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South Bay prof takes State Dept. war-crimes job

A Santa Clara University law professor is going to work for the U.S. State Department, helping to shape the nation’s responses to war crimes committed around the world.

Beth Van Schaack, an expert in international law, will serve as deputy to Stephen Rapp, the U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues, in the state department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. She’ll take a leave of absence from her teaching duties in order to take this appointment, which will last up to two years starting next Friday, March 23.

Van Schaack will work closely with international tribunals, non-governmental organizations and foreign governments to ensure accountability for international crimes according to international human rights principles. She’ll also help the office in its role advising governments on implementing other forms of transitional justice, such as truth commissions and commissions of inquiry.

Santa Clara University School of Law Dean Donald Polden said Van Schaack’s “considerable skills as a lawyer, her knowledge and expertise in the areas of human rights and international criminal law, and her judgment and professionalism make her an ideal candidate” for this job.

Van Schaack has prosecutors of international crimes committed in Uganda and Cambodia, and formerly was executive director and staff attorney at the Center for Justice & Accountability, an international human-rights law group. She has served as an observer or NGO delegate at sessions of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as meetings of other United Nations bodies. In 2002, she was on the defense team for John Walker Lindh, the American citizen with Marin County roots who was convicted of joining the Taliban.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Yale Law School.

Rapp is the former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he initiated the prosecution of former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. Earlier, he prosecuted cases arising out of the Rwandan genocide as a senior trial counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The Office of Global Criminal Justice, formerly known as the Office of War Crimes Issues, advises Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights.

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012
Under: International, International politics | 2 Comments »

Bay Area human rights activists are in Cairo

Human rights activists with CODEPINK – including cofounder Medea Benjamin of San Francisco and San Jose Peace & Justice Center president Sharat Lin of Fremont – are amid the protestors on the streets of Cairo calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Click here to see their photos.

From CODEPINK’s news release:

The activists report that Egyptians have been excited to see their message of solidarity from the American people. Many Egyptian protesters are carrying signs that say “My address is Tahrir square until Mubarak leaves” and they are holding firm. The activists also report that many Egyptian youth seem ecstatic that President Obama has acknowledged their voice in Egypt’s political affairs but they want him to put more pressure on Mubarak to step down. Women are in the streets and have played a major role in the grassroots movement for democracy in Egypt. Today, as violence towards peaceful demonstrators escalates, the activists said rumors have circulated that the pro-Mubarak agitators are paid supporters of the dictator.

CODEPINK is calling on President Barack Obama, the State Department, and Congress to stop funding the Mubarak regime, which now receives over $1.8 billion per year in military assistance from the United States.

CODEPINK says theirs is “perhaps the only international solidarity delegation on the ground in the country,” and plans to demonstrate at the U.S. Embassy tomorrow.
The delegation – CODEPINK’s ninth trip to Egypt and Gaza in the past two years, including people from the U.S. Canada, Australia, the U.K., Switzerland and India – had intended to travel through Egypt to Gaza, but was foiled by the closing of the Rafah border crossing; they now plan to stay in Cairo until safe passage to Gaza is possible.

CODEPINK and other groups plan a protest and march in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5th at 1 pm in UN Plaza at Market and Eighth streets in San Francisco), and then a march across the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday, Feb. 13.

Posted on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
Under: International, International politics | 2 Comments »

Local activists prepare for ‘Gaza Freedom March’

Some of the more than three dozen Bay Area residents who are headed to Gaza for a New Year’s Eve peace march will gather tonight in San Francisco to make banners and flags.

The Gaza Freedom March is being organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza, with San Francisco activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Global Exchange on the organizing committee. The Bay Area contingent will fly to Cairo later this month, joining a 1,000-person delegation from 42 nations to enter Gaza for the march near the closed Erez checkpoint on the border with Israel; as many as 50,000 Palestinians are expected to attend.

The local contingent includes activists, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis students, artists and at least one internationally known celebrity: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker of Berkeley.

Local “solidarity actions” mirroring the march are planned in other cities around the world. In San Francisco, there’ll be a memorial vigil at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27 in Union Square for Palestinians killed in an Israeli military operation in Gaza last year, and organizers have obtained a permit for a march across the Golden Gate Bridge at noon on New Year’s Eve.

“The world needs to know that the situation in Palestine is not morally acceptable nor legal under international law,” march participant and recent Cal Poly grad Marina Barakatt of San Francisco said in a news release. “Human rights abuses, land expropriation, targeted assassinations, house demolitions, and increasing repression are part of the price Palestinians pay, framed as a just, nationalist fight.”

But San Francisco Voice for Israel activist Michael Harris said “(T)he sad thing about this is that the groups promoting this event are really not interested in peace between a Jewish state of Israel and an Arab state of Palestine. They are supporting the Hamas regime, which vows to destroy not only Israel but targets all Jews worldwide.”

“By continuing to promote an extremist agenda, and by supporting a regime that is not only anti-Semitic but also is homophobic and misogynistic, these groups are actually perpetuating Palestinian suffering,” he said. “Time and energy that could have been spent in building a Palestinian future has instead been devoted to trying to destory Israel’s future.”

Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Under: International, Israel | 6 Comments »