Law School panel debates Iraq issues



As foreign policymakers debate similar issues in Afghanistan and Iraq, professors and human rights experts at the Law School debated the relationship between local and international actors in rebuilding war-torn nations during a weekend symposium.

With the theme “Global Interests and Local Needs: Striking a Balance in Post-Conflict States,” participants at the annual Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights spoke during seven sessions. The symposium, co-sponsored by the Orville Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights and the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, opened Thursday with an address from Yale Law School professor Amy Chua. The program concluded with a presentation by professor Harold Koh on the future of democracy promotion.

In his remarks, Koh discussed American international diplomacy and the way it has changed since Sept. 11, 2001. Koh said Bush administration policies of forced disarmament and pre-emptive self-defense undermine work during the previous administration to encourage cooperation among leading democracies. Cooperation among leading democracies, Koh said, is one of the most important tools for promoting democratic practices in nations emerging from war, such as Afghanistan. Koh said he believes the world will learn much about American efforts at democracy promotion when the United States takes control of Baghdad in the near future.

“The Bush doctrine can win any war, but it cannot secure peace,” Koh said in his remarks.

In a panel addressing models of multilateral democracy promotion, experts debated the idea of implementing a “template” for democracy promotion in post-conflict states. Charles Call, a professor at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, said using a template to promote democracy can exclude local governing practices and customs from the new government. He said this exclusion can cause instabilities no matter the potential efficacy of the democracy model.

“Democratic reconstruction models can actually increase ethnic tensions,” Call said.

Patrick Merloe, senior associate and director of programs on elections and political processes for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, said tension exists between the desire for peace and stability and self-governance.

“Self-governance is an essential human right,” Merloe said.

At the conclusion of the program, professors named this year’s Robert L. Bernstein Fellows. The fellowship gives two students funding to work for one year in international human rights programs. Fellowship recipient Tara Melish LAW ’00 will work at the Center for Justice and International Law, and Brent Wible LAW ’03 will work at the Academy for Educational Development to address the issue of sexual violence in Benin, West Africa, said Law School professor James Silk, executive director of the Schell human rights center.

Silk said the fellowship allows students to do important work in the field of international human rights.

“The Bernstein Fellowship allows extraordinarily able and committed graduates of the law school to make important contributions to work on pressing human rights issues and to gain experience that will allow them to become more effective human rights advocates,” Silk said in an e-mail.

Current fellow Eric Friedman LAW ’02 is working on human rights and HIV/AIDS issues at Physicians for Human Rights. Current fellow Molly Beutz LAW ’01 works for Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights on issues involving violence against women.

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