 2015 Comments off

Alpana Modi (Australia)

Tuesday’s session on “Negotiating in an International Context” was an eye opening experience for me. I learned the intricacies of international negotiating, and that “silence is worth more than a thousand words.” Tim Masselink, training and research fellow at Clingendael Academy, taught us strategies and tactics of successful negotiating. I learned what type of negotiator I am, and I learned the frustrations that an international negotiator faces in their profession. Most importantly I learned, in the words of Masselink, that “negotiating is an artform that can be taught as a Science.”

I used these wise words, tactics and strategies in Masselink’s exercises, in the 2-day simulation on Beladusham and I anticipate using them in the future.

In the 2-day simulation, one of the first meetings I had, as a hypothetical representative to the Saudi Arabian King, was to meet with the Iraqi and Qatari representations. During our “League of Arab States” meeting I used the strategies of a smokescreen and upper hand relationships with the UK and US to broker a deal with the Arab States that was beneficial for Saudi Arabia.

In the bilateral trade cooperation hypothetical agreement between the EU and Sylvania exercise constructed by Masselink at Clingendael I used the tactic of timing and a short deadline to my advantage to obtain high value for myself. Seeing the tactics and strategies we learned from Masselink in play and hearing from my colleague that I would “I would flourish as an international negotiator” was truly inspiring.

Other exercises included negotiating a hypothetical UN Resolution, with EU states, following the outbreak of a crisis in Algeria, and bilateral negotiations between the EU and Sylvania on a trade and cooperation agreement. With respect to the UN Resolution, member states negotiated on the wording of the evacuation of EU citizens, support for the Algerian government, development cooperation programmes for Algeria, mediation in the conflict, arms embargo, and humanitarian aid. Masselink also gave us an exercise on representing our constituents’ arguments on a hypothetical case known “Crocodile River.” Being nominated as Ambassador for my constituents, I learned the remarkable rewarding feeling for an international negotiator of advocating successfully on behalf of your constituents.

A useful exercise for IPSI class of 2015 was an exercise given by Masselink – based on the Thomas-Killmann conflict mode instrument – on determining which type of negotiator one is. The results of the exercise, although surprising to some, will definitely be a useful tool that we as future peace leaders can take home with us.

Categories: The Hague 2015 Tags:

Reconciliation: Who is it for?

July 22nd, 2015 Comments off

Kendal Jones (US)

Although scholars and practitioners in the field of post-conflict transitions tend to view reconciliation as an “obvious objective” and perhaps even the main challenge to rebuilding communities after conflict, the victims and survivors of conflict often view reconciliation programs—and in particular, those instituted or encouraged by outside actors—with bitterness and disdain. As a result, money is often poured into reconciliation efforts that are doomed to fail and perhaps even counter-productive. Dr. Valerie Rosoux, the incredible speaker tasked with beginning our third and final week of this symposium, began her discussion of memory and reconciliation with these parameters; however, she also emphasized that reframing memory and facilitating reconciliation were not impossible tasks.

Dr. Rosoux outlined three key aspects of reconciliation for us to grapple with: the meanings of reconciliation, the scope of reconciliation, and the limits of reconciliation. In our efforts to define reconciliation, we discovered that not only was there no consensus on the core conditions necessary for it to develop, but also that it was inextricably tied to other complex concepts such as forgiveness, justice, trauma, forgetting, remembrance, truth, trust, and identity.

In order to help us work through how and when to incorporate each of these ideas, Dr. Rosoux placed three categories of reconciliation on a continuum based on their intended outcomes. Structural reconciliation, which prioritizes security, economic interdependence, and political cooperation, occupied the left side of the scale, as it was closest to a “minimalist” approach. Spiritual reconciliation, which focused on the collective healing of both victims and perpetrators, was placed on the far right side of the scale as it represented a “maximalist” approach. Psychosocial reconciliation occupied the space in between the two extremes, as it emphasizes the building or rebuilding of relationships between parties.

The approaches don’t have to be at odds, however, and as we delved into the scope of reconciliation and its impact on memory, it was clear that both memory and reconciliation are fluid and multifaceted.

Memory can be individual or collective, official or unofficial, and anywhere in between. Narratives are inherently dynamic—some are more acceptable or popular than others, and some are controversial but still institutionalized. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in historical narratives and historical memory. In the context of               active conflict or in relation to past conflict, memory is especially contentious because of its potential to perpetuate, create, or mitigate animosities.

Reconciliation efforts can also perpetuate, exacerbate, or mitigate enmity—particularly if victims or survivors view such programs as an oversimplification of a complex problem. It is vital to ask who reconciliation programs are meant to serve—victims and survivors, the communities affected by conflict, and/or the international community.

Although outsiders often view reconciliation as a key priority post-conflict, other needs—such as security, economic access, and basic services—are usually considered to be more important by the local population. Furthermore, not all survivors and victims are ready or willing to participate in reconciliation processes, which can be considered a crossroads at which more guidance or coercion is necessary for those resisting reconciliation. However, the notion that there are “good victims” who cooperate and reconcile or forgive, and “bad victims” who refuse or are unable to do so, is not only unfair, but may also do a disservice to those attempting to build social trust in communities.

Perhaps one of the most important limitations of reconciliation is the term itself, which implies the repair of a previously positive relationship and excludes so-called “bad victims” who are unwilling or unable to engage with the process. My biggest takeaway from Dr. Rosoux’s lecture is the fundamental idea that reconciliation is not for everyone, and we therefore must stop treating it as though it is a panacea for a host of ills.

Dr. Rosoux used a poignant quote to illustrate the tensions surrounding reconciliation: “The truths we are looking for are actually butterflies; in trying to fix them, we kill them.”

Categories: The Hague 2015 Tags:

Memory and Reconciliation

July 22nd, 2015 Comments off

by Rachel Naguib, Egypt

19721325438_919d0f7153_oHow can we forget violent conflicts that left us psychologically devastated and our feelings full of apprehension, relief, anger and lethargy? Memory is not only a product of the past, but also a child of its time. Is memory really fragile and subject to the tides of time? Not necessarily. Dealing with momentous and iconic conflicts such as the Second World War and the Rwandan Genocide does not only shape the present but also the future of societies. Memory helps people to reflect on the past in order to remember what should be done to prevent future violence?

In today’s seminar, Dr. Valerie Rosoux asked what is reconciliation and everyone came up with his/her own definition. There is little agreement about the concept of reconciliation. Therefore, one can argue that reconciliation is a relative concept; it does not mean the same thing to all people and cultures at all times. Its obscure and controversial meanings make it difficult, but possible, for the post-conflict countries to establish reconciliation. In addition, reconciliation cannot always be appropriate following atrocities in post-conflict societies since there are different levels that should be expected in new post-conflict countries. Reconciliation is not only a goal but also a process that can take years if not decades to be implemented.

One cannot impose reconciliation but rather supporting every step of the peace process. I believe that one of the most important steps is to address and to face historical grievances. In other words, it is better to open up the festering wounds to cleanse them instead of leaving a scar that will always be engraved in our minds and hearts. It might hurt during the first phase, however, people will feel much better and will be able to live in harmony. Does pain have to be strong enough in order to have reconciliation as a peace building process? No! It is possible to work on memories and demobilize the mind to establish reconciliation and prevent conflicts.


Another important step in order to live in harmony with the ‘other’ is to share a single history narrative between the conflict parties. Narratives about the ‘other’ play a crucial role in reconciliation.  Who is the other? The other can be the enemy to fight, a child to educate or a barbarian to civilize. Language matters; the use of particular words and terms means something. Constructive languages that produce specific representation of the ‘other’ can be elaborated, reproduced and managed, though this does not necessarily occur in the real world. These narratives can continue until today to have an impact within and between societies. The creation of a narrative by either erasing embarrassing past or accentuating some aspects of it can create tensions, hatred and violence.

Memory does not say a lot of things about the past, but rather the ‘now and here’!  Reconciliation is a crucial dimension not only in post-conflict countries but also in conflict prevention. A conflict survivor expressed his feelings through a poem that became a rallying cry for reconciliation and peace. He said:

Give back my father, give back my mother,
Give grandpa back, grandma back,
Give our sons and daughters back!
Give me back myself, give mankind back,
Give each back to each other!

So long as this life lasts,
Give peace back to us,
Peace that will never end!

Categories: Bologna 2015 Tags:

At which point does the Security Council feel that military intervention in a crisis is necessary?

July 21st, 2015 Comments off

by Rose Julia Wanjiru, Kenya 


The speaker of the day was Hon. Gareth Evans, an expert in state diplomacy from his experience as an Australian Foreign Minister and President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, just to mention a few of the positions that he has held. He is an avid advocate for the states’ responsibility to protect and was a co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty which produced a report in 2001 on the responsibility to protect.

The aforementioned 2001 report re-characterized the right to sovereignty whereby sovereignty is not to be taken as control but as responsibility in both internal functions and external duties of a state. The right of responsibility was taken as encompassing the right to act, to prevent and to build. In the responsibility to protect, military intervention has to be justified and it comes as a last option after all other diplomatic avenues have been explored and exhausted.

Military intervention as a form of responsibility is the one that is mostly taken with caution as it interferes with the United Nations Charter Article 1(7) on state sovereignty. However, the point at which the military intervention is applied, greatly differs. The use of military intervention can be legitimized after the following threshold conditions have been satisfied:

  1. Seriousness of harm; is the situation clearly serious to justify prima facie use of force
  2. Proper purpose where there is clarity in the primary use of military action
  3. Last resort; after all other coercive non-military options have been explored
  4. Proportionality which is taking an appropriate response to a threat and ensuring that the humanitarian aspect is maintained
  5. Balance of consequences; is the military action going to do more harm than good?IMG_7603

In as much as states try to avoid genocide from reoccurring, and the fact that there are steps to follow before military action is sanctioned by the Security Council, the question still remains as to when a crisis has escalated to a point of needing military intervention.

In the Libyan uprising, the military intervention was sanctioned by the Security Council after Colonel Gaddafi called people in Benghazi “cockroaches” that would be “exterminated”; words that were familiar and often used during the genocide in Rwanda. Even though the threshold conditions were satisfied, the military action was approved soon after the utterances by Gaddafi, maybe from the fear of a repeat of Rwanda in 1994. This was then followed by the mission changing while on course from a strictly humanitarian aspect to that of a regime removal creating distrust within the Security Council.

The current situation in Burundi is a clear enough example to justify use of force, whereby the military action, as a last option, would be to stop the conflict that has escalated to an almost genocidal point. The use of sanctions and use of other diplomatic measures would not be effective where most of the conflict is sudden and sporadic, and between “civilian” members of a community. Trusting that the government will be able to handle the matter in a humane way is clearly not an option at this time as the said government cannot offer protection to its people that are being slaughtered and it is also responsible for the instability in the country. Considering that the current situation was ignited by Pierre Nkurunziza’s declaration that he wanted to go for an extra presidential term, the neighboring East African countries have refused to intervene in the matter as it might be a future political precedent where political leaders can try to change the constitution of their countries by adding extra terms in their leadership

Some would ask whether the military action would do more harm than good. I believe that it would be better than waiting to sanction it when it might be too late. Or do we need people to be called “cockroaches” that must be “exterminated” for the Security Council to act?

For the Burundian case and all the conflicts arising, the question remains; when does the Security Council feel military intervention is necessary?

Categories: Bologna 2015 Tags:

When “Divine Love” breaks common ground between Christians and Muslims

July 21st, 2015 Comments off

by Pierre Ahoure,  Côte d’Ivoire/Australia

19713109995_c04abbc12b_oOn Wednesday 15, and Thursday 16, July 2015, trainers Michael Shipler and Rajendra Mulmi coached the Peacemakers at the 2015 Bologna Symposium, to search for common ground during conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation.

On the first day of July 15, 2015, numerous metaphors were used to reflect on the strategies that peacemakers use. One of these was a conflicting 6 and 9 positions which IPSI delegates were to study. Whilst one person can read 6 from one end, the other person will read 9 from the other, but inverted positions still give 6 and 9 reading to each person. This exercise showed how a facilitators ought to focus on the “facts” in conflict rather than a perception, in the search for common ground.

A game of coloured dots; red, blue, green and orange were put on the delegate’s foreheads with instructions of behaving in certain ways towards other players identified with different colours. For example, all forehead doted members were to ignore and NOT talk to the red doted forehead members. The essence of this simulation was for all of us to experience how discrimination and stereotyping can often distort the judgement of peacemakers, in the search for common ground.

The most memorable exercise of the day for me; was learning by watching the steps taken to facilitate the mediation by consensus building in a video titled: The Imam and the Pastor, (1990), by Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashaf, in the following YouTube video

In this video, a novel lesson about Islam teaching marked the turning point of the search for common ground. This was announced by Imam Ashaf in the following terms:

“You have the right to take revenge … however the Quran teaches us otherwise. Prophet Muhammad in Macca, was persecuted. He was humiliated. Sent out [from the mosque], he went to the city of Taif … to preach but they gathered the youths to stone him … until blood was flowing over his body and the Angel came and said oh you prophet of God … do you want me to destroy these people – NO said Muhammad forgive my own people.”

Prophet Muhammad hence, made a plea to the Angel of God, to spare the lives of those who stoned him. In so doing Muhammad demonstrated in the view of Ashaf that LOVE of fellow human beings, must be the central teaching of Islam and the Koran.

Similarly, in the Bible, Jesus states in John 13-34: “a new command I give you: Love one another As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

These two messages of a divine LOVE from the founders of the two religions appeared in my view to be the central lesson of the day that broke the common ground between Christians and Muslims in the conflict which pitched Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, and which resulted in numerous deaths in both communities.


The acknowledgement by Imam Ashaf of Prophet Muhammad’s response became a turning point to his feelings of revenge towards the Christians, and led to the success of the reconciliation between the two divided Christian and Muslim communities.

On the second day of 16 July 2015, our journey in search for common ground led us to role-play a simulation about a building of a mosque near the site of 9/11 in New York.

The results of our simulation showed equally that the tensions between various religious movements is still very much a “sensitive” issue. The group that I facilitated concluded that whatever outcome arrived at by the religious communities leaders in the conflict about the building of a mosque near the site of 9/11 would be, we hope, guided by the memories of thousands of people whose lives were lost on the very day of 9/11.

Categories: Bologna 2015 Tags:

Paved with Good Intentions

July 20th, 2015 Comments off

Kate Kranz Jordan (USA - Allied Joint Force Command, Naples/US Naval Forces Europe/Africa, ISAF, United States Naval Academy)

At the end of the second week of the symposium, we set out to resolve a number of the complex and interconnected challenges bedeviling the Wardak Province in today’s Afghanistan. Armed with myriad useful tools and historical wisdom gained from the first fortnight of the symposium, we were thrown into a simulated version of the post-conflict situation in this province.

Leading this exercise were Kevin Melton and Justin Richmond, both seasoned practitioners in an array of post-conflict situations.  Justin comes from a military background and has served in the field in China, South Korea and the Philippines.  As a civilian, Justin worked for USAID in Afghanistan.  He is now the founder and executive director of IMPL; a data-driven non-profit firm focused on improving humanitarian stabilization by rigorously documenting successes and failures in the field for scholarly publication of theories. His work also involves mentoring local civil society groups in best-practice data usage, advocating for data-driven programming, collaboration, transparency, and cross-sectoral solutions, sponsoring research and development and training the next generation of field practitioners.  Kevin deployed as a civilian to the very kinetic Southern Afghan province of Arghandab as part of USAID’s OTI District Stabilization Initiative. He has also served as a governance and development advisor to the commanding generals of ISAF forces in Kabul.  He is now back in DC, heavily involved in international development and policy.

Kevin and Justin designed a simulation for the symposium participants, which, in phases, very closely mirrored a real-world environment.  We were broken into eight clusters, based on our individually expressed interests that represented various sectors of development: governance, rule of law, security, infrastructure, health, education and economic growth/livelihoods. We were provided with a robust information package, explaining the situation in Wardak on all levels: from the Taliban’s involvement in government to citizens’ access to fresh drinking water.  Each cluster was tasked, in the first two hours – simulated to represent 30 days – to develop proposals for their sector’s programs given the background information and specific data provided.

So there we were: fifty motivated, passionate problem solvers in eight clusters facing one extremely challenging task. Or was it eight separate tasks? What was the overarching objective here? How could I ensure that my group comes up with something brilliant and achieves success by the end of the simulation?  We enthusiastically dove into our groups and brainstormed with fervor: in 8 individual groups.

After “30 days,” we were provided with data that revealed some disappointing news for a few of the individual projects we were planning.  A few hints from the facilitators reminded us that perhaps we would want to chat with the other clusters to see if we could collaborate in certain areas. Well intended, ad hoc discussions commenced.

Between “days 30 and 60” we started learning to collaborate more because some of our data was revealing both gaps in focus (“I thought that was more of a task for another group”) and redundancies of effort.  Some of the decisions we wanted to make had 2nd and 3rd order effects we hadn’t thought about and we had to use the expertise and resources of the other groups to try to sort through these new problems.

We learned a lot about how wicked problems can create a great deal of emotional investment, and that we, as passionate and well-intended people, react strongly when we are invested.  We have to ensure that our good intentions going in are flexible enough to take into account the realities of the situation and that they have good implications when we are on our way out.

By the end of the simulation, it was obvious that, somehow, we had to work together to achieve success. Resistance to collaboration comes from competition and a desire to achieve success….but who are we succeeding for?  For ourselves? For our groups? For our donors? No, we were reminded: success is measured by the local community you are there to serve.  Moreover, success cannot be achieved FOR them, it must be achieved BY them. Projects must have practical applications and be productive and useful to the population in the long term.  Just because something seems like a good idea in (insert applicable state or provincial capitol here), it is not necessarily a good idea on the ground.  They have to want it, they have to build it, and they have to sustain it – regardless of what we think we want for them.

Justin said it several times: be humble and curious.  By keeping this advice in mind, perhaps we can ensure that the roads we build are paved with more than just good intentions.

Categories: The Hague 2015 Tags:

The Peace Process Cycle and Managing a Mediation Process

July 20th, 2015 Comments off

by Alice Dean, Canada

IMG_7575Dr. Joyce Neu, the Founder and Senior Associate of Facilitating Peace and a former Team Leader of United Nations’ Standby Team of Mediation experts, continued her lecture with us on Tuesday, June 14th. She imparted a wealth of knowledge to us about managing a mediation process and how to conduct a peace process using the “Peace Process Cycle,” a helpful concept she shared with us. Dr. Neu taught us about the six-step process in managing a mediation process using a framework provided by Amy L. Smith and David R. Smock. Some of the steps include: ensuring that you assess the conflict and conduct a good cultural assessment, finding out who the primary and secondary parties of the conflict are, and assessing people’s wants and needs and what they hope to get out of the conflict. Without conducting a proper procedure prior to managing a mediation process, you can’t effectively devise a meaningful peace process. One of the biggest takeaways that I experienced from her lecture is that even though you can ensure you are following every step in the six step process, it is difficult and almost impossible to ever truly be ready to manage and facilitate a mediation process, but it is essential to make sure you are prepared.

19503562819_353222c8c1_o Following that advice, we prepared ourselves for the case study simulation for the fictional failed state known as Gloccamora. The Republic of Gloccamora for the purposes of this case study was a fictional country with a whole host of issue ranging from violence, to sectarian clashes, corruption, electoral fraud, and many other structural problems. Our task as a group was to engage in a successful peace process cycle and brainstorm an effective framework in order to plan an effective mediation process so that the fictional republic of Gloccamora could someday achieve peace. Our group of six people decided on a matrix framework with which to engage in the peace process cycle. This enabled us to have a visual aid in order to lay out the specific details and requirements of Dr. Neu’s phases of the peace process cycle which included: pre-talks, talks, agreement, and implementation. Working together as a team we were able to cultivate a plan that would help us manage the mediation process and allow us to configure a process that would help the Gloccamorans live in more stable and peaceful conditions. Dr. Neu asked all groups to present our frameworks and findings to the class. She then proceeded to give each of our groups constructive and helpful feedback in order to assess whether our frameworks would work in a real-life mediation management process. This was incredibly beneficial because it allowed us to contemplate and evaluate how we would conduct the aforementioned process in a practical and tangible way.

Overall, Dr. Neu’s extensive knowledge demonstrated through comprehensive lectures and practical tools for managing mediations, helped me and my fellow Bologna Symposium participants understand the peace process better and allowed us to hone in on our individual and teamwork skills. I will remember Dr. Neu’s lectures and exigent conflict simulations for a long time to come.

Categories: Bologna 2015 Tags:

Conceptualization to Application: Reflections on a Week Exploring International Criminal Justice Mechanisms

July 17th, 2015 Comments off

jennifer blog pic

Jennifer MacNeill (US)

It is one thing to sit in a classroom for weeks, months – years even, and learn about concepts such as “restorative and retributive justice”, “frameworks”, and “alternatives to state building”…It is another to combine this knowledge with hands on practicums and visit institutions where these concepts are applied.

The week started with spending the day with Julie Fraser and Professor Tom Zwart. During these sessions we examined and discussed the concepts of “restorative and retributive justice” through discussion and two film screenings. “The Court”; a film which follows Luis Moreno Ocampo, the first Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC); highlights various challenges he and his colleagues face at the ICC in the pursuit and prosecution of war criminals.

The second documentary we viewed focused on the civilian impact of international justice and the efforts of reconciliation. “Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness”, narrates the journey of groups from three different conflicts: Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda, all who are survivors of conflict and are trying to work towards reconciliation and forgiveness, however they define that process. The film addressed these questions: “How do whole societies recover from devastating conflict? Can survivors live converse, smile, and even laugh beside someone who blinded them, killed their parents, or murdered their children? Can victims and perpetrators work together to rebuild their lives?” There are no concrete answers to these questions, but it is very helpful to witness the possibility and progress through these peoples’ experiences.

Later we moved to examine the current tension between the ICC and the African Union (AU) by examining this question: “Is the deterioration of the relationship between the ICC and the AU a result of power politics or neocolonialism?’’ This, of course, is a very contentious question, but still an important one to examine in an academic setting. The question of a bias against Africa is extremely controversial with both sides firmly affirming the validity of their perspective.

We discussed many non-disputable facts that contribute to the idea that the ICC is not targeting the African states: almost a third of ICC member states are African; five Heads of State have requested ICC intervention; and several of the senior positions within the ICC are held by Africans, including the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. We also discussed how the 1998 Rome Statute proves obtaining jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute is difficult to obtain, especially if a member state is not party to the Rome Statute.

On the contrary, the idea was raised that the ICC was “created in a colonial framework”. For instance, the Revised Coutonou Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Africa-Caribbean & Pacific states formally links aid to ICC ratification; a condition not likely to impact more developed (and influential) countries such as the U.S., Russia, and China. Revisiting this information, and hearing some for the first time, calls into question one’s pre-conceived notions about international justice mechanisms, such as the ICC. In one sense, I left the day believing that ICC was fairer and more valid than I previously thought.

But in another sense, I was left with more questions. Is it possible to enforce an international judicial mechanism that is globally “fair”, and by fair I mean all states are subject to accountability, regardless of having ratified the treaty? The idea of “universal jurisdiction” was advocated for at great lengths during the Assembly of States Parties conference held at the United Nations last December, and is a topic heavily debated and advocated for against in many circles. Will this eventuality ever be realized? And more importantly, will it be agreed upon by all states? What incentives will encourage “super powers” such as the US, Russia, China, and other important international actors to ratify the treaty? What are incentives that are preventing them from ratifying?

Obviously there are no clear answers. I believe if you were to ask ten people, you would get a variety of steadfast, determined opinions on the matter.

Fast forward a few days, our focus turned to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). Our Monday, Bill Stuebner – former Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the ICTY, and Kemal Pervanic – producer of the documentary Pretty Village and survivor of the notorious Omarska concentration camp, presented an informative and personal account of their experiences of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the Tribunal’s successes and failures. Armed with these insights, we visited the ICTY the following day which enabled us to see the principles of international justice mechanisms put into practice.

Upon arriving at the Tribunal, we were ushered through the multiple security points and into the grand main entrance area of the court building. We were then seated in the courtroom viewing area, where we watched the morning’s proceedings of the trial against Ratko Mladic, Colonel General and former Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska. Mladic is on trial for five counts of crimes against humanity, four violations of the laws or customs of war and two counts of genocide. These charges include his participation in the joint criminal enterprise (JCE) to eliminate Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995, when approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. During this hearing, we were privy to the cross examination of a defense witness, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Krajina Corps, Bosko Kelecevic, where we witnessed first-hand how everything matters in a court room, from tone, to pronunciation, to verification of facts.

Mladic himself seemed composed, tired, and dare I say it bored, glancing over at us in the viewing gallery a few times and staring. He in fact, closed out the session with a wave in our direction, an action tinged by defiance, as he was quickly reprimanded for breaking the rules.

This past week has challenged all of our pre-conceived beliefs, notions, and understandings of international justice mechanisms, restorative and retributive justice, state building, and building frameworks for transitions. I am incredibly grateful to be amongst the 40+ participants, hailing from an impressive 24 countries. The perspectives everyone contributes has just inspired, humbled, and enlightened me, and I truly wouldn’t change this experience for the world; no matter how perplexing these topics can be at times.

I am honored to be amongst world changers and peace makers here in The Hague, a group of people who are willing to push boundaries, examine the tough questions, and be in a constant state of inquiry and reflection; all with hopes to impact the world for the better.

Categories: The Hague 2015 Tags:

Prosecutorial Strategies in an International Context

July 17th, 2015 Comments off

Ojo Osaigbovo (Nigeria/Australia)

The debate regarding the efficacy of punitive versus restorative justice has been an increasingly central one in global political discourse. As a proponent of a punitive form of post-war transitional justice mechanism, I found Professor Crane’s lecture at the Hague Symposium as a watershed approach towards creating a hybrid and well-planned punitive justice mechanism.

Professor Crane was the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  The learned prosecutor’s accomplishments in prosecuting atrocity criminals in Sierra Leone were introduced by two IPSI participants – Alyssa Hogg and Alpha Barrie – who spoke about how Professor Crane played an inspirational role in their decision to work within the peacebuilding field. There is no doubt to anyone that the proudest moment of the class was when we noticed that one of the young students that had attended Professor Crane’s outreach program in Sierra Leone 10 years ago, was in fact Alpha.  I am sure Professor Crane would have seen Alpha as the product of a free and peaceful Sierra Leone.

Professor Crane started by reminding participants that ‘Justice is for the victims’; and  ‘there is an ethical duty to seek justice for the victims’. The participants of the 2015 Hague Symposium were expecting a lecture on Sierra Leone and Liberia, the building of a UN intervention, how the Special Court was structured, the challenges of indicting warlords and the risk of prosecuting those who bore the greatest responsibility. Professor Crane explained the reason behind the Special Court for Sierra Leone, its organs, and formation in a manner that was refreshing, stimulating and the depth of these issues in practicality was astounding.

The former prosecutor emphasised the importance of international laws and the fundamental Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was the platform used in prosecuting leaders like Charles Taylor, the first Head of State to be tried in Africa. David Crane also highlighted root causes of the conflict in Africa, which he attributed to colonialism; where weak government and institutions create frustration that causes civil unrest.  Colonialism and ethnic division are indicators of impending atrocities, where economic stress, religious intolerance and countries that cannot hold elections later leads to conflict.

Professor Crane emphasised that politics, culture and diplomacy should never be ignored in the context of the international law; that there is a price to pay whenever it is overlooked. Politics and diplomacy for instance, play a key role in outreach programs to local afflicted communities, and in developing support among Head of States in respective countries to assist in the prosecution. David Crane mentioned the importance of having a sensible prosecutorial strategy that plans well ahead of the indictment, helps to manage expectations, and builds an office comprised of experienced practitioners who can assess the challenges and risk that are needed to have a positive outcome. Such a strategy is linked to his operational justice strategy that enabled the surprise arrest of the thirteen indictees in Sierra Leone.

Professor Crane’s success in Africa – where many in similar positions have failed – could be attributed to the prosecutorial strategy and the powerful outreach program. The SCSL’s outreach was instrumental in building ties and trust with the locals which was evidenced by the support from the citizens during the three years in Sierra Leone. Professor Crane was able to weather the storm of malaria, cholera, and other parasites that are common in Africa.  This showed commitment and relentless effort to prosecute those who bore the greatest responsibility for the civil war.

Professed Crane provided an excellent overview of transitional justice. One of the key insights he imparted was that “Freedom should always come first which then provides an environment for good governance thereby establishing rule and order.’’ This should then be followed by a pathway for democratic governance if this model is chosen by the people of the respective country. However, democracy must not be imposed on any country. He also spoke of the important role restorative justice played in Sierra Leone. As Professor Crane put it, local elders allowed and accepted the integration of child soldiers into their communities after confession and forgiveness; that this was justice too.

The final session of the class, IPSI participants held a simulation that resembled the typical UN-Security Council mode of operation. All participants found this helpful in understanding the frustrations and gridlock facing the current UN-Security Council. Overall, I found Professor Crane to be inspirational speaker. In particular, the concepts that the professor taught us will surely be etched in our memory as we continue to advocate for a peaceful and fairer world.

Categories: The Hague 2015 Tags: