Latest Developments, March 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Off the hook
The UN News Centre reports that the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is dropping charges against Francis Muthaura who was charged with crimes against humanity in the wake of Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence, but charges remain against president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta:

“[Fatou Bensouda] said that she had explained to the judge that several people who may have provided important evidence in the case have either died or are too afraid to testify for the Prosecution.
Ms. Bensouda also noted that the Prosecution lost the testimony of its key witness ‘after this witness recanted a crucial part of his evidence, and admitted to us that he had accepted bribes.’

‘Let me be absolutely clear on one point – this decision applies only to Mr. Muthaura. It does not apply to any other case,’ the Prosecutor said in her statement.
She added that, while aware of political developments in Kenya, ‘these have no influence, at all, on the decisions that I make as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.’ ”

Shoot first
Reuters reports that the UN is contemplating sending “a 10,000-strong force” with an unusually aggressive mandate to Mali ahead of elections scheduled for July:

“A heavily armed rapid-reaction force, similar to the unit proposed for a U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, would be a departure from its typically more passive peacekeeper operations.
In practical terms, U.N. diplomats say, troops in the rapid-response force would have more freedom to open fire without being required to wait until they are attacked first, a limitation usually placed on U.N. peacekeepers around the world.”

Contentious referendum
The Buenos Aires Herald reports that Argentina’s government is dismissing a referendum in which inhabitants of the Falklands/Malvinas voted overwhelmingly to remain British subjects:

“ ‘It’s a referendum organized by the British and for the British with the only purpose of having them saying that the territory must be British. It was neither organized nor approved by the United Nations,’ [Argentina’s ambassador to London] Castro told FM Millenium.

‘Self-determination is a fundamental principle contemplated by the international law that’s not granted to any settlers of a certain territory, but only to the original natives that were or currently are being subjugated to a certain colonial power, and this is not the case of the Malvinas Islanders.’
‘The Islanders are not a colonized people, but inhabitants of a colonized territory.’ ”

Illegal deal?
The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has signed an offshore oil deal with ExxonMobil that does not meet her country’s legal requirements:

“The deal will come under intense scrutiny given controversy over the contracts signed by the government in the extractive industries in recent years. The terms appear to be more beneficial to the state than other contracts in the oil sector, but still fall short of the country’s standard tax terms. The government will receive a US$50m signing bonus up-front, a 10% equity stake and royalties of 5-10% when production starts. According to Reuters, the country’s law requires a minimum royalty rate of 10% and a minimum equity stake of 20%.”

Double standard
Foreign Policy reports that the US State Department has accused Syrian rebels of “terrorism” for carrying out “attacks against folks who are not in the middle of a firefight”:

“One reporter pointed out that the United States routinely targets and kills members of various groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are not physically engaged in the fight at the time they are targeted. [State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland declined to comment on the perceived double standard.

Nuland also declined to confirm or deny a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that Americans are training Syrian anti-regime forces in Jordan.”

Cyberwarriors
The Washington Post asks under what circumstances the US will use its planned “military force to defend the nation against cyberattacks”:

“In fact, said Michael Schmitt, chairman of the International Law Department at the U.S. Naval War College, ‘the law of self-defense does not allow you to strike at a state merely because they have the capability to attack you.’

Georgetown University law professor Catherine Lotrionte said that if states start to take more aggressive measures at a lower threshold, the risk of escalation and ‘tit for tat’ goes up. ‘There needs to be international agreement on rules to prevent that escalation,’ she said, ‘or we’re looking at a really ugly world.’ ”

Bad role model
Tax Justice Network-Africa’s Alvin Mosioma and political scientist Hakima Abbas argue that Kenya should not be looking to the UK for help mapping out its financial future:

“Human rights, democracy and justice movements across the land have fought to keep political and economic elites in check. Yet, the reality is that greed surfaces whenever citizens rest. This was true with the recent send-off package that the outgoing parliament gave themselves despite the growing inequality of our society. This will be true if we allow our financial models to be based on the same systems that have stolen Africa’s wealth for centuries.

It is time we amplify African voices in the call for an end to the secrecy in the City of London and within the global financial system. We must call on our new public officers as they come into office in March to not allow Kenya’s future to be tied to the same rules of corruption and tax evasion.”

Mining ethics
Doug Olthuis of United Steelworkers and Ian Thomson of KAIROS argue the Canadian government has turned its back on the only useful component of its overseas corporate social responsibility strategy:

“Binding regulations are the only way to deal with the worst offenders in the industry. Providing access to Canadian courts for those who have been harmed in the most egregious cases is urgently needed, particularly for abuses committed in countries with no rule of law or weak judiciaries.
We were willing to engage in the [Centre for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility] even though we see CSR as an extremely limited concept. All too often, CSR amounts to little more than public relations to promote a better corporate image without substantive commitment to change on the part of companies. Reliance on CSR alone, in the absence of enforceable standards, represents a model of corporate ‘self-regulation’ that leaves communities and workers without legal recourse to defend their rights and advance their collective interests.”

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