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Whistle Blowing Versus Leaking; Tamm and Manning

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The Department of Justice decided to not prosecute Thomas Tamm for leaking information regarding secret warrantless wiretapping to the New York Times under the Bush Administration.

This reminded me of what Adam Serwer wrote this morning about Bradley Manning, even mentioning Tamm:

I don’t agree with the equivalence some Manning defenders have drawn between Manning and other leakers. Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald wrote that “Once again we find how much we now rely on whistleblowers in general – and WikiLeaks and (if he did what’s accused) Bradley Manning in particular – to learn the truth and see the evidence about what the world’s most powerful factions are actually doing.” There’s a difference between the kind of targeted leaking whistleblowing involves and simply releasing reams of information, which is what Manning is accused of doing. There’s a difference between what Manning is accused of doing and Thomas Tamm, the FBI agent who exposed an unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program. There’s a difference between what Daniel Ellsberg did when he exposed years of government lies about Vietnam, even if Ellsberg himself doesn’t see it. A targeted leak meant to expose a specific instance of government malfeasance is qualitatively and morally distinct from someone simply exposing volumes of information without regard for what might be in them, even if some of that information ultimately leads to the disclosure of information related to government misbehavior.

None of this is to say that Wikileaks should be prosecuted, an act that would set a disturbing precedent that could endanger the First Amendment rights of all media organizations.  I do however, think if Manning is guilty he should be punished. I don’t mean punished by austere conditions in pre-trial detention, before any level of legal culpability is established, but I do think the government has the authority to go after leakers rather than whistleblowers, and if the accusations against Manning are true he’s the former rather than the latter. Official secrecy should never be used to cover up government malfeasance, but there are some government functions that require secrecy, and those cannot be performed if there is no legal barrier to disclosing that information.

It’s important to get right at what that difference is. The difference is not who it was leaked to – both Wikileaks and the New York Times (in re Tamm and Ellsberg) are media organizations.

The problem is that statutorily sending information to the media is leaking:

Under U.S. law, in simple terms, a “whistleblower” is somebody who reports an employer’s bad conduct to an agency with oversight over the employer. You’re working for a mining company, the mining company is committing safety violations, so you report the violations to the MSHA; or they’re committing environmental violations, so you report the violations to the EPA; or they’re committing wage and hour violations so you complain to the state or federal department of labor. Whistleblower protections come into play, as your employer is not supposed to retaliate against you for reporting their conduct.

Leaking is when you take your employer’s confidential information and you provide it to somebody outside of your organization, usually the media, for the purpose of exposing your employer’s conduct. Leaking is not the same as whistleblowing. Unlike whistleblowing, a statutorily protected activity, leaking is usually going to be tortious and often criminal in nature.

Circumstances arise when the oversight system breaks down or is corrupted, and a frustrated employee leaks information in order to end abuses that won’t otherwise be stopped. There are also times when an employer’s activities are lawful, but the employee is sufficiently offended by those activities or their implications that he chooses to leak them to the media.

Tamm’s and Ellsberg’s targeted leaks were both instances where the oversight system broke down – what they were leaking about concerned the specific concerns of alleged illegal or unconstitutional action that went to the highest office in the land.

That’s just not the case with Manning. He just copied and pasted a whole  trove of State Department Secrets and sent it off. Some were embarrassing to the US, some embarrassing to other countries, some might even have been deserving of targeted leaks, depending on circumstances I’m not really aware of. But that wasn’t what Manning did. Burning down a city isn’t justified because a mass murderer perished in the flames.

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Guantanamo and the Executive Branch

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Propublica:

When Kennedy, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in February that Uthman was being improperly detained, his 27-page opinion was turned over to a court security officer for classification review.

The judges themselves have very little insight into the process and no sway over what is redacted. Government security officials review filings in the habeas litigation and other cases involving classified evidence and remove sensitive information.

In the Uthman case, that clearance process took three weeks. Kennedy’s decision was stamped “Redacted,” by the court’s security officer and returned to his chambers on March 16. The deletions were minimal. For the first 16 pages, the only word blacked out was “secret,” stamped at the top and bottom of each page.

Kennedy’s clerk added the document to the electronic court file late in the day. Twenty-five hours later, the security office sent out urgent notices to attorneys and the judge that the opinion had not been ready for release and needed additional deletions. The decision was promptly removed from the public docket.

In a closed hearing in his courtroom four days later, Kennedy lashed out at the government for releasing classified information. He and Justice Department attorneys then argued over what to do, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

Kennedy insisted that the reasoning behind his first habeas ruling be made public. But the Justice Department resisted releasing it in redacted form, arguing that blacked out portions would call attention to the exact material the government wanted to conceal.

This is an excellent report by Pro Publica (not a surprise, they’re the best around at that). But beyond what Pro Publica reports, we as a society can often be in a rush to make everything a political decision, but sometimes it’s just as simple as a bureaucratic error. While the detention involved presidential decisions, the redaction decisions are of a much lower pay grade. One of them got screwed up, with no easy way to make it right. Regardless of whether detention at Guantanamo or elsewhere was done correctly, poorly, or somewhere in the middle, this situation could still exist.

It’s also hard to jump to conclusions about the impact on the judge when the judge will not say what it was:

Kennedy’s original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar.

Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized “in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan.”

The intent of this editing may have been to conceal the role of the Pakistanis in capturing al-Qaida fighters although those details were long ago declassified. But the effect was to link Uthman more closely to the retreat of bin Laden and his inner circle through Tora Bora.

It is unclear precisely what restrictions or classification requests guided Kennedy’s alterations. Neither the judge nor the Justice Department would say.

Gillers said such editing has an effect on public opinion, even when it doesn’t change the outcome of the case.

There are two competing interests in government redacting: protecting national security and protecting the prosecution. Not surprisingly, both of these institutional interests are alleged:

Officials at other agencies said they had a fairly free hand in removing information supplied for the government’s case. “Whenever a court security officer identifies a document slated for posting on the court’s public docket as potentially containing classified information, the officer refers that document to appropriate agencies for classification review,” Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said.

One government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that the classification process has been plagued with inconsistencies and that no one is coordinating the effort. In most declassified habeas filings, the names of all detainee-witnesses are removed; in others, a name or two slips past the redaction process.

Some government-ordered deletions clearly appear designed to conceal names of confidential informants, associations with foreign intelligence services and the identities of certain federal agents. But the Uthman case shows that many of the deletions go further.

“This censorship has nothing to do with protecting ‘national security’ and everything to do with covering up government mistakes and malfeasance,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who has represented a number of detainees in habeas litigation. The practice, he said, allows the government to “mislead the American public on issues of profound importance to the country by skewing the perception of who really is at Guantánamo.”

The question is not if both of these interests exist; even if one or both did not, there would at least be a perception of both. The question is how to address them. And the only way to do that is from outside the executive: Congress, the Supreme Court, or ideally both somehow would act in a way to ensure fair procedural safeguards.

The problem is that both institutions have essentially abdicated any responsibilities related to war whatsoever. This has long been the case with the Supreme Court. The laissez-faire attitude peaked in the Korematsu decision that refused to condemn the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two. The series of detainment decisions culminating in Boumediene were meaningful but the impacts, as we have seen, have been basically to give far outside limits. And the Congressional action, from the AUMF on, has been absolutely shameful.

My main problem is that for some reason people expect the executive to change this unilaterally. That will never happen. There are four reasons why this won’t happen:

1) No executive is going to be able to completely rid bureaucrats of a desire to protect prosecutors.

2) No president will unilaterally get prosecutors to be more forthcoming on issues of national security, especially when pushing for trust of the national security apparatus is the first thing any new President must do (particularly those with a history of perceived antipathy).

3) Add to this the overwhelming pressure to protect America. No President wants to release the guy who ends up creating the next 9/11 or Cole bombing. Voters would punish that proportionally far more than they would reward a President for releasing someone who the president thinks may just be a mild risk.

4) Presidential leadership on Guantanamo is not the most important variable in change. I thought Jamelle Bouie’s post on this was on the mark:

Yes, Guantanamo closure was a core issue for President Obama, and yes, it was a core issue for his liberal supporters, but it wasn’t a core issue for the Democratic Party, and it needed to be for any chance at success. Given unanimous and vocal Republican opposition to the administration agenda writ large, Guantanamo closure was virtually certain to become a bitter partisan fight. For success, Obama needed a certain level of pro-closure consensus among congressional Democrats. Absent that consensus (and combined with public pressure to the contrary), it was no real surprise to see the White House avoid confrontation: Given limited resources, limited power, and the choice between a hard fight with a small chance of success, and a hard fight with a moderate one, the administration felt best served by investing its resources in the hard fight with moderate chance of success, i.e., health-care reform.

In other words, like Bill Clinton and gays in the military, Guantanamo closure was a high-profile fight that lacked strong support within and outside the party. Obama could have invested further resources in closing the base, but he would have lost ground with health-care reform, stimulus, and other competing priorities. This isn’t to minimize Obama’s failures or the extent to which he has simply embraced large elements of Bush national-security policy, but you can think of an issue like Guantanamo as the price of presidential ambition. When there are many things on the executive plate, some of them have to go by the wayside. This, unfortunately, was one of them.

You can add to this that every electable politician on Guantanamo had the same position as Obama or was much further right (see Romney offering to double Guantanamo). This is why it frustrates me that so many on the left expend all pressure on the matter at Obama, and not on Congress, who is actually 1) pliable and 2) can be changed without massive collateral damage elsewhere.

Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. What happened? The Senate foreclosed any such action by a 90-6 vote. That’s right. Ninety to six.

Until and unless Congress is pushed to engage more on detainee action, the executive will be on an island alone; the Supreme Court will determine the boundaries of that island but little more.

**Edited this post to make clear that the Pro Publica report was -not- politicized.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

The Supreme Court Cannot Solve Everything

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President Obama made a signing statement refusing to let Congress dictate who he can and cannot hire. In the words of Kevin Drum, Obama “thinks that Congress has no right to tell him who he can and can’t consult in the Office of the President. So he signed the bill but added a signing statement telling Congress to piss off.”

Drum adds that:

Actually, I’m curious about something here. When Congress and the President disagree about something like this, it’s up to the Supreme Court to adjudicate. But how does that usually work? Does the president abide by the law but sue in federal court to have it overturned? Or does he break the law and wait for someone to sue him? What’s the usual historical precedent?

Well, there’s not a lot of historical precedent, because first, the Supreme Court from the very beginning of the country refused to offer advisory opinions. Here’s what the Jay Court said:

The lines of Separation drawn by the Constitution between the three Departments of Government, their being in certain Respects checks on each other, and our being judges of a court in the last Resort, are Considerations which afford strong arguments against the Propriety of our extrajudicially deciding the questions alluded to; especially as the Power given by the Constitution to the President of calling on the Heads of Departments for opinions, seems to have been purposely as well as expressly limited to executive Departments.

This is especially relevant to this particular issue: the Courts only get involved when there is an actual issue, but moreover, the Constitution really does give the President all the executive power, including consulting who he may.

But this also means the Courts can’t just solve this generally: there needs to be an actual court case of someone suing for something. It’s unclear who would or could do that here.

The one example of when the Court did step in is in Marbury v. Madison, which is probably the most important case in the history of our country, so I can’t sum it all up succinctly. But here goes: Marbury did involve is a specific person – the eponymous Marbury, who was given a judicial appointment by Adams; that appointment was rescinded by Jefferson before the actual appointment was delivered. And even in that case, John Marshall found that while Marbury had a right to the appointment, the judiciary had no right to enforce it, because the mandamus statute was unconstitutional. But a part of that decision was also the birth of the political doctrine which is very relevant here:

By the constitution of the United States, the President is invested with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience. To aid him in the performance of these duties, he is authorized to appoint certain officers, who act by his authority and in conformity with his orders.

In such cases, their acts are his acts; and whatever opinion may be entertained of the manner in which executive discretion may be used, still there exists, and can exist, no power to control that discretion. The subjects are political. They respect the nation, not individual rights, and being entrusted to the executive, the decision of the executive is conclusive. The application of this remark will be perceived by adverting to the act of congress for establishing the department of foreign affairs. This office, as his duties were prescribed by that act, is to conform precisely to the will of the President. He is the mere organ by whom that will is communicated. The acts of such an officer, as an officer, can never be examinable by the courts.

But when the legislature proceeds to impose on that officer other duties; when he is directed peremptorily to perform certain acts; when the rights of individuals are dependent on the performance of those acts; he is so far the officer of the law; is amenable to the laws for his conduct; and cannot at his discretion sport away the vested rights of others.

Here, the czars have not had any other duties imposed on them by Congress. Not one. They solely provide advice and guidance to the President and his/her staff on areas of expertise. The Republican fetish of eliminating the czars is directly and clearly against the most fundamental court decision in the history of our country. This is exactly the sort of gross Congressional overstepping that calls for a signing statement. Neither party in Congress has the Constitutional ability to limit the advice the President receives.

The entirety of history of Congressional right to confirm people refers to officers who have official duty. What we have here is a hypothetical that not even Marshall thought Congress would resort to: limiting who the President can merely look to for policy advice without any additional responsibility. It’s not the Constitution’s fault that the czars annoy Republicans.

What’s important to realize (and I think Drum does) about the czars is that they do not give the President any additional power. Van Jones or whoever is just an outside advisor, that the President feels better to keep in house rather than call regularly. But the Constitution gives the executive carte blanche authority on whom he can consult with.

But it’s important to realize is that under no realistic scenario is this going to go to the courts, short of someone actually depriving the czars from receiving a paycheck which they then sue for. This is not a problem for the court system. This is for Congress and the executive to work out alone.

UPDATE: Via a Balloon Juice commenter, Barack Obama also said, “No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president’s constitutional prerogatives; unfortunately, the Bush Administration has gone much further than that.” It’s patently obvious to me this falls in the former category of valid signing statements. This signing statement does not expand executive power, it just protects the ability to hire advice as he sees fit. That’s been a protected Presidential ability as long as the office has existed.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

James Inhofe: The French Rigged The Cote D’Ivoire Election

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This is an amazing, perhaps unprecedented claim in modern times:

“I do know that the French have always had pretty much control of the government in the Ivory Coast and that’s just the way the French operate, until President Gbagbo got there and, of course, the French have been running against him ever since that time. And, the current opponent, Ouattara, is no exception; he is the chosen one by the French and, quite frankly, they rigged the election,” said Inhofe.

“I have shown on the Senate floor how they took the margin of victory that went to Ouattara…what precincts they stole that vote at and how they miscalculated it. How is it statistically possible for the primary election for Gbagbo to have received thousands and thousands of votes in that northern part of Cote d’Ivoire and then, in the run-off, he got zero? Statistically, that is impossible,” he added.

This is an outrageous claim for a sitting American senator to make.

James Inhofe Makes Up His Own Reality

For one, that’s not even the excuse given by the Ivorian Constitutional Court:

The Constitutional Council has rejected an announcement naming presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara as the winner of Côte d’Ivoire’s elections. Earlier, the electoral commission had declared Ouattara the winner of the election with 54 per cent of the vote.

“The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) missed its deadline for giving provisional results” by midnight Wednesday, said the head of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N’Dre, a close ally of President Laurent Gbagbo.

“From that moment, the CEI is not in a position to announce anything,” he said on state television, rejecting the commission’s announcement that Ouattara had won Sunday’s run-off vote.

Two, as noted directly above, the Constitutional Court was widely believed to be corrupt here.

Three, the Constitutional Court had to wipe out 500,000 votes, all of which were in the north, and which represented one tenth of all votes cast. That’s unlikely to have been legitimate.

Four, the UN is responsible for certifying election results under previous agreements:

The UN, which is responsible for certifying the election results as part of the peace deal that ended the last bout of fighting in the country, has said that it considers the initial election valid.

The top UN representative in the country said he had “absolute confidence that there is only one winner – Mr Alassane Ouattara”.

Speaking during the incumbent’s ceremony, Hamadoun Toure, the UN’s special envoy, told Al Jazeera that the 9,000 UN peacekeepers who are stationed in the country would be keeping to their existing mandate of “providing peace and security in the country” if violence over the standoff breaks out. Protecting civilians, he reaffirmed, is central to that mandate.

What agreements were they? Agreements such as the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement or the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, which made official the UN role, and subsequent Security Council resolutions (especially 1933), which made the UN responsible for certifying election results. So the Constitutional Court did not have the authority to wantonly throw out 600,000 votes on its own without scheduling a re-election.

Five and most importantly. even if there was fraud, the Constitution requires a revote within 45 days; the Constitutional Court simply ignored that facet. Why was that vote not held or scheduled? Because the Constitutional Court held that conditions were not safe for it. Why were conditions not safe? Because the Constitutional Court had wrongly overruled the decision! In short, a big win for tautologies and tyrants.

Which is why the UN and the international community rightly rejected it. But none of these details matter to James Inhofe, who sees Gbagbo only as his burdened Christian ally.

Cote D’Ivoire / Ivory Coast Running Thread (4/6)

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A family sharing one tent in Liberian refugee camp, along the Ivory Coast border

10:00 EDT: I ended yesterday’s thread speculating that eventually Ouattara’s forces may just try to kick the door in on the bunker where Gbagbo is hiding. Well:

Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo was defying efforts to force him to cede power, residents said.

“The fighting is terrible here, the explosions are so heavy my building is shaking,” Alfred Kouassi, who lives near Gbagbo’s residence in the commercial capital Abidjan, told Reuters.

“We can hear automatic gunfire and also the thud of heavy weapons. There’s shooting all over the place. Cars are speeding in all directions and so are the fighters,” he said.

[. . .]

A spokeswoman for Ouattara’s forces said Ouattara’s fighters were storming Gbagbo’s residence, where Gbagbo has been holed up since Ouattara’s forces swept into Abidjan backed by helicopter strikes by the United Nations and France.

“They are in the process of entering the residence to seize Gbagbo,” Affousy Bamba told Reuters. “They have not taken him yet, but they are in the process.”

Residents however said militias close to Gbagbo and his presidential guard were putting up a stiff resistance, even as most soldiers from the regular army had heeded a call to lay down their arms.

What led to this? Gbagbo’s obstinance.

Negotiations led by the United Nations and France aimed at securing the departure of Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo have failed, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday.

“The negotiations which were carried out for hours yesterday between the entourage of Laurent Gbagbo and Ivorian authorities have failed because of Gbagbo’s intransigence,” Juppe told parliament.

Considering that yesterday Ouattara allies were comparing Gbagbo to one of the Nazis, This probably means he’s probably going to be put on trial in Cote D’Ivoire. But it also is another reason for his supporters to resist the legitimacy of Ouattara.

10:05 EDT: The EU are adding new sanctions to Gbagbo’s government. Seems a little late, but whatever.

10:10 EDT: Both FM Juppe and a military spokesman in Abidjan say that the French are not involved in the assault on the Presidential Palace. Two UN helicopters are flying low overhead the area where the palace is, though.

This is another reminder that Ouattara likely cannot solve the multitude of problems left in Gbagbo’s wake:

There are now real fears the violence in Ivory Coast could set off a fresh round of regional carnage. Mercenaries and militia who backed the regime of Laurent Gbabgo, the deposed president, have been fleeing across the largely unguarded border with Liberia -raising the prospect they will soon begin building bases there from which a fresh campaign can be mounted.

Former Liberian soldiers, thousands of whom were demobilized after the civil war ended there, are said to have received cash offers to bolster Gbabgo’s militias in southern Ivory Coast.  Burkina Faso, where ethnic groups are closely linked to those in northern Ivory Coast, could also find itself sucked into the fighting.

And there’s more bad news.

For one, Ouattara’s triumphant forces haven’t been able to stamp out inter-ethnic clashes. Killings have been reported in the towns of Bangolo, Man and Danane by Medicines Sans Frontieres, the French NGO.

Human rights groups have already documented atrocities by both sides. In March, Gbabgo’s forces butchered at least 37 immigrant workers then Ouattara’s forces murdered nine unarmed supporters of Gbabgo. Last week, Ouattara called on his supporters to refrain from committing atrocities, but it is unclear if the president-elect, a U.S.-educated economist and banker with no real military authority, has the influence to stop the loosely organized forces backing him from settling local feuds.

These are serious, systemic problems that will take monumental resolve to even begin to solve.

10:20 EDT: Al Jazeera has a fantastic interview with journalist Ayo Johnson, who looks at this problem and also broader problems in Africa.

But why does this keep happening in Africa? All the stereotypes and generalisations aside, similar events have occurred in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon within a few years of each other.

It is embarrassing and sad – but the reality is that African politics and democracy is at a crossroad. For some countries who I would like to describe as fragile states, fragile because a few have come through war, others have had coups, others have had repeated cycles of poor leadership and bad governance. And the conditions that lead to their fragility is ever so apparent. Hence many of such countries are in recovery mode and if not nurtured and supported could easily slip into their bad ways. This is a fact with Ivory Coast. Currently there are only a handful of African countries that meet the grade of governance – South Africa, Africa super power, Ghana, bright and sparkling and Nigeria aspiring to reach its potential and well on track.

These are a few countries that have met international acceptable standards of governance. Africa as a whole has a long way to go in terms of being responsible and accountable. But with time the African continent can change and be seen to change and the rest of the world will see its better and progressive side.

Q. How do these ”fragile countries” break out of these cycles?

There is also a responsibility from the population to be far more educated to understand that during an election do not vote purely on tribal lines. As is ever so apparent across Africa where most vote for the man or woman that belongs to their tribe and cultural affiliation rather that the person who has the best policies. There is a need for the populace to become more educated and to choose wisely with their vote and understand the ramification of the choices they make and how best to use their vote.

Finally the electoral process of choosing a president or a leader for a country should be organised and controlled by ECOWAS. They should work closely with the electoral commission and the decision should be final. This way Disputes will be minimal and there will not be a risk that the process ha been compromised or sabotaged by tribalism or cultural affiliation

In any democracy, the cure for almost any problem is the voters becoming more informed. That’s easier said than done, though. See: the United States.

10:30 EDT: Andrew Harding on the siege:

A negotiated ending might have helped ease tensions in this bitterly divided country. After all, Mr Gbagbo won 46% of the vote in the recent election.

But he seems to have over played a weak hand, and so a more forceful denouement beacons, and with it the real risk of greater instability.

What will his militias do if Mr Gbagbo is killed, or dragged out and humiliated?

Civilians, still trapped in Abidjan, say there has been sporadic gunfire across the city, with pro-Gbagbo militias still on the streets, and Ouattara force’s still “mopping up” opposition at several military installations.

This is definitely not the way this should end.

10:40 EDT: I have not mentioned it before, but Ouattara forces have been ordered not to kill Gbagbo. And I’ve seen a lot of calls for him to be tried, but very few, if any, that he should be killed. In this situation a lot of things are possible (and it just takes one soldier and one bullet), but I don’t think that’s the intent of Ouattara forces, by any stretch. They want him tried.

10:50 EDT: A must read piece in the Times by novelist Fatou Keita:

Some days earlier, looters had invaded our parking lot. We watched them from our windows, hidden behind our curtains, powerless. They were intent on stealing our cars: all the windows were broken, the interiors pillaged. “Give us the keys!” one shouted up to us. “If we have to go in there, you’ll be sorry!” They tried several times to drive off with my car, but as stubborn as its owner, it refused to start and they had to give up. Three other cars were taken, but thank heavens, the bandits didn’t try to force open the door to our building.

By the end of our meeting, we had decided that in case of an attack on our building, we would give the alarm by beating on our pots and pans. We also set hours for taking out the trash and going out to look for food when it was possible.

The days are long because, obviously, we are confined to our homes by the gunfire. When the shooting is heavy, I yell at everyone to lie flat in the hallway. My little granddaughter is terrified. Some of my neighbors have bullets in their walls.

The end is a reminder that, for people in Abidjan, this crisis is not over yet.

–A good map in French of the situation in Abidjan.

11:05 EDT: CAFOD, a Catholic aid agency in England, posted some pictures of the refugees. I’d recommend giving to Oxfam before any religious organization (less strings, better reputation) but this is definitely a “all hands on deck” sort of situation. And honestly, any visibility the refugees get along these lines is good visibility.

11:15 EDT: Max Fisher at the Atlantic writes the first comparison of Libya and Cote D’Ivoire that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. Quite an accomplishment:

Today, the U.S. and France are leading two large-scale, primarily humanitarian interventions, both in Africa. While neither conflict — Côte d’Ivoire and Libya — has yet resolved, and while their immediate as well as long-term damage are not yet clear, in both cases the international intervention appears to have been of tremendous value for three reasons. The civilian death toll, though high in both countries, would likely have been far higher without the United Nations-approved action. Second, intervention looks like it may be able to drastically hasten what could have otherwise been far longer conflict. And perhaps most importantly, the interventions send an important message to the despots and would-be despots of the world that stealing an election or slaughtering one’s own people just became a great deal riskier.

It’s impossible to know what would have happened in Côte d’Ivoire without intervention. But the country looked set to at least return to the civil war of 2004, plunging the country that had become an African success story into yet another of the bloody, sectarian-tinged, insurgent-heavy wars that have plagued West Africa for decades. President Laurent Gbagbo, refusing to cede power after losing his election, would have faced little opposition as loyalist forces and mercenaries mowed down one peaceful protest after another. The corpses dumped along roadsides, in a grisly ritual meant to quietly purge the nation of 20 million of all political opposition, would have continued to mount. As Gbagbo nationalized natural resources and as fighting made the cities, once areas of manufacturing and a slowly growing middle class, inhospitable, this once-vibrant African economy would have headed for collapse.

Côte d’Ivoire’s economy will likely take years to recover. But the armed conflict, which looked ready to drag on for years and to create sectarian tension between the Muslim north and Christian south that could have lasted even longer, appears headed for an imminent and possibly decisive conclusion after only four months. Gbagbo, now holed up in a bunker for the third straight day, hasagreed to negotiate the terms of his surrender and departure. His generals are calling for a cease fire. A United Nations and French assault has crippled his forces and paved the way for fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the rightful winner of the presidential election. Months of U.S.- and French-imposed sanctions have devastated Gbagbo’s ability to pay his troops. U.S.-led diplomatic efforts have isolated him regionally and brought the African Union, normally deferential to dictators and loathe to intervene, to take one of its toughest and most unified stands in the body’s history. Now Gbagbo, rather than slowly burning his country down through years of war and dictatorship, appears, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “on the verge of being ousted.”

I would add this to the pile of things that are changing as the world becomes figuratively smaller. Africa used to be way over there, now it’s immediately accessible via real time media, social or otherwise. That’s not a cure all – there are still factors for intervention to take into account. But now we all (not just people on the ground cabling in) can more easily judge the risks of not intervening before it’s too late. And that’s meaningful.

11:20 EDT: What’s taking so long? Gbagbo supporters are firing heavy weapons:

Mamadou Toure, a Outtara supporter who has been on France 24 TV, says it’s taking so long to capture Gbagbo’s bunker because Gbagbo’s supporters have heavy weapons. Outtara’s forces reportedly have received orders to take the incumbent president alive.

More warnings about a humanitarian crisis in Liberia:

Stephen O’Brien, a UK international development minister who has been at the Bahn camp in Liberia, on the border with Ivory Coast, has warned of an “immediate crisis” and has called on all the international community to help people affected by the violence

–Also, more on what the ICC is doing:

The said the prosecutor has been conducting a preliminary examination and the next step will be for the prosecutor to request authorisation to initiate an investigation but the process would be expedited if a country signed up to the Rome statute refers Ivory Coast to the prosecutor of the international criminal court.

All in all, it seems everything is at a stalemate until Gbagbo is captured.

11:25 EDT: Reports from Abidjan are that UN helicopters flying overhead are not firing on the Gbagbo compound, though Gbagbo allies are trying to spread propaganda that they are. The BBC reports that Gbagbo allies have even called this an assassination attempt, but that Ouattara forces know that things will likely only get worse if Gbagbo is in fact killed.

11:30 EDT: The Assistant Secretary for African Affairs spoke in Washington yesterday about Cote D’Ivoire, and echoed the positions of France and the United Nations, as well as other people within the American government, all the way up to Obama. i didn’t catch anything new regarding Cote D’Ivoire (though the information on Nigeria’s election was interesting).

11:35 EDT: More on the French history in Cote D’Ivoire. (French)

11:40 EDT: Irin provides details on the military supporters of Ouattara:

While military support from the UN and France may have proved pivotal in destroying Gbagbo’s last arsenals, the former rebels known as Forces Nouvelles (FN) made up most of the newly formed Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), which pushed south into the main city Abidjan after winning remarkably easy victories in the centre, east and south of the country in the past week.

Who are the military forces behind Ouattara and how will they proceed once their side takes power?

At a recent celebratory rally in the political capital Yamoussoukro, Ouattara’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro introduced the crowd to several FN senior commanders: Soumaila Bakayoko, Cherif Ousmane, Tuo Fozié and Touré Hervé, saluted as being among the architects of the FRCI’s victories. Ouattara supporters also talk of the key role played by Col Miche Gueu. These men are associated with the September 2002 rebellion, which nearly dislodged Gbagbo. The FN – a collective of three rebel factions – made offensives against Korhogo, Bouaké and Abidjan. Their secretary-general and main public voice was a then 30-year-old Soro, known primarily as a former student leader.

Ivoirian critics of Ouattara and Soro have not welcomed the sense of déjà vu. “This man is meant to be a prime minister, but he is forever talking about the need for a military offensive and moving on Abidjan,” a man in the Yopougon District said. Many observers noted the difference between Ouattara’s rhetoric and that of Soro in the weeks after the disputed November 2010 presidential election, with the prime minister much quicker to push for a military solution.

The FN included soldiers, particularly northerners, defecting from the national armed forces, but also combatants from outside Côte d’Ivoire and the `dozo’, traditional warrior hunters – said to have mystical powers – who have long acted as informal community police.

In 2006 one of the FN leaders, Martin Kouakou Fofié, was hit with UN sanctions over allegations of child recruitment, abductions, sexual abuse of women, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by troops he commanded.

Whatever compromises were made in numerous peace accords signed in the years since the rebellion, the FN have effectively retained control of national territory in the west, north and centre. A longstanding concern of Gbagbo supporters and neutrals has been the existence of a state within a state, whose sovereignty has gone largely unchallenged.

More problems for Ouattara to deal with. With each passing hour, this feels more and more like a Pyrrhic victory.

I’ve also referred to the FRCI constantly here, because that’s what they are now; it’s worth highlighting, though, that this is essentially a re-organized group of what came before: the New Forces, that had, as the excerpt shows, many problems of their own.

–Irin also has a piece on refugees:

Ivoirians who have fled to eastern and southeastern Liberia are choosing to settle in villages rather than camps and transit centres, making them harder to help, say NGO workers.

Most of the 130,000 Ivoirians who have fled into in Liberia since December 2010 are scattered across 90 villages in Nimba and Grand Geddeh counties, according to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Suleiman Momodu.

Ivoirians feel safest staying with host communities just across the border from their homes, as they may have relatives in these villages or share the same ethnic background, said Anika Krstic, spokesperson with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in Liberia’s capital Monrovia.

As a result, a refugee camp in Bahn in Nimba County, 50km from the border, is sheltering some 2,500 refugees, despite being built to house up to 15,000.

Many Ivoirians return to their villages by day to keep up their livelihoods, re-crossing into Liberia at night, said Krstic. “With population movements continually shifting, it’s hard to figure out who has already been registered and who is being registered for the first time,” she added.

Poor roads impede access to many host villages said DRC, which is helping provide water and sanitation in transit centres, where refugees are temporarily housed before finding longer-term shelter.

Not only are there a significant amount of refugees, they’re not even going to be easy to get help to. This sounds like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

11:55 EDT: Elizabeth Dickson of Foreign Policy tweets that UN investigators found a third possible massacre site in Cote D’Ivoire.

More details from Channel 4:

The man overseeing the UN team investigating mass killings in the Ivory Coast has confirmed to Channel 4 News that in addition to two mass graves which were found in Duekoue in March, reports based on “reliable information” have led the team to investigate a third site in Bloleuquin.  The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic spoke to Channel 4 News from Abidjan. He had just returned from Duekoue whilst on a week long mission to oversee the investigation into reports of mass killings.

He said “in the second half of March 100 people were killed in Duekoue, and on the 28th March 230 people were killed.”

Whilst Ivan Simonovic did not specifically use the phrase “ethnic cleansing” he told Channel 4 News “here are the hard facts: in the first incident the 100 victims were of a single ethnicity, from the Dioula ethnicity who traditionally support Ouattara, they were found after pro-Gbagbo forces were in control”

“And in the second incident 230 people from the Guerra ethnicity, traditionally supporters of Gbagbo, were killed at the time when Ouattara’s forces were in control.”

Horrifying.

12:15 EDT: Oxfam has a Flickr page with photos from Cote D’Ivoire. The photo at the top of the page is from this set.

–France24 is reporting that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the ICC, is officially opening an investigation into “systematic or widespread massacres committed in Côte d’Ivoire.”

12:25 EDT: Kofi Annan, still alive and giving public statements, says that Gbagbo should leave.

12:45 EDT: According to the liveblog of Jeune Afrique, via France24, Gbagbo refused an offer of “legal immunity, a collection of his assets, freedom of movement, and 2 million per year” from African heads of state. Does he think a better offer is coming?

–Ah, the catch, What France 24 didn’t highlight is that this offer was made on March 10, nearly a month ago. That makes the offer much more reasonable. Making that offer now would be idiotic.

12:55 EDT: A military source told Jeune Afrique that the bunker where Gbagbo is has 4-5 layers with men to defend him and enough food to last a year. Wonderful. Exactly what the country needs right now.

–Via AFP, Jeune Afrique reports that Angola still considers Gbagbo the president-elect. Amazing.

1:00 EDT: South Africa, Togo, Angola, and possibly Ethiopia are possible locations for exile for Gbagbo:

South Africa, Togo and Angola are possible safe havens for Ivory Coast’s besieged Laurent Gbagbo should he negotiate an exit from his West African country, African Union (AU) sources said on Wednesday.  “South Africa has offered several times before and Togo is now indicating to us that it could be willing to take him in,” a senior AU official told Reuters.  “Togo is not a great option, though, as there will obviously be fears that he could cause problems and spoil peace from there — it’s so close to Ivory Coast. I’m betting strongly on South Africa,” said the official, who declined to be named.

[. . .]

Another diplomat at the AU in Addis Ababa said Angola was a strong possibility.  “Angola has always been pro-Gbagbo,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “I think there’s a good likelihood of Angola taking him in if there’s a settlement. You only have to look at their history.”  The United Nations said in March it was investigating suspected arms transfers to Ivory Coast in breach of an embargo, including a cargo delivery from Angola.  There were also regular reports in 2002 that Angola supplied arms including armoured vehicles to Ivory Coast when rebels tried to oust Gbagbo from the presidency.  Angola has denied that mercenaries from the country have fought for Gbagbo.

Diplomats at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said Uganda was an outside bet to shelter the Ivorian strongman. Long-serving President Yoweri Museveni earlier this year attacked the United Nations for recognising Ouattara as the election winner.

That’s assuming he cuts a deal to give himself exile.

1:15 EDT: The BBC reports that today’s assault on Gbagbo’s residence may have repelled because Ouattara forces could not break through thr heavy weapons on the residence.

1:20 EDT: This Al Jazeera video captures the perspective of Ivorians caught in the crossfire:

1:30 EDT: Gbagbo is rejecting advice of allies to give up and apparently hopes to remain as President.

–A report to France24 indicates that Gbagbo is still broadcasting defiantly on state television. A very rough translation:

“URGENT: President Gbagbo IS NOT IN A BUNKER PALACE AND ITS NOT SENT OR ITS GENERAL ALCIDE DJEDJE ASK ANY PRESENTING AS STATED IN PARIS by François Fillon • URGENT: THE GENERAL AND MANGOU Ksarat NEVER negotiated the surrender of President Gbagbo FROM THE EMBASSY OF France ABIDJAN AS ANNOUNCED ON BFM TV and ITEL by François Fillon • URGENT: THE PRO-OUATTARA were defeated by the pro-Gbagbo NEAR THE PRESIDENTIAL RESIDENCE. • URGENT: President Gbagbo STATED IN PERSON, TUESDAY NIGHT ON LCI, IT REMAINS WELL TO HIS POST AS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC BECAUSE HE WON THE ELECTION “

–Meanwhile, SOSs are being broadcast here, including one about a two year old child who has not eaten for three days.

–Reuters has also reported that the Ouattara attack on Gbagbo’s residence has been repelled today.

1:45 EDT: The Telegraph has chilling pictures of the assault on Gbagbo’s bunker.

–AFP is also reporting that Ouattara forces have retreated from Gbagbo’s bunker.

–A representative from UNICEF told the BBC that they had to turn back because people were being killed right in front of them.

2:15 EDT: The EU is committed to helping Cote D’Ivoire rebuild. (French link)

The European Union today expressed its readiness to help rebuild the economy and institutions when the Ivorian conflict between the president recognized by the international community and its rival has been set.

“We are ready to consider a range of measures to provide institutional and financial package” for the country, once the political situation stabilizes, “said Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Hungarian, Zsolt Nemeth, whose country holds the six-month presidency of the EU. He was speaking before the European Parliament on behalf of the Head of European diplomacy Catherine Ashton, who could not make the trip.

The minister did not elaborate on the proposed European aid. But the needs in Côte d’Ivoire are very important. The country’s economy, which relies heavily on exports of cocoa, has been in crisis since the beginning of the crisis created after the presidential election in November between the outgoing Head of State Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.

Once Congress tops playing around with budget issues, they should make the same commitment.

–An interesting interview with an African expert from the Institute for International and Strategic Relations:

euronews: Can Alassane Ouattara legitimately be a reconciliation president, considering that his troops are already accused of mass killings during their advance on Abidjan?

Hugon: That’s certain, but to earn that stature it’s imperative that there be an effort of remembrance, the equivalent of a truth and reconciliation commission, and that crimes that may have been committed by one side or another be spoken of.

euronews: Paris is involved in three wars, in Afghanistan, Libya and Ivory Coast. Why this commitment at the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s term as president? For electoral reasons?

Hugon: It is true that a warrior stance, military commander in chief can have a positive effect on public opinion. I don’t believe that is the main motivation. I believe that Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to partly disengage from Africa, to normalise France-Africa relations — France-Afrique some people have called it — and finds himself facing the classical dilemma: must there be indifference or interference? History will decide whether he was right or wrong.

Jeune Afrique reports 92 Angolan soldiers are assigned to protect Gbagbo’s residence. Stunning news that France 24 seconds. Stunning news.

3:00 EDT: I’m not sure this has been widely reported yet, but in yesterday’s State Department briefing, it was announced that the US Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Phillip Carter, has been in touch with both Ouattara and Gbagbo, even now.

The State Department has posted the full remarks of Asst. Sec. Carson, mentioned earlier:

3:05 EDT: Stunning photos of the conflict in Cote D’Ivoire over the past month. The pciture of the women protesting soldiers stands out to me.

3:15 EDT: France24 reports that Gbagbo’s soldiers returned fire, injuring one Ouattara soldier today.After a break, Ouattara foreces anticipate launching another offensive on the stronghold.

4:15 EDT: AFP reports that the Japanese embassy was attacked by mercenaries. As if things weren’t bad enough.

–American diplomats are also requesting to leave Abidjan.

–The attack on the Japanese embassy was worse than that initial report let on:

The residence of the Ambassador of Japan to Abidjan was attacked Wednesday by “mercenaries”, who then fired rockets and cannon fire from the building, said the diplomat told AFP, indicating that four members of its local staff had “disappeared “. “There are four people, security officials and the gardener, who disappeared. There are a lot of blood in the house, cartridges everywhere. I do not know if the four are alive, ” said Yoshifumi Okamura. “They were probably mercenaries, they entered my home in the morning by pulling (with rocket launchers) RPG. With a dozen people we’ve locked in my room, whose door is reinforced, ” said he said. His residence is located in the Cocody district (north), in a wide perimeter around that of outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo, defended by his last against fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, head of state recognized by the international community. “From 9:00 to 2:00 p.m. (GMT), they fired machine guns, guns, RPGs from my residence. I do not know where they’re fired because we were locked up. It’s terrible, ” the diplomat continued. “They looted, stole everything of value in the house. Around 14:00, they are gone, ” said Yoshifumi. But “they are in front of me. I’m afraid they will come back, ” he said. (AFP)

My god.

–There’s now a report of a sniper on top of that residence.

4:30 EDT: The French language site Jeune Afrique lists Gbagbo’s remaining allies.

6:30 EDT: There is speculation that the presence of heavy weapons outside of Gbagbo’s residence may lead to the UN intervening again. But the bigger question, as posed by Senam Beheton, is who exactly is in charge of Abidjan and the country now? Can anyone guarantee security? As long as ambassador residences are attacked, it’s unclear if anyone is in charge.

Every other liveblog is closed. So I’ll follow suit, but be monitoring anything. If anything looks breaking, I’ll throw up a new thread. Thanks for following today.

Evening / Overnight Cote D’Ivoire Roundup Thread

with 2 comments

Developments will be posted here as they happen. Prior thread is here. This time I’m going to put a timestamp on updates. New updates will continue to be at the bottom of the thread.

7:00 EDT: The ICRC has confirmed 800 deaths earlier this week in Duékoué. Statement, translated:

“This event is particularly shocking in its scale and brutality,” said Dominique Liengme, head of the ICRC delegation in Côte d’Ivoire. “The ICRC condemns direct attacks on civilians and reiterates the obligation of parties to conflict to ensure in all circumstances the protection of populations in the territory they control.”

ICRC delegates and volunteers from the Ivorian Red Cross have visited the site on March 31 and April 1 to ascertain the needs of local people and gather evidence on this event. They also evacuated 28 bodies to the local morgue. This transaction is expected to continue over the coming days.

In addition, tens of thousands of men, women and children have fled fighting and looting that took place in the city since last Monday. The various communities of the city and surrounding Duékoué had already been hit hard several times by violence.

The ICRC and the Ivorian Red Cross, present throughout the country continue to assist the populations affected by conflict by providing essential goods and facilitating access to potable water and health care.

Horrific. And the death toll will probably go higher.

7:10 EDT: This NYT report shows how fluid the situation is.

Still, there were indications that Mr. Gbagbo was losing ground, and that his hours in power were slipping away. In the last week he has lost some 50,000 combatants in the army and police to defections, Mr. Choi said. Key officers, including generals, have quit, like the army chief of staff who abandoned his post to seek refuge from South African diplomats.

Despite encountering resistance around critical buildings, officials in Mr. Ouattara’s government insisted that Abidjan was under their control. But there was confusion about the extent of it, with one adviser saying that the presidential residence had been penetrated, and another denying it.

“There are not real battles in the neighborhoods,” one Ouattara adviser, Patrick Achi, said. “There are no longer neighborhoods under the control of Gbagbo.” Mr. Ouattara has also begun issuing pronouncements — closing the country’s borders, establishing a curfew — that until recently had been the strict purview of Mr. Gbagbo.

But while firing had died down by Friday evening, residents still spoke of a terrifying day spent hunkered down inside as gunfire and heavy-weapons exchanges boomed all around. One man, speaking from the Adjamé neighborhood, was repeatedly drowned out over the telephone by the sound of gunfire.

Moreover, the central mystery of the events are the mass defections of many of Gbagbo’s forces. A working theory is a combination of lack of pay and having to face armed opposition:

The mass defections and lack of resistance in much of the country is likely to remain the central mystery of the country’s swift turnaround this week, after months of bellicose language on state television by Mr. Gbagbo and his aides, promises to fight fiercely for what they called Ivory Coast’s sovereignty in the face of foreign interference and periodic killings of civilian protesters in Abidjan.

One expert on the country cited the tightening financial vise on Mr. Gbagbo because of international sanctions and his consequent inability to fully make the army payroll. But he also noted the historically unwarrior-like nature of the Ivorian army.

“They were very happy to draw their pay every month, but they were essentially like civil servants,” said Michael McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale University. “So when faced with people actually committed to fighting” — the former rebels who make up the Republican Forces — “it’s not that surprising they stand down,” Dr. McGovern said.

“It’s easy to fire on unarmed civilians, but it’s a much different choice to decide whether you are going to engage with people who are as well-armed as you are,” he said.

More to come.

7:20 EDT: More on the horrible situation in Duékoué. From AFP, translated:

The Red Cross, “tens of thousands of men, women and children” fleeing the fighting and looting in the city since Monday evening.

The city and its suburbs have been hit hard several times by violence.

Important strategic crossroads of the West, is controlled from Duékoué Tuesday by forces of the Ivorian president recognized by the international community, Alassane Ouattara, the final two days of clashes with military and militia loyal to the president defeated in election, Laurent Gbagbo.

The UN humanitarian agencies said they were “particularly concerned on Friday, hurt about the fate of tens of thousands of displaced people found shelter at the Catholic mission in this city.

“As a priest of the mission, most have not eaten for two days and are therefore urgently needed food rations and 80,000 kitchen sets,” said a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Jemini Pandya.

According to the priest, there is also an urgent need to retrieve the bodies abandoned on city streets and near the mission.

This is an ongoing nightmare.

8:00 EDT: 100 armed mercenaries were arrested in Liberia, after having crossed back from the Ivory Coast. Translated from the original French (very poorly):

A hundred armed Liberian mercenaries from Ivory Coast were arrested Friday to Liberia shortly after crossing the border back to their country, learned the security source told AFP.  These mercenaries were arrested by police and immigration services Liberians in the Province of Maryland (eastern Liberia) in vehicles all-terrain and were in possession of `weapons and ammunition, according this source.  The camp of Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo out was charged with having used mercenaries from Liberia to strengthen the forces that remained loyal to him face to those of his rival Alassane Ouattara, recognized President of the international community.

Perhaps this means Gbagbo can’t pay his mercenaries any more?

8:15 EDT: Before it was taken over by Ouattara, state TV went out with … an episode of Desperate Housewives? Gbagbo and his wife are starting to remind me of the Bluths, just with mercenaries and mass murder instead of whimsical dialogue.

French officials said that Mr Gbagbo, and his influential wife, Simone, were believed to be in the presidential palace in one of the few parts of the city not yet captured by the pro-Ouattara units of a divided Ivorian army. Other reports suggested that he has escaped to a “secure location” elsewhere in Ivory Coast. Mr Alain said that Mr Gbagbo would soon make a televised address to the nation. However, the state television station, scene of some of the most violent fighting in Abidjan, ceased to broadcast yesterday morning.

According to reports in French media, the final broadcasts were a bizarre mélange of previews of episodes of Desperate Housewives and repeats of an apparently amateur video showing Mr Gbagbo chatting calmly with supporters and his wife. Artillery and light-arms fire were reported close to Mr Gbagbo’s residence and presidential palace. Two large military bases were also reported to be under attack, turning Ivory Coast’s main city and commercial capital into a war zone.

Unbelievable.

9:00 EDT: State TV is back in the hands of Gbagbo supporters and is broadcasting:

Ivory Coast’s RTI state television controlled by Laurent Gbagbo resumed broadcasting on Friday after it was closed for almost a day by heavy fighting, a Reuters witness said.

The broadcaster aired images of cheering Gbagbo supporters and file footage of Gbagbo’s swearing-in after a disputed November election that U.N.-certified results showed he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara.

This may signal a more protracted battle.

10:00 EDT: Colum Lynch in Foreign Policy’s UN blog on how Gbagbo harassed UN peacekeepers into being completely ineffective. Read the whole thing if you’re reading anything.

But in recent months Gbagbo has provided the U.N. with a painful lesson in how to prevent a U.N. peacekeeping force from doing its job. Forces loyal to Gbagbo have unleashed a systematic campaign of harassment that has severely diminished the U.N. mission’s capacity to protect civilians in this West African country, according to internal U.N. documents obtained by Turtle Bay.

[. . .]

In a series of nearly daily challenges, government forces and pro-Gabgbo militias have torched U.N. vehicles, disarmed and attacked U.N. peacekeepers and severely hindered them from conducting patrols and supplying their operations, according to U.N. officials in Ivory Coast and internal U.N. documents. In many cases, the U.N. responded to challenges to its freedom of movement by returning to base.

U.N. officials in New York challenge the account that emerges from the reports as incomplete. They said the incident reports don’t document the total number of U.N. patrols that provide Ivorians with a greater sense of security. Last month, for instance, the UN launched some 1766 patrols throughout Ivory Coast, including 500 in Abijdan, according to U.N. officials. And while the U.N.’s ability to investigate rights abuses have been severely restricted, the U.N. has established a 24-hour a day “green line” that allows locals to report on rights abuses in the country.

Seriously, read the whole thing. I feel bad excerpting as much as I have already. If you care about foreign policy and peacekeeping, it’s not just a must read, it’s a print and tape to your wall type article.

Lynch gives a complete playbook of nine different steps used to make UN peacekeepers irrelevant. If anything, it’s another reminder that when peacekeepers are put into a position, parties can quickly find their limits and exploit them. We’ve seen it again and again – and the only answer, as always is either a quick response by the international community (ha!) or patience. Here, it took a severe amount of patience for some sort of endgame to present itself, and as we’re seeing, that endgame is very, very bloody. The only consolation is that peacekeepers are never sent into a situation where everything is just going super well to begin with.

10:45 EDT: The BBC confirms a massive number of dead and indicates a stalemate in Abidjan:

However, [Ouattara’s supporters] have been unable to defeat those still loyal to the former president in parts of Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan.

There have been fierce clashes outside the presidential palace and the headquarters of state television in the upmarket district of Cocody. Fighting has also been reported in Plateau and Agban areas.

While figures for dead and wounded are unavailable, Doctors Without Borders said it had treated at least 80 people over the past two days, most of them young men suffering from gunshot wounds.

Residents of Abidjan say they are afraid to leave their homes.

The BBC’s John James in Bouake says Mr Gbagbo is holed up inside the fortress-like presidential mansion, with his last remaining allies and the Republican Guard.

“Laurent Gbagbo is going nowhere. He is the elected president of Ivory Coast and he is going to be president for five years to come,” a spokesman for Mr Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) said.

Short of a genocide like in Sudan or Rwanda, I can’t imagine a tragedy of a bigger scale. This map gives a sense of the geography of Abidjan and where both leaders (likely) are, though there have been reports both Ouattara and Gbagbo are not where the map says they are. The situation, as should be evident by now, is completely fluid.

11:00 EDT: Human Rights Watch has called on Ouattara to control his troops:

Alassane Ouattara should take concrete measures to ensure that troops under his command fighting in Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial capital, Abidjan, do not commit reprisals or other abuses against civilians or supporters of Laurent Gbagbo, Human Rights Watch said today. Ouattara should publicly pledge to hold accountable all members of his forces implicated in serious violations of international law, Human Rights Watch said.

Ouattara’s troops, now called the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, FRCI) comprise a loose coalition of combatants who previously fought for the Forces Nouvelles (“New Forces”) rebellion, neighborhood-based defense forces, and former Ivorian army soldiers, policemen, and gendarmes who have recently defected from Gbagbo’s side.

“Ouattara should send an unequivocal public message to all his commanders and forces fighting on his behalf that reprisals of any kind will be punished,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

[. . .]

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has repeatedly indicated that it will prosecute crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire if the court’s requirements for investigation – which relate to the gravity of the crimes and the inadequacy of national proceedings – are met. An investigation could be triggered by a referral of the situation by the UN Security Council or any state that is party to the court, or if the prosecutor decides to act on his own authority. While Côte d’Ivoire is not a party to the court’s Rome Statute, it accepted the court’s jurisdiction through a declaration in 2003. The Security Council resolution references this declaration and states that the report of the commission of inquiry should be provided to the Security Council and “other relevant international bodies.”

I’ve included the ICC recommendation because that actually puts real teeth behind the calls by HRW. If jurisdiction isn’t a question (and this implies it’s not) those committing these atrocities will be tried by someone and that should encourage Ouattara to act. An additional threat may be the UN/French additional forces he was reportedly seeking (see the earlier liveblog regarding the call to Sarkozy).

Additionally, this report from the Duékoué region is harrowing:

But Channel 4 News has learned that there are also unconfirmed – but credible – reports of mass killings by Ouattara forces near the western cocoa belt of Duekoue – where at least 10,000 refugees have been trapped in a church compound with little or no access to food, water or health facilities, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

The refugees are surrounded by thousands of rebel soldiers from Ouattara’s Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (RFCI) and are protected by 1,000 UN peacekeepers, with another 2,000 on the way.  A UN military official on the ground, who asked not be named, told Channel 4 News the situation is still “very, very, very tense, nobody is safe there”.  The official added:  “Of course we are hearing reports of atrocities committed by both sides but it is far too early and logistically difficult to verify such claims.”

But, speaking from Dakar, Human Rights Watch’s senior Africa researcher, Corinne Dufka, toldChannel 4 News that “there are very credible reports of mass killings recently in the Duekoeu region”.

“That area is known as the ‘wild west’ and we are trying to verify these reports as quickly as possible,” she said. “In the west of the country sexual violence peaked in 2004 to an absolutely unacceptable level. After that there has been a political vacuum filled by complete lawlessness.”

Speaking to Channel 4 News from an undisclosed location in Ivory Coast, a spokesman for Ouattara – Konate Siratugui – denied that any war crimes were being committed by the RFCI in Duekoue or in any part of the country.

“What you are seeing is the work of radical forces, Liberian mercenaries working for Gbagbo, they are looting and burning,” he claimed. “They are going house to house terrorising innocent people.”

Two points. One, the Ouattara spokesman is almost certainly lying, given the circumstances. Two, the point about sexual violence underscores how much violence the women of Cote D’Ivoire have had to take in this conflict and previously. Between this point and the issues raised here, it’s truly a tragic situation. I don’t think I have more words to describe it. But the women there are very, very strong. That’s for sure – I admire their courage in still organizing and fighting for a free and open Cote D’Ivoire.

Also, earlier in the day the UN urged Ouattara to reign in his forces.

12:25 EDT: Anne-Marie Slaughter pointed out this article from Gil Loescher who explains the problems of refugees such as those that now exist surrounding Cote D’Ivoire (up to and possibly over a million). An excerpt:

Long-term displacement is not only a humanitarian crisis. It is also likely to affect political stability and to have important consequences for security, particularly for host states in the developing world, but also regionally and internationally. Protracted refugee situations are at the heart of many of the major contemporary developments in international security and world politics, as prolonged exile often originates from the very states whose own instability lies at the heart of broader regional instability. The bulk of refugees in these regions — Afghans, Somalis, Iraqis, Sudanese, Congolese and Burmese — come from countries where conflict and persecution have persisted for years. For groups engaged in conflict, the environment of a protracted refugee situation, in which there are few economic and social opportunities for young men, may represent a potential source of recruitment. Refugee camps often serve as sanctuaries and bases for combatants. Refugees sometimes become actively involved in military matters and form armed groups to defend themselves, or join military forces that offer the prospect of overthrowing the regime that had forced them to flee. In particular, both host and Western states have identified refugees emanating from countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia as a potential source of radicalization and instability in the global war against terrorism because of their possible recruitment by Islamic terrorist organizations.

Refugees in protracted refugee situations also have been identified as potential “spoilers” of peace negotiations in countries emerging from prolonged conflict. The existence of refugee camps that serve as rebel bases; the small-arms traffic across borders facilitated by refugee camps; and the premature repatriation of groups in exile can all undermine the prospects for peace and post-conflict rehabilitation. In other words, refugees who are not provided with adequate protection and solutions to their plight and who are not provided with the opportunity to contribute to peace-building in their home countries may disrupt post-conflict reconstruction by remaining in militarized groups outside of peace negotiations and refusing to renounce violence.

This is becoming a major problem in Cote D’Ivoire, especially if it takes time to stabilize the country or if there are threats of reprisal.

12:30 EDT: Three UN peacekeepers were wounded yesterday by gunfire, two seriously. Translated from the original French:

Three peacekeepers were wounded in the attack in Abidjan on Thursday to patrol Nations Operation in Côted’Ivoire (UNOCI) by the army loyal to incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo.

“Three peacekeepers were injured, two seriously during the attack which took place in the vicinity of the Plateau,” said a statement from UNOCI sent Friday to Xinhua.

The patrol came under fire when she was on a humanitarian mission, it added.

Also on Thursday, the head of UNOCI has been subjected to heavy fire from the forces of Mr. Gbagbo near the presidential palace in the Plateau.

The statement said “the UNOCI troops returned fire in a firefight close to three hours.”

UN peacekeepers in a three hour firefight? And this is the example of a country there’s no interference in?

12:35 EDT: A Reuters Flash: “Ouattara [government] spokesman says Gbagbo remains in his house, has shown no signs of giving up.”

12:45 EDT: What appears to be a Spanish-language Chinese state newspaper published an article about Cote D’Ivoire (where the official language is French, by the way). The gist, as far as I can tell is that they are calling on both sides to follow the UN resolution so that the country may stabilize quickly. It also supports ECOWAS and the African Union, with no mention of France or the United States. But the translation is rather rough here.

1:00 EDT: This background piece from Al Jazeera is great journalism. I haven’t touched on the African Union yet:

While the African Union (AU) has sent delegations to the country, its role has largely been limited to polite attempts at negotiating the stalemate. The inability or unwillingness of the body to act decisively or intervene has raised the usual critiques of its effectiveness.

The AU – through its regional hand, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – set an ultimatum in December, warning of a military intervention if Gbagbo did not cede power. But, Johnson argues: “The AU … don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say; they threaten force but don’t act, they have the mandate but don’t enforce.”

Collier, however, maintains that, contrary to popular belief, the AU has managed to set the agenda in Cote d’Ivoire. “It has acted with caution, and probably been too slow, but it has actually set very important precedents. It has recognised President Ouattara and it has refused to go down the road of ‘powersharing’ which has not worked well in either Zimbabwe or Kenya and which the AU has now recognised is a bad model.

“I think that the AU position augurs rather well for the forthcoming 19 African elections. It has been strongly reinforced by the events in North Africa which have hopefully ended the incipient trend [of] sons inheriting the presidential throne from their fathers,” Collier adds.

Kouakou agrees, arguing that the UN and the AU have – for the first time in the history of peaceful conflict resolution in an African crisis – performed quite well. “Many of us are very impatient about resolving the crisis. [But] patiently convincing Gbagbo to step down added with progressive financial pressure are the best ways to solve the crisis.”

It’s worth remember that the African Union, like all international organizations, is only as strong as its members. That makes states like Nigeria and South Africa lynch pins; compared to states in NATO (even excepting the US) their reach is limited – so of course the organization will have less effect.

1:30 EDT: Ouattara forces have promised a new offensive today, amidst gangs of youth looting in Abidjan and elsewhere, as well as the spectre of massacres.

1:35 EDT: France now has 1,100 troops or thereabouts on the ground to protect foreign citizens. Also, Gbagbo forces are saying the quick offensive by Ouattara forces indicates that foreign help from Burkina Faso or Mali was behind it. In short, Gbagbo will be nationalist to the end.

Hiatus – I need some rest. Back in a couple hours with a new thread.

ICJ and Jurisdictional Technicalities

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Al Jazeera English:

The International Court of Justice has said it cannot hear a complaint by Georgia that Russia committed human rights abuses in two breakaway provinces, saying it had no jurisdiction over the case.

The court in The Hague, the Netherlands, said despite the claims and counter-claims by Russia and Georgia, there was no evidence that the two parties had held negotiations to try and resolve the complaint.

[. . .]

Georgia had argued that the court had jurisdiction under an international convention on the elimination of racial discrimination. But the disputes under that convention can only be referred to the court if the countries involved have already tried and failed to negotiate a settlement.

The ICJ, which hears disputes between states, ordered both countries in October 2008 to “refrain from any acts of racial discrimination” against ethnic groups in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia both broke away from Georgian control in the early 1990s. Following the 2008 war over the regions, Russia recognised them both as independent states, but most of the international community and Georgia have continued to see them as belonging to Russia’s southern neighbour.

The court is carrying out a preliminary investigation into individuals on both sides who are suspected of committing war crimes during the brief 2008 war.

Very detailed legal analysis of the decision can be found here. The conclusion:

What the present decision makes clear is that, regrettably, human rights treaties provide a weak basis to found the jurisdiction of the Court, even when these treaties include such a compromissory clause. Using them as a vehicle to establish the jurisdiction of the Court is even more difficult when primarily claims about the unlawful use of force are presented under a specific human rights treaty, such as CERD. It is unfortunate that negotiations and other procedures expressly provided for in the compromissory clause of a human rights treaty are interpreted as presenting a bar to the seisin of the Court, even in an armed conflict situation. Putting the emphasis in procedural conditions present in a compromissory clause under such serious circumstances seems to me similar to putting the cart before the horse. Hopefully, the International Law Commission will provide some more clarity on this issue in the coming years.

For me, this goes back to the point I’ve been trying to hammer home elsewhere on this blog: that the primary effect of human rights treaties is on civilian populations, who use them as a barometer. It’s a tough uphill climb for countries to enforce such treaties on one another, even when as here there are enforcement mechanism (sort of) built into the treaty. For the United States, that means that the responsibility of enforcing the Geneva Conventions is on the population; I’m outraged over torture and lack of responsibility for those who did it, but the solution for that is to raise popular awareness and use that to pressure the population.

But that does raise the question of what to do when another country violates human rights; clearly citizens of Georgia cannot mobilize politically and change the internal dynamics of Russia. In this case, the recourse for Georgia is little – it can try to follow the instructions given. But generally, there’s still a lot of resistance to that.

But generally speaking, this is where the realists are right: reciprocal arguments regarding enforcement of, say, economic treaties are not as strong regarding human rights.It shows how important it is to prevent these sorts of international incidents; once they happen, recourses are hard to come by.

Written by John Whitehouse

April 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm