2019 Global Governance Summer School concludes with briefings at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court

THE HAGUE – On this final day of the 2019 Global Governance Summer School, students visited two preeminent international tribunals — the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court — for high level briefings. They were also treated to a visit from Dr. Kaitlin Ball (JD ’14), a Georgia Law alumna who recently finished a PhD at Cambridge and is living in Europe.

The group started the day at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an audience with Hendrik Denys, law clerk to the Honorable Joan Donoghue, the American judge on the International Court of Justice. Mr. Denys, an alumnus of our partner school, KU Leuven, spoke with students about the history of the Peace Palace, the structure and procedure of the Court, and several representative decisions of the ICJ’s jurisprudence. He also provided advice for preparing a career in international law.

In the afternoon, the group visited the International Criminal Court (ICC), located on the dunes near The Hague’s North Sea coast. Student first had a meeting with Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, for whom our summer school’s co-director, Georgia Law Professor Diane Marie Amann, serves as Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict. Bensouda described her own path to practicing international criminal law. While acknowledging the barriers to achieving justice, she expressed the urgency of continuing the effort, on behalf of global society as well as the victims of international crimes.

The second audience at the ICC was with the Honorable Kimberly Prost of Canada, who serves as a Judge in the Trial Division. Judge Prost discussed the history of the Court and the many of the challenges facing it. She also emphasized the important concept of complementarity in regards to the ICC’s relationship to national courts.

Students also had the opportunity to view the confirmation of charges against Al Hassan, who is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in 2012 and 2013 in Timbuktu, Mali. During the portion of the hearing that time permitted the group to observe, students heard from one of the Legal Representatives of the Victims, who emphasized the impact of the alleged crimes.

All in all, it was a great day, a successful trip, and we look forward to returning next year!

Belgium portion of the Global Governance Summer School concludes with an array of international law topics

LEUVEN – Today marks the final day of classroom sessions of the Georgia Law – Leuven Global Governance School, and the final day students will be resident in Leuven. Students took part in three sessions, which focused on business and human rights, international security governance, and concluded with an overview of challenges to international law and global governance.

First, Dr. Axel Marx (left), Deputy Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, presented on business and human rights. After examining several case studies in which corporate activities adversely affected human rights, participants learned how supply chain and corporate governance structures can affect a business’ ability to manage human rights. Dr. Marx introduced key global governance instruments, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that can be used to hold states and corporations accountable for human rights violations.

IMG_6489Second, Kathleen Doty (right), Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at University of Georgia School of Law, led an interactive session on global security governance. Professor Doty introduced students to global security governance, including international humanitarian law and arms control law. She explained the development of this body of law, focusing on arms control agreements, and introduced several major regimes and their common features. The students then participated in an exercise; faced with a global security crisis, students were tasked with addressing it via treaty negotiation, illustrating the difficulty of international cooperation.

img_6512.jpgThe final session of the day provided an overview of international perspectives on and challenges to global governance, conducted by Professor Dr. Jan Wouters (left), Director of the Leuven Center for Global Governance Studies and the Co-Director of the Global Governance Summer School. Professor Wouters explained the history of globalization and the increase of economic, environmental, and human interdependence. He then explored challenges to the international system, such as anti-globalism, nationalism, and populism.

Student Ayman Tartir receives his diploma from Axel Marx.

Closing out a successful week of studies, students and faculty gathered at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe for a concluding reception. Axel Marx and Kathleen Doty presented participants with attestations of completion.

Tomorrow, students from the University of Georgia School of Law will travel to The Hague, where they will visit international tribunals and organizations.

GGSS Professional development briefings in Brussels

BRUSSELS – Students taking part in the Global Governance Summer School went to Brussels today for professional development briefings. They were exposed to a range of practice areas, from non-governmental organization advocacy, to intergovernmental work, to private law practice.

The day began with a visit to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). There, students were treated to a dialogue on human rights lawyering with Ralph J. Bunche (left), UNPO General Secretary and Professor Diane Marie Amann. They discussed the work of the organization — advocating for the self-determination of unrepresented peoples and nations — and the day-to-day work of advocacy in a human rights organization.

Next, the group traveled to the new headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Steven Hill (fifth from the right, at right), Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs, took students on a tour of the facility and provided an overview of the work of the Legal Office at NATO. He particularly focused on the text of the North Atlantic Treaty, emerging technologies, and contemporary challenges to the NATO alliance.

Finally, students heard from David Hull (JD ’83) and Porter Elliot (JD ’96) (left), partners at Van Bael & Bellis about private law practice in Brussels. They discussed the practice areas of the firm – primarily European Union competition law and trade law. They shared candid career advice with students, including their personal stories of going from law school in Athens, Georgia to law practice in Brussels.

The day concluded with a reception, graciously hosted by Van Bael & Bellis. The second annual Friends of the Dean Rusk International Law Center Reception, we were pleased to reconnect with alumni/ae and other European partners of the Center.

Tomorrow, the students will return to the classroom, and celebrate the 4th of July deepening their understanding of international law.

Command responsibility in 2018 judgment, topic of Georgia Law Professor Amann’s ICC Forum essay

Honored to have contributed on the doctrine of command responsibility to the newest edition of ICC Forum, an online publisher of essays on human rights and international criminal law. My essay was one of several responding to this question, posed by the editors:

“What does the Bemba Appeal Judgment say about superior responsibility under Article 28 of the Rome Statute?”

My own response, entitled “In Bemba, Command Responsibility Doctrine Ordered to Stand Down,” amplified an argument I’d made in an EJIL: Talk! contribution last year (prior post).

Specifically, it traced the development of the international-humanitarian- law/law-of-armed-conflict-doctrine that places on military commanders a burden greater than that shouldered by other combatants. It then turned to the International Criminal Court Appeals Chamber’s 2018 judgment in Bemba. The majority’s interpretation of the ICC Statute’s command-responsibility provision, my essay argued, risks tolerating “derelictions of duty” so as “to condone indiscipline,” and thus “to increase the risks of the very harms that the doctrine of command responsibility is intended to dispel.” As a result, perhaps “no one can be held to account.”

Other invited experts who contributed essays were: Miles Jackson, Associate Professor of Law, Jesus College, University of Oxford; Michael A. Newton, Professor of the Practice of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University Law School; Nadia Carine Fornel Poutou, Executive President Association of Women Lawyers of Central African Republic; and Leila Nadya Sadat, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law at Washington University School of Law.

ICC Forum is supported by the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law; UCLA Law Professor Richard H. Steinberg serves as Editor-in-Chief.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Accountability for harms to children during armed conflict discussed at Center-sponsored ILW panel

NEW YORK – Ways to redress offenses against children during armed conflict formed the core of the panel that our University of Georgia School of Law Dean Rusk International Law Center sponsored last Friday at International Law Weekend, an annual three-day conference presented by the American Branch of the International Law Association and the International Law Students Association. I was honored to take part.

► Opening our panel was Shaheed Fatima QC (top right), a barrister at Blackstone Chambers in London, who led a panel of researchers for the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, an initiative chaired by Gordon Brown, former United Kingdom Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

As Fatima explained, the Inquiry focused on harms that the UN Security Council has identified as “six grave violations” against children in conflict; specifically, killing and maiming; recruitment or use as soldiers; sexual violence; abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. With regard to each, the Inquiry identified legal frameworks in international criminal law, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law. It proposed a new means for redress: promulgation of a “single instrument” that would permit individual communications, for an expressed set of violations, to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols. These findings and recommendations have just been published as Protecting Children in Armed Conflict (Hart 2018).

► Next, Mara Redlich Revkin (2d from left), a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Yale University and Lead Researcher on Iraq and Syria for the United Nations University Project on Children and Extreme Violence.

She drew from her fieldwork to provide a thick description of children’s experiences in regions controlled by the Islamic State, an armed group devoted to state-building – “rebel governance,” as Revkin termed it. Because the IS sees children as its future, she said, it makes population growth a priority, and exercises its control over schools and other “sites for the weaponization of children.” Children who manage to free themselves from the group encounter new problems on account of states’ responses, responses that Revkin has found often to be at odds with public opinion. These range from the  harsh punishment of every child once associated with IS, without considering the extent of that association, to the rejection of IS-issued birth certificates, thus rendering a child stateless.

► Then came yours truly, Diane Marie Amann (left), Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law and our Center’s Faculty Co-Director. I served as a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Board.

Discussing my service as the Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Children in and affected by Armed Conflict, I focused on the preparation and contents of the 2016 ICC OTP Policy on Children, available here in Arabic, English, French, Spanish, and Swahili. The Policy pinpoints the crimes against and affecting children that may be punished pursuant to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and it further delineates a “child-sensitive approach” to OTP work at all stages, including investigation, charging, prosecution, and witness protection.

► Summing up the conversation was Harold Hongju Koh (2d from right), Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and former Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State, who served as a consultant to the Inquiry.

Together, he said, the presentations comprised “5 I’s: Inquiry, Iraq and Syria, the ICC, and” – evoking the theme of the conference – “international law and why it matters.” Koh lauded the Inquiry’s report as “agenda-setting,” and its proposal for a means to civil redress as a “panda’s thumb” response that bears serious consideration. Koh envisaged that in some future administration the United States – the only country in the world not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child – might come to ratify the proposed new  protocol, as it has the optional protocols relating to children in armed conflict and the sale of children.

The panel thus trained attention on the harms children experience amid conflict and called for redoubled efforts to secure accountability and compensation for such harms.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Belgium week of our Global Governance Summer School concludes on a (World Cup) celebratory note

LEUVEN – Final sessions of our 2018 Global Governance Summer School‘s Belgium leg came to an end yesterday, even as the country’s national team vaulted into the final four of the World Cup.

Day 5 of the summer school, devoted to Global Security Governance,  began with a lecture by Dr. Nicolas Hachez. He is a Fellow at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, University of Leuven, with which we at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, partner to present the Global Governance Summer School. Hachez’ lecture began with an historical account dating to Aristotle, and ended with a survey of contemporary challenges to rule of law and democracy. (Just below, he listens to a response from Georgia Law student Brooke Carrington.) The presentation provided a valuable recap of many issues raised at the high-level RECONNECT conference our students attended earlier in the week.

Next, yours truly, Georgia Law Professor Diane Marie Amann, Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, one of our Center’s Faculty Co-Directors, and a founding Co-Director of the Global Governance Summer School. I introduced the concept of Global Security Governance, which incorporates within its analysis of human, national, and collective security insights from traditional international law subfields like human rights, the laws of war, and development law.

Our Center’s Director, Kathleen A. Doty, offered an overview of legal regimes related to disarmament and weapons control, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Then, as pictured at top, she led our summer school students – variously educated at Georgia Law, Leuven, and several other European institutions – in a spirited, simulated, multilateral negotiation for a new treaty to curb an imagined new development in weapons technology.

The week’s classroom component concluded with a lecture on “Global Governance, International Law and Informal Lawmaking in Times of Antiglobalism and Populism” by Leuven Professor Jan Wouters (right), Jean Monnet Chair ad personam EU and Global Governance, Full Professor of International Law and International Organizations, Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, and founding Co-Director of our summer school. Touching on concepts and issues introduced throughout the week, Wouters exposed shortcomings of classic international law. He further urged greater acceptance of the significance of informal lawmaking actors, norms, and processes, which form the core of global governance studies.

Leuven and Georgia Law students, faculty, staff, and friends then enjoyed a conference dinner, plus a live, and lively, screening of the Belgium Red Devils’ 2-1 World Cup victory over Brazil – then headed to Oude Markt to celebrate with other denizens of this lovely city.

Professor Amann publishes “Bemba and Beyond,” on accountability and command responsibility, at EJIL: Talk!

One week after the International Criminal Court Appeals Chamber acquitted a Congolese politician-warlord whom a Trial Chamber unanimously had convicted of rape, pillage, and other crimes, practitioners and scholars continue to debate the decision’s significance. Indeed, the case, Prosecutor v. Bemba, has been invoked in both the papers so far presented at the 2-day ICC Scholars Forum now under way at Leiden Law School’s Hague campus.

My own initial thoughts – concerned not about the decision’s fact-based details but rather to its refashioning of the legal doctrine of command responsibility – have been published at EJIL: Talk!, the blog of the European Journal of International Law. My post, entitled “In Bemba and Beyond,” discusses command responsibility as “a time-honored doctrine with roots in military justice and international humanitarian law.” Placing this appeals judgment in the context of other decisions, the post warns:

“Together, such rulings suggest a turn away from the goal of assigning responsibility at high levels, and toward a jurisprudence which acknowledges (with regret) the commission of crimes, yet holds no cognizable legal person responsible.”

Full post here.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Important essays on myriad international law subfields in OUP book coedited by Professor Amann, “Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas”

LONDON – Building on yesterday’s post about the magical London conference launching Arcs of Global Justice: Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas (Margaret M. deGuzman and Diane Marie Amann eds.), today’s post profiles the book itself, which, thanks to excellent assistance from John Louth, Blake Ratcliff, and their staff, has just been published by Oxford University Press. (The hardback may be ordered via OUP or Amazon, and the book’s also available on Kindle.)

Not least because Professor Schabas delivered two talks here at the University of Georgia School of Law in 2013, I’m very pleased to have coedited this volume with my colleague Meg. The concept, in our words:

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Testing the optimism of that claim were the many fits and starts in the struggle for human rights that King helped to catalyze. The same is true of other events in the last half-century, from resistance to apartheid and genocide to equal and fair treatment in domestic criminal justice systems, to the formation of entities to prevent atrocities and to bring their perpetrators to justice. Within this display of myriad arcs may be found the many persons who helped shape this half-century of global justice-and prominent among them is William A. Schabas. His panoramic scholarship includes dozens of books and hundreds of articles, and he also has served as an influential policymaker, advocate, and mentor.

This work honours William A. Schabas and his career with essays by luminary scholars and jurists from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The essays examine contemporary, historical, cultural, and theoretical aspects of the many arcs of global justice with which Professor Schabas has engaged, in fields including public international law, human rights, transitional justice, international criminal law, and capital punishment.

In all, the book includes 29 contributions by 35 academics, advocates, and jurists, as detailed in the table of contents below. Providing jacket-cover testimonials were Steven Kay QC, Philippe Sands QC, Professor and former Ambassador David Scheffer, and Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert. We hope that you’ll follow their recommendations and give these important, substantive essays a very good read.

Arcs of Global Justice:
Essays in Honour of William A. Schabas

Foreword by Diane Marie Amann and Margaret M. deGuzman, coeditors
Introduction: William Schabas: Portrait of a Scholar/Activist Extraordinaire by Roger S. Clark, Board of Governors Professor of Law, Rutgers University School of Law

Human Rights
Human Rights and International Criminal Justice in the Twenty First Century: The End of the Post-WWII Phase and the Beginning of an Uncertain New Era by M. Cherif Bassiouni (He died at age 79 in September, just weeks after he completed final changes on this essay; as posted, our conference included a memorial to him. At the time of his death, he was Emeritus Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law; Honorary President, Siracusa Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights; and Honorary President, L’Association internationale de droit pénal.)
William Schabas, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and International Human Rights Law by Justice Thomas A. Cromwell, Supreme Court of Canada, and Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, formerly a law clerk on that court and now a Cambridge PhD candidate
The International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as a Victim-Oriented Treaty by Emmanuel Decaux, Professor Emeritus, Université Paris 2 (Panthéon-Assas), and former President, Committee on Enforced Disappearances
The Politics of Sectarianism and its Reflection in Questions of International Law & State Formation in The Middle East by Kathleen Cavanaugh, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway, and  Joshua Castellino, Professor of Law & Dean of the School of Law, as well as the Business School, at Middlesex University, London

Capital Punishment
International Law and the Death Penalty: A Toothless Tiger, or a Meaningful Force for Change? by Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School and Faculty Director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide
The UN Optional Protocol on the Abolition of the Death Penalty by Marc Bossuyt, Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, Emeritus Professor of the University of Antwerp, Emeritus President of the Constitutional Court of Belgium, and former Chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights
The Right to Life and the Progressive Abolition of the Death Penalty by Christof Heyns, formerly the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 2010 through 2016, and now a member of the UN Human Rights Committee and Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria, Thomas Probert, Research Associate, Centre of Governance & Human Rights, University of Cambridge, and Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, and former researcher for the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution
Progress and Trend of the Reform of the Death Penalty in China by Zhao Bingzhi, Dean of the College for Criminal Law Science of Beijing Normal University, President of the Criminal Law Research Association of China, Vice-President of the International Association of Penal Law, and President of that association’s Chinese National Group

International Criminal Law
Criminal Law Philosophy in William Schabas’ Scholarship by Margaret M. deGuzman, Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law
Is the ICC Focusing too Much on Non-State Actors? by Frédéric Mégret, Associate Professor and Dawson Scholar, Faculty of Law, McGill University
The Principle of Legality at the Crossroads of Human Rights and International Criminal Law by Shane Darcy, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway
Revisiting the Sources of Applicable Law Before the ICC by Alain Pellet, Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris Nanterre, former Chairperson of the UN International Law Commission, President of the French Society for International Law, Member of the Institut de droit international, as well as Counsel and Advocate before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and other forums
The ICC as a Work in Progress, for a World in Process by Mireille Delmas-Marty, Member, Institut de France, and Professor Emerita, Collège de France de Paris
Legacy in International Criminal Justice by Carsten Stahn, Professor of International Criminal Law and Global Justice, Leiden University
Torture by Private Actors and ‘Gold Plating’ the Offence in National Law: An Exchange of Emails in Honour of William Schabas by Andrew Clapham, Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and Paola Gaeta, Professor of International Law and International Criminal Law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
Secrets and Surprises in the Travaux Préparatoires of the Genocide Convention by Hirad Abtahi, First Legal Adviser, Head of the Legal and Enforcement Unit, at the Presidency of the International Criminal Court, and Philippa Webb, Reader (Associate Professor) in Public International Law at King’s College London and a barrister at 20 Essex Street Chambers
Perspectives on Cultural Genocide: From Criminal Law to Cultural Diversity by Jérémie Gilbert, Professor of International and Comparative Law, University of East London
Crimes Against Humanity: Repairing Title 18’s Blind Spots by Beth Van Schaack, Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor in Human Rights at Stanford Law School and Visiting Scholar at the Center for International Security & Cooperation at Stanford University
A New Global Treaty on Crimes Against Humanity: Future Prospects by Leila Nadya Sadat, James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law and Director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law, Special Adviser to the ICC Prosecutor on Crimes Against Humanity, and Director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative

Transitional Justice and Atrocity Prevention
Justice Outside of Criminal Courtrooms and Jailhouses by Mark A. Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director, Transnational Law Institute, Washington and Lee University School of Law
Toward Greater Synergy between Courts and Truth Commissions in Post-Conflict Contexts: Lessons from Sierra Leone by Charles Chernor Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University, and a member of the International Law Commission
International Criminal Tribunals and Cooperation with States: Serbia and the provision of evidence for the Slobodan Milosevic Trial at the ICTY by Geoffrey Nice QC, a barrister since 1971, formerly at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and Nevenka Tromp, Lecturer in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam and former member of the ICTY Leadership Research Team
The Arc toward Justice and Peace by Mary Ellen O’Connell, the Robert and Marion Short Chair in Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School
The Maintenance of International Peace and Security through Prevention of Atrocity Crimes: The Question of Co-operation between the UN and regional Arrangements by Adama Dieng, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, as well as former Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and former Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists

Justice in Culture and Practice
Law and Film: Curating Rights Cinema by Emma Sandon, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Birkbeck, University of London, and a Research Fellow to the Chair for Social Change, University of Johannesburg
The Role of Advocates in Developing International Law by Wayne Jordash QC, international human rights and humanitarian lawyer and founding partner of Global Rights Compliance
Bill the Blogger by Diane Marie Amann, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law and Faculty Co-Director of the Dean Rusk International Law Center at the University of Georgia School of Law

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Defense lawyer in GTMO USS Cole bombing case to speak at Georgia Law

“Guantánamo, Torture and Terrorism” is the title of the lunch-hour talk that Rick Kammen, lead defense counsel in a leading U.S. Military Commission case, will present tomorrow, October 10, in Room A-120 Hirsch here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Kammen represents Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (above right), a Saudi national charged with capital offenses stemming from the bombings in October 2000 bombings in a Yemeni harbor of the Navy destroyer USS Cole and the French oil tanker MV Limburg. As listed in a Miami Herald report, charges include:

“perfidy, murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, terrorism, conspiracy, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, and hazarding a vessel.”

Al-Nashiri was arraigned in a courtroom at the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2011. Litigation since then has concerned not only the allegations against him, but also the circumstances of his detention and interrogation. According to the Miami Herald report:

“He is one of three former CIA captives the U.S. spy agency has admitted to waterboarding during his secret custody.”

Kammen (right), a U.S. Army veteran, earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1971. A name partner in a criminal defense law firm in Indianapolis, Indiana, his specialties include death penalty defense.

Sponsoring the talk is the law school’s Dean Rusk International Law Center, whose Director, Kathleen A. Doty, twice has observed GTMO proceedings in United States v. al-Nashiri as a representative of the National Institute of Military Justice.

At the centenary of chemical warfare, a visit to Flanders’ WWI battlefields

YPRES, Belgium – Beautiful vistas and bright sunlight cannot blind the visitor to the pain of this place.

This place is Flanders Fields, the name given to the part of west Belgium, close to the French border, that saw intense battles and horrendous casualties during World War I. This town – Ypres in French and Ieper in Flemish, but called “Wipers” by British WWI soldiers – played a central role. So too nearby Passchendaele/Passendale. Both towns were leveled, and like many in the region, were rebuilt in the old manner after the war ended.

During the war, upwards of half a million persons died in this area alone.

Our visit to Flanders Fields occurred on the 4th of July. Memories linger, and were sparked again by today’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1st large-scale use, in Ypres, of chemical weapons; mustard gas, to be precise. It was the 3d compound to be attempted, after chlorine and phosgene proved less reliable as lethal weapons, according to our tour guide, Raoul Saracen, a retired history teacher. Initial efforts to fight back against chemicals also were crude: before the development and widespread distribution of gas masks, Canadian troops resorted to breathing through kerchiefs soaked in ammonia-rich urine.

The cruelty of chemical warfare did not stop its use. Recording other places where chemicals have been used was a signpost in Langemark, the cemetery where German soldiers (including several with whom I share a surname) are buried. Tokyo, Japan, Halabja, Iraq, and Ghouta, Syria, receive mention, though more recent gassing sites in that last country have yet to be added.

The thousands of headstones in the many Flanders Fields cemeteries of course give pause. So too the cramped trenches, still on display at Sanctuary Wood Museum.

Yet it was a different site that stole my breath – the “dressing station,” a kind of field hospital, at Essex Farm Cemetery. The station’s cement-bunker cells were small, dark, and saddening, a truly concrete reminder of the scourge of war.

(Cross-posted)