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February 4th, 2014

STAND Laurier: Fall in Review

As the winter semester begins, we are looking back on the year so far and learning how we can improve our impact at Laurier.

Our chapter has been fortunate to be part of a coalition at Laurier that works to combine the initiatives of social justice groups to make a greater impact on the student community. One of the events we had the opportunity to be a part of was the Smile Epidemic, which was a fun and interactive way to attract students to learn more about STAND.

Another event we found was successful was our “Conflict Free Hour” in which we went an hour without using electronics that may contain harmful conflict minerals from the Congo. It was an hour of both education and fun. We spent time teaching those in attendance about conflict minerals and the Conflict Free Campus Initiative, and for the remainder we played board games and enjoyed each other’s company. We are hoping to have another Conflict Free Hour in the winter term.

Our main goal moving forward is to continue to increase student involvement in STAND and our initiatives as well as further educate the Laurier community. With more collaborative events with the other social justice clubs coming up and our own events in the works, we can’t wait to see what the winter has in store.

Posted in Chapter News by sfenwick
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December 22nd, 2013

A Message from the Executive Director on the Violence in South Sudan

My fellow advocates,

Over the past week, South Sudan has edged closer to civil war following an alleged coup attempt. The resulting violence along ethnic lines has left many civilians injured or killed.

As an anti-genocide organization, STAND Canada deplores the violence against unarmed civilians – especially if it is along ethnic lines. The murder of civilians over the past week is unacceptable. Furthermore, STAND Canada deplores the attack on the UN compound in Akobo, where UN peacekeepers and civilians who sought shelter were attacked. We strongly urge that both sides refrain from attacking UN compounds throughout the country.

The protection of civilians is the highest priority, and STAND calls for a return to a peaceful dialogue in South Sudan. Although the Canadian government has appealed for calm in South Sudan, it can help achieve this through working with its counterparts on the ground. In the early 2000s, Canada successfully worked with many partners to bring Sudan’s brutal 22-year civil war between the north and the south to a negotiated, peaceful end. We still have a role to play.

For some context on what led to this past week’s violence, I encourage you to read Bianca Taberna’s article on the STAND website about last month’s scrapping of major structures within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). This was a precursor to today’s situation. Although this article was written prior to the alleged coup attempt, an update has been added at its end.

For further updates on the situation in Sudan, please follow our page on Facebook at http://facebook.com/standcanada and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/STANDCanada. We will be posting updates from various news outlets whenever possible.

Sincerely,

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director
STAND Canada

Posted in News Update, Operational Updates by sfenwick
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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.

Addendum

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.

Posted in The Scholar by sfenwick
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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.

Posted in The Scholar by ncollett
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November 4th, 2013

Different Title, Same Duties

I now come to you as STAND Canada’s Executive Director. After STAND’s latest board meeting on October 22, the change was made to re-name the Principal Director position to Executive Director.

I proposed this change simply to give more clarity to my role, especially with partners that work with STAND. My position came to be known as Principal Director more than five years ago, where overall responsibilities were split between two different people: the Principal Director and the Director of Operations. The Principal director was responsible for day-to-day activities and STAND’s finances were covered by the Director of Operations. Eventually, the two positions merged under the title Principal Director, and it stuck ever since.

Although this change isn’t significant, I plan to post updates similar to this to keep everyone in STAND’s membership informed on what’s happening in the organization. I hope that everyone will find this helpful in staying updated.

Scott Fenwick
Executive Director, STAND Canada

Posted in Operational Updates by sfenwick
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