Mr. Hague, considering Western Sahara, Morocco is not a strong example of peaceful reform and progress

s300_10535153794_3b1bf41e97_oA few days ago the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, met the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane. In a short press note, the Foreign Office said that “Morocco stands as a strong example of peaceful reform and progress in North Africa, and the UK will continue to support the government’s reform process”.

Perhaps the Foreign Secretary forgot that since the mid-1970s Morocco occupies militarily a territory roughly the size of the UK: Western Sahara. A colony of Spain since the mid-19th century, the territory and its population were left on their own when Spain left shamefully in 1975-1976. Morocco immediately occupied the land upon the Spanish retreat. In an advisory opinion issued in October 1975, the International Court of Justice rejected the Moroccan sovereignty claims over Western Sahara. For fifteen long years, the Moroccan army and the Saharawi national liberation force (Polisario Front) fought a bloody war that scattered landmines across the territory and expelled tens of thousands of refugees to the neighbouring Algeria. The Polisario Front also fought against Mauritania until the latter’s withdrawal in 1979. After some years of military stagnation, in 1991, under the auspices of the United Nations Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a settlement plan that included a referendum where the local Saharawi population would have the chance to determine its own future. A UN mission (MINURSO) was set up to ensure the settlement was respected and fulfilled. However, to this day, Morocco has consistently refused the Saharawis the referendum they are entitled to by international law and the 1991 peace agreement. Morocco uses its military force to retain control over Western Sahara, while around 100.000 people survive in the refugee camps of Tindouf, in the Algerian desert. Those who remained in the occupied territories suffer continuous violations of their human rights, including torture, unresolved disappearances, restrictions to the freedom of association and discrimination in the access to work, education and healthcare. In the meantime, the natural resources of Western Sahara, particularly fisheries and phosphates, are plundered in front of the eyes of the local population, which doesn’t benefit from these industrial activities and doesn’t have a say on them. Continue reading

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NSA surveillance confirms the realist paradigm, and I am not happy about that

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Barack ObamaOnly a few days ago I briefly presented the research of my life, which I have just started and deals with the influence that human rights make on foreign policy making in Europe. In particular, at the moment I am reading and thinking about why countries choose to embrace and foster certain human rights norms rather than others. Right when I was about to accept that principles, ideas and identities play a significant role in the construction of national interests and, therefore, in the way countries interact with each other (“anarchy is what states make of it” and so on), we read in the papers that the US has been spying on foreign allies for a good number of years.

In making sense out of it, no other analyst has been more spot on than Thucydides and his Melian Dialog back in the 5th century BC: “The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must”. Continue reading

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The future of the “Parot doctrine” and the one thing that Spain can teach the UK

echrThe Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights issued today its judgment of the case Del Río Prada v. Spain. By 15 votes to 2, the Court held that Spain has violated Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention of Human Rights, and has unanimously concluded that since July 2008 Ms. del Río’s detention has not been lawful, in violation of Article 5.1 of the Convention. Consequently, the Court has ordered Spain to ensure the release of the applicant as soon as possible.

This case had generated very high expectations in Spain because Ms. del Río had been convicted for a number of terrorist attacks, including several killings. In February 2006, the Supreme Court departed from its previous interpretation of the Spanish penitentiary legislation and adopted a new criterion (known as “Parot doctrine”, due to the name of the first ETA member it was applied to) based on which the release of ETA prisoners sentenced for crimes committed before 1995 (when the current Criminal Code was adopted) would be delayed for some time. Since 2006, the Parot doctrine has also been applied to non-ETA major perpetrators. The rationale of the Strasbourg Court’s decision is that the applicant could not have foreseen either that the Supreme Court would change its case-law or that this change would affect her. Continue reading

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The role of Human Rights in foreign policy making in Europe: 4 questions and 2 observations

bad2013This blog post is a collection of open questions rather than the statement of an opinion. I hereby want to share with you the 4 questions and 2 observations that are inspiring the doctoral project that I have recently started at King’s College London.

In a paper published in 1998, Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink famously presented a model of international norm diffusion based on a three-stage life cycle: emergence, cascade and internalisation. States and international organisations play the main role at the second stage, in the “norm cascade”, when they choose to embrace certain norms, understood as “standards for the appropriate behavior of states” (p. 893). Finnemore and Sikkink argue that “states comply with norms in stage 2 for reasons that relate to their identities as members of the international society” (p. 902). 1st question: Do legitimacy and reputation sufficiently explain the motives behind a given country’s decision to be a international human rights norm promoter? Continue reading

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Sobre la recentralización del Estado o sobre cómo el Gobierno actúa como el perro del hortelano

Caso número 1. El Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad remitió hace unos días al Parlamento Vasco un informe sobre la proposición de ley de vivienda impulsada por el grupo parlamentario del PSE. Siguiendo el ejemplo de la flamante normativa andaluza en la materia, el texto actualmente en discusión en el Parlamento propone que las familias en riesgo de exclusión puedan alquilar la vivienda habitual de la que han sido desahuciadas mediante la expropiación forzosa de su uso a la entidad bancaria. La propuesta también contempla un canon sobre las viviendas desocupadas y propone incluso la imposición de un alquiler forzoso si la vivienda se encuentra en una zona de “acreditada demanda y necesidad de vivienda”.

En su informe, el Ministerio del Señor de Guindos alerta de que la proposición de ley vulnera la distribución competencial entre el Estado y las comunidades autónomas porque la regulación del derecho a la propiedad le corresponde “en exclusiva” al Estado. También infringiría el principio de unidad de mercado porque la norma generaría “un tratamiento desigual entre deudores y entidades de diferentes ubicaciones geográficas”. El Ministerio llega a asegurar que la expropiación forzosa de viviendas vulnera el “principio de proporcionalidad” y discrimina de forma “arbitraria” a determinadas personas jurídicas, en concreto, a las entidades financieras. El Gobierno critica que, de aprobarse, esta norma induciría “a la inseguridad jurídica por su solapamiento con la legislación nacional” desarrollada a nivel estatal desde el comienzo de la crisis, legislación que al parecer a juicio del Ministerio es más que suficiente para evitar los desahucios y proteger el derecho a la vivienda. Continue reading

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Gobernuko ordezkariari ez zaizkio pailazo hauek gustatzen

Duela aste batzuk Carlos Urquijok, Espainiako Gobernuko ordezkaria Euskadin, EITBko zuzendariari gutun bat bidali zion euskal telebistak Pirritx eta Porrotx pailazoen saiorik eskaini ez zezan eskatuz “ETA erakunde terroristako presoak” babesten dituztelako. Bideo honetan esaten dutenarengatik izan zen:
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Intervening militarily in Syria? Many more questions than answers

Kal Syria The EconomistOnly last week, a US-led military intervention in Syria seemed inevitable. Today, the immediate future looks more uncertain. In a historic debate, the UK Parliament refused to endorse a military action. President Obama referred the matter to Congress. NATO Chief announced that they would not be part of a strike. And the Arab League Secretary General said that a military action outside the UN mandate “is out of the question”.

As of this writing, since the UN research team has not announced its findings, there is no official truth about whether chemical weapons were used in Damascus on 21 August. I think we should first wait for this team to complete their job, although I am personally ready to accept that it happened. MSF treated patients with “neurotoxic symptoms” and Amnesty International has gathered information from survivors of the attack. Nevertheless, the scale of the effects remains unknown. France speaks of 281 deaths, MSF counted 355 and so did the UK Government, while the meticulous US intelligence mysteriously raised the number to 1429 victims. (Toby Helm rightly asks: “Why, if UK relations with Washington were so close, and the UK had known it was facing a crucial parliamentary vote, was Cameron not given access to new, higher casualty figures from US intelligence, cited by Kerry?”). The UN team will not be able (it is not in their mandate either) to determine who used or released the chemical agents, but the attack was directed against areas under control of the opposition forces, which gives us a relevant clue.

Future evidence may prove me wrong, but I believe that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against its own population, which is clearly prohibited by customary international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime (Rules 74 and 156 of the ICRC study on Customary International Humanitarian Law). However, when I am confronted by the possibility of a non-UN sponsored military attack in Syria, I ask myself many more questions than I can answer. Continue reading

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