Thursday, December 17, 2009

History Repeats Itself, First As Tragedy, Second As FARC

With apologies to Karl Marx.

In The FARC and the 'Peace Community', Mary O'Grady writes in The Wall Street Journal about how those who claim to work for peace--don't. In this case, the example is in Colombia, from the Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Samir, a former member spoke with O'Grady:
He also told me that the supposed peaceniks who ran the local NGO were his allies and an important FARC tool in the effort to discredit the military. In a September 2003 speech, President Uribe expressed his concern about the possibility that some "human rights" groups are actually fronts for terrorists. The international left, including Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), jumped all over the Colombian president for making that claim. But Mr. Uribe's comments were supported by information gathered by Colombian intelligence. Now, testimony from Samir, and countless others who have come in from the jungle, gives Mr. Uribe's charges further backing.
When Samir describes the situation, it sounds oddly familiar:

But the peace community of San José de Apartadó, according to Samir, was not the least bit neutral. Rather, he says, the FARC had a close relationship with its leaders dating back to the early days. Samir says that the peace community was a FARC safe haven for wounded and sick rebels and for storing medical supplies. He also says that suppliers to the FARC met with rebels in the town, where there were also always five or six members of the Peace Brigades International. According to Samir, the peace community helped the FARC in its effort to tag the Colombian military as a violator of human rights. When the community was getting ready to accuse someone of a human-rights violation, Samir would organize the "witnesses" by ordering FARC members, posing as civilians, to give testimony. Edward Lancheros, a member of the peace community council, and his cohorts (including a Jesuit priest called Javier Giraldo and Gloria Cuartas, the notoriously left-wing mayor of the municipality which includes San José de Apartadó), insisted that the "peace" required that the military stay out of the area. But the paramilitary was not about to observe such a convention. When clashes between the FARC and the paras occurred, Samir says, the peace community played a key role in shaping the story for the public to lay blame on the government.
Of course, now the tactics are more sophisticated, taking on the veneer of international law. In response to the arrest warrant issued in Great Britain for former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livny, John Bolton writes:
Universal jurisdiction originated centuries ago to deal with hostes humani generis ("the enemies of all mankind") such as pirates or slavers, who were not under any state's control but legitimately concerned them all. It has grown explosively in recent years, as self-styled human-rights advocates have pushed to criminalize national actions that they find offensive. Today's version of universal jurisdiction masquerades as a legal concept, but is in fact a form of political morality. It empowers prosecutions in states with little or even no connection to alleged offenses such as war crimes and gross abuses of human rights. And in many countries, as in Britain, the ability of private citizens to trigger the criminal process only adds to the danger of politicized prosecutions. When leaders of constitutional, representative governments are targets, there is simply no argument for applying universal jurisdiction. notes the expansion of the application of Universal Jurisdiction: Universal jurisdiction originated as a justification for states taking action against conduct like piracy and slave trading that often took place outside the reach of any state. After World War II, the victors extended the principle to include war crimes so that they could conduct the Nuremberg Prosecutions and their counterparts in Japan. ...the expansion of universal jurisdiction to war crimes was an unprecedented and unprincipled act of fiat by the Allies to provide a legal fig leaf for their "victors' justice." Since then, moreover, human rights lawyers have taken the concept and run with it to include such things as torture, genocide, and the like. He also points to the accompanying problems:
First, do we really want a lone national judge in one state interfering with issues of global diplomacy? ...Second, there is a serious risk of politicization of claims premised on universal jurisdiction.
The only key difference between Bolton and Bainbridge on Universal Jurisdiction is that the the former would do away with it altogether, while the latter would apply it to the cases for which it was originally intended--such as the Somali pirates. Bolton concludes with a point that brings us back to the issue of the NGO's and the peaceniks with which we started, namely that:
human-rights activists who view their morality as higher than that of elected governments are satisfied by nothing less than prosecution. That is precisely why contemporary universal jurisdiction is so profoundly antidemocratic.
Hat tip: Augean Stables and Soccer Dad

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