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The Right to Health in Uganda

I have been in Uganda for a little over a month now and have already learned so much, both from my work as an intern at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and from my daily life in Uganda. I have visited Ugandan courts, taken countless boda rides and visited the source of the Nile. My first challenges were mostly activities that usually seemed simple to me, such as getting to work. My colleague’s kindness and patience in showing me the way around allowed me to feel much more comfortable in Kampala and to focus on my work as a legal intern.

CEHURD was created to advance the right to health for vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV/AIDS, women, and children. It is divided in three complementary programs (1) the Research, Documentation and Advocacy (2) Community Empowerment and (3) Strategic Litigation. As a second year law student, I was assigned to the Strategic Litigation program. Their objective is to provide legal support to persons whose rights have been infringed upon in Uganda and to litigate issues with the potential to redress systematic problems in the country’s health system. I have supported their work by drafting legal opinions on incoming cases and federal bills, completing research papers, and putting together grant proposals. This experience has allowed me to witness the use of the law as not only a tool to solve a single fact pattern but as a tool with the potential to create population shifts and improve health conditions on a national scale.

Most of the cases move for the implementation of the right to health. However, the Constitution of Uganda lacks an express provision on the right to health, which makes the conceptualization of each case particularly demanding. The right is implied from other constitutional clauses, the national objectives and the directive principles of state policy, each with health-related facets such as the right to life, human dignity and women’s rights. Furthermore, the implicit nature of the right to health in Uganda makes it so that its realization largely depends on political goodwill, judicial interpretation and the treatment of the other rights from which it derives. This particular situation highlights the importance of advocacy and community engagement in the respect of human rights and the delivery of safe and acceptable health services. As much as one may put together a case supported by persuasive evidence demonstrating a human rights violation in the delivery or lack of health services, the societal attitudes towards specific issues and vulnerable populations are often the last and most difficult barriers to overcome in obtaining justice. For example, CEHURD & Kabale Benon v Attorney General is a recent case that demonstrates the prevailing stigma surrounding claims made by individuals who have suffered from periods of mental distress. In addition to silencing the plaintiff based on his identity as an individual with a mental health disorder, the court also disturbingly put all medical decisions above the scrutiny of the law. This message discourages Ugandans from taking initiatives towards ensuring the respect of their rights and towards keeping the government accountable in its actions. CEHURD has recently filed an appeal for this case.

Overall, I am very motivated by CEHURD’s work as they put forward that the right to health extends itself to the causal determinants of health such as adequate sanitation facilities, health infrastructure, trained workers and essential drugs. I hope to contribute to my team’s work as much as I can in the following weeks and am excited to learn more about the right to health in Uganda.

Catherine Labasi-Sammartino

CEHURD’s office in Nakwero, Kampala

View from the National Mosque

A la découverte de la MACCIH

Rendue à la moitié de mon séjour déjà, le temps est venu de faire un bilan sur ce que j’ai appris jusque-là. En plus de la découverte d’une association en plein boom et de son équipe dynamique, j’ai eu la chance de pouvoir me pencher sur des sujets poussés sur l’Amérique latine, notamment en termes de lutte contre l’impunité et la corruption.

Avant d’arriver à Avocats sans frontières Canada (ASFC), j’avais bien évidemment déjà des notions sur le sujet, mais de longues heures de recherches m’ont fait découvrir un aspect fascinant de la justice internationale. En lien avec la future mission au Honduras d’ASFC, j’ai notamment travaillé sur la MACCIH, Mision de apoyo contra la corrupción y la impunidad en Honduras, la mission de l’Organisation des Etats Américains (OEA) au Honduras, signé en janvier 2016 pour répondre aux graves dysfonctionnements liés à la corruption endémique dans le pays. Si l’on m’avait dit que je passerais des heures à étudier les tenants, les aboutissants, les échecs et les espoirs d’une institution hondurienne dont quasiment personne au Canada (en dehors des intéressés) n’a entendu parlé et surtout, que je me sentirais tellement investie dans le sujet ! J’y ai découvert à quel point la lutte contre l’impunité est un balancier constant entre le poids de l’opinion publique nationale et internationale contre celui des corrompus et leurs protecteurs, qui résistent de toutes les manières possibles aux changements qui les menacent.

Cette mission a une histoire contrastée : elle naquit du grand mouvement d’opposition populaire Indignados, qui enflamma le pays après que ne soit révélé en 2015 un vaste réseau de fraude à l’assurance sociale au bénéfice notamment des fonds de campagne du parti du président, Juan Orlando Hernandez. Qu’elle existe est déjà une avancée, mais malheureusement le gouvernement hondurien a bien tiré des leçons de l’expérience réussie du Guatemala voisin en matière de lutte contre la corruption. La Comisión contre la Impunidad y la Corrupción en Guatemala, la CICIG, sous l’égide de l’ONU,  a enregistré ces dernières années des succès fantastiques, surtout depuis l’avènement du troisième commissionaire, Iván Velázquez “le Terrible”. Après 11 ans de service en effet, la CICIG,  a mis en examen 4 des 5 derniers présidents guatémaltèques, mis au jour de vastes réseaux de corruption, notamment au sein des douanes et des prisons, et résolu la rocambolesque affaire Rosenberg, où un avocat avait commandité son propre assassinat dans le but d’incriminer le président en exercice à l’époque, Alvaro Colom.

De tels succès expliquent que les Indignados aient réclamé une CICIH du même calibre pour leur pays, mais aussi que le président ait tout fait pour que la MACCIH ne soit pas dotée des mêmes capacités menaçantes que sa grande sœur guatémaltèque. Effectivement, le contraste est clair en termes de capacités d’action : là où la CICIG peut choisir ses dossiers et les mener à bien en tant que procureur complémentaire, la MACCIH quant à elle, si elle choisit aussi ses dossiers, ne donne qu’un appui technique au Ministère public, à travers notamment son organe spécialisé, l’UFECIC (Unidad Fiscal Especial contra la Impunidad de la Corrupción), qui retient seul la capacité juridique de poursuivre. Cette technicalité n’est pas sans conséquence, puisqu’elle rend la MACCIH très dépendante de sa contrepartie ministérielle.

Malgré ces difficultés, la MACCIH a mis au jour quelques affaires sous le leadership actif de son premier porte-parole, Juan Jiménez Mayor, mais la découverte d’une affaire en particulier a peut-être signé son arrêt de mort. En décembre 2017, la MACCIH annonce avoir découvert un vaste réseau de détournement de fonds destinés à des programmes sociaux au sein même du Congrès, dominé par le parti du président, le Parti national. Elle entreprend donc de poursuivre 5 députés et s’arme de patience alors que la juge en charge tarde à délivrer des mandats d’arrêt. La réaction du Congrès, elle, ne se fait pas attendre : un amendement est ajouté à la Loi sur le Budget pour donner toute juridiction sur les affaires de malversations de fonds sociaux à un tribunal administratif, contrôlé de près par le Parti national, le temps que ce dernier fasse un audit dans un délai de 3 ans, 3 ans pendant lesquels aucune poursuite d’aucun type ne peut être engagée envers les personnes soupçonnées de ces délits. Découragé par ces barrières institutionnelles, le manque de soutien affiché du Secrétaire général de l’OEA achève de convaincre Jiménez qu’il doit démissionner, ce qu’il fait avec fracas en février 2018. A sa suite, plusieurs autres quittent la mission, dénonçant des dysfonctionnements internes liés à une collusion de l’OEA avec le gouvernement Hernandez.

Mais l’entreprise de déconstruction du Congrès ne s’arrête pas avec la démission de Jiménez : les députés poursuivis ont fait appel à la Cour suprême du pays en arguant que la mission porte atteinte à la souveraineté. Coup de théâtre le 30 mai : alors que les rumeurs au sein même de la magistrature soutenaient le contraire, la Cour suprême déclare la MACCIH constitutionnelle, mais semble contester en revanche celle de son bras armé, l’UFECIC. Un jugement décousu, incohérent et largement dénoncé par ses opposants comme une véritable mascarade juridique, destinée à calmer l’opinion, notamment américaine, au vu du soutien affiché de la chargée d’affaire Heide Fulton à la MACCIH, et à attaquer du même coup ses capacités d’action. Dans un pays miné par la corruption, c’est ironiquement sur des notions de souveraineté, d’indépendance judiciaire et de respect de la séparation des pouvoirs que la Cour suprême et le Congrès honduriens appuient leurs efforts de sape de la MACCIH tout en proclamant haut et fort leur attachement au processus de lutte contre l’impunité.

Mais alors que l’on annonçait déjà ses funérailles, la MACCIH informe qu’elle ouvre le dossier Pandora, une vaste affaire de détournement de fonds destinés au ministère de l’Agriculture et l’Elevage (282 millions de Lempica) dans laquelle seraient impliqués 38 personnes, dont de nombreux députés des trois partis politiques principaux. Ironiquement, sont également impliqués quelques députés du Parti libéral, parti farouchement pro-MACCIH, dont le président, Luis Zelaya, avait été jusqu’à Washington pour dénoncer la lenteur du processus de nomination du nouveau porte-parole. Le gouvernement avait en effet laissé jusque très récemment lettre morte la nomination de Luis Antonio Guimarães, ancien procureur brésilien, proposée par l’OEA. Il aura suffi d’un voyage du président Hernandez à Washington auprès du gouvernement américain, qui lui aurait souligné le besoin de résoudre ce problème, pour que soit annoncé en quelques heures, après des mois d’attente, l’accession de Guimarães à la tête de la MACCIH.

Le feuilleton de la MACCIH ne finit pas de surprendre. Tantôt annoncée comme morte, tantôt triomphante, elle a montré une capacité à résister à laquelle l’on ne s’attendait pas. Jusqu’à quel point pourra-t-elle tenir toutefois, rien n’est moins sûr. Sa résilience fait face à la détermination de personnages corrompus qui ne souhaitent rien tant que sa mise à mort silencieuse. Quel destin pour la MACCIH ainsi affaiblie, sur le point d’être privée de son partenaire institutionnel et dont le sort semble être lié au bon vouloir du prochain Procureur général, qui sera certainement choisi davantage en fonction de sa docilité que de son indépendance vis-à-vis du pouvoir en place ? Va-t-elle réussir son pari ou au contraire vouloir se retirer d’une situation désavantageuse où elle se retrouve le seul paravent de pureté d’un gouvernement corrompu jusqu’à l’os ? Il est sûr que d’ici la fin de mon stage, quelques réponses seront apportées et bien d’autres questions posées, mais je continuerai à suivre la lutte hondurienne contre la corruption de près au jour le jour!

A haiku on a shrinking space

show me solutions
enough about the process
reframe our story

an adversary
pushing neighbours off the map
hunt us and forget

lines within borders
they see drought but resistance
exclusive clubs gold

Two months in at Equitas : Overwhelmed and curious

Every day I am surrounded by Human Rights defenders, activists and jurists from 50 different countries, all working to acquire knowledge, mechanisms and strategies to aid their movements, organizations and advocacy to protect their communities.

The workplace drama and organizational limitations that used to distract me have fluttered away.

The most important lesson that I have learned is that I absolutely have to be comfortable asking for help.  Failing to do so leaves one feeling exhausted and alone. I had to address my stubbornness and pride. Part of this issue of mine probably stems from my University work-ethic: work hard on your own and get the results you want. With every day that passes I understand that I should shake these approaches and conceptions because school is not the real world- far from it.

Most days I feel foolish, uneducated, uninformed, lazy and privileged. To meet activists who have lived through exploitation, violence and the darkest of times and continue to work for others and advocate without any hatred has been incredibly enlightening and inspiring

Reading through the International Human Rights Training Program’s participant application forms puts a face, name and story to all the Amnesty International report and statistics we have all read.

the IHRTP- Photo by Katelyn Thomas

 

Forming friendships with the participants and the incredible facilitators has been the highlight of this entire experience for me.  At times I get overwhelmed, frustrated and disillusioned by the barriers and lack of access to justice that my new friends and colleagues face on a daily basis, not to mention threats to their physical, psychological and digital safety.

I have been through an intense crash course on Human Rights Education and have mixed feelings about certain approaches that the organization has and the fact that they are mainly funded by Global Affairs, but prefer to comment on that in a different forum after doing more research on the topic.

My internship experience so far can be described as consisting of a multitude of different tasks, and so little time to respect so many deadlines.  But how dare I complain about such circumstances when I get to learn such valuable life lessons from activists who risk their lives for basic rights that so many take for granted. This experience completely outweighs anything that I’ve learned in law school, which makes it SO HARD TO GO BACK.

Peace Through Governance

The slogan at the One Earth Future Foundation (OEF) is peace through governance. Over the past six weeks of my placement, I have been exploring the nuances of this slogan to better understand the mission of OEF.

I have been working on the Stable Seas project, housed in the research department of the organization. This project evaluates maritime security through a specially curated index outlining 9 issue areas that impact a coastal state’s maritime security. From piracy to illicit trade, international co-operation to rule of law, countries are evaluated on how well or poorly they fair in these domains and awarded a score. The score is used as a policy tool to persuade governments to implement better maritime security measures to ensure peace through governance. While the Maritime Security Index covers Eastern, Southern, and Western African states, the goal of the project, and one of my tasks for the summer, is to expand the index to North Africa and the Middle East, with the ultimate goal of having a global index.

My second task for the summer so far has been researching maritime security issues and maritime terrorism threats in South East Asia. Specifically, I have been researching maritime vulnerability in the Sulu Sea between Philippines and Malaysia.

With an undergraduate degree in International Development and Globalization, the research I am doing for both tasks has been interesting and right up my ally, but after completing a year in law school, the questions I have been asking myself and reflecting on for this research have significantly changed.

One of the main questions I have been reflecting on is: what is maritime terrorism exactly? This is definitely a complex question and what I have come to understand is that the ability to label a group as “terrorists” and have that label shape a group’s identity resides with those in positions of great power. This understanding is exemplified through the life of Nelson Mandela. Ten years ago, Nelson Mandela was still classified as a terrorist by the United States, a superpower, and placed on a terrorist watch list.[1] Today, he is seen, rightfully so, as one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.

Therefore, when I reflect on the research I have been doing on the Abu Sayyaf Group, an ISIS backed terrorist organization in South East Asia,[2] I am trying to come to a more balanced understanding of who maritime terrorists are, classified by whom and why.

So far, I have found conflicting narratives. On one hand, the Abu Sayyaf Group has taken tourists from resorts for ransom, committed beheadings,[3] and partaken in the siege of Marawi city last year.[4] On the other hand, news outlets have also reported that the Abu Sayyaf Group has financially supported poor southern Filipino communities around the Sulu Sea.[5] The reason for their support is probably not benevolence, but this nuance does lead me to try to understand the roots of maritime terrorism in a more robust way.

My point here is that when examining maritime terrorism through a framework of peace through governance, I think the exploration must go deeper than merely accepting what popular media tells us to assume the profile of terrorist organizations to be. This exploration must also include questions around appropriate governance and the practicality of peace for coastal states. Does peace mean total eradication of terrorist groups and those who support them? Does it mean better governance of poor, unstable areas victimized by radicalization? And how do these questions change when analyzed through the lens of maritime security?

While these are very overwhelming questions to even begin to attempt to answer, I do have to say that I feel very privileged to be able to spend the summer exploring maritime terrorism, maritime security, and peace through governance. Hopefully by the end of this experience I will have some answers, so stay tuned!

To learn more about One Earth Future Foundation: http://oneearthfuture.org/

To learn more about the Maritime Security Index: https://stableseas.org/issue-areas/overview/#0

P.S. On the weekends I have been hiking a lot – here are some pictures of beautiful Colorado mountains!

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2013/12/07/why-nelson-mandela-was-on-a-terrorism-watch-list-in-2008/?utm_term=.8bac29b1abea

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36138554

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/world/asia/jurgen-kantner-hostage-abu-sayyaf.html

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/10/happened-marawi-171029085314348.html

[5] https://www.nyarisk.com/2018/03/21/abu-sayyaf-weakened-not-defeated/

There is no schedule

By Francesca Nardi

“Horario no hay”.

“There is no schedule”.

This was one of the first phrases that I heard on my first day at my new job in Argentina and asked what time I should be expecting to arrive and leave the office every day.

After finishing 1L exams, and leaving 12 hours later for a grueling 36 hour journey to Mar del Plata, Argentina, this was the last sentence I ever expected to hear. Like many law students, our lives are governed by strict class and study schedules, with many of us often having to schedule in time to do basic things like eating and sleeping. This was my first introduction to a completely different sense of time that would shape much of my Argentine experience.

I had never realized the extent to which schedules shape cultures until I arrived in Argentina and was forced to reflect on the way I think about time. In Canada, and especially in the legal profession, time is money. In my experience in Argentina, things move much more slowly, people arrive late to almost everything, and deadlines are merely a suggestion. At first, I took this as a frustrating indication that my time wasn’t valued. How was it that things could seem to move so much more slowly here?

The last six weeks have taught me that the laissez-faire approach to time and schedules in Argentina is not a sign of disrespect for other people’s time, but precisely the opposite. The laid back approach to scheduling here comes from a recognition of how valuable time is, and the importance of making space in life for the things that are important. In Mar del Plata, people are extremely physically active, spending time outside walking and running on the beach, dancing, or working out in a gym. This is seen as an indispensable and important part of life. Argentinians are also incredibly social and family oriented, always setting aside time to get together with friends and family for an asado on the weekends, or to go and enjoy a coffee and conversation somewhere together. The relatively relaxed approach to time in my workplace reflects a recognition that while work is important, there are so many other things in life that warrant time and energy. A flexible schedule expresses this, and acts as a reminder that it is up to all of us to prioritize the things in our lives that truly matter, while still getting things done in the workplace.

Since arriving in Argentina, I have been able to explore a variety of areas of the law, including disability and fertility law, while also collaborating with the legal clinic on issues of disability rights in the context of public transport. Mar del Plata has a long way to go to making the city accessible for people with disabilities, the elderly, and parents with young children. Working on this project has allowed me to look more critically at the structures of the cities I have lived in, and become more aware of the architectural and attitudinal barriers that prevent everyone from enjoying the city and accessing essential services.

I have also been working on a project exploring the implications of prenatal and preimplantation genetic testing on the disability community. This project has forced me to think more deeply about the complex reality of technological development, and the challenges presented by technologies that may seem benign and even positive. Finally, I collaborated with a group of students at the faculty on an international research paper examining the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities throughout other UN committees and oversight bodies.

In my spare time, I have been taking advantage of the truly spectacular beaches in Mar del Plata to spend time outside, learning to dance tango, and making friends at the local gym. On the weekends, I have been travelling and getting to see some of the incredible corners of this beautiful country! Like any new experience far from home, there have been challenges, but the Marplatense community have embraced me with open arms, and have already made this summer an unforgettable part of my law school experience!

Cyber-Violence Against Women & The Perpetrator’s Right to be Forgotten?

Maia Stevenson

Last February, I published a post on the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)’s student-run blog, “Rights Watch”. The post covered and translated an original story from Radio-Canada about a young man who had pled guilty to the criminal offence of sharing an intimate image of others without their consent. The man received an absolute discharge, meaning that practically, the only legal consequence he suffered was a criminal record for one year.

Many of us, if not all, have been confronted with the variety of violence experienced by women and girls on the Internet. In my second week interning at the CCLA I had the opportunity to attend RightsCon, an international conference on human rights in the digital age. As I learned in more detail at a panel called “Global Perspectives on Technology Facilitated Violence Against Women and Girls”, cyber- or online-violence against women and girls is increasing across all continents, seemingly regardless of culture or development-status and it includes everything from persistent text messages, to threats from strangers on social media platforms, to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and videos.

Intimate photo- or video-communication over the Internet is a recent but explosive trend, especially among young adults and teenagers, a population that is arguably the least equipped to deal with the psychological and social trauma associated with so-called “revenge porn” or blackmail that weaponizes privately shared intimate images. Stories like those of Canadians Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons abound: women and girls humiliated into depression by the non-consensual sharing or their intimate images, the “revenge porn” or “cyberbullying” of angry exes, casual flings, or online predators.[1]

While law-enforcement struggle to keep up with the “wild west” that is anonymous crime on the Internet, images involving girls and young women under 18-years of age are at least legally considered child pornography and hence illegal to create, possess, or distribute. However, until relatively recently it did not constitute a crime to non-consensually share an intimate image of a woman over 18 years of age.

A 2013 survey of adults (18-54) found that 1 in 10 ex-partners have threatened to expose intimate photos of their ex online, with 60% of the threats being carried out. Provincial and federal governments have responded to this gap in Canadian criminal and civil law and to increasing awareness of cyber-violence against women and girls with attempts to shine a light on this dark part of the Internet.

In 2015, Canada enacted its contested Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians From Online Crime Act, which, among other things, criminalized the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. While to many it makes sense to criminalize harmful and invasive online behavior, others question whether criminalization will achieve the desired long-term cultural effects. How do we transform the “widely-held (if often implicit) attitude that people, particularly young women, who engage in sexual conduct have somehow degraded or diminished themselves and are therefore suitable subjects for mockery or humiliation”?[2]

In any case, criminalizing a behavior certainly sends a message. Under the criminal offence created in 2015, s.162.1 of the Criminal Code, every person who knowingly or recklessly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, or makes available an intimate image of a person without their consent, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for up to five years.

The young man who was the focus of my February blog post had been found guilty of this offence, but he was not convicted. What followed publishing my blog post was also an interesting learning experience: I was contacted online by someone purporting to be a “family friend” of the accused and I was asked by this “friend” to remove the blog post. A quick Twitter search indicated that this person was a “designer of data privacy technologies”, a “data destruction expert”, and an “oyster-shucking champ”. I learned that this “friend” had also contacted a student reporter/opinion writer at the McGill Daily and asked her to take an article about the young man’s offences offline. Furthermore, since the Radio-Canada article, search engine results of this young man’s name mysteriously generate numerous “filler” websites that associate his name with vague and abstract mentions of community work, human rights, family, and peanut butter products.

The “right to be forgotten” or “data privacy”, were not rights I instinctually wanted to associate with the people who surreptitiously filmed their sexual encounters and shared the footage with their friends. I felt strongly that it was the subjects, not perpetrators, of this invasion of privacy who were the ones in need of “data destruction” services. In an ironic ending to my story, it was the man that had invaded the privacy of the young women he had filmed who was feeling the consequences of a lack of control over his online reputation.

Furthermore, while I believed in the accused or the offender’s right to move on from the stigma of crime, it seemed unfair that those who could afford to hire private “data destruction experts” would be able to move on with their lives more easily than those who could not. The Internet is a continually growing player in our professional and social reputations; being able to hide a past mistake from the online world is a huge benefit. But of course, this certainly isn’t the only privilege experienced by the accused with means.

I suppose this was all a more personal way for me to learn about what I knew theoretically to be true: that the story of “digital rights” and “online privacy” is not and will not be dominated solely by cyber-social-justice-warriors and the kinds of privacy advocates that want Facebook to stop listening to your conversations. And this probably isn’t a bad thing. Just like it isn’t a bad thing that police must properly obtain warrants to invade the privacy of child-predators and drug-traffickers by searching their Internet activity or text conversations.  Privacy will and should continue to feature on both sides of every debate, on the side of the child-predator, the consumer, the political dissenter, and those who themselves invade the privacy of others.

 

 

[1] Of course, as a study from Dalhousie University discusses, “cyberbullying”, including “revenge porn”, is rarely the only factor involved in suicides like Amanda Todd’s. However, this doesn’t deter from the reality that in-person bullying, mood disorders, and depression can be instigated and/or worsened by online bullying.

[2] Michael Plaxton, “Women deserve more than a revenge porn law”, The Globe and Mail (22 November 2013), online: <https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canadian-women-deserve-more-than-a-revenge-porn-law/article15560839/>.

Welcome to Denver, Daniel

Daniel Powell

I arrived in Denver chock full of enthusiasm yet weighed down by trepidation about the journey that I had just embarked on. This was no pedestrian trepidation, and though I had only felt it faintly in the first minutes of my new journey, I knew it was a living thing, an alive thing, festering on the air that I grasped to swallow. The trepidation was not the sort of constructed false positive stuff like that which I experience each time I arise to the callous siren of my 120 decibel Screaming Meanie alarm machine. I felt it when I felt it. I knew it was there when it was there. When I arrived in Denver, I was a 25-year old student alone, away from home, and lost in a small airport that somehow managed to seem so big I thought it had wrapped its arms around me. But those arms were not a measure of comfort, because I did not want arms wrapped around me. I was stuck. Or, at least, I felt stuck.

“You should have been prepared” is all I can remember hearing myself say to myself as I tried to come to grips with the reality that now in this time and place I had to somehow figure out what to do and where to go and how to get to where I needed to get to to figure out where to go and get to. “You should have realized.” But I had not realized that when I got to Denver I was about to experience the effects of a transplantation from one world to another as if I was being sucked up like an inconspicuous water molecule floating in one test-tube only to be dropped into another. I never had that sort of realization. I refused to let myself think about it, and I think subconsciously, it was because I knew how hard it would be to become comfortable with the inevitable fact that I was leaving and would be estranged from home. So, I played little tricks on myself.

But those tricks came back to haunt me. Because while I could deal with a bit of trepidation, a hint of vivre avec, I never imagined preparing for psychological warfare. And even if I was not facing true warfare, it felt that way. I felt that way. The trepidation did not bother me until I had left the fabricated, stale air of the Air Canada passenger jet and my pores embraced the dry heat of the Denver International Airport. And I remember the trepidation growing as I moved along the flight-to-baggage procession. It grew when I stepped out of the plane wishing the francophone flight attendants “au revoir” and “bye-bye” only to realize that those French words were likely going to be my last time speaking the twang of un accent Québécois to which I had only recently become habituated for several months. It continued to grow when I marched through the industrial blue-carpet padded airport avoiding the pedestrian walkway because even without its gradual speed advantage I was walking so fast I had no need for a mobility solution of the sort airport planners design and implement for a living. And this trepidation of mine was no internal, subjective state. It had consumed me, filled my entrails, animating the muscle tendon like electrodes crossing over the chemical pathway to reaction.

It continued to grow when I considered, though only for a split second, that I would never find my bags because I had been walking and walking and I had absolutely no clue where I was headed. It continued to grow when suddenly I found myself in front of an inter-terminal station for an elevated passenger transit trolley only to realize that I was becoming, perhaps even had become, the archetypal frazzled passenger who seems so overtaken by the labyrinthine of the passenger airport that they might as well have stayed home. “Could I be that guy for the rest of my life?” It continued to grow when I boarded the inter-terminal transport and began ever so naturally to worry that a freak accident was about to take place, despite the comforting authoritative voice downloaded to the automated broadcast system of the transit carrier. It continued to grow when I reached my destination, read the flat-screen panels to verify which of the carousels could possibly or possibly not have my bags, and realized that I had to walk more. It continued to grow when I was the first person standing beside the carousel which had not yet started rolling along and I was naturally led to believe that I might actually be dreaming and maybe I did not make it on the plane.

Believe me when I say that I was starting to feel queasy. At this point, I thought that I might have contracted a dormant strain of SARS, though I can’t say that I know anything about what it would feel like to have SARS. The mere thought that I was stuck in Denver with SARS caused a bit of an internal stir, and as a freshly molded law student, my only response was to recall the case of Williams v. Ontario, an extra-contractual obligations unit on the limits of state liability in which the government of Ontario was found not to be liable for its failure to prevent a SARS outbreak. My trepidation had grown, filling my entrails like a contagion. So much so that I thought I had become a contagion unto myself.

As I waited in trepidation for my bags to be released onto the carrousel, the end of the procession was in mind. I could contemplate what it would feel like to feel grounded, connected to and with my bags. They came. And I got them. In fact, I hurled my bags as if they had morphed into real humans en route to Denver and they were now drowning in deep ocean waters and there was no way to save them but to pull ferociously at them. Even if the common law refused to recognize it, I felt the rescuer’s obligation to save these bags from drowning. At the time, it seemed heroic, but it was only heroic because I was tripped up on trepidation. It was only heroic until I realized that I now stood beside the carousel bags in hand with no clue what was to come next. And my reaction to the incertitude was not much of a reaction because I had already reached an emotional zenith of sorts. Trepidation, like all emotions, is subject to the law of diminishing returns. It was no longer possible to break out from the state of mind that I had been worked into.

Then came the final act, the moment of pure tragedy, the maraschino cherry to fit uncomfortably on my hot mess of a Saturday sundae. The moment which should have been but never ended up being cathartic occurred when my telecom provider Videotron, aware of a nascent business opportunity, offered an ever so gentle reminder that either I purchase a traveler’s package, a comfortable supplement to an already outrageous monthly charge, or submit to unconscionable fees. Though I can’t remember exactly what the text-message said, I know exactly how I interpreted it: “Welcome to Denver, Daniel… Quebecor faces a challenging competitive environment in an otherwise captive, slow-growth telecom market. Nevertheless, its shareholders lust for opportunities to augment Annual Revenue Per Unit (ARPU). Selling foreign phone services purchased at wholesale prices from American carriers is revenue generative because the cost of wholesale services is less than the fees they generate. So, thank you for travelling to Denver and turning on your phone.” I bought the package and made a call. The whole fiasco of a morning was captured in the four words my father spit out when I called to let him know that I had arrived at my destination and I was doing damn fine and super dandy: “you’re not in Denver.” And, no, this sentence, the first out of his mouth, did not end with a gentle influx as if to pose a question, even one ever so slight, rather than make a statement of indisputable, scientific truth. He never even asked me the question, because he was so sure his son was stewing in the Air Canada complaints lounge at YUL, seeking a way to avoid telling his host company that he had missed his flight, which I most certainly would have been doing, he sure knows me well, had I missed the trip.

It has been over two weeks since I arrived in Colorado, and I am happy to report that I have overcome the fear and anxiety that first confronted me when I realized I had moved away from home and was stuck in a small Colorado town for months on end. In the present moment, I remember my trepidation like it was a faint blur in the rear-view mirror of a cheap rented sedan. It is possible that I have merely caught the unhurried vibe of Boulder life. I have certainly lost all awareness of the rush and mania of law school. The memories of first-year law school have been overshadowed by a deep appreciation for what I have now come to realize I learned as a first-year law student. Each day at work, I am overwhelmed by the insight that my legal education has provided me. My current work project investigating allegations of abuse by private military and private security contractors has been at once a conduit for understanding the applicability of law to human rights and for imagining alternative means to regulate the industry. Engaging and fascinating do not come close to describing the experience.

Now and again, when I crawl out from the comfortable and ergonomic cubicle of an office territory that bears my name and lurch over to the Foundation’s chocolate bowl in search of a caloric boost, a cultivation process that I have come to treat as if it were a mandatory and hourly ritual, I catch myself smirking at the very idea that there are people who get paid a salary to read, write, think, and research about interesting things, which is essentially how I define my work. Since day one, I have been trying to make sense of the fact that this type of labour time could ever give rise to alienation or be compensated for. I can’t make sense of it and I have yet to understand it. I could never have imagined that the work I do would be considered “work.”

So as I reflect on the dynamic range of emotions that have guided me in my current experience, I can’t help but chuckle at how stressed I had first been  and how freaked out I was to confront the unknown when I arrived in Denver. At the very least, my experience suggests that not all exciting things begin with frolicking and cheer. Trepidatious though it may have been to get here, the trepidation was not in vain.

La patience est un art et une vertu.

Tunis en fleur.

Alix Genier

Il y a quelque chose d’étrangement rassurant de savoir que l’on s’attable avec presque l’entièreté d’un pays. Il est 19h14 et c’est mon premier souper seule depuis que je suis arrivée en Tunisie il y a maintenant deux semaines. Mon repas est prêt : une salade simple sans trop d’épices, un petit goût de la maison. Mais pourtant je m’abstiendrai de l’entamer avant le coucher du soleil. J’aurai le signal de départ lorsque la petite rue de mon appartement deviendra silencieuse : les enfants qui y jouent de tôt le matin à tard le soir seront rentrés avec leur famille, le son de la prière annonçant la rupture du jeûne aura retenti dans tout le quartier et j’entendrai les ustensiles des maisons voisines tintés. Le silence de la rupture du jeûne. Même si ce Dieu n’est pas le miens, il est celui de mes amis et de ceux qui seront ma famille pour les trois prochains mois.

Le Ramadan est une période de découverte pour moi : découverte d’un pays aux gens généreux et accueillants, découverte de paysages grandioses, découverte d’un soleil chaud qui nous pousse à la sieste d’après-midi, découverte des soirées vivantes. À cause du repos forcé sur la vie des gens, j’ai exploré mon quartier, ma ville et j’ai visité la campagne tunisienne. Par un besoin d’occuper mon corps et mon esprit trop habitués au rythme de vie nord-américain, je me suis retrouvée sur une ferme où j’y ai fait la rencontre d’une famille extraordinaire. Lentement, c’est un mode de vie que je découvre.

Au courant d’une balade nocturne avec ma colocataire tunisienne, elle m’a demandé ce qu’il y avait de différent ici. J’ai répondu le papier de toilette de couleur, la hauteur de marche qui est inégale, le flexible (il me fera plaisir de détailler l’utilisation du flexible dans une conversation personnelle), les coqs qui chantent à toute heure du jour et de la nuit, la beauté des bougainvilliers et la chaleur des gens. Si on ne m’a pas souhaité la bienvenue 150 fois depuis mon arrivée, c’est qu’on ne me l’a pas souhaitée une seule fois. Des gens accueillants qui possèdent une force intérieure, une combativité et un espoir profond que demain sera meilleur. La plupart des gens avec qui j’ai discuté sont déçus de la tournure des choses depuis la Révolution de Jasmin de 2011 : le taux de chômage demeure toujours élevé (12,4% chez les hommes et 22,7% chez les femmes en 2018), le coût de la vie est encore trop haut pour le salaire moyen et la nouvelle classe politique reste au service de l’élite qui s’est mise en place suite à la Révolution. Bref, c’est « bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet » comme dirait ma grand-mère. Malgré tout, les gens ont espoir que les choses changeront, que la Tunisie peut retourner à ces heures de gloire, qu’elle a toujours ce potentiel énorme. Beaucoup de gens m’ont confié avoir pensé à émigrer au Canada, mais leur patriotisme, leurs racines profondément ancrées et la vie douce et chaude de la Tunisie les a gardés ici. J’admire beaucoup cette flamme qui brulent au creux de l’âme des Tunisiens et des Tunisiennes, cette flamme que nous avons perdue par chez nous. Désillusionnés et abattus, nous sommes amers. Une autre différence entre ici et le Canada est la patience : les gens ici ont compris que cette belle Tunisie est le résultat de plusieurs ères, de plusieurs peuples et de plusieurs projets. La Tunisie n’est pas pressée, elle a tout son temps. À l’image des gens qui l’habitent.

Le Ramadan est pour les Tunisiens et Tunisiennes un exercice de patience, de foi, d’humilité et de confiance. C’est un mode de vie. Même si tous et toutes ne sont pas croyants ou pratiquants, ces valeurs sont, de mon œil d’observatrice encore lointain, le reflet de la philosophie d’un grand peuple.

Les conversations font de nouveau écho dans la rue. Les gens ont terminé de manger chorba(soupe aux tomates et à l’orge), salade méchouia(salade de piments et de tomates grillés et écrasés), briks(pâte phyllo frite farcie d’œuf, de fromage, de persil, de thon ou de viande) et tajines (ressemblant plus à une omelette espagnole qu’à son pendant marocain). Certaines familles auront peut-être sorti quelques petits gâteaux, avant-goût de l’Aïd qui aura lieu dans quelques jours. Quant à moi, mon souper terminé, j’irai rejoindre des amis à la Médina (incroyablement animée en soirée durant ce mois de Ramadan) pour siroter un fameux kahwa arbi, si délicieux et si imprononçable!

Coucher de soleil sur la plage de El Haouaria.

First weeks at OEF: the ambiguity and appeal of terrorism

By: Léa Carresse

The film “Carlos”, making terrorism look good since 2010 (or 1970, depending on how you see it)

Researching 1968 onward in West Germany for my undergraduate degree brought to my attention the ambiguity of the terms “terrorism”, “terrorist” and “terrorist activity”. I never really thought about it before, my knowledge restricted to 9/11. In the 2018 Western world, it almost goes without saying what, unfortunately, the stereotypical terrorist profile looks like: Muslim, brown, probably of North African or Middle Eastern descent, predominantly young and male, often single, former petty criminal, targeting civilians. Cause: “religious extremism”. Forty years ago, in West Germany, your terrorist profile was the following: Christian, white, “urdeutsch” (the Nazi term for “ethnically pure” German), predominantly young and female, often married with middle-class or wealthy backgrounds, well-educated, attempting to exclusively target West German State officials, businessmen and the US military. Cause: “radical left-wing ideology”. The plasticity of the terrorist profile, of terrorist activity and of the terms used, is brought further to light in my work at OEF.

As an intern in the Stable Seas project, my work so far has concentrated on maritime security in sub-Saharan Africa and, because the project is expanding, to North Africa, in the countries of Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, among others. The areas of maritime security that I focussed on include researching those of illicit trade (including arms, drugs and wildlife trafficking, but also that of cigarettes, oil, cosmetics, foodstuffs and more…), piracy and armed robbery and Yemeni terrorism as embodied by the Houthi rebels, AQAP and ISIS.

Through my time at OEF thus far, I discovered that concepts of criminality, instability, terrorism and general conflict are even messier than I previously imagined. There is no international or common legal definition of terrorism, though some domestic criminal codes, such as the 1995 Australian Criminal Code, and international treaties or organisations will attempt to include examples of terrorist activities as an effort to define terrorism. These include hostage-taking and hijacking. But how then would that be different from piracy and armed robbery at sea, for example, where those very same methods are employed? An answer would be that a terrorist’s goal is primarily political, while criminal activity at sea, particularly in underdeveloped regions with limited or no economic opportunity, is centered on financial gain. That answer doesn’t take us very far, however. How do you define political? How far can “religious extremism”  be termed as “political”? And what about the existence of a crime-terror nexus, where terrorist groups will financially invest in and benefit from certain organised crime groups? An example is the trafficking of Libyan antiquities by ISIS to the Italian mafia, or the Italian mafia adopting “terror” tactics to protest against the anti-mafia drive in Italy of the 1990s.[1] These are all questions that I am faced with at OEF.

As a final observation, a “fun” link that I discovered here between the contemporary terrorist group ISIS and that of the West German terrorists, RAF, is the “marketing strategy” that served both groups well. Ironically, though both anti-capitalist, the groups still engage(d) with branding to attract recruits and attention to their cause.

The film The Baader-Meinhof Complex (2008) on the RAF illustrates this perfectly: Sexually liberated women with heavily made-up eyes and mini-skirts brandishing guns, “exotic” training camps in Yemen, their youthful faces splashed on the front news pages of tabloids, adopting particular styles of talking and writing to facilitate in-group dynamics. Their aesthetic proved so successful that it was appropriated by the fashion industry, which rebranded it as “Prada-Meinhof”, a play on the group’s other name, “Baader-Meinhof”.

Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin in The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008), formerly one of Germany’s most feared terrorists.

Similarly, ISIS develop their own brand:  Their “poster girls”, “tastefully accessorized” (as an ISIS blog notes) with AK47s and their fellow gangster Jihadis in Nikes against graying American counterterrorist bureaucrats in suits; Twitter hashtags such as #accomplishmentsofISIS; the mass dissemination of “atrocity porn” with rehearsed beheadings shot in a Hollywoodesque style; filmed “testimonials” of fighters in paradisiac settings on how they found their true selves in ISIS; and even video games.[2] Those are all part of the evolving dimension of terrorism infiltrating the cyberspace, the progress of which we have yet to fully track and understand.

ISIS “poster girls” today. Sources: ISIS Twitter and US Homeland Security website.

[1] Tamara Makarenko and Michael Mesquita, “Categorising the crime-terror nexus in the European Union” (2014) in Global Crime.

[2] Simon Cottee, “The Challenge of Jihadi Cool” (2015) in The Atlantic.

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