Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s remarks in context: is she defending the convictions and imprisonment of the journalists?

Q: You probably saw also, Vice President Pence yesterday appealed to you and to Myanmar to let the two Reuters journalists out of jail. I think they got a sentence of seven years. What is your response to Vice President Pence?

A: Well, I think what I want to know is whether they feel that there has been a miscarriage of justice. And you know of course, that due process allows them to appeal the sentence.

Q: But that, I guess, you also as a democratic leader don’t feel comfortable with journalists being jailed?

A: It’s not a matter of… They were not jailed because they were journalists. They were jailed because the court has…. Well, sentence has been passed on them because the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act. So, if we believe in the rule of law, they have every right to appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment is wrong, if they consider it wrong. 

Interview of Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar by Børge Brende, World Economic Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam

Wa Lone (l) and Kyaw Soe Oo (r)

In December 2017, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo came across reliable information (eye-witness accounts and photographs) leading to the uncovering of a mass grave of ten Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, Myanmar, killed during a clearance (ethnic-cleansing) operation carried out in the Northern Rakhine State by Myanmar’s security forces (military and police) and local Buddhists in August 2017. Given the location of the burial site, the ongoing events in that area, the equipment required to dig and cover-up the mass grave, the bulldozing over and destruction of any remaining evidence, and the eye-witness accounts and photographs, it was clear that this atrocity was committed and then covered up by Myanmar’s security forces. Reuters would later write a lengthy story on this and other events (see my post), implicating Myanmar’s security forces along with its proxies – local civilians. Continue reading “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s remarks in context: is she defending the convictions and imprisonment of the journalists?”


Bolton threatens the International Criminal Court: gunboat diplomacy by other means

The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.

John Bolton, US National Security Advisor

John Bolton, US National Security Advisor

John Bolton’s “happiest moment” as the US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), so he claims, was when he “personally ‘unsign[ed]’ the Rome Statute” that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).1   John Bolton, Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad, Threshold 2007, as cited by Brian Urquest, One Angry Man, New York Review of Books, March 6, 2008, pp. 12–15. This is the same John Bolton who once said that if the UN Secretariat building in New York “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” And believe it or not, this statement would later bring hope to some of the accused (and some of their lawyers) at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) when Bolton became US Ambassador to the UN; they naively thought that Bolton would lead the charge to dismantle the ICTY. I was flabbergasted hearing these ludicrous expectations, yet Bolton’s remarks had captured their imagination.

Continue reading “Bolton threatens the International Criminal Court: gunboat diplomacy by other means”


Footnotes   [ + ]

The ICC’s Ruling on the OTP’s Rohingya Request over Jurisdiction:  well-reasoned or a judicial overreach?

On 6 September 2018, the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held by Majority (Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut dissented in part) that the ICC has jurisdiction over some of the mass atrocity crimes allegedly committed (and, as some may argue, still being committed) in Myanmar against the Rohingya. This comes on the heels of the UN Human Rights Council’s conclusions that violations in Rakhine State (and elsewhere) in Myanmar amounted to the gravest crimes under international law, and, more alarmingly, that certain “clearance operations” conducted by the Myanmar Military (known as “Tatmadaw”) were not a response to a concrete threat from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), but  the “unfinished job” of “solv(ing) the long-standing Bengali problem” thus warranting an investigation and prosecution of the senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command “so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.” (See Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Advance Unedited Version, A/HRC/39/64, 24 August 2018, paras. 86-87.) Continue reading “The ICC’s Ruling on the OTP’s Rohingya Request over Jurisdiction:  well-reasoned or a judicial overreach?”


The ICC’s Palestinian Outreach Campaign: an appearance of anti-Israel bias


a) ORDERS the Registry, to establish, as soon as practicable, a system of public information and outreach activities for the benefit of the victims and affected communities in the situation in Palestine and report back to the Chamber in compliance with the principles established in the present decision;

ICC, Decision on Information and Outreach for the Victims of the Situation, 13 July 2018

According to The Times of Israel, Israel has formally complained to the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the outreach program the ICC Registry is launching at the behest of the Pre-Trial Chamber (Judge Péter Kovács Presiding, Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, and Judge Reine Adélaïde Sophie Alapini-Gansou) “for the Victims of the Situation” in Palestine, calling into question the ICC’s impartiality in treating Israel fairly. What took so long?

Israel has a point. And a predicament. Continue reading “The ICC’s Palestinian Outreach Campaign: an appearance of anti-Israel bias”



On 14 August 2018, The Mekong Review published an essay I wrote about my search in the mid 90’s for Vietnamese writer Bao Ninh, author of The Sorrow of War.  That essay, Looking for Bao Ninh, is reproduced below.



I took my first trip to Southeast Asia in 1994. I went to Phnom Penh to volunteer, teaching trial advocacy skills for the Cambodian Defender Project. Showing up unannounced, I was told to come back a month later. So I headed north to Hanoi. Vietnam had opened its doors to foreign investment and tourism. It was an exuberant time, full of optimism. Continue reading “LOOKING FOR BAO NINH”


ICC-OTP to Interveners on its Rohingya Request: thanks but you’re putting the cart before the horse

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Prompted by ongoing reports of mass-scale atrocities being committed against the Rohingya in Myanmar, resulting in at least 700,000 Rohingya fleeing across the border to Bangladesh (what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights characterized as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”), the Office of the Prosecutor (“OTP”) of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) filed a Request with the Pre-Trial Chamber (“PTC”) under Article 19(3) of the Rome Statute.  The Request seeks a binding decision on whether the ICC has jurisdiction over the alleged deportation of the Rohingya from Myanmar (a non-State Party) to Bangladesh (a State Party). The Request set out in detail the events in Myanmar as they have been reported over the past year or so (see my previous posts hereherehere, and here), that Myanmar security forces have directly and indirectly been involved in the killing, rape, torture, and enforced disappearances of the Rohingya, as well as destruction and looting of their villages. Continue reading “ICC-OTP to Interveners on its Rohingya Request: thanks but you’re putting the cart before the horse”


The Non-Reappointment of Judge Akay: a blow to judicial independence

If States are permitted to take action against a Judge in violation of the applicable international legal framework, judicial independence—a cornerstone principle of the rule of law—and the integrity of our court as such are fundamentally at risk, as is the overall project of international criminal justice.

Judge Theodor Meron, MICT President

MICT President Theodor Meron

Kudos to Judge Theodor Meron for standing up for Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, and more importantly, for judicial independence. Let’s hope his admonitions do not amount to a lone cry in the wilderness of international justice.

How cowardly. Don’t count on the UN (here I am lumping in the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, and, especially, the Security Council) to live up to its obligations and show some backbone – even when failing to do so undermines its legitimacy and authority. All talk, no walk. Continue reading “The Non-Reappointment of Judge Akay: a blow to judicial independence”


Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 3

Part 3 – Getting to Yes

It helps to sit literally on the same side of a table and to have in front of you the contract, the map, the blank pad of paper, or whatever else depicts the problem. If you have established a basis for mutual trust, so much the better. But however precarious your relationship may be, try to structure your negotiation as a side-by-side activity in which the two of you–with your different interests and perceptions, and your emotional involvement–jointly face a common task.

Roger Fisher and William Ury
GETTING TO YES: Negotiating An Agreement Without Giving In, Penguin Books, 2nd ed. p. 38 

Mr. Matthew Nimetz, Personal Envoy of the United Nation Secretary-General

A good day. His 79th birthday. He would celebrate it in a day or two with his family. Now he just wanted to take in the moment, to reflect, to enjoy the festive occasion. Not his birthday, but the signing of the Agreement between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Finally. Since 1991 when FYROM declared its independence, the two countries have been in a diplomatic row over FYROM’s adoption of the name “Republic of Macedonia,” naming its Slavic language “Macedonian,” calling its Slav citizens Macedonians, descendants of Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great, and adopting symbols which Greeks claim as part of their patrimony. Continue reading “Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 3”


Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 2

Part 2 – Northern Exposures & Southern Fears

To ask whether Macedonia is Greek is rather like asking whether Prussia was German. If one talks of distant origins, the answer in both cases must be “No.” Ancient Macedonia started its career in the orbit of Illyrian or Thracian civilization. But, as shown by excavation of the royal tombs, it was subject to a high degree of hellenization before Philip of Macedon conquered Greece. 

Norman Davies, Europe: A history, p. 134

In 1991, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Yugoslavia) began to break up into five parts. It all began around 25 June 1991 when Slovenia, followed by Croatia, declared their independence. Other Republics followed suit.

The contemporary geographical region of Macedonia is not officially defined by any international organisation or state. In some contexts it appears to span six states: Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia:
–Aegean Macedonia (or Greek Macedonia)
–Pirin Macedonia (or Bulgarian Macedonia)
–Vardar Macedonia (or the Republic of Macedonia)
–Mala Prespa and Golo Bardo (in Albania)
–Gora (in Kosovo or Serbia) and Prohor Pchinski (in Serbia)

On 17 September 1991, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) declared its independence, with Bosnia and Herzegovina doing likewise a month later on 16 October 1991, resulting in a rump-Yugoslavia of Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. A civil war broke out in Croatia and later in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And as the saying goes, the rest is history. Continue reading “Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 2”


Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 1

Part 1 – Macedonia here (and there)


Inhabit the brain with telltale imagery…
For metal breeds in dark places.
So, thenceforth, journey through bright brilliant skies…
Clouds laced intricately in a macramé.
And worry not of planets falling like maces.
Look unto your wild, lynx-eyed lover
And beckon forth the lyricist in the clouds.
Let him play lute or madder flute…
Onward to Macedonia.

Tyler Mason  

As the airplane landed at the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, in the northern Greek administrative region of Macedonia, the pilot announced emphatically, εδώ Μακεδονία, εδώ Μακεδονία! (Macedonia here, Macedonia here). To the Greeks on board, it was obvious that he was not referring to the airport, also called “Macedonia.” It was more of a declaration to all passengers of any origin that we had landed in Macedonia – the one and only Macedonia located in Greece (and nowhere else).

This was a few years ago. I remember thinking how jingoistic it was. Was it necessary? To many Greeks, especially the northern Greeks, placing such an emphasis on the name and location of Macedonia for all to know was an essential reaffirmation of their control and ownership of all that is Macedonian – not just land title, but exclusive copyrights over the name “Macedonia,” and proprietary rights over all historical and cultural truths associated with Macedonia as far back as Ancient Greece. How dare its northern neighbor expropriate the name, the heritage of Alexander the Great, his symbol of the Sun of Vergina which adorned their flag, call themselves Macedonians and their Slavic-based language Macedonian, and lay historical claim to a good chunk of modern Greece as far as Thessaly, the central region of Greece? Continue reading “Cutting the Gordian Knot: Settling the “Macedonian” question – Part 1”