Tag Archives justice

Holding Myanmar accountable for acts of genocide is just the start of a long process of justice for the Rohingya by Lize Swartz

Holding Myanmar accountable for acts of genocide is just the start of a long process of justice for the Rohingya by Lize Swartz

Public hearings are currently underway at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Myanmar stands accused of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority after violent crackdowns since 2012 ...

Land and property rights in South Africa: questions of justice by Sanele Sibanda

Land and property rights in South Africa: questions of justice by Sanele Sibanda

How we approach contestations over land and property rights in South Africa says a lot about what we believe a just post-colonial constitutional order to be. While politicians and political ...

Legal mobilization to end impunity for international crimes by Jeff Handmaker

In 2014, on the 20th of July, the Israeli military targeted and bombed a home in a refugee camp in Gaza, killing several family members of Saad Ziada, including his mother and three brothers. Since this day, Mr. Ziada, a Dutch citizen and resident of the Netherlands, has persistently been seeking justice through legal mobilization. Ziada’s search for justice reveals the immense challenges faced by individuals and organizations seeking to hold individuals accountable for international crimes through different forms of legal mobilization.


It hasn’t been an easy journey. Ziada’s family were some of the 2000 killed, overwhelmingly civilians, during this large-scale Israeli military operation, which was extensively documented by United Nations investigators as well as representatives of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations. Numerous reports, including extensive dossiers that have been submitted to the International Criminal Court in The Hague as part of a preliminary examination, allege that international crimes were committed during Israel’s 2014 military operation.

Holding individuals accountable who were allegedly responsible in either Gaza or Israel has been a non-starter. The Israeli government has not even acknowledged that crimes took place, let alone pursued investigations against the alleged individuals responsible for those crimes. Ziada has therefore been compelled to seek justice elsewhere.

The most common response to any crime committed by an individual is prosecution in the country where the crimes took place. Obviously, this is an unrealistic prospect in a country that is led by a government unwilling to even acknowledge that such crimes took place. But international crimes have a special character.

International crimes are described in the preamble of the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court as “unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity”. Accordingly, multiple alternatives to prosecute international crimes have gradually emerged on the basis of what is described as “universal jurisdiction”. These alternatives include prosecution by the International Criminal Court or other specialized tribunal and prosecution in a “third country” that may have little to no association with the crime committed or the nationality of the alleged perpetrator.

The person who is prosecuted for international crimes doesn’t even need to have committed the alleged crimes themselves. For example, the Netherlands prosecuted the Dutch businessman Guus Kouwenhoven in relation to his complicity in war crimes committed in Liberia. In 2017, the Dutch Court of Appeal found Kouwenhoven to be criminally liable for his complicity in these crimes.

Alongside criminal jurisdiction, there is the possibility to sue an individual who is alleged to have committed an international crime for damages in a civil court. This is currently the basis of the case that has been brought to the Dutch District Court in The Hague by Ziada. The case is being brought against two Israeli military commanders who were believed to have ordered the bombing, including the former General Chief of Staff of the Israeli military, Benny Gantz, who has been campaigning to become president of Israel.

Universal jurisdiction received significant attention in our 2019 book Mobilising International Law for ‘Global Justice’, particularly in a chapter by Aisling O’ Sullivan. O’Sullivan argued how the struggle for ending impunity for international crimes is locked in a struggle between two competing approaches: on the one hand, there is a desire to hold individuals accountable for the most heinous of crimes; on the other, there is a desire to maintain order between nations which can be disrupted by these kinds of criminal trials. What further complicates matters are the different power positions between states and the tendency to give “deference to the interests of powerful states” (p. 180).

Universal jurisdiction was also the topic of a seminar that I co-organized in 2010 with Professor Liesbeth Zegveld, the outcome of which was contained in an ISS Working Paper. One of the key observations at this seminar was that “while some governments show a willingness to prosecute these crimes, others see this as a ‘problem’ and even advising their nationals / soldiers not to travel abroad” (p. 14).

What we observed then as a “relatively new area of the law” (p. 15) is now gaining currency, particularly in the courts of the Netherlands. Zegveld, who is also a prominent human rights lawyer, has represented several individuals and groups who have been seeking justice for international crimes committed against them and their loved ones. This includes the family of three men, including Rizo Mustafic, an electrician, who were killed during a massacre in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovnia by Serbian military forces in 1995. A Dutch military contingent was part of a United Nations military force stationed in Srebrenica at the time and was said to have mostly stood by while the massacre took place. In September 2013, the Dutch Supreme Court confirmed that the Dutch military commanders were partly responsible for not taking sufficient action to try and prevent the massacre.

Apart from the obvious political sensitivities involved in holding individuals accountable for international crimes, these kinds of cases are incredibly complex, not least the challenges of gathering evidence to prove what happened. There are also various cultural and other challenges associated with international criminal justice, particularly through international criminal tribunals, which I have discussed in other academic work.

Zegveld represents Ziada in the case that will be heard on 17th September, 2019. Will the outcome of this particular case of legal mobilization further advance the struggle against impunity for international crimes? There can be little doubt that international lawyers, human rights groups and concerned individuals around the world will be awaiting the outcome of this hearing with great anticipation.


Image Credit: Palestine Justice Campaign


JeffHandmakerISS
About the author:

Jeff Handmaker is a senior researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) and focuses on legal mobilisation.

He is a regular author for Bliss. Read all his posts here. 

 

 

Can technology ‘decode’ developmental problems? by Oane Visser and Manasi Nikam

Can technology ‘decode’ developmental problems? by Oane Visser and Manasi Nikam

This article presents an interview with Dr. Oane Visser, Associate Professor in Rural Development Studies, at the International Institute of Social Studies. It shows ways in which technology can be ...

EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

The next EADI Development Studies conference is about “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. But what does solidarity actually mean in relation to development studies? Kees Biekart explores the term by ...

EADI/ISS Series | Solidarity, Peace, and Social Justice – will these values prevail in times of fundamental threats to democracy? By Jürgen Wiemann

In today’s world of constantly rising inequality, increasingly authoritarian governments and anti-immigration sentiments, solidarity, peace and social justice seem to be more out of reach than ever. In a joint series by the EADI and ISS in preparation for the 2020 General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”, Jürgen Wiemann, EADI vice president, reflects on the possibilities we have to preserve these values.


Widening gaps

Solidarity, peace and social justice – the title for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference – are foundations and goals for a good society, a functioning democracy and for a global system that guarantees peace and facilitates international cooperation. Yet, our world seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Peace is no longer guaranteed when the global order established after the Second World War is not only attacked from outside but – even more disturbing – undermined from within; solidarity is waning with rising levels of immigration to Europe and the US, provoking resentment by those who already feel left behind; finally, social justice has become a utopian goal in a world of constantly rising inequalities.

The widening gap between incomes and wealth of the rich and the squeezed middle class is already perceived as a threat to democracy in Western countries. With political will, income inequality could be alleviated by progressive taxation. What may be even more relevant is the cultural alienation between the old middle class threatened by the negative consequences of globalisation, and the new middle class of professionals, academics and managers who benefit from globalisation and modernisation in general. Educated people see their incomes rise with a widening range of job opportunities through the internet and international job markets. They feel enriched by other cultures and exotic dishes and tend to acclaim openness and immigration. Their cosmopolitan tastes and lifestyles let them look down upon ordinary, less educated people who see their skills devalued by new technologies and new modes of production and distribution until their jobs are finally replaced by machines or outsourced to low-wage countries.

The widening economic and cultural divide between the old and the new middle class brings authoritarian populists to the fore who emphasise the resentment and anger of those left behind, reaffirming their perception of unfair treatment and even neglect by the elites and the media. Obviously, the populists do not have a plan to alleviate the economic distress of their constituency. On the contrary, their role is to defend the existing inequalities by exploiting the widespread resentment against the threats from globalisation. However, economic nationalism will not alleviate the plight of their electorate but will jeopardise jobs and compress incomes of the old middle class even further.

Whatever the medium and long-term economic effects of the nationalist policy agenda will be, it threatens to undermine the post-war global order from within. This would have dire consequences not only for the world economy, but also for international cooperation and global governance. It opens the door for other authoritarian governments to pursue their illiberal agenda and what they perceive as national interest without respect for their neighbours’ interests and the rest of the world.

From the end of history to the end of Western hegemony

After the Second World War, a global order was erected in order to prevent another world war and enhance peaceful international cooperation through trade, foreign direct investment and development cooperation. It was based on a set of values and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter. An array of international organisations was founded to implement the principles of peaceful international cooperation.

Trade liberalization and market access to the United States helped the war-damaged economies of Germany, Japan and the rest of Western Europe to recover faster than had been expected at the end of the war. Since the 1960s, a handful of smaller South East Asian countries implemented a development strategy of export-oriented industrialisation which let them catch up with the West within one generation, in terms of both income and technological capacity. Their success was celebrated as East Asian Miracle. In those days already, American and European industries felt the pressure from labour-intensive industries in South East Asia and Japan. Yet, in the 1970s, Western economies were more affected by two oil shocks and the ensuing stagflation. On both sides of the Atlantic the answer to that challenge was to stimulate economic growth through unleashing market forces, i.e. the neoliberal agenda.

That was the beginning of globalisation unchained, with China embracing capitalism in 1978 and copying the East Asian model of export-oriented industrialisation on a large scale. For two decades, economists and international financial institutes like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund took the rapid rise of China, India and other Asian emerging markets as proof of the effectiveness of the Washington Consensus that prescribes trade liberalisation for goods, services and capital. Millions of Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Indonesians etc. have been lifted out of poverty in one generation.

The complementary stress for the industrialised countries resulting from increasing imports of ever more sophisticated products from East Asia – job losses, abandoned industries, declining communities and regions – was vindicated by economists as necessary industrial restructuring that would eventually make everybody better off.  Today, we realise that this was an unfounded promise: the incomes of the old middle class have stagnated since decades while the rich have enjoyed increasing incomes and wealth. The middle-class squeeze was especially strong in the US and the UK, two countries whose governments had embraced neoliberal economic policies earlier and with more consequence than continental Europe. In both countries, populists have either taken over the government or gained a decisive influence on its course, undermining the European Union and the post war global order.

Responding to Environmental Threats

These trends do not forebode well for international cooperation and global governance which is more urgent than ever when it comes to responding to the challenges of climate change, extinction of species, overexploitation and excessive pollution of the oceans and other global or regional ecological disasters. A growing world population aspiring to the lifestyles of the middle classes in the West, is already trespassing several planetary boundaries. However, authoritarian populists routinely question scientific evidence and threaten media coverage of scientific research that aims at preparing the public for the required changes in lifestyles, for increasing taxation of carbon dioxide and for sharing responsibility for the global commons with other countries.

Optimists believe that human ingenuity and creativity will produce technological solutions to the global challenges. However, there is a risk that the avalanche of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence, will not only replace manual labour, but also jeopardise a wide range of professional jobs so that the fabric of industrial societies will be undermined faster than policies can be developed to contain their impact. There are more disturbing aspects associated with revolutionary new technologies, such as the manipulation of public opinion through social media, the possibility of totalitarian governments to control and suppress any opposition with new surveillance technologies, and new forms of warfare, cyberwar and fully autonomous weapon systems, may threaten peace and security. One can only hope for creative policies and agreements both on the national and the global level for containing the disruptive consequences of all these new technologies.

Conclusion: The challenge for the development community

The current erosion of the global order in general and the European Union in particular, is alarming, especially for those committed to development research and cooperation. It is our interest to work for improving the climate for effective international cooperation and a fair sharing of responsibilities for managing the various challenges between rich and poor countries and rich and poor in each country. The recent challenges to political stability and economic prosperity need to be comprehended by the community of development scholars, development policy makers and practitioners in order to focus their teaching and research and to adjust development cooperation to the changing environment.

At this critical moment in history, the development community must make up its mind: Quite a few scholars and activists have been, with good reasons, critical of globalisation and neoliberal policies that aggravate inequalities everywhere and threaten the global commons. Yet, we should reject the fundamental questioning of the old global order and economic globalisation that is gaining ground in the West. Authoritarian populists are not concerned about the problems of developing countries. Their dream of the good old times when White Supremacy justified uninhibited exploitation of developing countries and their natural resources allowing for relatively comfortable lifestyles even for the middle classes in the West, is opposed to any effort at improving the living conditions in the Global South while respecting the ecological limits to growth. Therefore, we will have to defend the principles and institutions of the global order against the assault from the authoritarian international in order to keep the door open for the reforms and improvements necessary in every country and in the global arena for achieving the SDGs before 2030.


This is the first article in a series launched by the EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) and the ISS in preparation for the 2020 EADI/ISS General Conference “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. It was also published on the EADI blog.


Image Credit: EarthDayPicture


About the author:

JrgenWiemann_web_EADI_folder

Jürgen Wiemann is economist, EADI Vice President and chair of the Subcommittee of the EXCO on Conferences. From 1999 to 2011, he had been the German delegate to EADI’s Executive Committee. Before his retirement in 2011, he had been deputy director of the German Development Institute (DIE) and advisor on trade (policy) and development (cooperation) to the German Ministry for development .

Enacting transitional justice in Colombia and South Africa by Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon

Enacting transitional justice in Colombia and South Africa by Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon

Debates on the provision of justice in countries transitioning from armed violence to peace often fail to reflect on how the objective of justice must be linked with its practice. ...

Epistemic Diversity| Understanding epistemic diversity: decoloniality as research strategy by Olivia U. Rutazibwa

Epistemic Diversity| Understanding epistemic diversity: decoloniality as research strategy by Olivia U. Rutazibwa

How do we make sure that our efforts to diversify knowledge production go beyond a window-dressing/Benetton operation? How can we move beyond merely adding some colour and other markers of ...

Epistemic Diversity | From ‘do no harm’ to making research useful: a conversation on ethics in development research by Karin Astrid Siegmann

Ethical dilemmas are part and parcel of the research processes that researchers are engaged in. This article details a recent conversation between ISS students and staff in which they tried to make sense of some of the ethical issues that researchers face. While the ‘do no harm’ principle was emphasised as an overall yardstick, the discussion went beyond that, raising broader questions about epistemic and social justice.


With thanks to Andrea Tauta Hurtado, Zhiren Ye, Kristen Cheney, Roy Huijsmans and Andrew Fischer.


Scholars in Development Studies are quick to brag about how relevant their research is for the underdogs of society. The reality is that representatives of marginalised groups rarely knock at our office doors to ask for scholarly support. In fact, development research often does harm by justifying economic and social inequalities, reproducing stereotypes and stigma, and misrepresenting or even erasing knowledge about the lives of marginalised people.

How can scholars prevent such harm from being done through their research? This question was discussed by ISS students majoring in Social Policy for Development and staff members in a workshop on “ethical, integrity, and security challenges”. The discussion aimed to prepare ISS students for their fieldwork. While in our conversation the ‘do no harm’ principle was emphasised as an overall yardstick for our research, the discussion went beyond that, raising broader questions about epistemic and social justice.

Challenges to informed consent and ensuring anonymity

Roy Huijsmans’ example from his masters’ research on Dutch school-going children’s employment experiences illustrated that research participants’ informed consent is crucial, but also complicated by the power relations structuring the research arena. Teachers in his former school had facilitated meetings with their students. Several of these students, in turn, had expressed interest in and consented to participating in Roy’s study. When conducting telephone interviews with these children, however, in some cases parents became suspicious: who is that adult male calling their child? Roy’s experience raises the issue of whether it is adequate to understand informed consent individually. If not, what role do we give to the—in this case generational—power relations wherein consent is embedded? Can ethics protocols that require consent from parents or other gatekeepers alongside children’s own answer these questions?

In my own research, class-based power relations motivate special attention to research participants’ anonymity. Referring to a recent study on working conditions in South Asian tea plantations, I flagged that if workers’ and unionists’ statements could be identified, this could lead to their dismissal or worse outcomes. Our research team addressed this concern by not providing names—neither of people, nor of research locations. Andrew Fischer challenged me: would that really prevent identification? It is likely that few people are probably willing to stick their necks out as labour leaders, making those that do more easily recognisable.

One student followed up and asked how she could protect the identity of chemsex users— people having sex while using hard drugs—whose experiences she plans to investigate. Referring to the do no harm principle, Roy encouraged her to reflect on the consequences of research participants’ names leaking out: the Dutch government tolerates illegal drug consumption. Hence, in the current scenario, enforcement agencies are unlikely to arrest users. However, such political priorities can easily change over time. Andrew therefore recommended the anonymisation of transcripts, with their key to be stored outside the computer.

The quest for epistemic justice and diversity

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned with the responsible representation of the lives, concerns and demands of the people who participate in my research, or, put differently, with epistemic justice. For instance, how will I represent the plantation workers who generously shared their experiences in our tea study? In a way that responds to the academic pressure to publish in highly-ranked journals with specific theoretical fancies? Or do research participants’ concerns guide my writing? This relates to questions that Marina Cadaval and Rosalba Icaza raise in their earlier post on this blog: ‘who generates and distributes knowledge, for which purposes, and how?’

Other participants in the discussion shared this concern for a fair representation. The student who engages with chemsex users’ experiences was acutely aware of the role of race in her research. In exploratory interviews, she learned how race shapes the exercise of power in chemsex users’ sexual relationships and how it either enables them to get support from or bars their access to the healthcare system. How to do justice to participants’ narratives without simultaneously repeating and reinforcing the underlying stereotypes?

For me, one way to deal with this quest for epistemic justice has been to engage in processes of activist scholarship, i.e. in collaboration and joint knowledge production with people who struggle for recognition and redistribution. Activist scholarship involves moves towards epistemic diversity, challenging the widely assumed supremacy of scientific knowledge heavily produced in Northern academic institutions. For instance, I have been involved in the campaign of a Florida-based farmworker organisation for making the Dutch retailer Ahold sign on to their programme for better working conditions in US agriculture. In dialogue with that organisation, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), I have written about lessons from that campaign for how precarious workers can effectively organise. Sruti Bala points out that this implies ‘to listen to articulations radically different from the frameworks that I may be trained in, but more than good listening is required in order for those articulations and insights to translate themselves into what we might call knowledge’. These processes of listening, dialoguing and learning didn’t lead to “consensus-based writing”, though. We had disagreements and I tried to make them visible in my writing.

Besides, there may be internal power hierarchies within the movements with which we collaborate. My colleague Silke Heumann earlier warned that through our decision of who participates in our research and who doesn’t, we run the risk of reinforcing existing power relations and of legitimising an elite’s perspective of a movement.

This approach may not be feasible for a masters’ thesis. What is possible in most cases, though, is to get research participants’ feedback on, critique and validation of how they understood our conversations or my wider observations about their lives. Time is a key resource in this effort to respect their knowledge as experts on their own lives. Taking time for research participants—rather than racing from one respondent to the next—enables us to conduct research in a more responsible manner. I want to integrate this principle more and more in my research due to the belief that this not only helps to prevent harm. Over and above that, it enables me to treat my research participants and their concerns with care. The more time I plan and spend for engagement with those who participate in my research, the greater the likelihood that it will embody epistemic justice.


 

This article forms part of a series on Epistemic Diversity. You can read the other articles here and here

csm_5abd70057687ec5e3741252630d8cc66-karin-siegmann_60d4db99baAbout the author: 

Holding a PhD in Agricultural Economics, Dr Karin Astrid Siegmann works as a Senior Lecturer in Labour and Gender Economics at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague, the Netherlands. She is the convenor of the ISS Major in Social Policy for Development (SPD).

Resistance and persecution: fighting the politics of control by Salena Tramel

Resistance and persecution: fighting the politics of control by Salena Tramel

Social justice movements from around the world are pushing back against a shift toward nationalism, extraction and environmental destruction. Those who resist increasingly do so at risk of great personal ...