Craig Scott, “Taking Tea with Torturers”

I’ve written previously about the difficulties plaintiffs face litigating international human rights claims in Canada here. Now that a federal election has been called, and like the fate of many other House of Commons and Senate bills, Bill S-7: An Act to deter terrorism and to amend the State Immunity Act (formerly Bill C-35)  has also been orphaned. Read the Legislative Summary here.

Whether or not Bill S-7 will be reintroduced and expedited through the House of Commons is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile,  I commend readers to check out a new paper published by Craig Scott (York University – Osgoode Hall Law School) entitled: “Taking Tea with Torturers”, OpenDemocracy, January 2011/Osgoode CLPE Research Paper No. 13/2011.

Here is the abstract:

This working paper (3000 words, including 19 footnotes) was written on January 29-31, 2011, as events unfolded in Egypt. It was published in the present version as an article on January 31, 2011, by OpenDemocracy, and may be republished with attribution for non-commercial purposes following the Creative Commons guidelines. The article’s sub-title is “From the Shah of Iran to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister to Egypt’s Mubarak, cozy relationships in US foreign policy need to be questioned.” Its point of departure is the Thatcher-Pinochet friendship, which is related to Hillary Clinton’s interview in Egypt in 2009 when she downplayed the US Department of State’s own report of serious human rights violations in Egypt (including a torture apparatus) while emphasizing, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” The article then shows how a version of family-ties coziness has plausibly played a role in how Sri Lanka has managed to mute, to the point of near-silence, US criticism. I take the reader through the first joint press conference held by Secretary of State Clinton and the just-appointed Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka G L Peiris, who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar alongside former US President Bill Clinton. Amongst the notable omissions and elisions in Hillary Clinton’s remarks during that press conference was the complete failure to address her own Department of State’s report on approximately 300 incidents of possible war crimes in Sri Lanka that needed investigating. I return to Egypt in its present crisis by comparing the 30 years of support for Mubarak to the decades of US support for the Shah of Iran, which support then merged with President Jimmy Carter’s inability to disentangle a personal rapport with the Shah from Carter’s supposed human rights-friendly foreign policy. The piece ends with consideration of the implications for US foreign policy of cozy personal relationships with key politicians in repressive regimes – implications that go beyond adding a layer of complexity, extending to questions of ethical accountability.

The paper is available for free download at SSRN here.

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