Archive for the ‘The Scholar’ Category

October 17th, 2014

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

By Kristen Pue, Advocacy Director

Today, on October 17, 2014 – the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – we should reflect on the link between genocide and poverty. While the goals of creating a world without genocide and eliminating poverty may seem distinct, they are in fact interconnected. This is because poverty is a catalyst for conflict; conflict creates poverty; and conflict disproportionately affects the poor.

I. Poverty is a Catalyst for Conflict: are countries poor because they are violent or violent because they are poor? Probably, causation runs in both directions. Poverty can exacerbate existing identity tensions – particularly during severe crises, as is currently the case for South Sudan, which is at risk of famine. Although poverty is typically not the primary cause of violence, it can be a critical catalyst. For example, although many other factors were at play, poverty was a contributing factor to the Rwandan genocide. Declining incomes and contracting economic opportunities for the poor characterized the years leading up to the outbreak of violence, leading some to conclude that violence was due to famine and rising economic difficulties in combination with property imbalances along ethnic lines.

II. Conflict Creates Poverty: while many development experts speak about the “poverty trap”, others have begun to note a “violence trap”, in which conflict keeps countries poor. In addition to the destruction caused by ongoing conflict in terms of loss of life, loss of property, and displacement, conflict suppresses the development of financial systems and deters international investment. The World Bank estimates that 71 per cent of the population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo lives below the poverty line, a situation which is largely attributed to the ongoing conflict there.

III. Conflict Disproportionately Affects the Poor: as in most disaster conflicts, the poorest and most vulnerable are disproportionately affected both by the immediate consequences of conflict and its secondary economic effects. The poor are least able to flee impending violence, are most dependent on underfunded and overcrowded refugee camps, and feel the effects of famine most acutely.

On International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, it is important to remember the link between genocide and poverty. STAND envisions a world without genocide, and this means working to eradicate global poverty.

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June 23rd, 2014

Gendering Genocide: Rwanda and Sudan

By Karen Meyer

It is important to understand the unique harm and injustice subjected to women and girls throughout genocide, including in its aftermath. If women tend to be the victims and are seen as the vulnerable group, why are they subjected to such travesties? Rape is recognized as a weapon of war; however, it is apparent when violent conflict plagued Rwanda and Sudan rape was inescapable for thousands of women.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda differed in its treatment of men and women, which was reflected in various phases. Adam Jones suggests that the perpetrators pursued certain genders at different stages of the 100 days they ravaged. It started with adult men who can be seen to be the most dangerous, then eventually targeting adolescents and elderly men. At this later stage, Tutsi women were being raped or victimized. This then led to children and newborns being murdered in order to kill off “tomorrow’s RPF soldiers.” Finally it led to the extermination of women and girls to cleanse all Tutsis from existence (Jones, 2009).

Read the rest of this entry »

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December 18th, 2013

South Sudan’s SPLM: Dissolution of Party Structures

by Bianca Taberna

It is a common notion that an entity is greater as a whole than a sum of its parts. This holds especially true for a government and its linkage of institutions. These institutions are put in place to ensure that government operations are organized on various state levels and that implemented policies remain effective. When such structures exist alongside a ruling political party, there is a greater sense of state responsibility. There are more channels through which citizens can have their voices heard. Political structures also have separate responsibilities to ensure a higher degree of productivity while still allowing for cohesion. Without these political institutions, it is difficult to perceive a government’s actions as legitimate.

This is a predicament that the citizens of South Sudan are facing upon the recent dissolution of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party’s institutions. On November 15, Salva Kiir Mayardit announced that he dissolved all of the ruling party’s political structures, including its highest executive branches: the Political Bureau (PB) and the National Liberation Council (NLC).

These structures were initially implemented to strengthen the operation of the political party. Kiir’s decision to get rid of them surprised many, considering the impending national election scheduled for 2015. Kiir explained that his decision resulted from the SPLM’s national convention, originally scheduled for last May, being delayed. At the convention, elections for leadership positions within the party were supposed to be held to continue party operations. Kiir has stated that he plans on reappointing a new secretariat. In addition, he will establish a new committee, whose purpose will be to form congresses for each of South Sudan’s states. The basis of Kiir’s decision is definitely questionable. His justification for dissolving such essential parts of the political party is far too simplistic, and prompts a consideration of the underlying reasons for his actions. It should also be acknowledged that the dissolution of the SPLM structures was not a collective decision by the entire party. A number of senior members of the Political Bureau were not even included in the announcement of the party dissolution. These members included SPLM’s first deputy chairman and former vice-president, Riek Machar Teny, who has been very vocal of his contention with Kiir. The rift between the two manifested earlier this year when Kiir dismissed Machar as vice-president. Machar has even announced plans of his own to run for SPLM chairmanship in the upcoming election. He provided a statement to the Sudan Tribune, in which he maintained that there is no provision in the party’s current constitution that gives Kiir the power to dissolve the structures.  According to Machar, Kiir’s decision is unconstitutional and goes beyond the scope of his power. He adds that Kiir’s action has created a “paralysis in the party.”

In defence of the dissolution, the SPLM secretary for external affairs, Suzan Jambo, attests that Kiir has in fact acted in compliance with the party’s constitution, referring specifically to chapter X (25) sections (d), (e), (f) and (g). Machar contests this, standing firmly by his opinion and maintaining that the sections cited simply dictate the role of a chairperson but does not explicate the authority to dissolve party structures.

In late November, Machar announced that he plans to hold a press conference that will inform the nation of the SPLM’s future. He has also provided a statement to the Sudan Tribune that advances quite substantial claims. Machar informed the online news source that the press conference will reveal that resolutions have been passed against Kiir’s actions. Furthermore, it is reported that the leadership consultative meeting has in fact denounced Kiir’s decision as a violation of the party’s constitution. Details on other motions passed during the meeting regarding Kiir’s actions have been scheduled for discussion during the press conference. As of now, Machar has yet to confirm a date or location for the event.

However, amidst all this internal party discord and uncertainty about the future of SPLM’s institutions, a meeting date for members of the dissolved NLC has been confirmed for December 9th 2013. The meeting was announced via South Sudan TV, by second deputy chairperson for the party, James Wani Igga. The confirmation of this meeting seems promising. The present back and forth between party members in the media only intensifies the complexity of the situation and increases the ambiguity of SPLM’s future plans in the eyes of the public. This NLC meeting will provide the opportunity for senior members to discuss the dissolution – whether it was constitutional or not – and provide a degree of reassurance to citizens that the SPLM still somewhat cohesive. To effectively gage the ramifications of the dissolved structures, a comprehensive perspective must be applied. The circumstances in which these decisions were implemented are evidently controversial. It’s apparent that the possible contingencies of Kiir’s actions, and his justifications for them, are worrisome. Though Kiir plans to form a new secretariat, he has yet to address establishing new structures to supersede the dissolved institutions. The PB and the NLC were highly critical to the overall structure of the party. It should also be noted that the dissolution was implemented a month after Canada decommissioned the Sudan Task Force. Lacking the physical presence in the region definitely hinders Canada’ ability to aid South Sudan in what may escalate into a party division.

Despite the personal bias that may be imbedded within Marchar’s claims against Kiir, his assessment of what the dissolution has done to the SPLM is accurate – it has essentially paralyzed the ruling political party. Without these structures, the checks and balances that legitimize and adequately diffuse power within a political system are fundamentally gone.


Members of South Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) finally met on December 14th, 2013 aiming to discuss the recent changes to the political party’s fundamental structure.

Although the meeting’s first day was initially promising, a number of the Political Bureau’s senior members, including SPLM chairman Riek Machar, refused to return on the 15th, alleging that the meeting’s nature was highly undemocratic.

Military violence started Sunday night on December 15th at a former Joint Integrated Unit Camp, in the country’s capital of Juba. Those who initiated the shooting are members of the Presidential Guard associated with Machar.

On Monday, President Salva Kiir held a press conference in which he addressed the conflict, stating that “a group of soldiers allied to the former vice-president Dr Riek Machar and his group” were responsible for the attack.

In the same press conference Kiir declared a 6 pm to 6 am curfew in Juba.

In his first interview with the Sudan Tribune since the violent breakout, Machar has denied any involvement with an attempt to seize government control. He stated:

There was no coup. What took place in Juba was a misunderstanding between presidential guards within their division. It was not a coup attempt. I have no connection with or knowledge of any coup attempt.

As of December 17th, ten former government and SPLM officials have been arrested including former Finance Minister Kosti Manibe, former Justice Minister John Luk Jok, and former Interior Minister Gier Chuang Aluong. Their individual connection to the outbreak of violence in Juba has yet to be reported. A warrant of arrest has also been put out for Machar.

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November 5th, 2013

President Omar Al-Bashir of the Republic of Sudan and the International Criminal Court | By Allison Grandish

It’s been a few years since President Al-Bashir of TRO (The Republic of) Sudan was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed by his government and its proxy militias in Darfur.  He hasn’t been arrested yet, and conflicting opinions regarding the prudence of the ICC’s indictment persist. Before those issues are analyzed, however, background information is needed.

In 2005, the UN Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the ICC. One author explains it in more technical terms: “Prompted in part by the U.S. declaration of genocide, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1564 calling for an international investigation into reports of genocide and crimes against humanity in the province. The subsequently created commission issued a report that resulted in an Article 13(b) Security Council referral of the case to the ICC.” In turn, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, investigated what was going on in Sudan (for those interested, he was able to do this because Article 53 of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, gives the prosecutor the authority to investigate potential crimes). After carrying out an investigation, Campo submitted his findings to the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber. There, cases are presented to three judges and, if the case meets the low threshold for proof, they decide “that a crime has been committed within the Court’s jurisdiction” it accepts the Prosecutor’s submission (for the individual to be arrested or summoned to court). When requesting the issuance of an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir, Moreno Ocampo pressed for genocide to be included as one of the charges.

When the ICC takes a case, it assumes the state’s role in prosecuting someone for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or the crime of aggression (the only crimes that will land you in The Hague). It is only able to take on a case when the state is unable or unwilling to do it, and won’t get involved if the person being accused of the crime is already being prosecuted in that member state’s courts. The above conditions come into play in TRO Sudan. At the time of the indictment, it didn’t seem that putting Al-Bashir on trial in TRO Sudan was possible. The regime – which probably wouldn’t indict its head – wasn’t going to change, which would mean that the courts would have to press charges against the head of state. This would be tricky considering that the military – under the control of Al-Bashir – was in control of the judiciary. Seeing as how the rule of law was less than perfect in this case, it’s understandable to see why the ICC was seen by some to be more effective than TRO Sudan’s courts.

The ICC reviewed the evidence presented regarding the 2003-onward conflict in Darfur and the role of the Sudan Armed Forces, the Sudan Police Forces, and proxy militias such as the Janjaweed in the violence against civilians that characterized it. In July 2008, President Omar Al-Bashir of TRO Sudan was indicted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Most of these crimes targeted the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit groups. Evidence gathered by various non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International or Human Rights watch indicated that the government of TRO Sudan was directly complicit in the human rights atrocities – rape, torture, forcible transfer and murder – being committed in TRO Sudan, which helped provide grounds for prosecution. The investigation carried out by the prosecutor at the UN’s request proved that Al-Bashir, who was in charge of the military and who had influence over what the proxy militias did, was culpable in their acts (like razing villages). The accountability aspect is important because, even though it may be taken for granted that he would, it had to be proven that Al-Bashir was actually in charge of what the military was doing and could have stopped what was going on but chose not to. For those interested in precedent-setting events, I’ll note that the arrest warrant referral was “the first such referral in history” to target a head of state.

Al-Bashir was charged with crimes against humanity, the legal definition of which includes those acts alleged to have occurred during widespread attacks on civilians during the repression of the SLM/A and JEM insurgencies – namely, rape, torture, forcible transfer of populations, and murder. He could be indicted because he had knowledge that civilians were being victimized and the continuation of those attacks was part of a larger scheme. Evidence of this intentionality was found in the way that attacks against insurgents were carried out, for example. If civilians were not murdered outright Sudanese armed forces “systematically destroyed the means of survival” (ruining agricultural lands or killing livestock) so that the remaining would die off. In addition to extermination through aerial assaults or the destruction of their livelihoods, civilians targeted by the government of TRO Sudan endured torture and sexual crimes. In addition to murder, the prosecution alleged that mass rapes perpetrated by militia in villages across the Darfur region were systematic, intentional, and used as weapons in the conflict. This is in contrast to, say, civilians injured when caught in an armed conflict between forces; rather than dying as collateral damage while caught in a war zone, the civilians in Darfur were directly targeted. Again, the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes generally bore the brunt of these acts.

The crime of genocide is our main concern. Genocide, according to the ICC, consists of “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, the ethnic group in this case being the non-Arab population. That definition can be debated, but for now it’s the one we’ll work with because it’s relevant to Al-Bashir’s arrest warrant.  Getting the genocide charge included in the list of charges included in Al-Bashir’s arrest warrant, to begin with. First the ICC decided to omit genocide because there wasn’t enough evidence, then Mareno Ocampo appealed the decision, urging the ICC to include genocide to raise awareness of what happened to victims and to honour them by holding Al-Bashir accountable. The appeal was won when the appeals court found that there was enough evidence, and a second arrest warrant including genocide as one of the charges was released. But although we know that genocide is the extermination of a group, what specific actions fall under this? If you look at what crimes are included under genocide, a lot of it looks like a reflection of crimes against humanity, like forcing people out of an area or murdering them. The distinction is that while crimes against humanity encompass acts directed against civilians generally, genocide (according to the ICC) is characterized by the intent to target a religious, national, ethnical, or racial group and eliminate them. This is seen in Darfur where, according to Moreno Campo, the government of TRO Sudan is carrying out a campaign to exterminate the non-Arab, or black African, population. The racial distinction is contentious to some, with claims made that the assertion of ‘genocide’ constructs an overly simplistic racial division. That discussion will be taken up next month in the second part of this analysis, but for now that should be a hasty but serviceable summary of the genocide charge.

The ICC indictment of Al-Bashir was groundbreaking in a couple of ways. It was the first time an arrest warrant was put out for a head of state, and the first time someone was charged with genocide. Furthermore, some saw it as a message to other high-ranking leaders that their power would not protect them from being held accountable for crimes against the citizens of their state. The arrest warrant also made it possible for victims to be vindicated if Bashir were to be punished for what was done to them. At the same time, the indictment remains rife with controversy – some questioned the prudence of including genocide in the list of charges while others were concerned that the Prosecutor’s analysis of the racial dimensions to the conflict oversimplified matters. For humanitarian workers afraid of being kicked out of the country or those who prefer to diplomatically resolve the conflict between Khartoum and rebels, the arrest warrant is seen as contentious and risky. For the idealistic or hopeful, meanwhile, the arrest warrant hasn’t had the desired impact on TRO Sudan.

Information in this article was taken from the following sources:

Al Jazeera, “Bashir genocide charge under review,” 3 February 2010.

Barnes, Gwen P., “The International Criminal Court’s Ineffective Enforcement Mechanisms: The Indictment of President Omar Bashir,” Fordham International Law Journal 34.6 (2011): 1585-1619.

Flint, Julie and Alex de Waal, “Case Closed: A Prosecutor Without Borders,” World Affairs, Spring 2009.

International Criminal Court, “Decision on the Prosecution’s Application for a Warrant of Arrest against Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir”, ICC-02/05-01/09, Pre-Trial Chamber 1, 4 March 2009.

International Criminal Court. Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,  Enschede, Overijssel: PrintPartners Ipskamp, 2011.

Kelly, Michael J., “‘Genocide’: The Power of a Label,” Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 40.1/2 (2008): 147-162

Lipscomb, Rosanna, “Restructuring the ICC Framework to Advance Transitional Justice: A Search for a Permanent Solution in Sudan,” Columbia Law Review 106.1 (2005): 182-212

Mamdani, Mahmood, “The International Criminal Court’s Case Against the President of Sudan: A Critical Look,” Journal of International Affairs 62.2 (2009): 85-92

Ray, Corina, “Are ‘Arabs’ killing ‘Black Africans’ in Darfur?” New African, January 2009 [print]

Reuters, “ICC issues arrest warrant for genocide against Bashir,” 12 July 2010.

Rice, Xan, “Sudanese president Bashir charged with Darfur war crimes,” The Guardian, 4 March 2009.

Warham, Olivia, “Four years later, was the ICC right to indict Sudan’s Bashir?” Reuters, 4 March 2013.

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August 25th, 2013

What Stops Genocide From Occurring? Part 4: Macro Level

Last time, we talked about meso level factors of restrain. Join us as today we discuss macro level factors!


Macro-level sources of restraint include systems. In terms of political economy, for example, genocide carries high costs. It invites international condemnation and carries significant costs to a state’s reputation, it triggers international arrest warrants, and the resources devoted to violence against civilians are unavailable for broader military campaigns against opposing military. Furthermore, it entails large scale human disruptions that cause significant population upheaval and might disrupt the economy. In terms of prediction and preventing genocides, this gives us information, as a low trade openness is a significant risk factor for genocide, because they are less sensitive to international condemnation. Class mechanisms also play a role, as where there is a large middle class there is a large incentive to seek stability because violence can threaten their wealth and property.

 In terms of political institutions, democratic states constrain executive power and restrain violence making them less likely to commit genocides. Ideologically, national political cultures that either promote multi-ethnic cooperation or eschew exclusionist conceptions of the national community, act as a check on violence. Lastly, at an international level, threatened judicial action of sanctions and peacekeeping acts as a deterrent (by threatening to punish defectors to an agreement), increasing benefits (by signaling to donors the good behaviour of belligerents); reducing uncertainty and retaliatory cycles (by monitoring and providing information) are all factors that restrain the escalation of violence leading to genocide.

 What does this mean for us at STAND Canada?

These macro factors tell us how we should draft the recommendations that we take to government and other international organizations. For example, that we could urge government to take economic action against genocide-perpetrating states by pressing sanctions against them. It also affirms the importance of condemning genocidal behaviour, and of urging the Canadian government to sign on to treaties and international legal treaties that punish perpetrators of genocide – which not only delivers needed justice, but may also act as a powerful deterrent for the potential of future crimes!


Scott Straus, “Retreating from the Brink: Theorizing Mass Violence and the Dynamics of Restraint,” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 2 (June 2012): 343.


Neekoo Collett is a Master of Global Affairs students at the Munk School, University of Toronto. Her research focuses on “factors of restraint” and the situation of Baha’is in Iran, as well as the politics of genocide language and the proposed Crimes Against Humanity Convention. This post is adapted from previously published work. 

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“What Stops Genocide From Occurring?” by Neekoo Collett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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