Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hadzic in the dock

Goran Hadzic 1992 (c) Christian Marechal
Many of you will have seen that Serbia extradited Goran Hadzic to The Hague last week. As the last of the ethnic Serbs wanted for war crimes by the U.N., what does his trial represent in terms of justice for those in the former Yugoslavia?

Reuters reported:
"Hadzic is charged with instigating the torture and murder of hundreds of Croat and non-Serb civilians, including 264 hospital patients in Vukovar in 1991, as well as mass detentions, forced labour and driving thousands from their homes.”
In the last couple of days, the BBC inform us that Hadzic has not entered a plea. Both the Reuters and BBC stories remark on Serbia’s quest for candidate status for membership of the European Union (EU) and its need to comply with the conditions for approval. Website crimesofwar.org commented thus on Radovan Karadzic’s extradition almost 3 years ago:
“Nevertheless opinion polls have shown consistently over the last few years, that while most Serbs do not regard Mr Karadzic or General Mladic as guilty, or at least any more guilty than any leading wartime figure amongst Croats, Bosniaks and Kosovo Albanians, they also do not have a passionate objection to their transfer to The Hague. There is a clear understanding that Serbia’s European future and hence their own, is directly related to the fates of these men. Serbs only have to look over the border, or go on holiday in Croatia, to see and understand that once it had in 2005 delivered its last indictee, General Ante Gotovina, a huge hurdle on the road to EU integration was removed. As a consequence Croatia is years ahead of Serbia now on the road to Brussels and, in part as a consequence of that, its people are also several times more prosperous than those of Serbia.”
This might explain why few Serbs are protesting at Hadzic’s departure, unlike the removal of Karadzic. However, it does not represent a victory for justice or ICTY. Rather than any sense of legal justice being seen to be done in its own right, the Serb people appear focused on ideas of economic integration and the benefits that might bring. Consequently, ICTY has failed to establish its independent juridical credentials.

Created hurriedly following the U.N.’s poor response to the atrocities being committed in the former Yugoslavia, the U.N. Security Council established ICTY in May 1993. Resolution 827 sets out its mandate, and refers to ‘the restoration and maintenance of peace’. From its annual report in 1994:
“The role of the Tribunal cannot be overemphasized. Far from being a vehicle for revenge, it is a tool for promoting reconciliation and restoring true peace."
In the absence of any Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY has to demonstrate justice for its victims to the highest level for any idea of reconciliation to work.

Memorial at the Vukovar hospital (c) Modzzak

In their report of 2010, the International Center for Transnational Justice examined local perceptions of ICTY in Bosnia. Although their interviewees wished to make it clear that they did not see the creation of ICTY as ill-advised, they considered that it had failed to deliver justice as they had originally perceived. Among the disappointments noted in this report were sentencing patterns (some war criminals were sentenced to 2 years imprisonment), guilty pleas (where the accused who pleaded guilty got a reduced sentence), and the length and complexity of proceedings.

In their study of witness testimony during the Krstic trial at ICTY, Dembour and Haslam (2004) found that victim-witnesses were effectively silenced in the pursuit of pertinent legal “facts”. Rather than being able to describe the acts that for them were essential to reconciliation, they were subject to those who have the power to question them.

In March 2005, the War Crimes Chamber (WCC) was established within the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Garbett, 2010). The WCC is both a national and international court that prosecutes persons responsible for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. For the victims, this hybrid court represents a local, transparent and more accessible means of achieving justice. Unlike ICTY, where there have been concerns regarding the way it goes about prosecuting charges of sexual violence, the WCC has prosecuted a high number of these cases.

In terms of Vukovar, it is worth noting the work of Hagan and Ivkovic (2006). From a sample of 282 people surveyed, they found that 52.1% of Croats in Vukovar believe that persons accused of war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia should be tried in local courts where the crime was committed. Only 25.9% of 143 ethnic Serbs living in Vukovar believe the same. Support for ICTY dispensed justice was 28% amongst Croats and 47.6% amongst Serbs. Therefore, the majority of Croats would prefer to see justice dished out locally, rather than in The Hague. Along with the other evidence, this has implications for justice in the Hadzic trial

So whilst the U.N. celebrates the forthcoming prosecution of its last indictee, it has struggled to effect international justice for its victims at ICTY.  It may be the flagship PR model for an international justice system as evinced by the west, but on the local grounds where these tragedies occur, it is seen as imperialist and a disappointment. If the international community want justice, then local concerns have to be addressed. 


Dembour, M-B and Haslam, E. (2004), Silencing Hearings? Victim-Witnesses at War Crimes Trials, European Journal of International Law, Vol. 15 No. 1, 151–177

Garbett, C. (2010), Localising Criminal Justice: An Overview of National Prosecutions at the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 10:3, 558-568

Hagan, J. and Ivkovic, S.K. (2006), War Crimes, Democracy, and the Rule of Law in Belgrade, the Former Yugoslavia and Beyond, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 605Democracy, Crime and Justice (May, 2006), 130-151
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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Terrorism in Norway: Did Breivik commit a terrorist act?

Self-portrait (c) Anders Breivik

I am a little confused.

Whilst reading through my news reader, in the pursuit of blogging manna that was my last post, I noted that many major UK media outlets are now referring to the Norwegian tragedy as an attack or massacre. Breivik is now described as a gunman, killer or attacker.

Is there a particular reason why this tragedy is now being referred to as anything but terrorism, and why Breivik is not a terrorist, as originally reported?

Further to my post yesterday, I hope that this change in media reporting is not tied to the construction of the modern folk devil, that is the stereotypical “terrorist” i.e. Muslim.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?
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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Terrorism in Norway: Breivik behind closed doors

Norway Oslo Explosion
(c) AP
Yesterday, we learned a little more about Anders Breivik’s background, views, motives and plans. Whilst Norwegian courts are normally open to the public, we only ascertained this information via a press conference.

The Independent reports: 
"Breivik had wanted to explain in public why he perpetrated modern-day Norway's worst peace-time massacre. He was denied a public platform, but the judge, in his news conference, gave an account of what the accused 32-year-old had said. Heger said Breivik had accused the ruling Labour Party of betraying Norway with "mass imports of Muslims".
He said his bombing of government buildings in Oslo and massacre at a summer camp for Labour's youth wing was aimed at deterring future recruitment to the party. 
"The goal of the attack was to give a strong signal to the people," the judge quoted Breivik as saying."
I understand that the judge opted not to give him the opportunity to express his distasteful views originally following a public outcry, and later after a request from the police. The Guardian's live coverage offered the following:
“Based on information in the case the court finds that today's detention hearing should be held behind closed doors. 
It is clear that there is concrete information that a public hearing with the suspect present could quickly lead to an extraordinary and very difficult situation in terms of the investigation and security.”
On the face of it, I can understand why we should not allow him the opportunity of reveling in his terrible deed. I can understand that need to respect the grief of those nearest and dearest to those who tragically died; I am assuming that they would not want to hear Breivik attest to his crimes in court, but I do not know.
However, Breivik is headline news. The media have gone to great lengths to find out as much information as they can about him to try to inform us of his background, views, motives and plans. Moreover, we could have found this information out online. We know that he posted a 1,500-page document outlining his hatred of Islam, immigration and multi-culturalism, and we know that he had a Facebook page.
The Independent reports: 
"A Facebook group called "Boycott Anders Behring Breivik" carried the message: "He has planned this stage, to get propaganda. Do NOT let him get that freedom ... Boycott all media describing the Norwegian terrorist and his beliefs."
Given the omnipotence of Facebook, which is in itself a form of media, the paradox is that by establishing this group, further light is shone on Breivik and his beliefs.
Breivik is in the public domain. Therefore, holding a private hearing will not silence him, or what he stands for. If there are security concerns, then it is not clear whether this reflects the security of the investigation or a wider notion of national security. My concern is that by deciding to hold a closed-door hearing, that this will fan the flames of right-wing idolatry. If we seek to silence those whose views, I, for one, do not wish to tolerate, then we provide a rationale to extreme right-wing conspiracy theories that claim that the democratic system is biased towards immigrants. This makes democracy less, not more, secure. 
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Monday, 18 July 2011

The UK, Malawi and understanding aid

Andrew Mitchell (c) acumenimages

The bilateral relationship between the UK and Malawi took a further blow last week, when the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, announced that the UK were withholding £19m worth of aid from the government of Malawi. A Department for International Development (DfID) press release stated the following concerns:
On governance, demonstrations have been suppressed, civil society organisations intimidated, and an Injunctions Bill passed that would make it easier for the Government to place restrictions on opponents without legal challenge. 
On the economy, the UK is concerned that Malawi’s overvalued exchange rate has created chronic foreign exchange shortages which are having a serious impact on the Malawian private sector’s ability to drive future growth. There are now daily fuel queues, tobacco exports have deteriorated and Malawi is off-track with its IMF programme.”
Relations have been worsening over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that in 2009, the UK withdrew £3m worth of aid after the government of Malawi purchased a presidential jet worth more than £8m. Earlier this year, the British High Commissioner to Malawi was expelled following the leak of a diplomatic cable to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The note criticised Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika as "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism". At the time, the FCO suggested that there would be consequences for declaring their man “persona non grata”.

On the surface, the reasons given for the withdrawal of aid appear hypocritical. Whilst the government claims that it is in the interests of the UK taxpayer, we can not exactly hold ourselves up as shining beacons of governance and economic management. On governance, UK state institutions suppress demonstrations (e.g. “kettling” of children during student protests) and intimidate civil society organisations such as trade unions (e.g. sorry, News International/Wapping dispute). On the economy…need I write anything.

Although the UK will continue to provide aid to Malawi through other donors, budget support is used to help governments deliver their own national strategies for reducing poverty. The context and background to the announcement on the removal of budget support raises questions about what aid means and in whose interest aid is provided.

From a dominant western perspective, aid appears to be linked to ideas of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into force in 1948. Drafted by government representatives from the more powerful Western nations, there were only 51 recognised nation states that signed this document. Africa and swathes of Asia were not yet independent and remained under colonial rule. Western notions of human rights prioritise ideas of civil and political rights above economic, social and cultural rights. In terms of aid, this assumes that westernised ideals of “good governance” will bring about economic and social development, and so, reductions in poverty and improvements in education and health. This has a knock-on effect of empowering the purpose of the work of aid agencies; they become adjuncts of the state with their own agendas and quests for funding.

(c) Khym54
Following an audit of DfID Malawi in 2009, the National Audit Office (NAO) commissioned a review to establish greater evidence of impact, value for money and efficiency savings. DfID’s review on the impact of the heath Sector-Wide Approach (SWAp) in Malawi is the sort of project that they were supporting until funding was cut last week. This 2010 report was limited to being a desk-bound study, which seems to have frustrated its author; further studies were taking place that could have provided greater in-depth evidence as to its impact, which would have saved the government, and UK taxpayer, money.

Some of the key messages to come from this report are:
Assessing impact and attribution pose particular problems. It is not possible to attribute results achieved to DFID support or the SWAp.” 
Good progress has certainly been made during the SWAp period, although Malawi is unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) health targets.” 
Improvements in terms of outputs – whether in terms of service coverage or the implementation of reforms - have been made. However, the picture is mixed and huge challenges still remain.” 
Some progress has been made in terms of key reforms – stronger in some areas than others e.g. decentralisation - whilst progress has been much weaker in terms of pharmaceutical supply.” 
The government is spending far more than was initially expected on health in absolute terms - though it has fallen a little behind in its commitment to the Abuja Declaration (to allocate 15% of the national budget to health) - and recent years have seen some drop-off.” 
There is a further question as to whether a SWAp should actually have to show impact.”
From an UK government view, these findings appear to indicate that traditional ideas of aid are working to some extent. But is it possible to quantify what price one should place on these improvements?

Whilst there may governance problems in Malawi, we are going to fund projects in countries that are conflict-ridden and "fragile", including Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. If we aid only these states, then we are not offering aid in the traditional altruistic sense. Instead, we are funding our own security.

The Africa Research Institute produces a series of “counterpoints” that reflect locally-constructed ideas of Africa. In Voices of Disquiet on the Malawian Airwaves, the author highlights the importance of the state-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) radio programme, Nkhani Zam’maboma, to its people.

Attracting several million listeners, this programme exposes everyday economic injustices experienced by Malawians. Using local idioms to bring grievances to life, they are also used as a means of expressing their displeasure at authority. The author notes foreign donors and human rights activists take little note of Nkhani Zam’maboma, ostensibly because it is broadcast in the national language, Chichewa, which few foreigners speak. He also notes that human rights campaigners have often condemned MBC as being a propagandist tool of the government. The author considers this an unreasonable assumption, as it supposes that all the journalists working there are fuelled by the patronage of the government. Furthermore, he suggests that Malawians listen to state-sponsored stories critically, and that human rights groups do not take this into account.

Culturally, there is no direct translation of human rights. In Chichewan it corresponds to “birth freedom”. After studying 500 stories that had been broadcast, the author queried why there was a lack of human rights issues on the programme. The editors retorted that “they are NGOs’ things”.

This highlights the cultural differences that exist in human rights, and aid, discourse. It also exposes the iniquitous power divide that separates the rich nations from the poor. Globally, the west continues to define, and re-imagine, what aid is. For governments, donors and activists remain crucial to the delivery of human rights and aid. They bring it to those in need. Yet, it is a western version of human rights and aid that is imposed on them, and not something that reflects local injustices. Despite the centrality of equality in human rights discourse, the relationship between donor and recipient is not equal.

One might argue that UK aid to Malawi has been working in its traditional, charitable connotation. However, the UK has redefined aid to suit its own agenda. That said, the delivery of aid in its current format may well not be economically sound, but, not for the reasons given by DfID. If we are to take human rights issues, and aid, seriously, then we need to unravel earlier assumptions of human rights, and re-imagine a global system that fully addresses the cultural understandings of the less powerful. 
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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Celebrity fast

(c) Gene Hunt
Further to the phone-hacking scandal and my blog post yesterday, I was wondering if we might start a social experiment designed to harm those who promote ideas of celebrity culture. Please see my blog post on this topic to see if you agree, and want to take part. On 26th July, I am proposing that we, as a global community, "switch off" celebrity culture for a day. This will be known as "celebrity fast".

I was hoping that by raising awareness of our own complicity in the construction of celebrity culture, and the related harms it brings to the private lives of many, that we might go about setting the record straight. If you want to be a part of this movement, I should like you to avoid all celebrity related practices from 00.00-23.59 on 26th July wherever you are. This means not buying/reading magazines or newspapers that rely on celebrity culture to fill their news stories (e.g. Hello, Heat, The Sun, The Mirror, Daily Mail etc), as well as not visiting their websites. Also, please avoid watching any reality TV programmes on that day.

By not engaging in the process of constructing and reconstructing celebrity, perhaps we can demonstrate to the media at large that we, as consumers, are not beholden to ideas of celebrity for news stories, and therefore, that we respect the right to a private life for all, including those innocently caught in the media spotlight.

Please share this post with anyone that might be interested in taking part in "celebrity fast". on 26th July.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Phone-hacking saga: public and private lives

(c) World Economic Forum/Photo by Andy Mettler 

Following further claims the other day of the dubious practices employed by News International, this article is going to focus on ideas of the public and private and what it means in terms of the ongoing phone-hacking furore.

The recent revelations of the hacking of the Dowler family’s mobile phones have rightly led to widespread revulsion. Their otherwise private world, only subject to media interest due to tragedy, has sparked wider press and public attention.

The phone-hacking scandal has been running since early 2006, when Prince William and some of his aides and contacts suspected that their phone messages had been intercepted. Clive Goodman, the then Royal Editor of the News of the World, subsequently reported on the Prince’s knee injury and his plans to edit his gap-year videos and DVDs together to make a home movie. Riveting. Since then, we know that there have been approximately 4000 victims of phone hacking, including celebrities, politicians, sportsmen, and members of the public.

As this story has only recently erupted because of the Dowler family’s involvement, this calls into question at what point we, the British public, think that it’s reasonable to intrude into the private lives of those in the public eye. Do they have a right to a private life? Are any details of the private lives of the rich and famous in the public interest? Or is it merely that the public is interested in the lives of the rich and famous?

 "This story is so old and boring. Where does it take anybody? Newspapers will seek out information from whatever sources they can, until newspapers close down. I don't think it does us any damage. It's a bit of a non-story."

(c) Gene Hunt
The above quotation, comes from a Scotland Yard source in response to a story in The Guardian in September last year. This suggests that although the act of phone-hacking is in itself illegal, that institutionally, The Met considers it quasi-illegal and only one of a number of questionable ways that the press go about their business. For instance, many celebrities complain of being “papped”. When being “papped”, they may be in a public space, or sometimes not, but either way they are denied a right to privacy in return for a “story”. Should this be legal?

Over the last couple of decades or so, we have witnessed the dramatic growth of celebrity culture.  From the likes of Hello and OK magazines to reality TV programmes such as Big Brother, we have consumed ideas of celebrity and begat more celebrities. Our desire for celebrity has seen a blurring between the private and the public. Public, famous people have let us into their houses to gawp at their personal wedding photos and private, less famous people have allowed us to watch them shower and go to bed in public. 

The printed press, who are in the business of selling newspapers, have reacted to this ever-growing demand. Take a look at the online front pages of today’s popular newspapers including The SunThe Mirror and Daily Mail, and in amongst some news, you will still find all you might desire on the latest celebrity stories. With celebrity culture as it is, the printed press have embarked on maximising their profits by using and abusing it. The press will do whatever they can to get a "story” and do not care who gets in the way.

By engaging in these activities, we have contributed to an insatiable demand for stories relating to the public and private lives of those who appear in the news. And this is where we, the British public, are accountable. We have led the media to believe that this is all that we are interested in. Like the relationship between a dealer and addict, they believe that we crave as much information on the private lives of those in the news, knowing that we will happily gorge on it and come back for more. In our droves, we buy the newspapers and magazines that contain these "stories" and we watch the TV programmes that create more interest in celebrity. In conjunction with the media, we have constructed modern celebrity culture and created the climate for suspect media practices to exist.

I am not saying that we should not be interested in the lives of celebrities, sports people, film and TV stars, or politicians. On certain occasions, intruding into the private lives of public figures is in the public interest (e.g. David Cameron’s dinner parties with senior News International executives). However, regardless of the arguments over whether celebrities use the press or not to further their own interests, we have the power to decide whether to buy into it. Put simply, we can shut the media up by not buying their particular paper or magazine and not watching particular TV programmes. We can further change this, so that we do not unwittingly harm the lives of those who have been caught in the public glare. I shall be launching a Facebook campaign, asking those of you who follow me there, on this blog, or on Twitter, to impose a celebrity “fast” on yourselves. Further details will follow.

Due to the indistinct borders between the public and private, and spiralling celebrity culture, we seem to find it hard to gauge exactly what it is that we should know about the private lives of families and individuals. Consequently, in our quest to know all we can of those in the news, the media do all that they can to provide us with that information, and people get hurt. It is not just the media, the organisations that own them or The Met that are culpable for recent events. It is us too.   
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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Hacking scandal: what role Scotland Yard?

(c) ChrisO
Re-published in full from The Pryer 

"This story is so old and boring. Where does it take anybody? Newspapers will seek out information from whatever sources they can, until newspapers close down. I don't think it does us any damage. It's a bit of a non-story".
These are the words of a Scotland Yard source as reported in The Guardian on 6th September 2010 regarding the news that the phone hacking scandal investigation might be reopened. With hindsight, and lets be honest, with any foresight, these are not clever words. But might they represent something else, something more sinister regarding the motives of Scotland Yard in this whole debacle?

I should note that I am mainly using The Guardian’s articles in this post because they have been the most pro-active media outlet in getting to the bottom of this scandal. Whereas other newspapers appear to have been fearful of writing about the dubious activities of News International for whatever reason, since it returned to the headlines in 2009, The Guardian have been exemplary in their coverage.

This morning, the Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron offered an opening statement on the affair during a press conference. In an attempt to harvest the public moral outrage at the intrusions of News International journalists hacking into the private phones of ordinary vulnerable citizens, the PM publicly announced that two inquiries will take place. The first, and possibly the most important of the two inquiries, is to be conducted by a Judge and will look at the failure of the first police investigation in phone hacking in 2006. He stated:
“So for those worried about the police investigating the police, this has full and independent oversight. But let's be clear. Police investigations only get you so far.What people really want to know is - what happened? And how was it allowed to happen? That is why the Deputy Prime Minister and I have agreed that it's right and proper to establish a full, public inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened. A judge needs to be in charge so there's no question that it is totally independent and things are done properly.”
Yet right from the start, the Metropolitan police have been less than forthcoming on the nature of their investigation. John Whittingdale MP, who was chair of the House of Commons media select committee inquiry, told The Guardian in early 2010:
"We found it difficult to get information from a number of bodies, including the police, who were less than forthcoming. I think there was an acceptance that it was convenient to a lot of people that one reporter should get the blame. But the important thing for us is to ensure it can't happen again."
Subsequent articles in April 2010 by Nick Davies in The Guardian, here and here, highlight the apparent contradictory, evasive and misleading ways that Scotland Yard have gone about their business. They have deliberately misled the public over the number of people whose phones have been hacked, they did not tell victims that their phones had been clandestinely infiltrated, and they have avoided revealing information that is in the public interest despite Freedom of Information requests. 
All the evidence that has been coming out in the last few days has been in police hands since it was gathered in 2005/6. Why does none of this evidence surface until it has been uncovered by more scrupulous journalists and released into the public domain? Who are the Met seeking to protect?
Andy Hayman, the man who was formerly in charge of The Met’s phone hacking investigation, and since employed by News International may be able to help with enquiries. Hayman resigned from the Met following allegations over his credit card expense claims and allegations of improper conduct with female colleagues, although an internal inquiry cleared him of wrongdoing. However the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) criticised Hayman for misleading the public over the De Menezes shooting. 
We now know that News International were paying some police officers for information. Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman have been arrested over the last few hours. Given Hayman’s employment and his direct link to the original investigation, it would be interesting to know whether there was any evidence of a relationship between Hayman and News International before his resignation.
Whoever might be responsible at an individual level, there has been little evidence of institutional acceptance at The Met for what has happened since 2006. Nobody has come forward to publicly apologise to the victims of phone hacking for their inaction or lack of candour thus far. Legally, the victims of phone hacking are victims of a crime. 
Regardless of the discussions and arguments over the public/private nexus and the rights of the rich and famous, phone hacking victims should be treated as such and afforded explanations as any other victims are.

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