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Week of September 2, 2003, Program 0335

International Law Influence Transcript MP3 Related Links
ICC Women Transcript MP3 Related Links
Global Citizen Sachedina Transcript MP3 Related Links
Iran Composer Transcript MP3 Related Links
Russia Terrorism Transcript MP3 Related Links
East Timor Ambassador Transcript MP3 Related Links
South African Singers Transcript MP3 Related Links

 


September 2, 2003
Program 0335

(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

JOHN NOWITSKI: It's importing foreign law without the consent of the governed which I think is antithetical to the basic principles of US government.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, the impact of international law on US court rulings.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: Plus, a behind the scenes look at the creation of the International Criminal Court.

PAM SPEES: At the core of this was the belief that we need this court and that people could sort of join hands and push from that point forward. And all other differences that might normally plague this type of coalition aside, that was the motivating and the sort of uniting factor.

MCHUGH: And a modern twist on traditional Iranian music.

ALIREZA MASHAYEKHI: I have always been a modernist, always interested in new things, but one thing that has been interesting for me is multicultural music.

PORTER: These stories—coming up next.

MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio's weekly program on world affairs. I'm Kristin McHugh.

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International Law Influence

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Related Links
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
Free Congress Foundation
http://www.freecongress.org/default.asp
European Court of Human Rights
http://www.coe.int/T/E/Human_rights/

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. In school, you may have learned that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. But in June, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited a brief from the European Court of Human Rights as part of his ruling on Lawrence versus Texas, the case on the law that banned sodomy. It's an indication that international law and legal thinking may be gaining ground at the US Supreme Court. Some legal experts think that's a bad idea but others argue its part of the common ground of Western culture. Priscilla Huff reports.

[The sound of a banging gavel in a courtroom.]

PRISCILLA HUFF: Article VI of the Constitution is clear on who—or rather what—has the final say on American legal thinking. "The Judges in every state shall be bound to the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the land." In deciding Lawrence versus Texas, the case which overturned Texas sodomy law, five justices of the Supreme Court found that particular law violated rights to liberty, equal protection, and the due process clause of Fourteenth Amendment. Mary Cheh is a law professor at the George Washington University.

PROFESSOR MARY CHEH: One of the arguments in this area of substantive due process of liberty is whether whatever the government is doing is in accord with basic human rights or with basic principles of Western civilization.

HUFF: It's a specific citation by Justice Anthony Kennedy in regards to the basics of human rights and western civilization that raised legal experts' eyebrows. Justice Kennedy appears to have founded his argument on a friend of the court brief from the European Court of Human Rights. Justice Kennedy writes, "The US does not appear to have a more legitimate or urgent interest in circumscribing personal choice, just as other nations have acted to affirm the protected rights of homosexuals." Professor Mary Cheh says the key to this ruling is that it's based on principles of Western civilization, not just the US Constitution.

CHEH: You trot out other examples of showing where the basic principles of human rights or western civilization have moved. And so one way that you do that is you use by example, actual opinions by the European Court. So, in this area of law, it's fair game.

HUFF: John Nowitski of the Free Congress Foundation has a very different view of what is and is not fair game.

JOHN NOWITSKI: The Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land and the foreign court decisions, whether it's the European Court of Human Rights or anything else, don't have an impact on what the Constitution actually says, what the text actually means, what the framers actually meant at the time that it was written.

HUFF: In Justice Antonin Scalia's scathing dissent in the Lawrence versus Texas case, he rejected the citation of the European Court as meaningless, if not dangerous dicta, in fact, citing another case in which it was written the Supreme Court should not impose foreign moods, fads, or fashions on Americans. Georgetown's University Law Professor Mary Li Feldman suggests Justice Scalia may be failing to see the silver lining in the cloud of international legal opinion.

PROFESSOR MARY LI FELDMAN: They think, somehow, that if the Supreme Court looks at, looks at laws from other countries that somehow the US is losing control of itself. But to look at what others are doing is, can be a way of gaining control, because you can look and say, "Well, that wouldn't be the direction we want to go in."

HUFF: John Nowitski says there's just no role for foreign legal thinking because the essence of American law making is the democratic process of voting.

NOWITSKI: These foreign legal decisions were not enacted by the citizens of the United States, weren't voted on by the people who ratified the Constitution, they weren't voted on by the United States Congress and so on. In other words, it's importing foreign law without the consent of the governed which I think is antithetical to the basic principles of US government.

HUFF: However, the US Constitution specifically does allow for the inclusion of foreign law, if you consider how the government agrees to treaties. For example, as US is one of 189 member states of the United Nations. All UN members, including the US, have signed at least one of the 12 binding treaties and protocols regarding human rights. Georgetown's Mary Li Feldman.

FELDMAN: First of all the justices have been encouraging attorneys to bring forward authority from treaties and conventions that the United States has entered into. If the executive, then ratified by the Senate, chooses to enter into a treaty or a convention, then we have made ourselves a party to that law. It's not the court that's eroding the sovereignty, if you regard that as an erosion of sovereignty.

HUFF: Also, legal scholars note, thanks to our colonial heritage, the roots of the US federal system are in the traditions of British common law, and it's even still cited today. John Nowitski of the Free Congress Foundation says there's a crucial distinction, though.

NOWITSKI: At the same time that we looked at, we looked to the models that we had had, as a colony and as Britain had in those times, to set up a framework. But at that point we severed the ties and we created a new system. From that point on, it's been a unique system.

HUFF: But, Mary Cheh notes, the US may be unique, but it's not alone.

CHEH: You see, the reference point is Western civilization and we think of ourselves as a product of Western civilization more broadly than just a product of American civilization. But, as I said, this is not unique to this case or to even this area of law. There are other instances where we have turned to references to show whether our law is in keeping with our more developed sense of what the protection of human rights ought to be.

HUFF: And, Mary Li Feldman adds, there is a need to coordinate with international laws and with what people practice.

FELDMAN: If we want other countries to emulate what our court does—which we do—and traditionally, other countries with constitutions do look to our court for opinion, it's as a matter if you will, a matter of political psychology, I think unreasonable to expect other countries to look closely at our practices and try to meet us on our grounds unless we make some effort to recognize why they take the positions they take and why those positions might be correct for us.

HUFF: While strict constitutional constructionists argue that the inclusion of foreign legal rulings by the US Supreme Court sets a bad precedent, ironically, the US actively promotes the reverse by exporting American legal ideology to help individual nations and regions like the Balkans to rebuild and reform their legal systems. For Common Ground, I'm Priscilla Huff.

[Musical interlude]

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ICC Women

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Related Links
International Criminal Court
http://www.iccnow.org/
Women's Caucus for Gender Justice
http://www.iccwomen.org/

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: The birth of the International Criminal Court is viewed as one of the greatest accomplishments by nonprofit international citizen groups. These nongovernmental organizations—known as NGOs—kept the idea alive for decades. And in the 1990s, they began a tightly organized campaign to draft a global treaty creating the court resulting in the 1998 Rome statute.

PORTER: One of the NGOs deeply involved with the process was the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice. I asked the group's outgoing Program Director, Pam Spees, to explain what motivated the high level of cooperation, which was the hallmark of this campaign.

PAM SPEES: At the core of this was the belief that we need this court and that people could sort of, you know, join hands and you know, push from that point forward. And all other differences that might normally plague this type of coalition aside, that was the motivating and the sort of uniting factor.

PORTER: I saw in a note that you wrote earlier this year where you said, "The document which created the International Criminal Court stands as the most significant example of gender mainstreaming in an international treaty." Can you give us some examples of that?

SPEES: You have to have the perspective of how all plans and policies and actions of an organization impact gender. The idea being that it's not just a matter of more women in the mix, although that's a part of it, it's how everything impacts differently on men and women. So in terms of how that plays into the Rome statute and the ICC, you see that in terms of the, the crimes that are included within the Rome statute that weren't explicitly codified prior to that in international humanitarian law. Crimes like, well rape was present in prior conventions but not, not clearly enunciated as a crime that required punishment. It was sort of termed in protected language and there was really nothing included that explicitly required countries and militaries to prohibit it and punish it. And that was a critique, a long-running critique of international humanitarian law prior to the Rome statute. With the Rome statute, you've got rape and sexual slavery and forced prostitution, forced pregnancy and forced sterilization and other sexual violence included explicitly as war crimes. And that they are to be considered as among the most serious of concern to the international community as a whole, as is stated in the preamble.

In addition, you've got for the first time ever gender-based persecution prohibited in the statute and trafficking as a form of enslavement. Now these are innovations and that's, that was key. But that's not where the advocacy stopped. I mean, there was an effort to make sure that you had procedural mechanisms and structural mechanisms built into the statute to help ensure that these things are carried out. And that, that includes for instance the, the requirement of a victims and witnesses unit with expertise on violence against women. It requires the Office of the Prosecutor to have legal advisors with expertise on violence against women. There are a whole series of mandates in the statute and the rules that have to do with the trial of sexual and gender violence crimes and the nondiscriminatory trial of that. So these are some of the ways.

And then, of course, you have the requirement of a fair representation of women and men on the court. And that was also key, you know, a key structural mechanism. And I think that the recent elections show us that this was actually something that was taken seriously because you ended up with seven women elected to an 18-member panel of judges. And that was quite a standing given the level of representation in other international tribunals.

PORTER: Are there requirements for women in the staff of the court as well as their presence on the court?

SPEES: The statute requires that the prosecutor and the registrar take this into account as they're staffing their offices. And they, the, they're also to take into account the need with people with expertise in violence against women and children.

PORTER: You recently decided to close down the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice. Why?

SPEES: Because it was a caucus. It was, by its nature, it was something that developed, and sort of spontaneously in this negotiation and it was an advocacy mechanism that enabled women's groups and women's voices to be brought to bear into this process. Once the process of negotiation ended, we've now got a court and that requires a whole different type of advocacy and different form of work. So that's what the Women's Caucus was. And I think it was one of the most successful efforts in the international arena. We've got 18 judges and the court's being set up. And that's, now the emphasis shifts to the court. And it's unprecedented. We've never had a permanent international criminal tribunal before. And the advocacy needed is unprecedented. So it's, it's sort of moving forward without a blueprint for this.

PORTER: Given this success of civil society in the creation of the International Criminal Court, are there lessons that have been learned, things that we can apply to future movements?

SPEES: For women's groups I think it's, it was, there are a lot of lessons in terms of how to come together, how to come together in an arena that wasn't necessarily friendly at first. It's one thing to do advocacy around the Fourth World Conference on Women and to articulate demands there in a conference that is about women and women's human rights. It's a completely different thing to bring the same people and the same sort of ways of advocacy into an arena like the ICC negotiations, which were highly technical and legal and were very—the people negotiating this were very unfamiliar with women's advocacy and with the sort of larger, broader women's human rights movement. And so there was, there were a lot of lessons I think on all sides, actually, and in terms of how to advocate, in terms of how to come together. And I think we'll be learning newer lessons as we move into the era where we have an International Criminal Court, and that the level of advocacy and the type of advocacy that's needed.

PORTER: Pam Spees is the former Program Director for the now-defunct Women's Caucus for Gender Justice.

MCHUGH: Profiling a global citizen, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Global Citizen Sachedina

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Related Links
The Center for Strategic & International Studies Profile Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina
http://www.csis.org/html/4sachedi.htm
Iran From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Iran.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: This week we are debuting a new regular feature in our lineup: the Global Citizen Profile. While everyone is a citizen of at least one nation, there are individuals who live a life, which reaches beyond national boundaries. Our first Global Citizen has two different academic homes, thousands of miles apart. One is the University of Virginia; the other is Ferdowsi University in Iran. If he could offer a single lesson to his students in both countries, he says it would be don't preconceive people before you meet them.

PORTER: Few are better qualified to teach that lesson than Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina. If you go by Professor Sachedina's passports, he is American and Canadian. He was born in Tanzania to an Indian-Muslim family and he has a working knowledge of 11 languages, speaking seven fluently. His expertise ranges from biomedical ethics in Islam to advising the United States on preventative diplomacy. For our first global citizen profile, Common Ground's Nina Maria Potts traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, to speak with Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina about global citizenship, self-identity, and Islam.

PROFESSOR ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA: I feel that I belong to the global community at large, because of, not only the languages, but I think Islam also teaches me that nationalism is good as far as nation-building is concerned, but it could turn into a very negative element in my own identity, that I might begin to see others as not part of me. So my global citizenship is defined in terms of our human connections, that we are related as human persons with different peoples. We might not understand them completely because we don't know all the languages, and yet, I think we have a common ground that we share as human beings.

NINA-MARIE POTTS: What newspapers do you read and where do you get your news?

ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA: I listen to Radio Netherlands, France International. I listen to the BBC, and I listen to Voice of America, the international broadcast. And I read newspapers on it, online. I read my Arabic newspapers, my Persian newspapers, English, French—so most of them I read online because they're all available, easily accessible. So I am also what you call subscribing to Le Monde and subscribing to Halidj Times, which is Middle Eastern. I also subscribe to Al Haram, which is a Cairo newspaper, the main Egyptian newspaper. So I get my news from all different corners of the world.

POTTS: What's it like being a visiting faculty member in the "axis of evil"?

ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA: You're constantly struggling to portray an image of America that is not evil, because as much as we regard them as the axis of evil, at least our government does; they also have quite an interesting perspective on us. You try to communicate that no, not everyone is like that, and American citizens are very much aware of the world in which we live in. The government position is not necessarily the general position of every citizen of America. And you are constantly engaged in building bridges and the moment you build the bridges, there is another attack comes from Washington, you know, another negative remark and you are back where you started. All these things play out and they make it very difficult for someone like me who is American at the same time and who is teaching there and I'm regarded as an insider, all of a sudden I become an outsider. I do the same thing here—that Iran is not that bad, you know, you need to know people, you need to know the country; you need to know their difficulties and their problems. And then you'll begin to appreciate the people. I do the same thing there, that no, America is not that bad.

POTTS: Going back to your own self-identity, you were born Shi'ia, and you are the imam in the local Charlottesville mosque, which is Sunni. That seems to me amazingly ecumenical. Is that just because we're in America?

ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA: I think it's because we're in America that makes a difference. Muslims in America have a big challenge, to be far more pluralistic, far more tolerant of the differences among themselves. And I must say that even in the Charlottesville mosque, we are not free of disagreements, we are not free of conflicts. But what has happened is that in America, all of a sudden we have been put together, because we are lumped together by the media. The media doesn't make a distinction between Arab Muslims, Persian Muslims, Shi'ia Muslims, Sunni Muslims. Everybody is generically Muslim. And I think that helps us to become generic Muslims. And it's good in a way that we are teaching our children to be far more accepting of one another. I, as a Shi'ia, coming from East Africa, not being even an Arab, being accepted in a Sunni mosque, funded by Saudis, is a miracle. This can never happen in the Islamic world. It can happen only in America. And we have deep-seated prejudices. I am not accepted whole-heartedly by everyone who listened to my sermon this Friday afternoon. But I think the majority would say, "That's what we need to know, that's what we need to understand, our role here in America as Muslims, because we are part of the citizenry." So we have, I think, 11 September helped this process enormously. It is an American phenomenon. I haven't seen it in the Middle East.

POTTS: One of the problems with being a global citizen, when people ask you where are you from, what do you say?

ABDULAZIZ SACHEDINA: Many times I avoid the question. I keep on responding that I belong to this Earth. Once you begin to communicate with different peoples on this Earth and you know other languages, you feel that you belong to the entire globe, and not a particular nation. So it's not a claim, it's not a perception, it's a reality. That I do belong to this Earth. They keep on asking me, what language do you dream in? And I say, it all depends who I'm speaking to.

POTTS: Professor Abdulaziz Sachedina. With this week's Global Citizen profile, I'm Nina-Maria Potts in Charlottesville.

[Musical interlude]

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Iran Composer

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Related Links
Alireza Mashayekhi
http://portfolio.dejkam.com/mashayekhi.html
Iran From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Iran.cfm

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: In recent years, music from Iran has spread to the West as some Iranian musicians left home after their country's Islamic Revolution in 1979 to produce pop music in cities like Los Angeles. At the same time, musicians of traditional Persian music have been touring the world, reaching new audiences. One Iranian who has been combining the old with the new for more than three decades is Alireza Mashayekhi. He's one of the first composers of modern music in Iran. As Roxana Saberi reports, Mashayekhi's music is reaching listeners across the globe.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

ROXANA SABERI: If you ask Alireza Mashayekhi what the aim of his music is, he'll tell you it's to express different cultures.

ALIREZA MASHAYEKHI: I have always been a modernist, always interested in new things, but one thing that has been interesting for me very much is multicultural music.

SABERI: Mashayekhi was one of the first composers to advocate modernism in Iran's music society. He's been working more than 35 years to create a language that unites various cultures through his music.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

MASHAYEKHI: We all are somehow multicultural in this world. We are not like 300 years ago. Now a person who lives in a multicultural world needs a multicultural language and music is actually the best place to reach this language because music is a nature, something international to begin with.

SABERI: Mashayekhi grew up in Iran, studying composition, piano, and Iranian music. He later continued his studies in Vienna and in the Netherlands, where he focused on electronic and computer music. Today his compositions include pieces that are directly inspired by Iranian music, like this piece, Chahargah II.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

SABERI: It combines the tar, a traditional Persian stringed instrument, an orchestra, and computer-generated music. But he also composes pieces that are not directly related to Iranian music, such as his Symphony Number 6.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

SABERI: Mashayekhi says since he first started combining Persian traditional music with what he calls noise; his music has been overall, well-received. That was more than 30 years ago, in Europe.

MASHAYEKHI: Afterward it was followed by many other pieces of mine, using different sources for a common language. Nowadays a lot of composers are doing that.

SABERI: Today 63-year-old Mashayekhi oversees an orchestra in Iran, which features traditional Persian instruments playing modern music he has written. Many of his more than 400 pieces have also been performed by other orchestras in Europe and in the US, like at New York's Carnegie Hall. Mashayekhi's music is also reaching younger generations. He helped found an organization that introduces modern music written by young composers, both in Iran and abroad. And he teaches composition to Iranian university students like 22-year-old Sin a Fal a'sede.

SIN a FAL a'SEDE: I think he's the only teacher who teaches his students modern music and his idea and gives them a way that they can compose ourselves, not Mr. Mashayekhi's style, not another's style, their styles.

SABERI: But while his music has attracted many fans, Mashayekhi admits, it has also found critics. They believe traditional Persian music should be left alone.

MASHAYEKHI: Many people do not feel easy with me and my work but that doesn't bother me. I mean, I believe in that what I do, and history has been on my side. I, myself. have been 40 years trying to make new music, and I am very pleased with the result.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

SABERI: It's his responsibility, he says, to help bring different cultures together, to unite people around the world through the language of music.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

SABERI: For Common Ground, Roxana Saberi, in Tehran.

[The sound of music composed by Alireza Mashayekhi.]

MCHUGH: If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KEITH PORTER: I'm Keith Porter.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the changing nature of terrorism in Russia.

ALEXANDER GOLTS: The last terrorist attacks in Moscow and then different people in southern towns of Russia show it's absolutely clear that we are moving Palestine scenario.

PORTER: Plus, East Timor's slow rebuilding process. And a famous South African singing group's junior edition.

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Russia Terrorism

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Related Links
Russia From World Press Review
http://worldpress.org/profiles/Russia.cfm
Human Rights Watch Chechnya: Renewed Catastrophe
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya/

Tell Us What You Think

 

PORTER: The second war between Russia and Chechnya has been going on longer than Russia's battle with the Nazis in World War Two. The Kremlin announced the military action was over a long time ago, and the Russian President Vladimir Putin has set an October date for presidential elections in the province as part of the Kremlin-backed peace plan for Chechnya. But recent suicide bombings in Moscow and Chechnya's neighboring republics show the conflict extends well beyond Chechnya's borders and no one can be protected from it. Anya Ardayeva reports from the Russian capital.

[The sound of Russian police checking cars at a roadblock.]

ARDAYEVA: It's not easy being a truck driver in Moscow these days. After a series of suicide bombings in the city, the Russian capital is on alert with police checking all suspicious persons and cars, looking for explosives. One of the most recent attacks outside a rock concert in the Russian capital killed 15 people, most of them teenagers. Two female suicide bombers blew themselves up at the entrance to the airfield where the concert was taking place. According to a passport found later on the scene, one of the women was a 20-year-old from the breakaway region of Chechnya. Recent news reports from Moscow mirror those from the Middle East. The tactics used by the terrorists are very similar to the ones used in Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv.

ALEXANDER GOLTS: I think the last terrorist attacks in Moscow and then different people in southern towns of Russia show it's absolutely clear that we are moving Palestine scenario.

ARDAYEVA: Alexander Golts is a military analyst who's been covering Chechnya-related issues for years.

GOLTS: Maybe the picture and what looks most dangerous is that Chechen's rebels moved past the road of Palestine not for 15 or 50 years but for four years only.

[Sounds from the Chechen terrorist attack and hostage rescue operation at the Nord Ost Theater in Moscow.]

ARDAYEVA: Since 1999, nearly 450 people have died in terrorist attacks in Moscow. The biggest incident took place last October, when some 700 people were taken hostage by a group of Chechen militants who demanded to end the war in the province. One hundred and twenty-nine civilians died from the effects of narcotic gas used by Russian special forces to disable the hostage-takers. However, there is one important difference between Russia and Israel, or any other country, which has faced the threat of terrorist attacks on its territory. Unlike other conflicts in history, where the enemy is clear and present, Russians seem to have a very vague idea about who exactly is attacking them.

LEV KOROLKOV: [via a translator] We are not fighting with one state here, it's a network, a combination of several organizations.

ARDAYEVA: Lev Korolkov is a Russian special services veteran, who's been dealing with antiterrorism issues for nearly 40 years.

KOROLKOV: [via a translator] So to my mind, Chechen problem will not be solved in the near future. It's like an erupting volcano, which you can't stop. And the magma of it is the civil conflict that we have right now.

ARDAYEVA: Officially, the Kremlin says the war in Chechnya ended months ago. And even though large-scale military operations are no longer taking place, it is clear that federal forces have failed to assert full control over the republic as President Vladimir Putin had claimed. Russian servicemen continue to die from terrorist attacks there almost every other day.

GOLTS: It looks that until now Russian security services failed to build a robust intelligence network in Chechnya. As the result they have no clear information about activity of main warlords. All Putin's words about future punishment of these warlords look as words only and nothing else.

ARDAYEVA: Meanwhile, many Muscovites seem to have gotten used to the bomb blasts in their city. The rock concert in Tushino went on for six hours after the bombings happened. People say they are tired of fearing something over which they have no control, and many say they no longer care to question government actions in Chechnya or beyond.

KOROLKOV: [via a translator] With the increase of these terrorist attacks, we can forget about citizens' rights. Citizens face a simple choice—either you are on this side or another. If you want to have rights then you might become a potential victim. If you agree to limit your rights then let the authorities install the limitations that they consider necessary.

ARDAYEVA: But most Russians have no choice but to allow the police and special forces to limit some of their freedoms and to hope that next time, the deadly blast rocks someone else's street. For Common Ground, I'm Anya Ardayeva in Moscow.

[Musical interlude]

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East Timor Ambassador

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Related Links
The Washington Diplomat Profile Jose Luis Guterres
http://www.washdiplomat.com/ambprof/east%20timor.html
CIA The World Factbook East Timor
http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/tt.html

Tell Us What You Think

 

MCHUGH: Four years ago this week, residents of conflict-torn East Timor overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia. The chaos that ensued as pro-Indonesian militias and their supporters' retreated, left scores dead, tens of thousands without homes, and virtually wiped out the tiny territory's infrastructure. With the help of the United Nations, East Timor or Timor Leste transitioned to true independence in May of 2002. But the optimism of freedom has faded as East Timor struggles to rebuild. I recently spoke with José Luís Guterres, Timor Leste's Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations about his country's struggles and hope for the future.

MCHUGH: There was quite a bit of fanfare when East Timor became a nation, last year. But this year there wasn't as much fanfare. Why is that?

JOSÉ LUÌS GUTERRES: After so many years of struggling, I, we thought it was better for the country to have at least one big celebration. And this year is one year after independence. Of course it's, we did celebrate. But not as last year with the huge international presence. The country and the people need, understands that the economic situation of our own country sure was a need to have not much celebration but instead focus on delivering service and work for the East Timorese people.

MCHUGH: President Xanana Gusmão was fairly pessimistic at the independence activities this year, basically citing poor economics and lack of outside investment. Are things as pessimistic as he makes it out to be in terms of the local economy?

GUTERRES: Well, the President sounds realistic. The situation is really not in a good shape. But understandable because we have inherited a country with 85 percent of its infrastructures destroyed, from schools to hospital and public buildings, including private houses. And so it is not possible to reconstruct everything in one year. We face also problems of lack of investment precisely because no infrastructures, basic infrastructures have been reconstructed. We have started already with a new communications system. We still need to find better power supply.

MCHUGH: The capital, Dili, was rocked by quite a bit of violence last December, and parts of the capital were destroyed by rioters who were demanding jobs and basically to move the process along faster. Do you think that the folks in East Timor had a false or over-inflated sense of what independence would bring to them?

GUTERRES: Well, I think that some of us had higher expectations. It is understandable. But I believe that the majority of East Timorese are happy because at least now they have the freedom. And for any country, any people, freedom is a more, is fundamental. But the past events, for December events, were as you mentioned, some of the buildings were destroyed. It was a result of a reaction to an action by police, by police, that is still under UN control. Some of the policeman did arrest some students in a way that was not according to the law. And so it was understandable, the students had to react. And then this reaction, it was overreaction. And I believe that the situation have been already solved.

MCHUGH: I think we should clarify for our listeners the overall political status. Because the United Nations ran East Timor and ran the government for two and a half years after the referendum in 1999. But the police force is still run by the UN today even though the East Timorese actually run the government now.

GUTERRES: Up to next year, that is 20 May, 2004, the UN will continue to be running the police and security and defense force. You know that the peacekeeping operations are still in Timor.

MCHUGH: And who runs the local court system?

GUTERRES: The court system again, I must mention that even in the court and the public administration we have inherited nothing. Not only infrastructures were destroyed but during the past years all the systems were run by Indonesian civil servants. And today we have to staff and rebuild all these institutions. It was difficult at the beginning. The UN was running the court resumation. To have court or judicial system working appropriate way we need dozens of years, not two years.

MCHUGH: Now, as you know, human rights groups have been fairly critical of the judicial system and very recently your foreign minister announced that the East Timorese would not seek a UN tribunal in regards to the crimes that were committed after the 1999 referendum and the violence that destroyed much of your country. How important is justice for the victims on both sides if you're not going to seek a tribunal?

GUTERRES: Well, you know, justice is always important, in particular for those who suffered for so many years, human rights violations. Our point is that international tribunal—well; we all are wanting to seek justice. The way how to do it and the timing, it is something that we have to decide according to the, our own situation—economic, geopolitical situation, including the Indonesian internal situation. The fact that my foreign minister said that Timor will not seek, it doesn't imply that the international community, NGO's, and others, that they may seek if they wish. And so we are not saying that we don't want an international tribunal but we are just saying that as East Timorese, according to the situation of the country today, we will not seek the international tribunal.

MCHUGH: I think it's interesting that East Timor has made a number of overtures towards Indonesia, and certainly considering the history of the conflict that seems somewhat surprising, that you're now trying to have good relations with Indonesia.

GUTERRES: Yes. We'll, it has been difficult for East Timor to proceed on this path. But geopolitics and also the need for us to create conditions for the economic development of the country, we don't want to see East Timor unstable. And it's not that difficult to destabilize East Timor. A few people from the border, it is enough to destabilize East Timor. As you might remember in January this year some former militias entered into East Timor and attacked a bus and some Timorese died. And so it is not possible for us to have, to seal the border area with Indonesia. And that's why the cooperation with Indonesia is a guarantee also for our own stability.

MCHUGH: As you know Indonesia is cracking down on separatists seeking independence in Ache. Is Ache another East Timor?

GUTERRES: Well, first, as in all, even from the past during the resistance years, we have always maintained that East Timor issue is different from other separatist movement in Ache, in Moluccas, because East Timor was colonized by Portugal, and only the former Dutch colonies were part of Indonesia. That's according to Indonesia's first constitution. But today, we as East Timorese, we cannot ignore the human rights violations wherever it occurs. Whether in East Timor, whether in any other Indonesian province. And so if the human rights situation, a violation occurs in Ache or other, even in Jakarta or in Dili, the government, of course, is concerned about that.

MCHUGH: What is the biggest threat facing your country?

GUTERRES: Well, it is difficult to say which one. But I believe that if the economic situation is not tackled properly we will have some difficult times ahead. And that might create social instability.

MCHUGH: Where does terrorism rank in the list of concerns?

GUTERRES: Well, it's one of the concerns that, it's not only for East Timor but its worldwide. I think that every, well, country in the world can be threatened by terrorist groups. As you know, East Timor was a country that was mentioned by bin Laden in two of his interviews. We are worried about the situation. Of course, there has not been any bombs in East Timor. But the way how these organizations operate sometimes they have sleeper cells all over and we never know if they have also in East Timor because it's something that today, in today's situation, the kind of activity that we need cooperation from country like US, Australia, Indonesia, and then others—Singapore—countries that have infrastructures in order to help us detect signs of terrorist activity. But of course we, as you know, I signed a letter together with the US, Australia, Indonesia and some other Asian countries, to the Security Council in order to consider Jemaah Islamiah (JI) as a terrorist organization. And so I was happy to join the, our neighbors and international community as a whole to help in identifying the terrorist group. It's, really it's a very serious threat to mankind and so we have to take it very, very seriously.

MCHUGH: I have one final question. And that is, East Timor is one of the newest members of the United Nations. What goes through your mind when you walk into the General Assembly? As an Ambassador?

GUTERRES: I am really very happy to serve the country in this capacity. But what I find out is that we have just a huge work to do, that right now what I am willing to have is more colleagues from the capital in order to help us do the job in a proper way. And so I'm trying as a small nation, a new country, we are trying to do our best in order to give our country vision to the international community.

MCHUGH: José Luís Guterres, is East Timor's Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations. I spoke with him in New York.

PORTER: Coming up next, the sounds of a South African singing group. You're listening to Common Ground, radio's weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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South African Singers

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PORTER: Over the years, international audiences have grown to love the sounds of South Africa's acclaimed a cappella music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The group has helped to popularize and internationalize a type of music that dates back to early 19th-century Africa. This summer, music lovers in the United States heard from another set of singers who hope to follow the same path. Judith Smelser caught up with them in Washington, DC.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

JUDITH SMELSER: It's lunchtime in Washington, and the joyful sounds of African music fill the air at a small outdoor concert.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

SMELSER: This group calls itself the Junior Mambazo Singers, after the Grammy Award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The older group has grown in popularity around the world since the singers accompanied Paul Simon on his landmark Graceland album in 1986.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

SMELSER: The two groups are related by more than just their name. Junior Mambazo's lead singer, Nkosinathi Shabalala, is the son of Black Mambazo leader Joseph Shabalala. The younger singer says his father's success in the US has given him a big head start.

NKOSINATHI SHABALALA: I think this is a very good start for us, especially with, we have got the background. Because Father has been in the US for many years. He's got a lot of fans. So I'm starting, I'm not, I'm starting from somewhere, not anywhere. That make me a little bit know that there's something is going to happen.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

SMELSER: This type of music originated in the 19th century, when many South African Zulus were sent far away from their homes to work in diamond mines. After a six-day workweek, the miners would unwind on Saturday night by forming groups and singing. As time wore on, the music spread across the country, and intense competitions began to spring up. Groups faced off against each other with the winner often getting a goat as a prize. This tradition continues in earnest and Nkosinathi says there are more than a thousand a cappella groups in South Africa today, but now they compete for money instead of livestock. And he says the younger generation is likely to carry on the tradition.

SHABALALA: Now, what's interesting me, also the young, young generation from the schools, the high schools and primary schools now, you can get the students doing this kind of music, which is very good for our generation because we don't want this music to be forgotten by the young generations.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

SMELSER: This summer was the first time the Junior Mambazo Singers have performed in the United States. They sang mostly at churches and small outdoor concerts like this one—a far cry from the major venues that Ladysmith Black Mambazo plays. But it is a start. And it's not just about performing for this group. The musicians also wanted to help Americans learn a little more about African culture. Nkosinathi Shabalala recalls one particularly rewarding experience.

SHABALALA: The first day when I came here, we go visited some of the schools, primary school, primary school then. I've got an opportunity with the three guys to teach the people this kind of music and to teach them few words in Zulu, so that one was impress me a lots.

SMELSER: Nkosinathi says he's also been able to dispel some misconceptions about Africa.

SHABALALA: A few guys they are asking us our homes, "Hey you have fighting, hey, the country's fighting a lot, why you fight?" But those who got the time to visit our country, there's not only that fighting. It's a nice country, but it's different here and there, but almost, most of the things are the same.

SMELSER: Most Americans will never get the chance to visit South Africa, but now through the music of two generations of Shabalalas, they can get a small taste of the country without ever leaving home. For Common Ground, I'm Judith Smelser in Washington.

[Sound of music from the South African musical group, the Junior Mambazo Singers.]

MCHUGH: That's our show for this week. If you have questions or comments about today's program, visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org or e-mail us at commonground@commongroundradio.org . Please drop us a line—we'd love to hear from you.

PORTER: Transcripts and information on how to order copies of this and other Common Ground programs are also available on our Web site: commongroundradio.org. I'm Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Additional compositions by Wink Music.

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. The Stanley Foundation: promoting public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues. On the Web at stanleyfoundation.org.

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