Blog

The Burden of a Militarized US Foreign Policy

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from Medium.com | Oct, 30, 2019) What role should American troops play — some would say, standing in the crossfire — between distant governments and groups engaged in protracted armed conflicts, whose grievances long predate 9/11? What US obligations are owed to parties of these conflicts, even partners, particularly if their issues — which they believe are worth fighting and dying for — have little to do with US national strategic priorities? How many of the long-term conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which the US is often expected to manage, are defined by the same, solvable problems — ethnic strife, capitulation on human rights, bad actors using political violence rather than building pluralistic consensus — which could be solved if local governments would simply govern their own diverse constituencies with care and accountability? In the Mideast in particular, these “conflict drivers” create economic-conflict traps and erode region-wide stability. Should the US then pick up the pieces?

“What is bizarre about the uproar over the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out the small number of remaining US troops (1,000–1,500) in Northern Syria is that very few of these questions have even been asked, let alone answered.”

Unfortunately, there are far too many wars to which these questions apply — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen (between Saudi Arabia, the Houthis, and Iran), Pakistan and India, in fractured Syria, lawless Libya, Sudan, and South Sudan, even the longstanding Israel-Palestinian conflict. If we broaden the lens to include — not just active wars and internal strife — but low-intensity conflicts and hybrid threats, the numbers rise to include post-Arab Spring Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, and the Syrian-Civil War spillover into Lebanon. Is it reasonable to expect American servicemembers to protect and police these nations’ in light of their security threats, much of which stems from internal governance deficits? Can the American public feasibly support US intervention — at a cost of trillions, not to mention in lives — in 10 Mideast conflicts out of 16 nations?

What is bizarre about the uproar over the Trump Administration’s decision to pull out the small number of remaining US troops (1,000–1,500) in Northern Syria is that very few of these questions have even been asked, let alone answered. Few analysts mention the dismal empirics of war, the backdrop for weighing the merits of any lasting US presence in Syria, from policy, strategic, democratic, and other perspectives. From a democratic perspective, for instance, American voters have spoken, twice, in the last two elections, supporting both Obama and Trump Administrations’ promise of “no new wars.” From a policy perspective, the picture is even more bizarre: despite Obama’s best intentions, his own political appointees would not let him extricate the US from the Mideast. Hence, Obama called his Libyan intervention the “worst mistake” of his presidency, even as he initiated this and two other new US interventions in Syria and Yemen, adding three more wars to US ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (which Obama tried unsuccessfully to end in 2011). Biden, who presided over Obama’s withdrawal ceremony in Iraq in December 2011, said: “thank you, Obama, for giving me the opportunity to end this goddamn war.” Such a sentiment was short-lived and, as most analysts believe, the prerequisite for the rise of ISIS in the Levant.

These examples illustrate how easy it is for all of us — even Presidents with foreign policy authority — to get lost in the mixed media messages, the twists and turns of self-serving politics, the topsy-turvy world of policy recommendations, and the “fog of war” complexities of conflict, all of which inexorably push for more war …

Read the full article.

 

Share us!

Russia’s Snub of Geneva Convention Protocol Sets Dangerous Precedent

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Hill | Oct. 20, 2019) While Turkish-backed fighters may have been committing potential war crimes in Turkey’s incursion into Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia—which the United Nations also has accused of committing international crimes in Syria’s proxy war—is pulling out of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which protects combatants and others found on the battlefield, particularly civilians who are “especially to be protected.” Not doing so is per se a war crime.

A compilation of law, policy and customary international law, the Geneva Conventions have been a cornerstone in controlling the horror of conflict and containing its impact to the battlefield. Modern armies have been bound by the “law of armed conflict” since 1949. The Geneva Conventions is the only international treaty that all nations signed, and many have incorporated its principles into their own domestic law.

The Protocol Additional (1977) clarifies the nuances of armed conflict, essentially incorporating non-international armed conflict into the limits on the use of force highlighted in the Geneva Conventions. This was an essential move, because most of the conflict of the Cold War and the “dirty little wars” of the 21st century are of non-international character. Up to that point, the Geneva Conventions covered only international armed conflict. Though several countries, including the United States, have not ratified the Protocol Additional, all note that it’s evidence of customary international law and routinely follow its parameters.

No country ever has quit this important international paradigm until Russia’s announcement on Thursday. Putin’s decision is a troublesome addition to the movement away from various international legal regimes that promote peace and security, a hallmark of the tenets of the United Nations. In this evident “Age of the Strongman,” the movement away from a global approach to the rule of law is overshadowed by populist and nationalistic views in many parts of the world.

The rule of law stabilizes the interaction of states; it enhances peace and security, and encourages stable global trade, financial and information systems that benefit all. Despite this, a majority of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have blocked and weakened U.N. efforts to perform its mandate — and even have mocked and prevented the International Criminal Court from seeking justice for victims of atrocity crimes …

Read the full article.

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Share us!

William C. Banks Publishes on “Hybrid Threats, Terrorism, and Resilience Planning”

Hybrid Threats, Terrorism, and Resilience Planning. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism Perspective (2019). (With K. Samuel.)

We live in an inter-connected, inter-dependent world, not only in digital spaces, but increasingly between the physical and digital worlds. While our inter-connectedness and the accompanying rapid technological change bring with them widespread societal benefits, they can also deepen existing vulnerabilities and create new ones, such as in relation to critical infrastructure interdependencies. These technology-rich and highly dynamic circumstances can be exploited by those with criminal and malicious intent, including terrorists, with potentially extensive and catastrophic consequences, as the 2017 WannaCry cyber-attack with global reach, which nearly brought the United Kingdom’s National Health Service to its knees, illustrated.

We will illustrate this ironic confluence of good news/bad news by focusing on hybrid threats posed by cyber technology to critical national infrastructure. Our op-ed begins by briefly examining the concept of hybrid threats, before examining how they are materialising in the cyber world. The discussion then turns to examining how best to counter hybrid threats to our Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). We propose the development of more dynamic, integrated and innovative resilience planning solutions beyond those that currently exist.

The Concept of Hybrid Threats

Hybrid threats posed by state and non-state actors are expected by many to increasingly challenge countries and institutions globally. In 2016, this recognition led to the creation of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), which recognises diverse and wide-ranging forms of terrorism as a potential source of hybrid threats. The Hybrid CoE has defined a hybrid threat in the following terms:

  • Coordinated and synchronised action, that deliberately targets democratic states and institutions systemic vulnerabilities, through a wide range of means;
  • The activities exploit the thresholds of detection and attribution as well as the different interfaces (war-peace, internal-external, local-state, national-international, friend-enemy);
  • The aim of the activity is to influence different forms of decision making at the local (regional), state, or institutional level to favour and/or gain the agent’s strategic goals while undermining and/or hurting the target.

As the broad parameters of this definition reveal, hybrid threats can take a multitude of diverse forms. They can pose many practical and legal challenges too, such as how to detect, investigate, and attribute them in order to identify and bring to account their perpetrators, whether state or non-state actors … MORE

 

Share us!

Second Thoughts About Taliban Peace Talks

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from Newsday | Sept. 9, 2019) Two U.S. soldiers were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, from small-arms fire during combat late last month. We likely won’t know specific details about the service members’ identities or circumstances for some time.

“The deaths of the U.S. soldiers run against the grain of many Americans’ usual assumptions about war.”

But what we do know is that ongoing attacks by the Taliban will test America’s resolve to end what President Donald Trump has called an “endless” war. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly is reluctant to sign an “agreement in principle” between the Taliban and the United States, brokered by U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. And, the president has decided to cancel peace talks with the Taliban, at least for now.

Secondly, the deaths of the U.S. soldiers run against the grain of many Americans’ usual assumptions about war — and this post-9/11 war in particular — and most Americans’ feelings about losing service members in asymmetric conflicts.

The two service members were fighting on behalf of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support — a noncombat “train, advise, and assist” mission of more than 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, which started Jan. 1, 2015, after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ended Dec. 28, 2014.

While commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller, as the name suggests, this is a NATO mission. NATO allies with the Afghan government made the decision in 2012 (it has been reaffirmed frequently) to develop Afghan military capacity to defend and protect its citizens.

While Americans’ own security interests are at stake in this mission — no one wants to see another attack like 9/11 by al Qaeda operatives harbored in Afghanistan — the enormous investment in Afghanistan’s military capacity and security infrastructure comes at great price to Americans and citizens from other NATO-member states who have died in these combat and noncombat missions. Clearly, even this noncombat mission is beset with the armed conflict and violence associated with combat missions.

Of the 17,000-plus troops, the United States (8,475), Germany (1,300), and the United Kingdom (1,100) have provided the vast majority of “boots on the ground.” NATO members France and Canada, for instance, have zero troops in the fight. When U.S. administrations from Clinton to Trump pressure NATO members to contribute more to their own defense, the issue is not only about raising their GDP percentage contribution to NATO’s defense budget, it is also who is actually fighting in these security initiatives that European and NATO partners have deemed a priority …

Read the full article.

 

Share us!

Dirty Little Wars and the Law: Did Osama bin Laden Win?

By David M. Crane 

(Re-published from The Hill | Aug. 18, 2019) The past week marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This laudable treaty, signed by every country, codified centuries of custom, treaties and protocols to protect individuals found on the battlefield. There are four articles to the Geneva Conventions protecting the wounded and sick, prisoners of war and civilians. This is an attempt to bring law and order onto the battlefield. These conventions are part of a larger set of treaties, protocols and rules called international humanitarian law, or the “laws of armed conflict.”

“For the past several decades, conflict has evolved from the vast industrial age conflicts, such as the World Wars and Operation Desert Storm, into the nuanced, kaleidoscopic conflicts of today.”

The Geneva Conventions were part of a promising four years after World War II that attempted to prevent the horrors of future conflict. The Nuremberg Principles were adopted, the United Nations Charter was signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention were created. These became the cornerstones to settle disputes peacefully and use force only as a last resort. The focus was on international peace and security.

Originally drafted to protect those found on the battlefield during international armed conflict, the protocols additionally drafted in 1976 brought in non-international armed conflict. The minimum standard under what is called “Common Article 3,” found in each of the four parts to the conventions and the additional protocols, is that regardless of status on the battlefield, everyone should be treated humanely. That remains the minimum today. Not maintaining this standard can be a war crime in and of itself. Essentially, any armed conflict is covered by the rule of law and those who break international humanitarian law are committing war crimes.

For the past several decades, conflict has evolved from the vast industrial age conflicts, such as the World Wars and Operation Desert Storm, into the nuanced, kaleidoscopic conflicts of today. In these “dirty little wars,” the parties largely fail to follow the laws of armed conflict. There are no protections, particularly for civilians and even more importantly for women and children. The Geneva Conventions single them out to be especially protected; yet, one only has to look to the Syrian civil war to see that this key principle of law is ignored by all parties to that conflict.

A majority of casualties in dirty little wars of the 21st century are civilians, a protected group under international law. Intentionally targeting civilians is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. Those who violate this principle are war criminals and remain so for the rest of their lives, since there is no statute of limitations for such crimes. By way of example, we still prosecute Nazi camp guards from World War II, all of whom now are in their 90s …

Read the full article

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Share us!

Corri Zoli Comments on Foreign Countries’ US Travel Warning

Japan joins list of countries warning of U.S. travel, Venezuela lists Tennessee city

(WZTV Nashville, TN | Aug. 7, 2019) Japan has joined a list of countries issuing travel alerts for the United States in the wake of two mass shootings over the weekend.

The country of Venezuela warned their citizens to avoid cities they called the “20 most dangerous in the world,” based on a report from Forbes Magazine. Among the cities listed are Memphis, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia …

… A national security expert from Syracuse University called the travel advisories likely political in nature. Corrine Zoli, Director of Research for the university’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism says “there is likely a political message embedded in especially Venezuela’s travel alert in light of President Trump’s announcement on Monday of expanding US sanctions, which will freeze all Venezuelan government assets and ban all Americans from doing business with Maduro’s administration.”

Read the Full Article.

Share us!

A Day to Remember Justice

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from Jurist | June 26, 2019) June 26 is a day designated by the United Nations as International Day in support of victims of torture. The General Assembly resolution creating the date imagined this as a day stakeholders – member states and their citizens – would unite in support of those that have endured torture and cruelty and recommit to ending its scourge. As international legal experts on this matter, we are using this opportunity to remind member states of their commitments, specifically that victims have meaningful access to seek judicial redress. Access to justice is the key feature of the right to redress and is a critical part of the global fight against impunity to which we have all committed ourselves.

“The Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program employed by the U.S. post 9-11, has seen scant judicial redress afforded to victims.”

Article 14, of the CAT enumerates that signatories must provide in their “legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.” Even for countries that have a strong record against torture and cruelty and enacted domestic protections against their use, this requirement to open up their legal systems to victims, has proved more challenging. Our work has been undertaken in the context of these domestic challenges, to support the legal right to redress, compensation and rehabilitation for victims.

As a former International Chief Prosecutor and a Registrar before international courts, charged with seeking justice for victims of heinous human rights abuses, we have personally witnessed the importance of and healing effect that victims derive both from judicial redress and an opportunity for adequate compensation. The impact of meaningful judicial redress on both victims and their societies’ healing and reconciliation is profound. It also acts as a powerful deterrent for future human rights abuses.

The Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program employed by the U.S. post 9-11, has seen scant judicial redress afforded to victims. Although the program was run by the U.S., many European countries, including the U.K., enrolled as junior partners. All governments involved in this shameful program have shied away from transparency and accountability, including providing victims with judicial redress options, but none has been able to completely bury their moral and legal responsibilities …

Read the full article.

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Share us!

Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Request for Compensation for Damages from the International Criminal Court

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from Jurist | June 9, 2019) Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (Bemba) is the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and was the commander-in-chief of its military forces during the Central African Bush War from 2003-2004, during which the MLC was accused of committing war crimes, as well as, crimes against humanity.

“The ICC does not have precedent in awarding damages to those seeking compensation under the court’s jurisdiction, and there does not seem to be a set test to determine whether a party seeking compensation from the ICC will receive such damages.”

Bemba was arrested on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as the leader of the MLC  near Brussels in May 2008 and was handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on July 3, 2008. Bemba was held by the ICC for over two years before his trial began in November 2010, throughout the duration of his trial which lasted until 2014, and still after the conclusion of his trial, until his convictions on March 21, 2016.

The ICC sentenced Bemba to 18 years detention for war crimes and crimes against humanity convictions, plus an additional year and a €290,000 fine for witness tampering.

Bemba appealed his convictions in 2016, citing procedural and legal errors in the lower court judge’s ruling, which Bemba’s counsel said should have resulted in a mistrial. The ICC chamber to which Bemba appealed found on June 8, 2018 that the trial chamber had ignored significant testimonial evidence proving that Bemba had a limited ability to investigate and punish war crimes in the Central African Republic during and after the violence in 2003 and 2004. This conclusion lead to Bemba’s acquittal.

Bemba submitted a request for compensation to the ICC on March 8, 2019. The ICC Prosecutor and Registrar asked the judges to dismiss this claim, but the Pre-Trial Chamber II judges presiding over the claim denied this request.

Bemba’s claim totaled €68.8 million, including: €12 million for the period of his alleged unlawful incarceration, €10 million in aggravated damages, €4.2 million in legal fees, with the remaining €42.4 million being for property damage.

Bemba’s request for property damage compensation stems from those losses consequent to Bemba’s arrest and detention as well as those losses caused by the ICC’s mistakes in managing Bemba’s frozen assets, as the assets seized by the ICC upon Bemba’s conviction were allowed to rot.

The provisions of the law are that Article 85 of the ICC’s Rome Statute governs compensation claims by persons who have been arrested pursuant to the ICC’s jurisdiction or convicted by the ICC. The governing clause provides two primary bases for bringing claims for compensation: the first is found in Article 85(1) while the second is laid out in Article 85(3). Article 85(1) of the Rome Statute states that “[a]nyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.” Article 85(3) is vaguer and states that “[i]n exceptional circumstances, where the court finds conclusive facts showing that there has been a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice, it may in its discretion award compensation . . . according to the criteria provided in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, to a person who has been released from detention following a final decision of acquittal or a termination of the proceedings for that reason.”

Claims for compensation must follow the ICC’s Rules of Evidence and Procedure, specifically Rule 173(2), which requires that a request for compensation be submitted to the court no later than six months from the date the person making the request was notified of the decision of the court concerning unlawful arrest or detention; reversal of a conviction; or existence of a grave and manifest miscarriage of justice.

Any party seeking compensation on such grounds must submit a written request containing the grounds for and the amount of compensation being sought to the ICC’s Presidency. The ICC then designates a three-judge chamber to consider the request. Rule 174 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence provides that judges handling such requests may hold a hearing or determine the matter based on the request along with any written observations by the prosecutor and the party who filed the request.

In cases in which damages are awarded, judges shall take into consideration “the consequences of the grave and manifest miscarriage of justice on the personal, family, and social professional situation of the claimant.” However, it has been acknowledged that there is no exact formula for calculating such damages.

The ICC does not have precedent in awarding damages to those seeking compensation under the court’s jurisdiction, and there does not seem to be a set test to determine whether a party seeking compensation from the ICC will receive such damages – at this point, it is purely discretionary. However, it does seem as if the ICC tends to look to whether the claim for damages is viable under Article 85(1) or 85(3) of the Rome Statute and proper under Rule 173(2) before considering the amount of compensation requested …

Read the full article.

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Share us!

Corri Zoli Explores Terror’s Organizational Tactics in Terrorism and Political Violence Article

Zoli, Corri & Aliya H. Williams G’17. “ISIS Cohort Transnational Travels and EU Security Gaps: Reconstructing the 2015 Paris Attack Preplanning and Outsource Strategy.” Terrorism and Political Violence, 31 (June 2019).

In this article Zoli and Williams explore the underappreciated role of organizational tactics in terrorist violence in an understudied single case: ISIS’s execution of the Nov. 13, 2015 Paris attacks.

It is one of the first systemic reconstructions of the journeys made by two ISIS strike cohorts in the coordinated attacks, as teams traveled from the Levant to Europe. In contrast to other high-profile attacks, terrorism scholars have not undertaken a detailed reconstruction of this event, even while open source information is now available. By examining the transnational travels of foreign terrorist fighters, the authors identify ISIS’s distinctive terrorist outsourcing strategy in which operatives used their experiences to adapt to changing security conditions, while EU governments revealed limited responses.

Both elements in this tightly-knit dynamic—terrorist outsourcing savvy using FTFs and EU security policy failures—were necessary to achieve this high-profile attack.

Zoli’s and Williams’ essay contributes to descriptive empirical and theoretical knowledge of terrorist tactical innovation and adaptive operational learning, as these capacities are enhanced by on-the-ground organized networks to increase organizational (versus so-called “lone wolf”) campaign success. By using a single case interdisciplinary and exploratory framework, the authors claim that terrorism studies can delve deeper into superficially understood phenomena to isolate concepts with future cross-case value, such as cohorts and tactical adaptation.

Share us!

Like the Warmbiers, Former CIA Detainees Deserve Chance to Seek Justice

By David M. Crane 

(Re-published from The Hill | May 19, 2019) In the headlines again recently was the tragic case of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, when it was disclosed that North Korea billed the United States $2 million for his medical treatment while a captive. Warmbier died in 2017 shortly after arriving home following more than a year in North Korean detention. Arrested by the North Koreans for spying, Warmbier was accused of ripping down a propaganda poster in a restricted area of his hotel in Pyongyang. He likely suffered unimaginable torture during his time in detention, but because of the opaque nature of the North Korean regime, little is known about his treatment and what caused the severe brain injury that led to his coma and death.

“Indeed, if the United States expects other countries to open their courts for U.S. victims overseas, it needs to do that for those who claim torture and ill-treatment by the United States.”

The news raised questions about the negotiations for Warmbier’s release and whether the medical bill the U.S. apparently had agreed to pay essentially was a ransom payment. The Trump administration has denied that it ever was paid. Warmbier’s mother, Cynthia, said that if she knew the North Koreans were after money she would have given it to them from day one. It is understandable that the relatives of victims of torture and cruelty by foreign governments are prepared to do anything to see them released and to gain justice for their families.

The Warmbiers received a modicum of justice in a federal court last December, when North Korea was ordered to pay the family over $500 million in damages. At the time of the ruling, his parents commented, “We are thankful that the United States has a fair and open judicial system so that the world can see that the Kim regime is legally and morally responsible for Otto’s death. … We promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him.” The judge in the case noted that the award was substantial to deter the North Koreans from engaging in this type of behavior again.

Although the U.S. courts have offered a legal venue for the Warmbiers to seek judicial redress, under Article 14 of the Convention against Torture (CAT) and international legal standards, they also should have meaningful access to legal proceedings where the torture took place. They have a right to judicial redress, adequate compensation and means for as full a rehabilitation as possible. This is something that the United States and the 163 other signatories to the CAT have committed to and is an important tool for ensuring reconciliation, healing and prevention.

Unfortunately for the Warmbiers and their quest for justice, North Korea is unlikely to pay a damages award or to provide this sort of judicial process for redress and compensation. But imagine if similar torture, cruel treatment and even death happened to a U.S. citizen in a country that had signed the CAT. The United States surely would demand the right of our citizens to have access to judicial redress and the ability to seek adequate compensation for their treatment.

Indeed, if the United States expects other countries to open their courts for U.S. victims overseas, it needs to do that for those who claim torture and ill-treatment by the United States. Specifically, victims of the U.S. post-9/11 Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) program thus far have been unable to seek meaningful redress in U.S. courts. These individuals were suspected of terrorism, rounded up in Afghanistan on promise of a bounty. After months or years of detention, many were released without charge or explanation …

Read the full article.

David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Share us!