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Peace vs. Justice

In the world of soft International Politics, the emergence of International Policing mechanisms, particularly the ones concerned with justice (such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunals (ICTR, ICTY), and a couple of other acronyms (SCSL, ICJ, ECCC)), have been subject to a debate that has pivoted around the issue of Peace vs. Justice. One of the early acts of the ICC was to indict Joseph Kony, the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader. In retaliation, Kony and the LRA upped their rampage and threatened that the LRA would have no other option but to continue the violence in Uganda if the ICC didn’t offer Kony amnesty in return for the LRAs participation in peace talks. Some felt that individuals should not be sacrificed for the sake of justice, others felt that an important precedent needed to be set if the court was going to be able to successful prevent other atrocities in the future.

Months after the Arab League’s asylum offer in July and Obama and Cameron’s clemency offering in exchange for Assad’s participation in peace talks, there has been renewed talk of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his family seeking political asylum. Apart from the problematic posturing of the Anglo-American leaders to be above International law, the Peace vs. Justice debate can be found at the heart of this decision for political asylum. For many, like Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann, “The idea that the Syrian leader would leave with impunity is hard to swallow after 15 months (now 22 months) of brutal crackdown.” Others, like Prime Minister Cameron claim that while he would prefer Assad to be subject to International law and justice, but that the priority must be an end to violence and a transition in Syria that cannot begin to happen with Assad in place. So far, no word (that I can find) on what the thoughts are of Syrians and Syrian Rebel fighters on granting Assad asylum………

A Syrian refugee watches a television broadcast of Syria's President Assad speaking in Damascus, in their container at the Al-Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq

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Isola Ponte (Bridge Island)

Isola Ponte (Bridge Island)

isola ponteThe influx of asylum seekers does not ebb for holidays like Christmas (despite how shocking it might be to think of groups of people who have managed to avoid planning their schedules around Christmas, or any Chrisitian holiday for that matter). This triviality seems to have been lost on the Italians responsible for both processing asylum seeker claims and transporting refugees to detention centers on the peninsula. As a result, the reception center on the island of Lampedusa, which normally has room for 381 guests, was 600 strong on the 19th of December (6 full days prior to Christmas mind you). Lampedusa’s mayor, Guisy Nicolini, insisted that Lampedusa is an isola ponte, or bridge island, for asylum seekers – a landing site, a place of reception and first aid. Nicolini justified the necessity for Lampedusa’s reception center to remain empty so as to be better equipped at receiving those coming to it’s shores. Pragmatically speaking, asylum seekers do not intend to remain on the island Lampedusa but capitalize on its proximity to North Africa as an entry point to Europe. However, there is something interesting in the notion of offloading a group of individuals and making them someone else’s problem; there is something unnervingly bureaucratic about it. Then again, it is sensible to replenish one’s resources in order to be of continued service. Let’s hope that this Bridge Island will be a portal to better place (and a not U-Turn like it has been in the past).

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