From the Editor - June 2012
The Arab Spring that began in Tunisia in December 2010 triggered momentous change that continues to unfold across the Middle East. The sentencing of erstwhile autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the conclusion of presidential elections suggest Egypt may resume its leadership role in the region, remaking itself as a democratic country respecting the rule of law. Libya prompted relatively swift and decisive action, whereas Syria is presenting a similarly bloody but far more intractable challenge and one that is prompting calls to review Security Council members’ legal obligations under the UN Charter (see news analysis).
As this edition of IBA Global Insight went to press, Russia and China continued to stymie UN Security Council unanimity required for intervention in Syria. Concern over the consequences of such actions for fragile relations with and between Israel and Iran (see Iran: from prince to pariah) is significant. Russia’s call for the ICC to investigate the legality of intervention in Libya also gives pause.
The tension between power politics and idealism - at the UN and elsewhere - is nothing new, of course. And, the ICC, marking its tenth anniversary with landmark convictions in the Thomas Lubanga and Charles Taylor cases, provides both a sense that this is an historic moment for the new and evolving system of international criminal justice, and hope that global justice remains a viable proposition (see comment and analysis). Indeed, while challenges remain, there are signs that a broader sense of international justice is emerging to shape the 21st century.
President Barack Obama’s recent creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board as an early warning system for international human rights crises is an example. (Does it presage US ratification of the Rome Statute that created the ICC?) Notable, too, is growing recognition that the worlds of business and finance must take responsibility for human rights, made explicit in the most extensive response to the financial crisis so far, the Dodd-Frank Act (see Behind Lubanga: the battle for gold in the Congo), parts of which are set to come in to force imminently, despite widespread resistance (see Dodd-Frank exchanges). Given the impact of the financial crisis on human rights (see Europe’s downturn bodes ill for refugees) such opposition is surprising and is likely to hinder the emergence of a more far-reaching and powerful sense of international justice.