Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dictatorship As Piracy of the State

There's an important discussion going on over at the Belmont Club. It began with a post by Wretchard regarding the fact that Belgium has issued an arrest warrant for the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre. Mr. Habre is, being accused of torture and various Crimes Against Humanity.

The discussion revolves around the legitimacy of one state trying the leader of another state for Crimes Against Humanity. Check this out:

desert rat said...

Senegal arrests Hissène Habré and deports him to Belgium.
We have arrested folk in transit to Canada and deported them by rendition to their "Home" counties.
We have siezed "Criminal Terrorist" suspects in Italy and delivered them to Eygpt, if my memory serves.
International Law requires the Force of Arms to enforce it. Who the Police are, of course, makes all the difference.

wretchard said...

First of all, I'd like to observe there is nothing in principle which prevents any other country from claiming the same Universal Jurisdiction as Belgium. It follows that those countries can also issue warrants of arrest for people according to their lights, including members of Human Rights Watch and members of the Belgian judiciary. I'm not saying that such warrants are in the slightest justified, but I cannot see the objection in principle.

Desert Rat makes the very valid point that to a certain extent, nations do this already via treaty. Yet Human Rights Watch seems to regard this as unprecedented. One could say, OK: Belgium doesn't have the power to enforce their orders, so why worry? But is their right to issue the arrest order conceded?

desert rat said...

Mohammadan "Judges" issue Death Warrants, with bounties. The Iranian Death Warrant is still outstanding for Salman Rushdie, I think.

Iran never requested his extradition, the Brits won't deport accused criminals in Capitial Punishment cases.

Aristides said...

Dumb, actually. While this most recent indictment is aimed at a truly despicable character, in reality it is nothing more than a chum line for the anti-American laywer-sharks, who will eventually follow it to its inevitable conclusion. Lawyers who prosecute Crimes Against Humanity are paid out of the coffers of NGO's, who in turn receive their money predominantly from Leftist activists. Since these activists want nothing more than to see America embarrassed and her officials incarcerated, NGO's will market their legal product towards activist propensities by paying teams of lawyers to do just that.

Which will, much like the brew-ha-ha over Rumsfeld, alienate the good graces of America and American diplomacy, which for a has-been power like Belgium is just plain dumb. If it weren't so potentially disrupting, it would be laughable.

TigerHawk said...

The Belgian law is absurd. Fundamental justice requires that people "choose," at least in a theoretical sense, the laws under which they will be subject. Personal jurisdiction over a prospective defendant, therefore, is dependant upon "contacts" with the jurisdiction seeking to enforce its laws. If Habre has committed crimes against Belgium or Belgians, then he may be subject to its jurisdiction. Otherwise, he should not be.

The United States has not helped itself in this regard, by the way. It has long tried to extend its laws and its personal jurisdiction against businesses and individuals with scant contacts. But American inconsistency in this matter does not make the Belgian law any less unjust.

Aristides said...

Yes, any country can claim universal jurisdiction, but in the past crimes that merited such jurisdiction, piracy for instance, were well-defined and the norms well-established by consensus, or at least by great powers.

Unilaterally declaring universal jurisdiction has happened, but only by global powers like Britain in the 19th Century. Belgium doing it for an ill-defined "crimes against humanity" is, since it is a third rate power, quite unprecedented.

wretchard said...


You are right in every practical sense. But in terms of perception, the Left has framed the debate yet again.

Personally I think we should arrest and prosecute all scumbag dictators and issue a warrant of arrest for Fidel Castro as well. Now that the Cold War is over, why not go after these guys? But we won't. The issue will be politicized and the "bad" dictators (i.e. the ones who knew Ronald Reagan) will have warrants outstanding and the "good" ones will get admiring visits from world statesmen.

Aristides said...

That is a very interesting thought, Wretchard, about arresting all dictators. Upon reading it, it struck me that a plausible end-state of Bush's goal--ending tyranny in our world--could be a push by America to label tyranny a crime against humanity and thereby enforcing this law via universal jurisdiction. Dictatorship as piracy, but of nations, not ships, and once again the English-speakers step to the plate.

It is not yet time, but if China's dictatorship should fall and democracy rise in its place...

Just a thought.

And, a rather brilliant thought at that. Go read the rest of the disussion.