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Article

Africa and the International Criminal Court  

Westen K. Shilaho

A diplomatic row between Africa, specifically the African Union (AU), and the International Criminal Court (ICC), regarding accountability for mass atrocities exists. Critics accuse the ICC of bias on account of its African caseload, while the ICC counters that it has a mandate to afford justice to victims of heinous crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, war of aggression, and genocide—whenever domestic courts cannot do so. This article problematizes the relationship between the AU and the ICC, which was initially cordial until the indictment of former Sudanese autocrat, Omar Al-Bashir. The indictment of six Kenyan suspects, the “Ocampo Six,” among them, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who subsequently ascended to power, worsened the Africa–ICC relationship. The article contends that, although flawed, the ICC is significant in addressing impunity. However, the ICC stands accused of favoritism, imperialism, erosion of the sovereignty of already weak African states, and escalation of conflicts. Historically, international criminal justice is steeped in controversy. Africa has suffered humiliation by the West, which evokes suspicion toward the ICC, perceived to be a stooge of Western powers. The ICC as a court of last resort, ought to afford justice to victims of mass atrocities whenever national judiciaries fail them. Crucially, however, domestic courts in Africa need capacity and political will to hold to account masterminds and perpetrators of mass atrocities. Thus, the choice between justice and peace or retributive and restorative justice preponderant among ICC critics in Africa is false. There cannot be peace and reconciliation in Africa without justice. Truth telling and retribution are complementary processes in combating impunity and realizing justice, stability, and prosperity.

Article

Children in Violent Movements: From Child Soldiers to Terrorist Groups  

Mia Bloom and Kristian Kastner Warpinski

While the use of child soldiers has declined in recent years, it has not ended entirely. Children remain front-line participants in a variety of conflicts throughout the world and are actively recruited by armed groups and terrorist organizations. Reports of children involved in terrorism have become all too common. Boko Haram has repeatedly selected women and girls as their primary suicide attackers, and, in Somalia, the United Nations reported that al-Shabaab was responsible for recruiting over 1,800 children in 2019. In Iraq and Syria, children were routinely featured in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) propaganda, and the group mobilized children as “cubs” to fight for the so-called Caliphate. Unfortunately there is a myriad of reasons why terrorist organizations actively include children within their ranks: children can be proficient fighters, and they are easy to train, cheaper to feed, and harder to detect. Thus, recruiting and deploying children is often rooted in “strategy” and not necessarily the result of shrinking numbers of adult recruits. Drawing from the robust literature on child soldiers, there are areas of convergence (and divergence) that explain the pathways children take in and out of terrorist organizations and the roles they play. Focusing on two cases, al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we argue that there are three distinct but overlapping processes of child recruitment, including forced conscription (i.e., kidnapping), subtle manipulation and coercion (i.e., cultures of martyrdom), and a process of seemingly “voluntary recruitment,” which is almost always the result of intimidation and pressure given the children’s age and their (in)ability to provide consent. The concepts of consent and agency are key, especially when weighing the ethical and legal questions of what to do with these children once rescued or detained. Nonetheless, the children are first and foremost victims and should be awarded special protected status in any domestic or international court. In 2020, countries were seeking to balance human rights, legal responsibility, and national security around the challenge of repatriating the thousands of children affiliated with ISIS and still languishing in the al-Hol and Al Roj camps.

Article

Civil Resistance  

Hardy Merriman

Civil resistance is a way for people—often those who have no special status or privilege—to wield power without the threat or use of violence. It consists of a range of acts of protests (e.g., mass demonstrations); noncooperation (e.g., strikes, boycotts); intervention (e.g., blockades, mass demonstrations); and the development of new relationships, behavior patterns, and organizations (e.g., alternative institutions). Diverse people from societies worldwide have engaged in civil resistance for millennia. Individuals can initiate acts of civil resistance spontaneously, and many have done so at some point in their lives, for example, by defying or reducing their cooperation with institutional policies as students or employees. However, the study of this field has focused on collective acts of civil resistance through popular movements and campaigns that are organized to achieve shared goals and involve some degree of strategic planning. While civil resistance can be used to advance an array of causes, much of the research has focused on efforts within societies to overcome authoritarian rule and advance democratic change. Scholarship in the field has developed at an accelerating pace in the early 21st century, as civil resistance becomes increasingly recognized as a powerful driver of political change and democratic development worldwide. The field concerns itself with a range of questions, including: How do ordinary people self-organize against powerful and oppressive adversaries? What is the interplay of structure and agency in determining the emergence and trajectories of civil resistance movements? What kinds of strategies increase a movement’s prospects of success? What counter-strategies are most effectively employed against movements? How do movements manage the repression used against them? What is the success rate of civil resistance movements compared to violent insurgencies? What kinds of long-term impacts do civil resistance movements have on societies? How is civil resistance effectively employed for a range of different causes? What is the relationship between civil resistance and other forms of addressing conflict such as electoral politics, negotiations, and peacebuilding? Why and how do civil resistance movements induce defections among their adversary’s supporters? How should international law regard civil resistance movements? What role can external actors play in supporting or inhibiting such movements?

Article

Civil Wars and Displacement  

Ayşe Betül Çelik

The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.

Article

Cultural Genocide in Law and Politics  

Alana Tiemessen

The violent and nonviolent repression of cultural groups, or using cultural means to destroy a group, is often identified as “cultural genocide.” The concept’s association with genocide, the “crime of crimes,” suggests it is of serious international concern. Yet contestation over its meaning and application has rendered cultural genocide more of a rhetorical tool than a crime that can be prevented or punished. The scholarly literature on this subject demonstrates that academics and policymakers have been hampered by legal debates and states’ political interests, from Lemkin’s original conception of genocide and the UN Genocide Convention negotiations to the ad hoc responses to “real world” cultural genocide cases. The legal debates have centered around whether cultural genocide can fit within the limits of the Convention’s definition of genocide, that is, the specific intent to destroy, specific protected groups as victims, and so on, and the assumption that genocide is primarily the physical destruction of a group by violent means. Interdisciplinary perspectives on cultural genocide, particularly from anthropology, have shown that cultural genocide is diverse in practice; while not always physically violent in its means or ends, it is closely associated with historical and modern cases of settler colonialism. The politics of cultural genocide has historically been manifested in the politicized negotiations of the Genocide Convention and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in which the self-interests of many states precluded any specific mention of cultural means of genocide. In the early 21st century, debates about who should be considered a cultural group and the utility of identifying cultural genocide without its criminalization have resulted in a lack of recognition and response to group destruction.

Article

Drivers of Religious Extremism in South Asia  

Zahid Shahab Ahmed

Religious extremism is not a new phenomenon in South Asia but it has certainly grown during the 21st century and that too across the region. While there are historical reasons behind religious divisions and fissures in South Asia (e.g., the two-nation theory with reference to the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent), religious nationalism is a key driver behind the securitization of religious minorities. Although the existence of Muslim extremists is linked to how religion was used as a tool to recruit and mobilize mujahideen against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1988, the global dynamics after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the “war on terror” have also influenced religious radicalization and extremism in Pakistan. In contrast, Buddhist and Hindu nationalism have been key drivers of religiously motivated extremism targeting religious minorities, especially Muslims, in Sri Lanka and India. There are similarities in terms of how Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim extremist groups have been propagating hate and inciting violence; for instance, many extremist groups now increasingly use social media. As this article argues, the presence of religious extremism in South Asia presents a significant challenge to peace and security. This includes various forms of extremism targeting different religious groups and promoting anti-Western sentiments. International terrorist organizations are active in the region, while Hindu and Buddhist nationalists contribute to the marginalization and violence against Muslims. Creating an environment of tolerance, inclusivity, and respect for all religious communities is crucial to address these complex issues effectively.

Article

From Humanitarian Intervention to the Responsibility to Protect  

Kurt Mills and Cian O’Driscoll

In contrast with humanitarian access or the provision of humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention is commonly defined as the threat or use of force by a state to prevent or end widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals other than its own citizens, without the permission of the state within whose territory force is applied. In support of their cause, advocates of humanitarian intervention often draw upon and reference the authority of the notional “just war.” The four main ways by which humanitarian intervention has been connected to the idea of the just war relate to the ideals of self-determination, punishment, responsibility, and conditional sovereignty. For a humanitarian intervention to be considered legitimate, there must be a just cause for intervention; the use of force must be a last resort; it must meet the standard of proportionality; and there must be a good likelihood that the use of force will contribute to a positive humanitarian outcome. The historical practice of humanitarian intervention can be traced from the nineteenth century to the recognition of the Responsibility to Protect by the World Summit in 2005 and its application in Darfur. Major conceptual debates surrounding humanitarian intervention include the problematic relation between sovereignty and human rights, the legal status of intervention, the issue of multilateralism versus unilateralism, and the quest for criteria for intervention.

Article

Gender and Transitional Justice  

Maria Martin de Almagro and Philipp Schulz

Transitional justice (TJ) refers to a set of measures and processes that deal with the legacies of human rights abuses and violent pasts, and that seek to aid societies transitioning from violence and conflict toward a more just and peaceful future. Much like the study of armed conflict and peacebuilding more broadly, the study and practice of transitional justice was traditionally silent on gender. Historically, gendered conflict-related experiences and harms have not been adequately addressed by most transitional justice mechanisms, and women in particular have been excluded from the design, conceptualization, and implementation of many TJ processes globally. While political violence perpetrated against men remained at the center of TJ concerns, a whole catalogue of gendered human rights abuses perpetrated primarily against women has largely remained at the peripheries of dominant TJ debates and interventions. Catalyzed by political developments at the United Nations within the realm of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda and by increasing attention to crimes of sexual violence by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), however, the focus in the 2000s has been radically altered to include the treatment of gender in transitional contexts. As such, considerations around gender and sex have increasingly gained traction in TJ scholarship and praxis, to the extent that different justice instruments now seek to engage with gendered harms in diverse ways. Against this background, to the authors review this growing engagement with gender and transitional justice, offering a broad and holistic overview of legal and political developments, emerging trends, and persistent gaps in incorporating gender into the study and practice of TJ. The authors show how gender has been operationalized in relation to different TJ instruments, but the authors also unearth resounding feminist critiques about the ways in which justice is approached, as well as how gender is often conceptualized in limited and exclusionary terms. To this end, the authors emphasize the need for a more sustained and inclusive engagement with gender in TJ settings, drawing on intersectional, queer, and decolonial perspectives to ultimately address the variety of gendered conflict-related experiences in (post)conflict and transitional settings.

Article

The International Politics of Memory  

Lina Klymenko

Like the contested remembrance of historical events, collective memory shapes interstate relations, foreign and security policy, and global politics. International relations (IR) scholars studying the relationship between collective memory and international politics link the memory concept to the notions of security, power, language, emotions, gender, identity, trauma, justice, law, and the like. The study of the international politics of memory relies on a plurality of theoretical approaches gained from interdisciplinary works on collective memory. Although collective memory is viewed as a variable influencing foreign policymaking in structural terms within a positivist paradigm in IR scholarship, from an interpretive perspective, collective memory is a practice of remembrance that constitutes a state’s foreign and security policy. Following the advances of the interpretive paradigm in the social sciences, it is expected that more interpretive studies on the international politics of memory will appear. .

Article

Natural Resource Governance in Africa  

J. Andrew Grant, Evelyn N. Mayanja, Shingirai Taodzera, and Dawit Tesfamichael

Although Africa is home to an abundant and wide variety of natural resources, both land-based and offshore, the governance of such resources has faced myriad challenges. Mineral and hydrocarbon (oil and gas) resources have often led to the vexing “resource curse” whereby weak institutions, corruption, asymmetrical power structures from local to global levels, and lack of economic diversification result in meager development outcomes and can generate episodes of violent conflict. This has resulted in numerous pledges to improve governance and management of natural resources at all stages of the supply chains, ranging from exploration to extraction to environmental remediation. In turn, global and regional governance initiatives have sought to put these pledges and their constitutive norms into practice in conjunction with varying levels of participation by governments, industry, civil society, and local communities.

Article

Postconflict Reparations  

Peter J. Dixon, Luke Moffett, and Adriana Rudling

The devastation brought by war leaves behind irreparable loss and destruction. Yet over the past 100 years there has been a concerted effort by states, both within their territory and following conflicts with other states, to resolve the past through reparations. As a legal and political tool, reparations can affirm values in a postconflict society through recognising suffering and responsibility, as well as helping those most affected by the conflict to cope with their loss. However, the scale of harm and damage of war may devastate a state’s capacity to redress all victims, and states may have more pressing priorities to reconstruct and encourage development. While the guns have been silenced, the motivations and ideologies that fueled and justified violence may continue, politicising debates over which victims are deserving of reparation or absolving the responsibility of certain actors, causing reparations to be delayed or dropped. Where reparations are made, furthermore, assessments of their effectiveness in meeting their goals are both challenging and necessary. This article addresses these issues, providing a snapshot of the key debates in the area, the continuing gaps, and the need for further research.

Article

Quantitative Human Rights  

Amanda M. Murdie and K. Anne Watson

Quantitative human rights scholarship is increasing. New data sets and methods have helped researchers examine a broad array of research questions concerning the many human rights laid out in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related documents. These innovations have enabled quantitative human rights scholarship to better connect to existing qualitative and theoretical literatures and have improved advocacy efforts. Quantitative scholars have primarily operationalized the concept of human rights through the use of four kinds of data: events data (such as counts of abuses or attacks), standards-based data (such as coded scores), survey data, and socioeconomic statistics (such as maternal mortality or malnutrition rates). Each type of data poses particular challenges and weaknesses for analyses, including the biased undercounts of events data and the potential for human error or biases in survey or standards-based data. The human rights field has also seen a systematic overrepresentation of analyses of physical integrity rights, which have fewer component parts to measure. Furthermore, qualitative scholars have pointed out that it is difficult for quantitative data to capture the process of human rights improvement over time. The creation of new technologies and methodologies has allowed quantitative researchers to lessen the impact of these data weaknesses: Latent variables allow scholars to create aggregate measures from a variety of classes of quantitative data, as well as understandings from qualitative scholars, leading to the creation of new measures for rights other than physical integrity rights. New machine learning techniques and algorithms are giving scholars access to greater amounts of data than ever before, improving event counts. Expert surveys are pulling new voices into the data-generating process and incorporating practitioners into data processes that are too often restricted to academics. Experimental studies are furthering the field’s understanding of the processes underlying advocacy. Drawing on the lessons of past work, future scholars can use quantitative methods to improve the field’s theoretical and practical understandings of human rights.

Article

Reassessing Truth Commissions  

Bronwyn Leebaw

Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.

Article

Stateless Diasporas and China’s Uyghur Crisis in the 21st Century  

Işık Kuşçu Bonnenfant

Research on contemporary diasporas and their political mobilization strategies has proliferated. The literature differentiates between the mobilization strategies of stateless and state-linked diaspora. While earlier works have argued that stateless diasporas pursue more violent strategies with, as an end goal, secession, more recent studies have suggested that this is not always the case. Research on diaspora has also borrowed extensively from social movement theory. This has allowed researchers to focus on diaspora as a social group that can mobilize in convenient political opportunity structures with claim-making ability. A political opportunity structure is the combination of structural and contextual conditions that permits diaspora mobilization. Mobilizing structures and frames are the two other analytical tools of social movement theory that have previously inspired diaspora scholars. Mobilizing structures are formal and informal structures in which diasporas can organize collectively for a common cause. Various frames, such as human rights, enable a diaspora to make sense of certain events and conditions in its aim to mobilize members into action. Nearly 500,000 to 600,000 Uyghurs live as diaspora today; most of them left their homeland, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, because of increasingly repressive policies targeting the very core elements of their identity. Uyghurs are one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. Particularly after the end of the Cold War and the independence of the neighboring Central Asian republics, China perceived a threat of secession from the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Later, 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror instigated China to adopt a new rhetoric, one that focused on the “fight against terrorism” in its policies toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Riots and several terrorist incidents reinforced this discourse and legitimized China’s securitization of the Uyghur issue. Since 2010, China has increased surveillance activities in the region, arbitrarily detained up to a million people, and violated the basic rights of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Since the 1960s, the Uyghur diaspora has pursued various mobilization strategies, most of which are confined to nonviolent repertoires of action. Uyghurs abroad have utilized various mobilization structures and political opportunity structures and frames. The first-generation Uyghur diaspora contributed greatly to the construction of a national identity and history, and this was an alternative to China’s dominant narratives. The second generation has benefited from better political opportunity structures and managed to bring various Uyghur diaspora organizations under one umbrella, the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghur diaspora vigorously continues its efforts to create awareness on the plight of its brethren in the homeland within a human rights–based frame using moderate strategies of action. The Uyghur diaspora leadership has become a legitimate transnational actor, one that is now taken quite seriously by various states and international organizations.

Article

State Terrorism  

Joseph M. Brown

State terrorism is a contentious topic in the field of terrorism studies. Some scholars argue that the concept of terrorism should only be applied to the behavior of nonstate actors. Others argue that certain government behaviors may be understood as terrorism if the intent of state violence and threats is to stoke fear and influence the behavior of a wider audience. Three possible conceptualizations of state terrorism are worth exploring: government sponsorship of nonstate actors’ terrorism, terrorism perpetrated by government agents outside a legal framework, and “inherent” state terrorism—acts perpetrated by the state in the everyday enforcement of law and order that, if perpetrated by nonstate actors, would clearly qualify as terrorism. Each of these conceptualizations yields insight about state behavior, highlighting particular uses of violence and threats as instruments of state policy. Depending on one’s conceptualization of state terrorism, common policies and functions of government possess an underlying terroristic logic. Analytical tools developed in the field of terrorism studies may be useful in helping us understand state behavior, when violence and threats appear to have a broader communicative function in influencing an audience beyond the immediate target.

Article

War, Conflict, and Human Rights  

Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega, and Johanna Herman

The relationship between human rights and armed conflict is rooted in historical debates among religious, philosophical, and international legal scholars about the nature of a just war, and appropriate conduct in war, which also have come to underpin and international humanitarian law. An understanding of the links between human rights, war, and conflict can begin with conflict analysis, as human rights violations can be both cause and consequence of conflict. In the most general sense, grievances over the denial or perceived denial of rights can generate social conflict. This may be the case where there is systematic discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, religion, language, gender, or other characteristics. Alternatively, human rights abuses can emerge as a result of violent conflict. A conflict may have been undertaken by the parties primarily out of concern to promote a political or ideological agenda, or to promote the welfare of one or more identity group(s), or over access to resources. Human rights are also potentially transformative of conflicts and may make their resolution a greater challenge. Thus, conflicts that begin as conflicts over resources, religion, or ethnic or territorial claims, may, as they progress, create new grievances through the real and perceived violation of human rights by one or more parties to the conflict.