Thursday, March 31, 2011

Go On! Web Seminar on Libya

The Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at the Harvard School of Public Health will host on April 5 at 9:30 a.m. EST a Live Web Seminar on the “Crisis in Libya: Planning the International Response.” The presenters include:
  • Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor, ICC;

  • R. Nicholas Burns, The Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School of Government;

  • Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch (below left);

  • Dirk Vandewalle, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College; and

  • Philippa Thomas, Nieman Fellow, Harvard University & Foreign Correspondent, BBC (below right).
The seminar will examine the modalities through which the international community may respond to the ongoing crisis in Libya amid reports of violence, refugee and IDP flows, and other forms of instability. It will also touch on the legal, political and strategic dilemmas arising for the international community, especially in terms of prevention and mitigation of civilian harm.
Registration to the Live Web Seminar is free. Registration and background materials are available on the IHL Research Initiative Portal.
This Seminar is part of a series of monthly live web seminars on contemporary challenges and dilemmas in humanitarian law and policy. The seminars are tailored to practitioners and policy makers. Since 2008, these events have provided a source of interactive professional dialogue at a global level for thousands of professionals engaged in humanitarian action around the world.


Diane Amann talk at GW

Earlier this week, just before President Obama addressed the nation on why the US is involved in Libya, I was privileged to hear Diane Amann give a talk at an International Law Colloquium at George Washington University Law School. Her talk, which was titled The Value of Peace and the Crime of Aggression, explores the contradictions involved in pursuing "a peace envisioned as the absence of war, yet often pursued through military intervention."
She began by pointing out that, even though President Obama had received the Nobel Prize for Peace, the US is now involved in three different conflicts, and previewed how President Obama would defend the US role in Libya. Indeed, as I listened to Obama's speech that evening, Diane's talk repeatedly echoed in my mind; she had presciently predicted his approach almost to a word!
The main part of her talk focused on the crime of aggression. She reviewed the adoption in Kampala last year of amendments to the Rome Statute that define the crime and how the ICC will exercise its jurisdiction over this crime. She described the eloquence of Ben Ferencz, the 90-plus year old former Nuremberg prosecutor, at the Kampala conference as he urged development of the crime of aggression. In addition, she discussed the US approach to securing peace around the world, and then analyzed the proposed aggression amendments in the context of this history. It was fascinating to hear her explore the paradoxes in American policy as we use force to achieve peace and as we hail mechanisms for international accountability while seeking to avoid such accountability ourselves.
The article is part of a work in progress that I very much look forward to reading!


Bensouda on ICC prosecutions

(Delighted to welcome back alumna Margaret deGuzman, who contributes this guest post)

At last week’s annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, participants were treated to a luncheon presentation by Fatou Bensouda (right), Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and candidate for the top job when Luis Moreno Ocampo’s term expires next year. Bensouda presented some opening remarks and then was ably questioned by our own Diane Marie Amann, as well as a few audience members.
In her luncheon dialogue, which is available for web viewing here, Bensouda began by providing an overview of the work of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in the most active situations before the Court. Illustrating her talk was the map at bottom, which depicts the 114 states parties to the Rome Statute in dark blue, signatory states in light blue, selected situations in yellow, and preliminary examinations in green.
With regard to Libya, Bensouda stated that the OTP has notified those with formal and de facto authority, including Gaddafi, that their crimes will be investigated. The OTP has made clear that warning civilians to leave before attacking civilian areas does not relieve those involved of criminal responsibility. Bensouda emphasized that the OTP is seeking to be as transparent as possible in its dealings with the Libyan leadership.
In discussing the various situations, Bensouda revealed her vision of the ICC’s role in the global legal order: to prevent crimes through deterrence and by “sending messages” about the types of offenses the international community will not tolerate.
In discussing the OTP’s work with regard to the post-election violence in Kenya, for example, Bensouda asserted that the prosecutions will prevent crimes by “sending the message” that those who gain power by violence will be held accountable.
Similarly, she stated that the prosecution of those who killed peacekeepers in Sudan “sends an important message that the Court supports peacekeeping;” and the trial of Thomas Lubanga for recruiting child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo “signals” the seriousness of that crime.
Bensouda also mentioned a situation in which the OTP is seeking to prevent crimes through incapacitation of key actors. She asserted that the arrest last fall of Callixte Mbarushimana, leader of the rebel group the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, was an effort to “destabilize” that organization and thus prevent crimes in Eastern Congo.
Bensouda also described the OTP’s approach to deciding which situations of alleged international crimes the ICC should investigate. The process of determining whether to pursue a formal investigation has become known as the “preliminary examination.”
Last October, the OTP issued a Draft Policy Paper on Preliminary Examinations. Bensouda promised that the final policy statement would be issued soon. Under Article 53 of the ICC Statute, the preliminary examination phase requires the OTP to determine whether a “reasonable basis” exists to proceed in a situation. This “reasonable basis” analysis has three components. It requires the OTP to assess whether:
► (1) crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction appear to have been committed;
► (2) potential cases within the situation would be admissible (that is, they are sufficiently grave and meet the complementarity requirement that no State with jurisdiction is already acting in good faith); and
► (3) prosecution would not contravene the “interests of justice.”
The most interesting thing about the OTP’s draft policy on preliminary examinations is that it purports to disavow any role for prosecutorial discretion in deciding which situations to investigate. Whereas an earlier draft policy paper talked about the OTP “selecting” situations to investigate, the 2010 paper takes the position that the OTP must investigate if the statutory criteria are met.
Bensouda’s comments confirmed this approach. She noted that when the office began operations, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were the “gravest” situations within the Court’s jurisdiction; however, no investigation was opened in Colombia because that country was pursuing some national prosecutions. She also reiterated the OTP’s position that no investigation was undertaken with regard to the war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq because they were not sufficiently grave to be admissible.
As I have written elsewhere, this assessment seems mistaken – surely war crimes resulting in the deaths of even a small number of civilians are admissible before the ICC. The decision not to investigate the Iraq situation makes more sense if articulated as an exercise of the prosecutor’s discretion to focus on the most serious situations available. The OTP’s current policy, however, seems to preclude such an approach. Moreover, when questioned about the Court’s selection criteria, Bensouda seemed to admit that gravity is sometimes primarily a matter of numbers of victims – as in the Iraq situation – and at other times is conceived as relating more to the nature and impact of the crimes – in particular, what “signal” a particular prosecution is going to send.
Finally, Bensouda stated that there is no timeline for concluding preliminary examinations, and opined that the act of engaging in a preliminary examination itself has a deterrent impact. Echoing her current boss, Bensouda also emphasized that the OTP “has a legal mandate with no flexibility to adjust to political considerations,” a position that has been challenged recently by writers such as Bill Schabas and James Goldston.
Bensouda concluded that the ICC represents a “paradigm shift” from the Westphalian model of state sovereignty to one of international scrutiny and the rule of law.
In the questioning, Bensouda was pressed hardest on the problems associated with the ICC’s exclusive prosecution of African cases. She noted that such criticisms often overlook the victims of the African conflicts, and stated that she would “not apologize” for seeking to give victims a voice. She also sought to justify the emphasis on African situations by reference to the requirements of the ICC Statute, in particular the principle of complementarity. She noted that the OTP always encourages national proceedings but that unfortunately those are “not happening in Africa.” She reminded the audience that three of the African situations were referred by the affected governments themselves.
Nonetheless, when asked whether the ICC’s focus on Africa mitigates in favor of an African as the next prosecutor Bensouda, a native of the Gambia, was (unsurprisingly) supportive!


'Nuff said

(Taking context-optional note of thought-provoking quotes)

'To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world.'

-- This quote from an item in an 1896 edition of Munsey's Magazine comes to us via Andrew Sullivan's Dish, which in turn links to culture blogger/tweeter Maria Popova's Atlantic review of Sue Macy's new book (right) on women and bipedal empowerment.
Seems likely to this 'Grrl that decades from now some historian will say the same thing about women and electronic communications that Munsey's once said about women and bikes.

New human rights LLM in Ireland

(Today we welcome back alumna Siobhán Mullaly, who contributes this guest post)

We at University College Cork, Ireland, are delighted to announce the launch of a new LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, to commence in September 2011.
This an innovative and exciting new LLM programme, which builds on the Law Faculty’s strengths in the fields of International and European human rights law. The programme is taught by academic staff with extensive experience in human rights law and public policy, both at national and international levels. It includes a core International Human Rights clinic module, which is designed specifically to engage students in the practice and policy context of Human Rights Law. Students will benefit from a series of guest seminars and workshops with representatives of civil society, Government, international human rights bodies and the world of legal practice.
The Programme Director is, yours truly, Dr Siobhán Mullally.
Our teaching team includes staff with distinguished records in research, teaching and public policy engagement: Professor Caroline Fennell, Dr Ursula Kilkelly; Dr Darren O’Donovan, Dr Siobhán Wills; Dr Conor O’Mahony, Dr Louise Crowley, Dr Aisling Parkes, and me.
The Law Faculty is delighted to include in its team of Adjunct Professors leading world experts on human rights law and practice: Professor Samantha Power, Special Adviser to President Obama on Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights and; Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, Blackstone Chambers, London and of Europe’s leading human rights law practitioners.
Details on the program and its curriculum are here. The deadline for applications for the session beginning this autumn is May 1, 2011.
I am happy to answer any queries (e-mail: s.mullally@ucc.ie) that you might have concerning the programme and opportunities for prospective students.

On March 31

On this day in ...
... 1992, following the explosions of 2 passenger jets in which hundreds of persons perished -- that of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988 (right) (photo credit) and of Union de transports aériens Flight 772 in September 1989 -- U.N. Security Council Resolution 748 was adopted by a vote of 10 ayes, 0 nays, and 5 abstentions. The resolution banned flights and arms sales to Libya, and called upon the North African state to renounce support for terrorism.

(Prior March 31 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Diversity in the Military

Women were first allowed to serve (in statutorily limited numbers) in the U.S. military with the passage in 1948 of the Women's Armed Forces Integration Act. Over time, a number of limitations on women's full military service have been repealed or otherwise eliminated. (See here for a short history of women in the military). And yet, women remain underrepresented in national militaries. In the United States, women make up about

  • 15% of active-duty service members;

  • 18% of National Guard and reserves;

  • 10% of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans; and

  • 10% of those who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war.

Women are vastly under-represented in senior ranks as well. Even in the Israeli military, one of the few that conscripts women, less than 5% of the senior ranks are occupied by women. It was only in 1993 that Sheila Widnall (right) was appointed U.S. Secretary of the Air Force—the first women to lead a branch of the U.S. military.

The military is one sector of society that has remained steadfastly impervious to demands for formal equality. In most national militaries, women are excluded by law from certain combat functions. The United States' 1994 combat exclusion policy states that

Women may not serve in units that engage an enemy on the ground with weapons, are exposed to hostile fire, and have a high probability of direct physical contact with the personnel of a hostile force.

This policy thus precludes women from being “assigned” to ground combat units operating "well forward on the battlefield"—a concept with little basis in the reality of many of today's combat situations. Indeed, women have served in ground combat situations by virtue of being assigned to units deemed “attached” to these ground units. This often artificial distinction keeps women from gaining recognition for their ground combat experience. In light of the evolution of modern warfare and weaponry, and the disappearance of linear battlefield or a clearly defined enemy, de facto battlefield equality is well ahead of de jure battlefield equality.

But, change is afoot... In February 2010, the Navy announced a new policy allowing women to serve on submarines. Then, this month, to little fanfare, the U.S. Department of Defense released a report (see press release here) drafted by a Military Leadership Diversity Commission and entitled, Military Leadership Diversity Final Report, From Representation to Inclusion: Diversity Leadership for the 21st-Century Military. The Commission was established by virtue of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (sec. 596) to evaluate and assess policies that provide opportunities for promotion and advancement of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the armed forces. The Commission, chaired by retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles (left), issued 20 recommendations, one of which will be of particular interest to readers of this blog.


Recommendation 9 states:


DOD and the Services should eliminate the “combat exclusion policies” for women, including the removal of barriers and inconsistencies, to create a level playing field for all qualified servicemembers. The Commission recommends a time-phased approach:



  • Women in career fields/specialties currently open to them should be immediately able to be assigned to any unit that requires that career field/specialty, consistent with the current operational environment.

  • The DOD and the Services should take deliberate steps in a phased approach to open additional career fields and units involved in “direct ground combat” to qualified women.

  • DOD and the Services should report to Congress the process and timeline for removing barriers that inhibit women from achieving senior leadership positions.

The recommendation is based in part on a number of key observations, including


  • an acknowledgement of changed battlefield conditions and the disconnect between the reality of women's combat experience and the policy;

  • the recognition that the lack of formal combat experience prevents women from achieving promotion to certain officer grades and in certain operational career fields;

  • the results of new research that debunks the idea that allowing women to serve in combat would hamper mission readiness, diminish military capabilities, or undermine unit cohesion; and

  • the obvious point that armed forces leadership should be able to bring all available talent to bear on the challenges facing our military.

Let's hope that the Department of Defense heeds the report's recommendation so that our military's leadership can better reflect the nation it serves and the forces it leads. It is only when women can make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and its security (photo credit) that women can achieve true equality with men.

Guest Blogger: Laura Dickinson

It's IntLawGrrls' great pleasure to welcome Laura Dickinson (left) as today's guest blogger.
Laura is the Foundation Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center for Law and Global Affairs at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
She joined the ASU law faculty in 2008, having taught previously at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She was a Visiting Research Scholar and Visiting Professor in the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton University in 2006-2007.
An expert on human rights, national security, foreign affairs privatization, and qualitative empirical approaches to international law, Laura is the author of Outsourcing War and Peace (2011). This just-published book examines the privatization of military, security, and foreign aid functions of government and its impact on core public values.
During the Clinton Administration, Laura served as a senior policy adviser to Harold Hongju Koh when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Before that, she clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Harry A. Blackmun and Stephen G. Breyer and for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and and co-organizer of a Collaborative Research Network on Empirical Approaches to International Human Rights Law, convened under the auspices of the Law & Society Association, Laura is also a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law. Her guest post below sets forth the call for papers for an ASIL initiative, the Research Forum for which she serves as a 2011 co-chair.
Heartfelt welcome!

Write On! ASIL Research Forum

(Thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this guest post, another in IntLawGrrls' Write On! series)

The American Society of International Law has launched a new initiative that may be of interest. On November 4 and 5 of this year we will be launching the first ASIL Research Forum at UCLA Law School. We hope that the Forum will become be a yearly scholarly conference on new research in international law.
Spearheading the initiative is the 2011 ASIL Research Forum Committee:
► Co-Chairs: yours truly, Laura Dickinson, Foundation Professor and Faculty Director at the Center for Law and Global Affairs, Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, along with Kal Raustiala, Professor at the UCLA School of Law and Director of UCLA's Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations.
► Committee members: Mark A. Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law & Director, Transnational Law Institute, Washington & Lee University School of Law, along with IntLawGrrl guests/alumnae Nienke Grossman, University of Baltimore School of Law, and Mary Ellen O’Connell, an ASIL Vice President and the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law and Research Professor of International Dispute Resolution at Notre Dame Law School.
The idea is to hold an event that is focused around in-depth discussion of works in progress. Particularly welcome are interdisciplinary projects, empirical studies, and research that deploys new methodologies to study international or transnational law.
Proposals are due April 30, and will be reviewed anonymously.
The official call for papers is below:

Call for Scholarly Papers
The Inaugural ASIL Research Forum
November 4-5, 2011
The American Society of International Law calls for submissions of scholarly paper proposals for the inaugural ASIL Research Forum to be held at UCLA Law School on November 4-5, 2011.
The Research Forum is a new initiative of the Society aimed at providing a setting for the presentation and focused discussion of works in progress. The Spring Annual Meeting does this in part through its "works-in-progress" sessions, but the Research Forum aims to do this exclusively.
The Research Forum will be held in the fall and, as possible, coordinated as an integral part of the Fall ASIL Mid-Year Meeting. All ASIL members are invited to attend the Forum, whether presenting a paper or not.
Interested participants should submit a proposal (preferably 500, and no more than 1,000, words in length) summarizing the scholarly paper to be presented at the forum. Papers can be on any topic related to international and transnational law. Works-in-progress are particularly encouraged. Interdisciplinary projects, empirical studies, and jointly authored proposals are welcome.
Submissions should be sent to 2011forum@asil.org by April 30. Proposals will be vetted anonymously by the Research Forum Committee with selections to be announced by June 15.
At present, it is the intent of the Research Forum Committee to organize the selected paper proposals around common issues, themes, and approaches. Discussants, who will comment on the papers, will be assigned to each cluster of papers.


On March 30

On this day in ...
... 2007, María Julia Hernández (left) died from a heart attack at age 68 in San Salvador, El Salvador. She'd been a human rights activist during the country's civil war, having begun to work in the Archdiocese of San Salvador in 1977, at the same time that Oscar Romero was denouncing human rights violations, and she continued in that role after Romero's assassination in 1980. In 1983 Hernández became director of the San Salvador archbishop's legal aid office, and so dedicated herself to helping civilians harmed during the war.

(Prior March 30 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Birth citizenship & Ireland

(Delighted to welcome back alumna Siobhán Mullaly, who contributes this guest post)

The primacy given the protection of the family in Irish constitutional law has frequently been invoked as a marker of Ireland’s distinct national identity, most recently in debates on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and constitutional reform in the European Union. Despite the apparent strength of these protections, however, migrant families, including those with Irish citizen children, have found themselves repeatedly denied the core protections of private and family life, including the right to remain in the State. In a series of cases in the Irish courts (right), the limits of citizenship in securing the right to be ‘part of the Irish nation’ (Article 2 of the Constitution) have been revealed.
The rapid increase in inward migration to Ireland at the start of the new millennium (now sadly reversed), led to increasing controversy surrounding the right to citizenship by birth. As the numbers of families claiming residence rights on the basis of having Irish citizen children increased, political pressure to deny these claims grew. In 2003, the Supreme Court, in the L. and O. cases, dismissed an appeal from the third country national parents of Irish citizen children, who were challenging their pending deportation from the State. Distinguishing earlier case-law, the Court concluded that requirements of the common good, including the need to preserve the integrity of the asylum and immigration process, could justify justify the deportation of a parent of a citizen child and a denial of the child’s right to the care and company of their parents in the State. At the time, more than 11,500 applications for residence were pending from third country national parents, with Irish citizen children.
The Supreme Court judgment, however, did not stem the tide of inward migration. And so, just one year later, the L. and O. cases were followed by a divisive constitutional referendum, which led to the imposition of restrictions on the right to citizenship by birth. Questions remained, however, as to how to address the position of the many Irish citizen children who might now face ‘de facto’ deportation along with their third country national parents. In January ’05, the Government introduced the Irish Born Child (IBC ’05) scheme, to assess applications for residence from third country national parents of Irish citizen children, born prior to Jan ’05. The majority of the applications under the IBC ’05 scheme were granted. A small minority, however, led to refusals and to a series of cases challenging the scheme’s compliance with article 8 of the ECHR, with EU law and with Irish constitutional law.
In Bode v Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform (2007), the Supreme Court controversially concluded that ECHR and constitutional rights claims did not have to be considered when assessing applications under the IBC’05 scheme, and would only arise in the context of deportation proceedings. The Court found that a decision to grant residency within Ireland on the basis of the IBC ‘05 Scheme was a mere ‘gift,’ extended by virtue of the benevolent and ‘generous’ exercise of executive power. The Supreme Court reversed the earlier findings of the High Court, where Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan found that the failure to consider the citizen child’s personal rights and right to private life was a breach, both of the constitutional protection of personal rights and article 8 ECHR. Citing Sisojeva v Latvia (Eur. Ct. H. Rts. 2007) , she concluded that the right to private life gave rise to positive obligations on the part of the State to ensure the effective exercise of the child’s rights. The rights guaranteed by article 8, she said, must be ‘practical and effective.’ Given the tender age of the children in the test cases before the Court, she concluded that the State had a positive obligation to grant permission to the parent to remain in the State.
The relational understanding of rights implicit in Finlay Geoghan’s judgment did not, however, find support in the Supreme Court. Neither has it, until now, found support in subsequent case-law. An ‘insurmountable obstacles’ test continues to be relied upon by the Irish courts, to determine whether or not the parent of an Irish citizen can be lawfully deported. Currently there are several cases pending before the High Court involving deportation proceedings against third country nationals, who are parents of Irish citizen children. Two recent judgments are likely to have a significant impact on these proceedings:
► The first is ZH (Tanzania) v the Secretary of State for the Home Department, an 11 February 2011 judgment of the UK Supreme Court (left), in which Lady Brenda Hale, giving the lead judgment in the case, found that in making the proportionality assessment under article 8, the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration. This, she said, ‘means that they must be considered first.’ Notably Lady Hale cited directly from Jacqueline Bhabha’s essay, 'The "Mere Fortuity of Birth"? Children, Mothers, Borders and the Meaning of Citizenship,’ to support her conclusion: ‘the fact of belonging to a country fundamentally affects the manner of exercise of a child's family and private life, during childhood and well beyond.’ In contrast to the Irish courts, Lady Hale emphasised the intrinsic importance of citizenship, including the value of ‘growing up and being educated’ in one’s own country, and pointed to the increasing emphasis on the child’s best interests in the Strasbourg case law, including in Uner v Netherlands (2006), Maslov v Austria (2007), and da Silva, Hoogkamer v Netherlands (2006). She also noted that in the context of immigration, the requirements of the ECHR must be interpreted in harmony with the general principles of international law, including those set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
► The second significant development is the Zambrano judgment handed down by the European Court of Justice (right) on March 8 of this year. The Zambrano judgment has direct and immediate implications for Ireland’s practice to date in allowing de facto deportations of citizen children. What is notable about the Zambrano judgment is the willingness of the ECJ to go beyond the protections of family life afforded by the Irish courts. The Zambrano judgment did not, in fact, engage with arguments concerning family life or family unity. The judgment of the Court, instead, focuses on the ‘cardinal value of citizenship’ – the right to live and remain in the State of which one is a national. As in the 2004 Zhu and Chen judgment, the ECJ recognizes the network of relationships into which a child is born, and the dependency and vulnerability of a child. Going substantially beyond the Irish courts, the ECJ in both Chen and Zambrano recognizes that a child’s state of dependency requires the presence of his or her parents, so as to ensure the effective enjoyment of the rights associated with citizenship of the Union, as protected by Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Questions remain as to how dependency will be interpreted, and of course, what will be the ‘push back’ from Member States of the EU, many of whom, including Ireland were watching these proceedings closely.
Predictably, the Zambrano judgment has given rise to much commentary in Ireland. It is to be hoped, at least for now, that it will finally bring home to Irish courts, the significance and meaning of a child’s citizenship and attachment to the State.


On March 29

On this day in ...
... 1993, Catherine Callbeck (left) became the 1st woman in Canada to lead a political party to general election victory, when the Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island, which she'd led since becoming the province's Premier that January, won in provincial balloting. Born in the same province in 1939, Callbeck had taught business school before being elected a legislator in 1974. Battles with public employees would make Callbeck's premiership an unpopular one, and she would resign in 1996. She's been a member of Canada's Senate since 1997.

(Prior March 29 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Felice Gaer

It's IntLawGrrls' immense honor to welcome Felice Gaer (left) as today's guest blogger.
Felice is director of AJC's Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, which conducts research and advocacy to strengthen international human rights protections and institutions.
She's also vice chair of the Committee Against Torture, to which she was elected in 1999 and again in 2003. She's the 1st American to serve on this body, which monitors state compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Felice has served three times as chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, of which she is currently a member by appointment of President Barack Obama.
She earned her bachelor's degree, with honors, from Wellesley College. She received master of arts and master of philosophy degrees -- both in political science -- as well as a Certificate of the Russian Institute, all from Columbia University. She was appointed 2010 Regents Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Between 1993 and 1999, Felice was a public member of numerous U.S. delegations. Among them were the delegations to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the 1995 World Conference on Women in Beijing, and the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. Leader of those delegations, as Felice recalls in her guest post below, was Geraldine A. Ferraro, who passed away this weekend and who today joins other IntLawGrrls foremothers in the list just below the "visiting from..." map at right.

Heartfelt welcome!


Remembering Beijing: The Ferraro Factor

(Thanks to IntLawGrrls for the opportunity to contribute this guest post)


Geraldine A. Ferraro, who passed away this weekend, is a symbol of women’s rights advocacy.
As America’s first female candidate of a major party for vice-president, she broke barriers. But readers of IntLawGrrls may not know how actively and directly she influenced women’s rights issues in the international legal context as well.
Appalled by televised reports about the use of rape as a weapon of war by Serbs in the Bosnian conflict, Gerry contacted Madeleine Albright to ask what the new Clinton Administration was doing about it. She was immediately asked to join the Administration’s first delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, in February 1993, where she helped convince Member States to adopt a separate resolution addressing rape in war.
As Gerry told it, accomplishing this task required her to conduct gender-sensitivity training, too. For example, she found herself telling the male diplomats from the Islamic Conference that they needed to recognize that such sexual violence was not so much an insult to THEIR ‘honor’ (which was all they were prepared to declare) but rather a very real lasting physical and psychological abuse of the women who were victimized. Gerry emphasized that something serious had to be done by the Commission to name it, stop it, punish the perpetrators and aid the survivors. As a result, the Commission adopted a resolution that called for ‘joint and separate action to end this despicable practice,’ as well as for investigations, accountability and assistance to the victims.
Later that year, the protection of women’s rights was affirmed as a major focus of the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna – only a few hundred miles from Bosnia itself.
Gerry was then appointed to head the US delegation to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva as Ambassador. After she took the reins of the delegation for its 1994 session, the UN created the post of Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, with a mandate to investigate and intervene to stop abuses worldwide. Additionally, at Gerry’s direction, attention to women’s rights and a gender perspective was incorporated into UN resolutions authorizing many other investigations into human rights abuses.
The following year, after setbacks at a spring Preparatory Conference (“Prepcon”), women advocates realized it was urgent to have strong US leadership on women’s human rights issues as a part of the negotiating team for the upcoming Beijing World Conference on Women, scheduled for September 1995. The World Conference was under attack from various quarters – representatives of the Vatican and Islamic countries had worked vigorously at the Prepcon to place large portions of the draft Platform for Action into brackets (meaning they would remain open to negotiation) and had added proposals challenging the universality of human rights. Some opponents of the Conference offered the concept of ‘human dignity’ as an alternative to that of equal rights (i.e., women might have dignity but may not have equal rights). Others demanded recognition of parental rights and duties rather than the human rights of women and girls, and questioned the use of the word gender. The topic of reproductive rights was challenged directly in ways seeking to undermine advancements stemming from the October 1994 Cairo World Conference on Population and Development.
Gerry was appointed a vice-chair of the US delegation to Beijing in June 1995 and reached out immediately to NGOs and experts alike to work with her and tackle the issues one by one. She engaged in a wide range of informal contacts to try to improve the diplomatic atmosphere—and to reach agreements that affirmed rather than destroyed women’s universal rights. Ensuring a successful outcome in Beijing required her to engage with critics at home, as well as to interact with the representatives of the Vatican and Islamic states from Iran to Sudan. Conference language affirming universality of women’s human rights was threatened by other proposed language that would have both endorsed cultural relativity and emphasized national sovereignty, in particular, through repetition of a key footnote that had ‘saved’ the Cairo conference by encouraging each country to interpret the rights any way it wished. In the end, Gerry Ferraro succeeded in maintaining a US position that preserved the emphasis on universality of women’s rights for all, and concentrated on ensuring equal rights for women.
Hillary Clinton’s remarkable speech at the Conference fixed in delegates’ minds the concept that “women’s rights are human rights” and that they are not something different, inferior, or diminished as compared to other human rights.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action went on to affirm that violence against women was not merely an ‘obstacle’ to equality and peace as had been stated earlier in the 1980 Copenhagen World Conference on Women, but also an abuse that impaired and violated the enjoyment of human rights by women. It defined violence against women broadly – as a phenomenon occurring in public and in private – that had to be prevented, outlawed and punished. The document calls for reporting and monitoring of violations, investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators, due diligence by governments and accountability. The document identifies rape in armed conflict – the issue that spurred Ferraro to engage with the UN’s human rights bodies – as a war crime and under certain circumstances as a crime against humanity or act of genocide. The Beijing World Conference advanced women’s rights both conceptually and politically.
Gerry Ferraro, who was born on Women’s Equality Day (August 26), could claim a victory for the ideas, strategies, and ongoing efforts to bring women’s human rights issues into the mainstream of UN human rights bodies and world attention. Here, as in her unprecedented political candidacy, her efforts and achievements strengthened the position of all women.



(credit for September 12, 1995, UN/DPI 120801 photo by Chen Kai Xing of Ferraro, center, in Beijing)


Write On! Transitional justice amid conflict

(Write On! is an occasional item about notable calls for papers)

Paper proposals are being sought for The Potential Role of Transitional Justice in Active Conflicts: An International Conference to be held from November 13 to 15, 2011, in Jerusalem. The conference will launch a series of conferences in the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Hebrew University will employ a broad, interdisciplinary approach and use the comparative experience of other societies and international experts to explore transitional justice.
This 1st conference will examine the potential impact of transitional justice mechanisms while conflicts are still ongoing. Chairing the planning committee is Dr. Tomer Broude of Hebrew University; other planners include IntLawGrrl guest/alumna Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and Professor Ruti Teitel of New York Law School. Questions that may be addressed at the conference include (full list is in the call for papers):
► Are there conditions in which mechanisms of transitional justice can make a positive contribution to the cessation of violence and human rights infringements?
► Can state-led transitional justice mechanisms be formed during ongoing conflict, or will lack of political will, economic conditions, and the need to prioritize other objectives such as security, make any efforts in this direction ineffective?
► What lessons can be learned from cases in which transitional justice was pursued while the guns were not yet silent, such as in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or in the International Criminal Court's intervention in the situation in Darfur?
► Are certain transitional justice mechanisms more suitable for application to ongoing conflicts?
► What about informal, as opposed to state-led, processes?
► Specifically in our local context, can transitional justice mechanisms assist in reaching greater reconciliation and coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs? Authors of selected proposals will be offered full or partial flight and accommodation expenses. It's anticipated that the conference will result in the publication of a dedicated volume or journal issue.
Deadline is May 1, 2011, for submission of 2-page proposals, plus CV, via e-mail to mchr@savion.huji.ac.il. Details here.


On March 28

On this day in ...
... 1983, the Council of the European Communities prohibited the importation of seal-pup skins and related products pursuant to Council Directive 83/129/EEC. (photo credit) This ban on white pelts from baby seals, taken by means of a Canada hunt, did not end controversy, however; in recent years the European Union outlawed all importation. Just last month, officials said Canada intends to challenge the recent, total EU ban in the World Trade Organization.

(Prior March 28 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ER & 'Grrls

Having come to Washington for the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law, some of the many women who have contributed to IntLawGrrls gathered bright and early Friday morning to pose with our founding foremother, Eleanor Roosevelt (prior posts). Sorry about the glitches (D.C. traffic, our-fault crossed wires on when and where to meet, plus a couple unexpectedly early ASIL sessions) that kept some of you from making it to the the photo shoot at the FDR Memorial, nestled Friday amid cherry trees in bloom. Not to worry, though: this is a a tradition we hope to continue, and we look forward to welcoming more 'Grrlfriends next year.


In passing: Geraldine A. Ferraro

(In passing marks the memory of a person featured in IntLawGrrls)

Geraldine A. Ferraro died from blood cancer yesterday in a Boston hospital. She was 75 years old.
While working by day as a schoolteacher, the New York native enrolled in night classes at Fordham Law School; "she was one of two women in a class of 179 and received her law degree in 1960." As a district attorney she focused on crimes involving violence against women; later, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, she pushed for legislation on equal rights, abortion rights, and other women's issues.
Ferraro made in history in 1987: chosen as the Democratic nominee for Vice President, she was the 1st woman to run at the top of a major party's slate.
She and her running mate, U.S. Sen. Walter F. Mondale, lost the election to Ronald Reagan and his running mate, wo later would become the first of two men named George Bush to serve as President of the United States.
In later years, Ferraro contributed to the promotion of human rights. She served as the United States' Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission from 1993 to 1996, during the administration of President Bill Clinton. In a statement issued yesterday, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
For us, Gerry was above all a friend and companion. From the rough-and-tumble of political campaigns to the important work of international diplomacy, we were honored to have her by our side. She was a tireless voice for human rights and helped lead the American delegation to the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Through it all, she was a loyal friend, trusted confidante, and valued colleague.

On March 27

On this day in ...
... 1989, in the 1st Soviet parliamentary election in which voters could choose candidates from parties other than Communist, millions of persons cast ballots, and "early results suggest[ed] that a number of Communist candidates have been rejected by the electorate." The election proved a milepost on the path to democracy in the state now known, again, as Russia.

(Prior March 27 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gender and Disaster

(Delighted to welcome back alumna Fionnuala Ni Aoláin, who contributes this guest post)

Given recent events in Japan it seems like an opportune moment to reflect on the gendered dimensions of natural and other kinds of disasters. The reflections here are part of a more sustained analysis I make in an article forthcoming in the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law entitled "Women, Vulnerability and Humanitarian Emergencies."
The catastrophic dimensions of humanitarian emergencies are increasingly understood and more visible to states and international institutions. There is also some recognition of the gendered dimensions of humanitarian emergencies in policy and institutional contexts.
It is generally acknowledged that women are overrepresented in the refugee and internally displaced communities that typically result from many humanitarian crises. Women bear acute care responsibilities in most societies, and also disproportionately bear familial and communal care responsibilities in communities affected by disaster, war and natural emergencies. Women, given their disparate social and legal status in many jurisdictions, may have less access to capital, social goods and other legal means to protect themselves when crises arise. While tacit acknowledgement of this reality increasingly permeates academic and political discourses, the depth of the descriptive often fails to capture and fully grasp the extent of gender harms and gender insecurity.
Moreover, as experts and policymakers calculate how best national and international communities should respond to such emergencies, women are frequently substantively and procedurally sidelined. This follows from the dual effects of a dearth of women decisionmakers in the relevant high-level fora and the failure to meaningfully imagine and include solutions to the particular issues affecting women in communities emerging from various emergencies. Disaster-related research suffers from considerable bias, revealing an asymmetrical distribution of gender themes, an absence of data on women’s lives and a male bias in identifying the channels from which information is sought.
The recent events in Japan offer us further opportunity to reflect on the intersection of women’s experiences with situations of humanitarian crisis. My goal is to give greater traction to a feminist analysis of women’s experiences in situations of extremity.
In particular, I argue that in order to fully understand the context of women’s specific vulnerabilities, we have to widen and deepen the frame of investigation. In short, we need to take account of pre-existing conditions. We must start by contextualizing the ordinary experiences shaping women’s lives, which form the bedrock upon which a specific crisis is then foisted. The specificity of vulnerabilities subsequently identified in the moment of crisis can only be completely understood and fully addressed by reference to the backdrop. But, accepting the reality of such situated vulnerability does not take us far enough. Institutionalizing helplessness and propagating its inevitability continues to perpetuate a conceptual framework that fails to address the underlying causes of women vulnerability in situations of extremity. This requires a more nuanced approach, seeing compounded vulnerabilities for women in which prior discrimination, exclusion and social marginalization interplay with the specific harms and vulnerabilities foisted on women in situations of crisis. These two elements [the prior and the present] are in constant interplay. Moreover unless experts accept the predictability of such crises their planning will suffer from obvious, gender-biased defects.
By extending and reframing our understanding of why vulnerability is pronounced for women we may both expose and address the limits of current international legal obligations in addressing women’s harms and needs in the context of humanitarian crises. We do so by returning to basics, addressing the persistent social, economic and political discriminations that are routine for most women in most societies, most of the time.


(photos from post-tsunami Japan (c) 2011 Associated Press, available in slide show here)

On March 26

On this day in ...
... 1913, in Chartres, France, a daughter, Jacqueline, was born to a novelist and her husband, a philosophy professor, who was killed in World War I combat the next year. As a school girl Jacqueline was a top student in Latin and ancient Greek, eventually studying the latter at École Normale Supérieure. Her 1940 marriage would end in divorce; she would be forced out of a teaching job and into hiding because of her Jewish heritage. After World War II, however, Dr. Jacqueline de Romilly (above left) would become a champion of the humanities, "one of France’s leading scholars of Greek civilization and language and only the second woman to be elected to the Académie Française." In 1973, de Romilly became the 1st woman professor at the Collège de France, the prestigious institution now home to IntLawGrrls ' guest/alumna Mireille Delmas-Marty. Professor de Romilly died, at age 97, in December of last year.

(Prior March 26 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Beyond the ECCC

One of the hopes, if not justifications, for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is that the tribunal will promote the rule of law in Cambodia by modeling concepts of procedural due process and equality before the law. But these ideas are spreading through the country slowly, if at all. Just beyond the court’s perimeter are two particularly disturbing examples of the vacuum of accountability that exists in Cambodia today. Driven by hunger for development and economic growth, the government has turned a blind eye to land grabs and trafficking of young girls, essentially legalizing these abusive practices.
LICADHO, a well-respected Cambodian NGO, reports from a survey of half of the country’s provinces that approximately 250,000 Cambodians were evicted between 2005 and 2009. Last year alone, the NGO helped nearly 50,000 people facing land grabbing. Another reputable NGO, Adhoc, says that over 12,000 families were victims of land grabs last year. Focusing on the capital, Phnom Penh, another NGO estimates that around ten percent of the population has faced eviction since the turn of the century.
In just the past month, over 20,000 people have been evicted from their homes and businesses on or around Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh. Homeowners report that they were given no warning before armed construction workers began pumping thousands of gallons of sand and water into their homes. A new residential, commercial, and entertainment complex is to be built on the site of the former lake. Ironically, many of the residents of this neighborhood were displaced once before, by the Khmer Rouge.
Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, agrees that “[l]and grabbing by the rich and powerful is a major problem in Cambodia today.” Indeed, when I last visited Cambodia, in 2007, Cambodian pop music featured songs about the land grabbing phenomenon, demonstrating its prevalence and importance to the population. In contrast, the Director-General of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce says that, “[w]hen land belongs to the government, they can do what they like with it . . .[S]ome people are just trying to hold back our country’s development with their protests.”
After a World Bank inquiry finding a denial of due process in the adjudication of land claims in the Boeung Kak Lake case, the government gave residents a week to decide whether they would accept $8,500 compensation in exchange for the destruction of their homes. Local activists who wish to keep their homes say that international pressure is the only solution, as the government is in collusion with the development corporations.
Financial interests run deep in Cambodia’s trafficking problems as well. A recent investigation by Cambodian NGOs found that recruiting companies have solicited over 20,000 Cambodians, including girls as young as thirteen, to work in Malaysian households.
The government is alleged to be complicit in this business on several levels. Commune level officials have reportedly falsified birth certificates so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue passports with false birthdates for girls under twenty-one years of age. Last September, Adhoc issued a report on severe cases of abuse at “training” facilities for domestic workers in Phnom Penh, including forced imprisonment, beatings, and even rape and torture. When one woman incurred injuries attempting to escape from such a facility, local police interrogated and chastised the neighbors who assisted her.
MP Mu Sochua, former Minister for Women’s Affairs, says that the government is protecting these recruiting companies because of financial interests in them. In addition to this corruption, Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, notes that international efforts to train Cambodian officials about trafficking have had little success. In other words, the rule of law is still a distant aspiration, and it’s not clear what role the ECCC has played in bringing it home to Cambodians.


(photo credit to Aratxa Cedillo)

On March 25

On this day in ...
... 2011 (today), is Mother's Day in Slovenia (flag at left), said to be a day when "mothers are paid a floral tribute by their children and partner" (no surprise the source of the quote is an online flower-seller). Statistics about mothers and motherhood in this Eastern European state here.

(Prior March 25 posts are here, here, here, and here.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The road from Sidi Bouzid to Algiers

ALGIERS – Straight from a visit to revolutionary Tunisia next door, I returned to Algiers a month after observing the first marches organized here by the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD) in mid-February. As the season turns meteorologically, I wanted to see if the North African spring is on its way here politically as well. The series of protests staged over the weekend suggested just such a possibility, but also that the road may be long and difficult.
On Saturday March 19, a group of about a hundred stalwart demonstrators stood on the Place de 1er Mai (First of May Square), at the now weekly gathering called by one section of the recently bifurcated CNCD. They included activists from opposition political parties, women’s rights advocates, and people who were just plain fed up with their lot. This small but resolute troop was surrounded (and vastly outnumbered) by policemen in blue jumpsuits who pushed them around, and attempted to make them simply go away. At one point these cops encircled a small group of women, including a 62 year old wearing a long robe who says she recently lost her housing, and forced them out of the square altogether. Their grievances will be much less easy to dislodge.
I am sorry to see fewer people demonstrating now than in February, and ask an expert on the protests, the journalist Madjid Makedhi, who has covered many of them for the El Watan newspaper, why this is the case. He says the diminished numbers are entirely understandable in light of the massive security presence that has been mobilized to counter the marches. There is even a helicopter overhead. And, as if to underscore his explanation, as we talk he is forced to move from place to place by policemen, all the while explaining that he is a journalist. According to Makedhi,
'Algerians have been separated from politics by these security policies of the government. Today ordinary Algerians can only think about their daily lives, about taking care of their children, and trying to have enough money to satisfy the needs of their families.” But he is quick to point out that, “the fact that people are trying to live a normal life does not mean that they refuse change. It is not that they are against these efforts, it is that the government has installed fear in Algeria.'

Still, the activists refuse to give up.
Cherifa Kheddar, the prominent women’s rights advocate I saw arrested on Feb. 12, has been at every single Saturday protest since then. She was in the First of May Square again on March 19 with her sign calling for the abolition of the gender-discriminatory family code, and carrying a bag full of similar placards for others. However, the authorities ripped them all up. Finding herself empty-handed, she then raised her hand in the victory sign (photo top left), and asked,
'Are you going to try to take my fingers away from me now?'

Why were they still here? Yacine Teguia, from the leftwing opposition party known as the Mouvement Démocratique et Social (MDS), explained to a group of journalists:
'We are sick of seeing young people having no prospect but to kill themselves. Today, we have workers who are threatening to commit collective suicide. We can either get together and express ourselves democratically and develop collective solutions, or we can leave people facing a wall, facing death.'

His concern took me back 48 hours to my visit to Sidi Bouzid, the town about three hours south of Tunis that gave birth to the Tunisian revolution. This remote city with its bustling main street and omnipresent trilingual revolutionary graffiti (“Stand up for your rights.” “Stay strong, Tunisia. The world is proud of you.”) was the setting for the desperate catalytic act of Mohamed Bouazizi.
Bouazizi was the – now-legendary – unemployed man who set himself on fire in front of the provincial headquarters when the produce he sold to support his family was confiscated and he was slapped by an official. He died on January 4, and thereby launched a now truly transnational revolutionary moment. A young man in Bouazizi’s neighborhood tells me he not only poured gasoline all over himself, but drank it before setting himself alight. Looking at the terrible pictures of the 26-year-old completely bandaged in hospital, you can only shudder to think how much he might have suffered. When I visit Sidi Bouzid, Mohamed Bouazizi’s picture adorns the public square downtown. And it is right here that I find (left) other young people on March 17 – three months to the day of the now world-famous self-immolation – with desperate eyes and urgent appeals, seemingly an entire generation of Bouazizis, possessing diplomas that have still not translated into jobs, on hunger strike since March 14 in a tent.
These same young people had started the Tunisian revolution when they took to the streets in December after the suicide, but are still waiting for that same revolution to concretely improve their own lives. They still call for “bread, freedom and dignity.” (“el khobz, el houria wa’l karama”) Importantly, the revolution does mean that they can now express their agony freely, and are allowed to remain here in the public square. Nevertheless, many of them told me:
'I am ready to die.'

Will governments in North Africa – and beyond – save this generation of would-be Bouazizis?
Unfortunately, regional self-immolation did not begin in December 2010. In both Tunisia and Algeria, I am told that people have been setting themselves on fire in protest for the last two years. Mohamed Bouazizi, however tragic, brave and fateful his action, was not the first and certainly not the last...
Just three days after my trip to Sidi Bouzid, on Sunday March 20, I spend the day in Algiers at a protest (right) of teachers and the new National Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Unemployed. About 600 protestors lined both sides of the street near the seat of the Presidency for hours, singing, chanting slogans (“hukuma degage” or “government out,” borrowed from Tunisia; al hukuma dar al ajaza ,“the government is an old folks home”;“al shaab yourid iskat el chomage,”a bilingual rendering of “the people want to bring down unemployment”; and still other slogans calling on the national and international press to broadcast their demands). They sing “miyat wa khamsa wa khamseen milliards” (“155 billion”), the song written by Amazigh Kateb about the foreign exchange reserves Algeria has from selling its natural gas. As the blogger Amine Menadi from Collectif Algerie Pacifique told me:
'This country is rich but its people are poor.'

Everyone has demands today. The demonstrating teachers want better working conditions. The protesting jobless want decent jobs.
On the other side of the street, waving their Algerian passports, stood a group of now unemployed workers who fled Libya during the current conflict and want to be assisted by the state. More than anything, they all want to be heard. The members of the National Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Unemployed were supposed to gather at the iconic Martyrs Square. However, when I arrived there this morning I found it entirely shut down by policemen, and learned by phone that in the face of this blockade, they decided to join the teachers up the hill in the Golfe region of Algiers.
At the new location, there were as many policemen in riot gear as there were demonstrators. They lined the street in front of the protestors. (bottom photo) I wonder what the young policemen must be thinking as they stand in the street all day with their youthful counterparts. Fadia Babou, a serious 24 year-old unemployed woman in a corduroy jacket who used to work for a radio station, tells me:
'Really, the young policemen are living in the same situation we are.'

In recent weeks, there have been multiplying manifestations of discord – communal guards marching, wounded veterans sitting in, doctors on strike, community meetings demanding change. Many more are planned. One of the young teachers tells me the problem is that each sector is demonstrating separately and there is currently no structure available to bring them all together. He is not hopeful about this as he says all the political parties are discredited and no single forum appeals to everyone.
Notably, both the teachers and the unemployed have come from around the country to be here. Some have travelled over night by bus from Mostaganem, a seven-hour journey. I interview one of them, Dalila Touati (left), a young woman with long blond hair and a degree in physics, who was arrested this past Wednesday March 16 for distributing flyers calling on people to attend this very demonstration, an act which she says was considered tantamount to inciting revolt. She spent 24 hours in custody, was repeatedly questioned by police, and is supposed to appear in court on March 26. Dalila is moved to tears as she tells me she is not political and simply wants decent work for everyone. Her words take me back to the tent of simmering youth in central Sidi Bouzid, when she pleas that young people not have to kill themselves but instead be given the possibility to build a future.
Standing next to her, a 28 year- old man also from Mostaganem says,
'We thank the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions for the fact that there is no police violence here today. The authorities know this situation could explode anytime, and might just do so if a cop touches a demonstrator.'

But he also notes that only one woman came with the group of ten present today from Mostaganem because they were frightened by Dalila Touati’s arrest. He says that everyone will go to her court appearance. I hope he is right. Her unassuming bravery merits widespread solidarity.
Later in the day, I am told that some of these protestors are planning to spend the night on the sidewalk, refusing to give up the fight. They have taken the lyrics of Bob Marley, via the message of the graffiti in Sidi Bouzid, to “stand up for your rights” seriously. However, Algeria’s road ahead may be quite different than that of Tunisia or Egypt. The lingering nightmares of the 1990s, when some 200,000 died in a terrible civil war with the fundamentalist armed groups, are partly responsible for this. According to this week’s Jeune Afrique, the distinction is also partially due to the fact that much more freedom of expression is possible here than in Ben Ali’s Tunisia and this provides something of a pressure valve. The possible impact of the nearby conflict in Libya is a wild card. And Algeria possesses the resources to buy off sectors of the society, for a while at least.
However, one of the biggest obstacles may be a lack of popular belief in the possibility of change.
On March 19, I attended a discussion at the Chihab bookstore of a recent work about Ali Boumendjel, an important figure in Algeria’s independence movement. Boumendjel, a lawyer, died in French custody in 1957 after 43 days of torture. Author Malika Rahal says that generation of activists was able to make the sacrifices they did because of their conviction that another future, beyond colonialism, was possible. Today, notwithstanding recent events in neighboring countries, the belief in the real possibility of an alternative future is shaky.
I interview Boumendjel’s niece, the distinguished professor of medicine and women’s rights activist Fadila Chitour. At the Feb. 12 demonstration in Algiers, she was thrown to the ground and trampled during a police charge. Today she explains to me that many Algerians suffer from what she calls wounded memories, from the sense that so many deaths in the country since independence – in the protests of October 1988, in the Berber spring of 2001, in the terrible 1990s – have been in vain. Hence, there is a pervasive feeling that making sacrifices now will not change anything. This profound disillusionment with politics, which echoes Makedhi’s assessment, makes rallying the population to protest much more difficult than elsewhere. Dr. Chitour is, however, persuaded that change will come to Algeria. She asserts:
'It is ineluctable.'

The optimism expressed by some at this last set of protests – by a brightly smiling young teacher in hijab, by those who traveled over night at a high cost relative to their means to attend – bears witness to this.
However, the big question for Chitour is not whether change will come or when, but how:
'Will it be by peaceful means or not?'

She says that Algerians are terrorized by the idea that blood could flow in the streets again. And so, she and the other members of the CNCD will keep organizing their peaceful protests every Saturday trying to make sure that grievances are channeled non-violently. Meanwhile, the Committee of the Unemployed will meet soon to assess its next move as well.
My fervent hope is that the leaders of Algeria will heed the calls of the peaceful protestors, while that is possible. This will require amongst other things responsiveness to the youth, unity in the opposition and a seizing by all of this “moment of grace” as the Tunisian human rights activist Alya Chamari described this spring across North Africa.
Is there a road that leads from Sidi Bouzid to Algiers?
That remains to be seen. Still, I cannot forget what Chamari says when I ask her if there is a message for Algerians, and others, from the Tunisian revolution:

'You must never lose hope. And you must count on your youth.'


(All photos by Karima Bennoune. A short version of this post appeared today in The Guardian.)