Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Accused of War Crimes, and Living With Perks

A standard cell in the detention unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Source: The New York Times Europe

Published: June 3, 2010THE HAGUE — Since the days after World War II when people accused as Nazi criminals awaited their fates in the grimness of Nuremberg Prison, reformers have dramatically reshaped the standards under which suspects accused of the vilest war crimes are being held.

The communal area of the detention unit of the International Criminal Court.
Beyond the brick towers of a Dutch prison just east of here is a compound where former Congolese warlords, Serbian militia leaders and a former Liberian president accused of instigating murder, rape and enslavement are confined in two detention centers with private cells stocked like college dormitories, with wooden bookcases, television sets and personal computers. Among the other amenities are a gym, a trainer, a spiritual room and a common kitchen where some former enemies trade recipes and dine on cevapi, or Balkan meatballs.

Three warlords whose cases are before the International Criminal Court are also receiving free legal aid at a monthly cost of about €35,000, or $43,000. They are classified as indigent, one of them despite assets that include €500,000 in investments, €150,000 in savings, €300,000 in paintings and jewelry, three automobiles and four properties.

But an additional benefit — travel subsidies of tens of thousands of euros for family visits from distant African countries — is stirring an emotional debate among the court’s donor nations about whether the entitlements at the cluster of international courts meeting here have reached their limits.

Each court was intended, in part, to provide a model of humane, civilized detention that contrasts starkly with the horrific nature of the crimes the inmates are accused of. But how much is too much?

A group including France, Italy and smaller states is arguing that the nations financing the courts should not be covering benefits that they do not provide in their own prisons — and do not want to. What precedent might be set, they ask, if they contribute to these provisions here?

“We’re not treating them as equals to the rest of detainees in national prisons,” said Francisco José Aguilar Urbina, the Costa Rican ambassador to the Netherlands. “A guy who steals a chicken to feed his family will not be paid by the states for family visits.”

The visits make up a small part of the budget of the International Criminal Court, which authorized the travel subsidies and spends about €102 million yearly for court costs, staff and investigators along with housing and prosecuting four men. But the dispute is scratching at bigger concerns about costly legal processes that have dragged on, yielded no convictions and put a lot of focus on the benefits at the detention facilities, which some critics mock as the Hague Hilton.

“Behind this issue is a tug of war,” said William Schabas, director of the Irish Center for Human Rights in Galway, Ireland — one between the court’s judges, who have generally supported broad prisoner rights, and many of the countries that are paying the bills. “They are wondering what they are getting for their money. This is a court that has existed for seven years and hasn’t finished one trial.”

Diplomats from more than 100 nations are gathered in Kampala, Uganda, to take stock of the court, though the dispute over family travel is moving toward a resolution this autumn. The court was created almost eight years ago as a permanent tribunal to prosecute genocide and war crimes. Its 12-cell detention center houses five prisoners: four from Congo and Charles G. Taylor, the deposed president of Liberia, who has two cells, one where he lives and one where he keeps his documents.

They share the gym with 36 defendants, including the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who are before a sister court dealing exclusively with Balkan war crimes and who are housed separately. That court does not provide travel benefits, but many of the prisoners’ home nations do, albeit far more modestly than the International Criminal Court.

Defending the International Criminal Court’s policy, Marc Dubuisson, its director of court services, said: “I’m not here to judge whether a person is worse than another. We have an obligation to show the world what is good management. Why would you want to sentence the children not to see their own parent?”

Thanks to conjugal visits, several detainees became new fathers, including a Serbian general and Mr. Taylor, 62, whose baby girl was born in February.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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