Where the light shines strongest, there is always shadow. … It is something I tell myself, you see. … I say to myself: where there is light, there will be shadow as well. There will always be darkness, and we must accept this. … Still, I know how it is, [s]ometimes it helps me and sometimes it doesn’t. … I get my orders. I read them over, and I find myself asking: Is this necessary? … Must we do this? … Must it be like this? … Must it really be like this? I do not like this … I do not like it any more than you do, … It is cruel, yes? … Is that what you are thinking? … I don’t claim to understand it … I only try to endure. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps we must all find our way. … There will be a time, you know, when all this is over. The war, I mean. And all the cruelties. … It is what helps me most, this thought: that there will be a time after. When all the fighting – when all of this – is done with. … Perhaps that might help you. To know that all this is passing. For them [several hundred detained Jewish civilians] too.
A Boy in Winter, by Rachel Seiffert, Virago Press, 240 pages, £14.99/Pa (pp. 129-132)
Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.
So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them. If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”
How does what has been done, and what is to come, leave the world? Can we really ameliorate the horror of mass atrocity; can our responses be seen as a normative shift toward more accountability and prevention? Or are we merely travelling in circles? (p. x)
Reflecting on international criminal justice in the context of war crimes trials, Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet muse:
“[C]an it be said that war crimes trials are a successful method of achieving international criminal justice? Do they at least contribute to ending impunity? Are they really a deterrent for murderous dictators and would be genocidaires? Do they promote reconciliation in transitional communities? Or do they adversely impact on community rebuilding and on victims’ need to establish the truth, to be heard and to take control of their own narrative?” (pp. 7-8, italics added)
In International Criminal Justice, Boas and Chifflet attempt, among other things, to answer this set of questions, or better yet, to lay out and comment on the divergent views held on what is international criminal justice and how to achieve it. Balanced and measured in recounting the views of others, Boas and Chifflet interject their own nuanced and qualified views without imposing them on the reader, allowing space for reflection. If there are strengths to this text – and there are many – this one stands out. Continue reading “Book Review: International Criminal Justice by Gideon Boas and Pascale Chifflet”
A WORLD IN DISARRAY: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order. By Richard Haass. 330 pages. Penguin Press, 2017. $28.00.
“There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” John F. Kennedy, US President1 Speech delivered at Americans for Democratic Action convention, Washington, DC, 12 May 1961, quoted in “Times Call for Liberal Actions, Says Kennedy,” Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel, 13 May 1961.
There is a reason why Richard Haass is serving a fourteenth term as President of the highly regarded, independent, nonpartisan US think tank the Council on Foreign Relations. It comes across when reading his latest book, A World in Disarray. His historical and political analysis is lucid and nuanced, offering thought-provoking advice on dealing with the most pressing events of our time. US President Donald Trump would be well advised to read this book and take heed of Haass’s views. Continue reading “Book Review — A WORLD IN DISARRAY: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.”
The rejection of citizenship rights for Rohingyas, denial of freedom of movement, eviction campaigns, violence against Rohingya women, forced labour, expulsion from their lands and property, violence and torture have made Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingyas the most persecuted minority in the world. I humbly add my voice to the simple demand of the Rohingya people: that their rights as our fellow human beings be respected, that they be granted the right to live peacefully and without fear in the land of their parents, and without persecution on grounds of their ethnicity or their form or worship.
Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, Foreword
In a few words, Muhammad Yunus encapsulates the plight of the Rohingyas and the essence of Azeem Ibrahim’s The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide (hereinafter “The Rohingyas”). Citizenship, or the lack of it, is at the center of all that troubles the Rohingyas in the northern Rakhine State (“nRS”) of Myanmar. The discrimination and persecution they have endured over the decades in no small measure is due to the question of their origin. Where are they from? When did they arrive in Myanmar? How did they arrive in Arakan (Rakhine)? Are they indigenous or recent transplants? How far back must their existence in Arakan be established before they can be viewed and accepted as citizens of Myanmar?
EAST WEST STREET: On the Origins of GENOCIDE and CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. By Philippe Sands. 437 pages. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016. £13.99.
Frank: Tell me Rosenberg, was all this destruction and misery necessary? What was the sense in all that racial politics?
Rosenberg: I was only looking for a practical solution.1Alfred Rosenberg (Hitler’s foremost theorist on racial politics) claiming that mass murder and war was an unintended consequence of his racial politics, to Hans Frank (Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories, where four extermination camps – Belzec, Treblinka, Majdanek, and Sobibor – were located and under his overarching authority), as told by Baldur von Schirach, Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) of Vienna, responsible for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. Philippe Sands, East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity 283 Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2016, citing Gustav Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary 42 (New York: Ferrar, Straus, 1947).
In the autumn of 2010, Philippe Sands was invited to deliver a lecture in Lviv, Ukraine, a city that in the past has also been called Lemberg, Lvov, and Lwow, depending on who controlled the territory. The lecture centered on Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, two legal giants whose theories on crimes of (state) sponsored mass atrocities and individual criminal responsibility featured prominently during the Nuremberg trial, irrevocably changing the legal landscape in international criminal law. Lauterpacht is credited with conceptualizing and introducing crimes against humanity into the Nuremberg trial. Lemkin is the conceptualizer and author of the crime of genocide; a crime that also featured at Nuremberg, albeit less prominently, but that would go on to be codified as an international legal instrument by the United Nations General Assembly when it adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 9 December 1948.
Alfred Rosenberg (Hitler’s foremost theorist on racial politics) claiming that mass murder and war was an unintended consequence of his racial politics, to Hans Frank (Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories, where four extermination camps – Belzec, Treblinka, Majdanek, and Sobibor – were located and under his overarching authority), as told by Baldur von Schirach, Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter (Reich Governor) of Vienna, responsible for sending Jews from Vienna to German death camps. Philippe Sands, East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity 283 Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2016, citing Gustav Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary 42 (New York: Ferrar, Straus, 1947).