Institute Explores Justice as Part of Peace Process. (Nation/World)

By Jones, Arthur | National Catholic Reporter, December 21, 2001 | Go to article overview

Institute Explores Justice as Part of Peace Process. (Nation/World)


Jones, Arthur, National Catholic Reporter


In a gently delivered yet withering critique, former President Jimmy Carter deplored President Bush's orders establishing military tribunals for dealing with suspected foreign terrorists. His comments came during a Dec 6-7 Conference at the University of San Diego on sustaining peace with justice.

The following day, South African jurist Richard Goldstone, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, said of Bush's restrictions on civil liberties, "In Beijing they're probably popping the champagne corks."

With those comments as openers, "a small Catholic university with big dreams of making a contribution to world peace" -- to quote its president Alice B. Hayes -- dedicated its new Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

The two-day session with international participants was not aimed at garnering headlines but at exploring ways to insert justice into peace processes.

In quiet rooms beyond media access, international peace negotiators heard key figures from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Macedonia and Nepal analyze their country's progress in efforts to emerge from internal strife or external aggression.

Joyce Neu, executive director of the institute, said the goal of the working sessions was to help provide guidelines to the way ahead, especially to nations just beginning to deal with their problems. Neu, who worked in Kosovo with President Carter on negotiating a ceasefire in Bosnia in 1994, said that countries such as Nepal, faced with an internal Maoist insurrection and the assassination of royal family members -- might benefit from being exposed to the experiences of other nations grappling with similar conflicts.

If there's a time for off-camera negotiation, there's also one for speaking out -- and President Carter took it. As a former president who several times publicly lambasted President Clinton, also a Democrat, for his conduct while in office, Carter did not lightly approach criticizing Bush -- though he quipped, "I'm not seeking public office in the future and I do have Secret Service protection.

"I have been commander-in-chief," Carter said, "I can understand why you don't want to criticize the incumbent president at a time of crisis like we have, but I think I can point out that we might be partially laying the ground to undo what I think is an inevitable military victory if we subvert the basic principles the United States has always espoused for justice.

"I think the recent order for military tribunals, which I have read very carefully, is a serious mistake," said Carter, who was a submarine officer. "The Uniform Code of Military Justice, for instance, calls for a public trial. It calls for the right of the accused to have a choice of counsel, to have a conviction based on guarantees the right of appeal to a civilian court."

In the existing Bush order, said the former president, "every one of those principles is missing. We Americans are citizens of an unchallenged superpower. …

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