Week 9: The Forever Wars Come Home

On Monday, we had a zoom call with Evan, NCSC International Programs Division Associate and William & Mary Law Class of 2018. Evan is working on projects in five countries. Evan’s main focus has been Bangladesh, traveling to and from the South Asian country this year, helping to update their Rules of Evidence (published in 1864), and drafting Reform Advocacy Briefs on Cybercrime and Money Laundering. In Kosovo, Evan is working with the Free legal aid council and with law students, who are often those most engaged and motivated to support rule of law reform. In Lebanon, Evan is helping to modernize the core archiving structure (publishing court records housed in a government building crawl space). In Egypt, since the coup in 2018, many basic programs, like legal writing and advocacy classes, are on hold and transitioned to “just monitoring”. Evan is also working in South Africa. Hearing about Evan’s decision to work full time for NCSC IPD and his ongoing projects helped me understand the array of unique NCSC rule of law programs. Going forward, I will be working with Evan on the next Bangladesh Reform Advocacy brief on the Anti-Terrorism Act.

This week, I also joined the Latin America/Caribbean team to listen to project updates and volunteer for an assignment. The project leader mentioned a few of the team’s goals and programs: prosecutor and police training, hosting forums for judges and legal academics, and justice sector assistance focusing on financial and maritime crimes. Later in the week, I received an assignment from the Caribbean team to research pre-trial detention issues in the eastern half of Caribbean partner countries: Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Kitts & Nevis. 

Last week, we discussed both the USAID Rule of Law Assistance Strategy and Moldova Strategy during our learning session. I realized that academics use a plethora of de- prefix words in their articles: Democratization, Development, Decentralization, Demonetization, etc. Here are a few interesting segments of the Moldova strategy:

  • “A mature civil society is imperative to Moldova’s democratic success to hold government more accountable to citizen’s needs.”
  • Concerning the need for judicial transparency and accountability: “Institutional structures should ensure that decisions are guided by law, precedent and procedure, and that judges can be held to account - through transparent and official means - for questionable decisions.” 
  • One goal focuses on increasing citizen demand for effective justice, though keeping the public informed with case management and audio recordings. Another focuses on creating a more capable and professional justice system. 
  • I found it interesting that, under the goal of forming a Strengthened Local Government Capacity to Respond to Citizens’ Needs, the strategy reads: “Moreover, women continue to be underrepresented in local government with women accounting for 17.5% of all the mayors in Moldova, but representing around 50% of the population.” I immediately needed to compare these figures to US statistics.
    • In America, according to the US Conference of Mayors, 17 percent of cities over 30,000 in population have women mayors. That number is up to 30% among largest 50 US cities.

Next week, I have to finish my research on corruption in Moldova and pre-trial detention in the East Caribbean. I will also turn in an amended budget for the Strengthening the Independence of Malaysia’s Judiciary project. Finally, I’m set to meet with the Sarajevo Field Office to present the finished Return to work plan.

The final tid-bit I wanted to share concerns our final discussion on the Sedition and Insurrection Acts. For our learning session this week, each intern created a short slideshow presentation on some aspect of the issue. One covered Sedition acts around the world, another covered US History and I focused on the current event playing out today.

I appreciated the opportunity to bring a discussion of what has been named Operation Diligent Valor. You can find my research and short presentation here. Much of my research came from the twitter feed of Professor Steve Vladeck at the University of Texas School of Law, who frequently writes on these legal disputes over executive power for the Washington Post. 

Today is day 470 without a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Homeland Security. There has *never* been a longer vacancy in *any* Cabinet position. And there hasn't even been a nominee at any point during that time—even though the President's party controls the Senate. That's nuts. (Prof. Vladeck, Jul. 22, 2020, Twitter)

DHS is authorized by 40 U.S.C. § 1315 to protect federal property, enforce federal law and Oregon authorized DHS to enforce state law in ORS 133.245. However, Professor Vladeck is among the many who have speculated that Trump sent extra forces to Portland as a distraction from the high Coronavirus death toll. It could also be a trial balloon or a campaign strategy (to appease those voters salivating for a new civil war). But what can this really symbolize but the war on terror coming home?

During a Monday interview with Fox News, Trump described the protests-turned -violent in some U.S. cities as “worse than Afghanistan, by far.” (Forbes)

The current administration has now deployed federal forces to target and intimidate racial justice protestors from Lafayette Square (for little more than a photo op) to Portland, Oregon. More than twenty journalists and protestors have lost eyes to covering the protests. One Navy veteran who withstood multiple baton blows from police on a viral video in the streets of Portland later stated he wished to direct the whole conversation "back to Black Lives Matter." While the late American founder John Lewis has many excellent quotes, we should remember: "feel the spirit of the sixties." Standing up for justice is not usually easy. It takes good trouble. It's on us to lead the way.