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 “Intervening militarily in Syria? Many more questions than answers”


“The resilience of the human rights norm in an era of counter-terrorism”, by Salma Yusuf


This article seeks to explore the tensions arising from the interaction between human rights and counter-terrorism and contribute to the debate on the feasibility of sustaining the former in such trying situations as the latter through the determination of a role for the United Nations’ Human Rights treaty monitoring bodies in protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Continue reading ““The resilience of the human rights norm in an era of counter-terrorism”, by Salma Yusuf”

The toxic legacy of Guantánamo

The 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo doesn´t only symbolise the failure of the US-led so-called ‘War on terror’ to respect human rights. Obama’s unwillingness to close the prison down doesn´t only breach the most basic human rights of the 171 men still held in Guantánamo without trial or actual charge. That aside, Guantánamo leaks a toxic legacy of messages against human rights. Taken from the report GUANTÁNAMO: A DECADE OF DAMAGE TO HUMAN RIGHTS, released by Amnesty International today, these anti-human rights messages are: Continue reading “The toxic legacy of Guantánamo”

From preventive war to the global crisis

Last September was the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the 3rd anniversary of the crash of Lehman Brothers, two events that are widely seen as turning points in recent history. Last week, 7 October marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. I have been reluctant to take advantage of these dates to write about any of these topics. The Internet and conventional media are full of articles and comments of all sorts. What were you doing on September 11? Was the war worth it? What is the recipe to get out of the current economic mess? When will troops come back home? Should they come back at all? Will the Euro survive? How do we balance liberties and security? Should Greece be expelled from the Eurozone? Does the Eurozone have any future?… And many, many more. Enough, I thought. I was committed not to do anything that could fatten up this explosion of opinions. But one question in the back of my head made me reconsider my decision… Continue reading “From preventive war to the global crisis”

Let’s face it: torture might have helped

A few days ago, Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA, affirmed in an interview with NBC that waterboarding, among other “enhanced interrogation techniques”, provided the necessary information to go after Osama bin Laden. Although this is the only moment in the interview that Mr. Panetta transmits some level of nervousness, he looks rather sure about his statement. He believes in his own words.

Continue reading “Let’s face it: torture might have helped”

I am not happy for your death, Osama bin Laden

This morning I woke up with the announcement of your death. After a whole decade of chase, you had finally been caught somewhere in Pakistan in an operation whose specific details are still unknown. The reactions couldn´t have been more unanimous. I´ve heard, watched and read American citizens and European leaders cheer for a new world seemingly much safer world than that of yesterday.

You bear the burden of the deaths of thousands of people not only in ‘unfaithful’ Western metropolis, like NY, Madrid or London, but also in your own particular ‘homeland’: 85 percent of all victims caused by al-Qa’ida are Muslims. You are possibly the worst among the worst. Nevertheless, I must say that I am not happy for your death. Continue reading “I am not happy for your death, Osama bin Laden”