Tag Archive | "civil war"

The Road Ahead for Colombia, as FARC Agrees to Peace

Photo Credit: Fernando Vergara/AP

Photo Credit: Fernando Vergara/AP

The Western Hemisphere has reason to celebrate… The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia finally agreed to end the longest running armed conflict of the Americas.  Colombia’s Marxist FARC (“Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia”) rebel group began as a peasant uprising against the national government in 1964.  The group’s ideologies encompass Marxism, the antithesis of capitalism, and advocates for values such as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  Colombia’s President, Juan Manuel Santos, has been in negotiations with the group for the past four years.  Although the peace accord has Santos’ blessing and FARC’s acquiescence, the Columbian nation will keep its fingers crossed that voters approve the deal in a national referendum.

The peace agreement will wrap up over a half a century of conflict, close to a quarter of a million deaths, and over 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the ravaged nation.  (Some estimates of the FARC conflict even have the number of IDPs in Colombia upwards of 8 million.)  The controversial peace pact will grant rebel combatants amnesty for any and all crimes committed during conflict.  This reality is painful for many in the country who’ve witnessed FARC forces thrive though kidnapping, extortion, and involvement in illicit drug trade.  Additionally, the accord will allow rebel forces to form a political party and seek political office.

The deal will also have a profound impact on Columbia’s illegal narcotics industry as it requires farmers to destroy coca plants- the source of cocaine manufacturing.  This land will then be redistributed to former FARC rebels and facilitate new crop industries directed towards job creation on their behalf.  As FARC forces step down from cocaine trading, an event anticipated with both optimism and skepticism, this begs the question of who may be waiting in the wings of the jungle to claim control of the lucrative drug crop which supplies about 60 percent of the world’s cocaine.  After all, these billions of acres of emerald green coca crops have brought in $2.4B – $3.5B annually for the FARC organization, and that is not an effortless surrender.

Arguably its greatest accomplishment, the peace agreement calls for the release of child soldiers.  The first group of minor ex-militants was released to the Red Cross this past week, with FARC leaders stating “We the FARC believe that the outing of minors from war zones is only the first step towards a better future for new generations.”  The Colombian army estimates that roughly half of its soldiers became FARC combatants as children.  This relentless recruitment of children over the past fifty-plus years constitutes egregious abuse to the minors’ innocence, in violation of several human rights conventions, and is recognized as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  In 2000, the world’s first international treaty focused on ending the military exploitation of minors came into being- OPAC, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The treaty prohibits the conscription of children under the age of 18 and their participation in hostilities. It also prohibits the voluntary recruitment of children by non-state armed groups, although it allows state armed forces to recruit from age 16, as long as the children recruited are not sent to war. However, the promise of peace may not be the end of struggle for these “child soldiers,” but rather a different beginning as it will be the first time some of the insurgents have surrendered arms in their lifetime.  Furthermore, the former soldiers will likely need appropriate DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration) programs to facilitate their successful re-entry into a society of post-conflict peace- without arms.

If history has taught us anything, it is that violence begets violence.  While the ceasefire may be a wonderful beginning to peace within Colombia, there are still many ancillary hurdles that the nation will need to overcome as a unified front.  Nonetheless the peace accord is a giant step towards an end of possibly not acceptance, but certainly understanding, between Santos’ government, FARC forces, and the nation’s people.  It is an agreement that highlights the country’s determination and cooperation… and most deserving of the world’s respect and praise.

Tahli Salem is a third year law student and staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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A Bittersweet Ending to the Longest Civil War in Latin America: Colombia-FARC

Photo Credit: Federico Rios/Native - NYTimes

Photo Credit: Federico Rios/Native – NYTimes

Colombia has struggled for decades to combat the illegal drug trade, terrorism, and violence that FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) has contributed to since 1966. Known for being one of the richest guerrilla armies in the world,  FARC has approximately 8,000 rebel fighters that control many rural areas in the south and eastern portions of the country. Most of the economic support for this guerrilla group comes from the illegal drug trade, profits from high profile kidnappings, extortion, and “taxes” it collects from those individuals who reside in areas that they control.

Many administrations have tried to bring peace to Colombia by eradicating, fighting, and even negotiating with FARC, none of which have been successful until President Juan Manuel Santos came into office. On August 24, 2016, the Colombian government announced a cease fire peace deal with FARC rebels, putting an end to the 50-year conflict. In the same peace deal, the FARC agreed to set free the children soldiers they kidnapped and enslaved to serve in its army.

But what did Colombia and its government really have to sacrifice in order to strike this peace deal? FARC is known to have committed massacres, kidnapped, extorted, and forced children into labor and servitude. These crimes are internationally condemned. However, now that this treaty will be put in place, those FARC members who will confess to their crimes, will get reduced sentences, in many instances community service. Is community service a fair punishment for those who have committed human rights violations for 50 years?

Colombian Ex-President doesn’t seem to think so. Alvaro Uribe, has publicly criticized the cease-fire as an amnesty and has accused President Santos of being a traitor. Part of this criticism is rooted in the idea that the peace deal seeks to reintegrate FARC members into society and transition members from war-mongering guerrillas to a peaceful political movement. Can that be classified as impunity? President Santos claims that the individuals responsible for violent crimes will receive punishment commensurate with the crimes they committed. That is yet to be seen.

A large percent of the Colombian population seems to be in favor of the deal. However, a point of contentious negotiations that has not been agreed to, has been FARC surrendering its control of drug trafficking in the region. As the United States State Department has illustrated, FARC is responsible for the production and distribution of several tons of cocaine entering the U.S. every year.

The world continues to watch the negotiations and execution of this peace deal. Those who are watching closely, are human rights watch groups and foreign administrations looking to see if this deal amounts to impunity for human rights violations.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, DJILP Staff, Sandra OrtegaComments (0)

The Migrant Crisis: A Test of European Coherence?

By Alexandra Esmel

Europe is facing one of its largest refugee crisis since the end of the Second Word War. Violent conflicts in the Middle East (mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan) and in Sub-Saharan Africa (mostly from Eritrea, Somalia) have generated the flight of thousands of men, women and children from war zones, persecutions and/or extreme poverty. The impact of these conflicts is ever increasing on the civilian’s side hence, the large number of displaced (forced or voluntary) civilians into foreign countries. The wealth of Europe where most members have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention have made it an attractive choice for these persons looking for a safe place to stay. Whether legal or illegal, for economic or humanitarian reasons, migration towards the EU is nothing new, however the numbers of migrants reaching the EU or dying trying is now too high not to make the news.hhh

The right of free movement of the persons within the Schengen is a sacrosanct element of the European Union and raise the crisis to a supranational level. However, as the crisis escalated, the EU has lacked of steadfastness in comparison with its individual members which in turn led to important disparities in the way the crisis is handled.

Italy was the first member of the EU to respond to the humanitarian crisis of migrants with the Operation Mare Nostrum in 2013. Italy carried out its own rescue and search missions from its borders all the way to the coast of Libya.  The operation was unfortunately discontinued after the Italian request for additional funds to other EU Member States remained unsuccessful. Operation Mare Nostrum was then replaced by the EU Frontex mission which contrary to its predecessor only aims at securing the European borders. In 2015 alone, more than 300, 000 persons in distress illegally reached Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in hope of safer and better lives.

Up north, the Western Balkans route (via Turkey; Greece then Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, etc…) is also one the busiest routes to the EU. More importantly, many refugees and economic migrants call upon the services of unscrupulous smugglers who charge them thousands of dollars for a life-threatening trip to their final destination by sea and/or land.

They embark on a very long and very dangerous journey to reach Europe by sea and land, risking everything they have: their lives and that of their families coming along. In August 2015, Austrian authorities made the macabre discovery on a highway of 71 dead corpses of migrants (assumed to be from sub-Saharan Africa) locked in an abandoned truck.  Before that, in 2013, a boat carrying more or less than 500 African migrants sank by the coast of Italy by Lampedusa. An outraging number of 360 persons died and 155 were rescued by the Italian navy. At the time of writing of this article, the humanitarian crisis is intensifying, the UNCHR has called on governments to strengthen rescue operations, provide swift access to asylum procedures for those in need of protection, and offer legal alternatives to dangerous sea crossings. The UN Agency also estimated that 3,500 persons died in 2014 as a result of the crisis.

As it has been demonstrated with Operation Mare Nostrum, leaving one country to deal with the influx of migrants in the hope that it will fade away is a mistake (Italy and now Hungary). By law, every non-EU country person must register in the first European country they set foot in to initiate the appropriate immigration status procedure, may it be that of an asylum seeker or of an economic migrant. Hence, the clogging of small countries of entry to the EU such as Slovenia (2 million inhabitants) or Hungary (10 million inhabitants).

Hungary, the first state in the Schengen zone for migrants traveling via the Western Balkans route, just built a fence on its border with Serbia (not in the Schengen zone) to prevent the arrival of migrants into Hungary and thereby the Schengen zone.

Finally, the Hungarian government unilaterally decided in October 2015 to close its border with Croatia (a candidate to the Schengen area) to migrants albeit “just” being countries of transit for migrants who generally wish to settle further west in Germany or France. On the measure, the Hungarian government’s spokesman stated that “The Hungarian government has taken the steps […] to protect the internal European freedoms and the security of the citizens of Hungary and Europe”.

More alarming, Austria which is a member of the Schengen has now moved to erect a physical border with another member of the Schengen zone: Slovenia. Certainly, it is for the purpose of deterring illegal entry into its territory but inherently it interferes with the EU principle of free movement in the Schengen area. The impossibility to reach Hungary will deviate migrants from Hungary to Slovenia and other neighboring states, the same goes with Austria and Slovenia. Changing the route will not solve the challenge that Europe is facing as a political and economic union. 

In April 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to impose mandatory migrants’ quotas on its Members in order to distribute equally the responsibility inherent with the arrival of migrants. The European Commission stated itself that the migration crisis is not an Austrian crisis. This is not an Italian, French, German or a Greek or a Hungarian crisis. This is a European crisis and it requires a collective European response. France and Germany are in favor of the scheme while others oppose it vigorously. Several Balkans states have denoted their opposition to binding quotas, Slovakia is even considering challenging the decision before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

In May 2015, the European Parliament announced the establishment of an emergency mechanism for relocating migrants, a resettlement scheme to take in migrants from countries outside the EU and more funds for securing borders.  Finally, the Balkan summit of 25th October 2015 resulted in a 17-point plan agreement between Europe and the Balkans states. The plan includes a “deal” still under negotiation with Turkey to help with the flux of migrants in exchange of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and financial support. The implementation of the plan will be monitored by the European Commission on a weekly basis notably regarding the management of borders and of the flow of migrant (exchange of information; coordination with Frontex etc…).

Looking at the future, it is important to realize that this debate should also focus on “immigrants-to-be”: persons wishing to establish their residence in the EU for at least 12 months. The bottom line is that many economic migrants and asylum seekers, legal or illegal, are not simply in transit and actually intend to work, put their children to school and/or to stay in the host country for some time. Once they have reached Europe, they still have to fulfill the conditions for residence or work in the host country.

The arrival of migrants coincides not only with important economic difficulties in the EU but also with the recent rise of far-right parties across the continent. As much as the Grexit drama was an important test for Europe as a financial union, the migrants’ crisis might as well be the test for the defined idea of a European solidarity, identity and union.

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Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, 4Guest & Faculty Articles, Alexandra EsmelComments (0)

Critical Analysis: Report that alleges systematic killing in Syria released days before the start of the Geneva II peace conference

A report released just days before the scheduled start of the Geneva II peace conference “is a smoking gun,” for a war crime prosecution of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime according to David Crane, one of the report’s authors. Copies of the report, which allege the systematic killing of detainees in Syrian jails, were sent to both CNN and The Guardian. The Guardian noted the release “appears deliberately timed to coincide with this week’s UN-organized Geneva II peace conference.”

Detained Syrian men, blindfolded and handcuffed, in Qusair, near Homs. Photograph: Sana/Reuters.

Detained Syrian men, blindfolded and handcuffed, in Qusair, near Homs. Photograph: Sana/Reuters.

Evidence in the report comes from a single, unidentified Syrian government defector who shared close to half of the 55,000 images – equating to approximately 11,000 victims – he smuggled on memory sticks out of the war-torn nation. The defector worked as a photographer in the military police, and claims the photos were used to prove execution orders had been carried out, and to allow for death certificates to be provided without the need to show family members the bodies. The death certificates listed the cause of death as a heart attack or breathing problems that occurred in the hospital.

“Any prosecutor would like this kind of evidence – the photos and the process. This is direct evidence of the regime’s killing machine,” according to Crane. Activists say an estimated 50,000 detainees are unaccounted for, while tens of thousands of Syrians have been held and released. Released prisoners have shared stories of widespread use of executions and torture.

The gruesome photos include a variety of injuries, including beatings, strangulation and other forms of torture according to the report. A majority of the victims were men, estimated between 20-40 years old. One of report’s authors, Sir Desmond de Silva, the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, told CNN the emaciated bodies were “reminiscent of the pictures of those [who] were found still alive in the Nazi death camps after World War II.”

Representatives from approximately 30 countries are scheduled to attend the Geneva II Conference in an attempt to implement the Geneva Communiqué. The communiqué is intended as a resolution to the civil war in Syria, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 9.5 million. The two main protagonists in the conflict have irreconcilable objectives: namely the role current President Bashar al-Assad would play in the transitional governing body called for in the communiqué. The force of the talks will also be limited by the absence of several of the largest opposition groups including the Syrian National Council.

Caroline Marfitano is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Sources: LA Times, BBC, NY Times

News Post: The Escalating Three-Way Power Struggle in Yemen

Sources: NY Times, BBC, LA Times

Sources: NY Times, BBC, LA Times

For the past eight months, protestors have managed to maintain peace in their uprising against Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but the President has managed to retain power in Yemen.  The peace ended this week as the power struggle between President Saleh, Major General Ali Mohsin Saleh Ahmar and escalated to a violent attack on the protestors resulting in many deaths and injuries. As the violence escalates in Yemen, prospects for a peaceful transfer of power dwindle and fears of a civil war escalate.

It is most likely that President Saleh will not resign now, and even if he does, his sons will be in key positions to carry on the Saleh reign.  President Saleh has refused to resign for several months now, despite international and local pressure. At one point, President Saleh had the support of Western nations, including the United States, because of his resistance to Al-Quada.  However, as the conflict within Yemen grew worse, the Western nations withdrew their support.  Even Saudia Arabia, where President Saleh is currently recovering, is pressuring him to resign.  The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) tried to work out an agreement for President Saleh to resign. President Saleh manifested a commitment to such an agreement, but ultimately refused to sign it.  This is most likely because President Saleh is unwilling to relinquish the power of his sons along with his own, especially if the agreement does not call for the relinquishment of the power of his opponent’s, Ahmar’s, sons.

Most recently, President Saleh issued a decree, which granted Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi the power to make an agreement for a transfer of power.  However, this is most likely another strategy to delay any transfer of power with no intent to sign on President Saleh’s part.  Mohammed Qahtan, leading member of the Joint Meetings Party (JMP), calls any further negotiation a waste of time because the revolution will continue no matter what and protestors will accept only President Saleh’s resignation.  Jamila Raja, former Yemen official and advisor to the Foreign Ministry, thinks the chances of reaching a transfer of power agreement are slim at this point. Mustapha Noman, Yemen ambassador, believes the violence was a deliberate attempt to destroy any plans and sabotage any attempts for a peaceful transfer of power.

However, Yemeni political analyst, Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, believes this decree holds more water than that. He says that President Saleh’s act of divesting legal authority in the Vice President is substantial progress because this allows Vice President Hadi to act as Yemen’s representative and decide what is in the best interests of Yemen.  Most importantly, he says, this shows that President Saleh is finally letting go after holding on for so long.

If President Saleh refuses to resign, this could lead to a civil war.  But there is also the possibility that the situation could worsen if he resigns.  After all, there may not a better suited leader at this time; it was President Saleh who resisted Al-Quada’s presence in Yemen.  With the uncertainty of Yemen’s future, Al-Quada’s future in Yemen is also uncertain.  In order to avoid a civil war, all parties must be willing to engage in discourse in order to reach a political solution.  This seems unlikely considering each party has its own agenda that, undoubtedly, conflicts with that of the others.

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