Across the Middle East, there is concern about the nuclear deal with Iran. By releasing frozen assets and removing economic sanctions, the deal seems to facilitate renewed aggression. Won’t that encourage more violence from Iranian terror proxies, like Hezbollah and Hamas? The international community is preparing its response.
While the world’s attention is focused on the Western settlement with Iran, the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced a decision on July 16 that plants its own marker in the Middle East. The ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber instructed the ICC prosecutor to reconsider her decision not to prosecute Israelis for the violence associated with Israel’s May 2010 seizure of the Mavi Marmara, when that ship sought to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
The case was “referred” to the ICC prosecutor in 2013—but not by “Palestine,” where the ship was bound, not even by Turkey, where the so-called Humanitarian Aid Flotilla for Gaza was organized and where many of the affected “passengers” held citizenship. Instead, the dispute was referred by the Union of Comoros, which happened to be where the ship was registered. This island state in the Indian Ocean, with less than a million people, offers a flag of convenience to much international shipping and apparently lends its flag to legal actions, too.
The case was remarkable and disturbing for many reasons. The prosecutor (currently Fatou Bensouda of Gambia) had decided that, even if Israeli actions were unlawful, they did not amount to such “grave breaches” of international standards as to warrant international prosecution. The court rejected the prosecutor’s reasoning and demanded a reconsideration of the decision not to prosecute.
The ICC statute does make provision for such appeals of decisions by the prosecutor. But if there has been a previous case where such an appeal was upheld, it was not noted by the court’s opinion. As the dissenting judge on the three-judge panel explained, the wording of the ICC statute seems to vest considerable discretion in the prosecutor, as is logical: Judgments about the “gravity” of an offense necessarily hinge on elements of context and circumstance not easily captured by abstract formulas. As the dissent also noted, past cases brought by the prosecutor had involved hundreds or thousands of deaths, while this episode involved 10 fatalities.
The second remarkable thing was the way the court’s majority dealt with the context of the episode—which was to ignore it. The dissent cited an array of authorities on blockade law, as well as a report for the secretary general of the United Nations prepared by the former prime minister of New Zealand. On these grounds, Judge Peter Kovacs concluded that “Israeli forces had a right to capture the vessel in protection of their blockade,” and in the circumstances “the IDF acted out of necessity.” He also noted that passengers on the Mavi Marmara “attempted to impede the [Israeli] soldiers with use of their fists, knives, chains, wooden clubs, iron rods, and slingshots with metal and glass projectiles” and initially “attacked” and “captured” three of the soldiers in the boarding party. The dissent cited for this finding the report of the Israeli judicial inquiry, which found that the force exercised by the IDF was not excessive in the circumstances.
The majority opinion found none of this background worthy of comment or even acknowledgment. It did not so much as mention the fact that Israel had conducted its own investigation. Yet the ICC statute indicates that the ICC has jurisdiction only where crimes have not been adequately investigated and appropriately punished by national authorities.
The most remarkable aspect of the opinion, however, was the court’s own analysis of “gravity.” The court argued that the prosecutor was wrong to minimize the “gravity” of the episode. It was “simplistic” for the prosecutor to claim that “the identified crimes” had “insufficient gravity” given “the international concern caused by the events at issue which . . . resulted in several fact-finding missions, including by the U.N. Human Rights Council.” In effect, the court argued that if Israel is denounced by the U.N. Human Rights Council, the ICC prosecutor should see herself as its designated enforcement arm.
Flushed with the success of its five-year effort to restore prosperity to Greece, Brussels’ eurocrats have turned their attention to Italy, and ruled that the country’s famous buffalo mozzarella need not be made with fresh milk: powdered milk will do just fine. So Italy will have to repeal a 1974 law that bans the use of powdered and condensed milk in cheese, reports the Financial Times.
The vote in Greece is running 60 percent “No” on the terms of its creditors. The same experts who had been predicting a close vote will now explain why it was a runaway in favor of … well, who knows. But count on the usual confident voices to sort it all out.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not find a home in France. The French government has announced today it will not grant asylum to the fugitive.
"France has received the letter from Mr Assange. A closer examination shows that given the legal elements and the material situation of Mr. Assange, France can not act on its request. The situation of Mr Assange presents no immediate danger. He is also the subject of a European arrest warrant," the French government writes in a statement released by the Elysee Palace.
We have been hearing, for so long now, that the end is nigh in the crisis of the Greek economy that it is hard to take another such warning seriously. The problem of Greece, like so many others, seems to have no end, no resolution and, even, no point. Unless, that is, you are a citizen of Greece. Then it is your life.
There is an important difference between European and American appetites, in addition to those for fast foods: risk taking. “Investments in Start-Ups Pick Up Pace,” reports the New York Times after surveying the high-tech financing scene here in America. “Europe Struggles to Foster a Startup Culture,” reports the Wall Street Journal. It seems that in contrast with “multiple rounds of fund-raising [in the U.S.] in months, rather than years,” Europeans are “valuing prudence … and leisure time over flamboyant risk-taking.”
Springtime in the Mediterranean: The skies are clear, the waters are calm, and the migrants are drowning. In 2014, the U.S. Border Patrol estimated that 307 people died while being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. So far this year, more than 1,650 people have drowned as they attempted to cross Europe’s most porous and dangerous border, the Mediterranean. In 2014, the Border Patrol “rescued” 509 migrants along the Mexican border.
Eight days after a meeting on a potential free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union last month, two congressmen introduced a bill to influence the process and help prevent economic discrimination against Israel. Called the “U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act” the bill is an effort to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which is lamentably popular in Europe.
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is taking on Russian president Vladimir Putin. The possible presidential candidate says that the "peace and security of the world" depends on how America deals with Russia.
Here's what Perry recommends doing to counter Putin's recent aggression:
Vice President Biden spent about a day and a half in Belgium in early February to meet with various European leaders, but his entourage, security team and other delegation members required up to 209 rooms for up to three weeks surrounding the visit.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Europe today where how spoke out against Vladimir Putin's aggression toward Ukraine.
"Ukraine is fighting for its very survival right now. Russia continues to escalate the conflict by sending mercenaries and tanks and as we euphemistically say in the United States, Little Green Men, without patches in, and very sophisticated special operation soldiers," Biden said at the European Council building in Brussels.