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Dr. Iavor Rangelov – Resurgent Nationalism: Is Law an Answer?

Written by Esther Fernando

The Transitional Justice Network held a discussion at New York Law School earlier this year with Dr. Iavor Rangelov, Global Security Research Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. Dr. Rangelov highlighted the relationship between key concepts of nationalism and the goals of international law.

Dr. Rangelov started off the discussion with an insight on his book Nationalism and the Rule of Law: Lessons from the Balkans and Beyond (Cambridge University Press 2014), which focuses on the development for understanding the communications of nationalism and the rule of law by analyzing the principles of citizenship, transitional justice, and international justice. What triggered his interest in the subject was the role of globalization and the variety of its responses, most of which have become ineffective in the legacy of war, not only in war crimes, but also in the entrenchment of certain politics. The involvement of nationalism and globalization in response to international crisis are just the several evaluations conducted throughout his research.

Dr. Rangelov discussed how law itself can often be an issue when it becomes an instrument for the pursuit of nationalist projects. Can law then be part of the answer in addressing insurgent nationalism and assist in developing it? It is possible, but there are broader implications in the legal approaches within public discourses and politics.

Although there are different types of ideologies associated with nationalist actors, there is a line of thinking of the new nationalism, which references old types of nationalism. According to Dr. Rangelov, nationalism can be seen as a type of discourse based on the legitimation of state power and there is a tendency to think that there exist both good and bad nationalism. The old form of nationalism involved a degree of discrimination and exclusion and was often created in war with other states – states make war and war makes states. With the decline of interstate war, nationalism has an intention to involve exclusivists’ identities. The question then arises as to how nationalism is reproduced in politics, discourses, and local practices. These considerations become important in understanding the form and intentions rule of law can take in nationalism. New nationalism occurred in a variety of places, including the Balkans in the 1990s with the occurrence of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and continues in the rise of nationalist movements, as we see in the west, particularly in immigration matters.

In his research, Dr. Rangelov examines a variety of ways in which states entrench and stabilize different forms of discrimination and exclusion by looking at different types of laws, specifically, immigration, citizenship, and constitutional law, in which he discovers the different forms of membership. In regards to ethnic citizenship, there are various modes of membership defining ethnic terms enshrined in law, which you find in transitional states in Europe, Israel, and even Japan. In the current conditions of globalization, citizenship is deflated, and so it becomes a major arena for nations to shape identities. This is displayed across the world where immigrants have to go through transformations to become nationals. There is a symbolic appropriation of citizenship as a resource in the state of shaping identities.

The next part of the conversation concentrated on the question as to when is law part of the answer. The answer is perceived as the dark side of nationalism – when it encourages critical public discussion. According to Dr. Rangelov, the courts are not able to answer questions of public identity. Queries of public identities are addressed through public discussions. There are debates pertaining to the interpretations of previous abuses. For instance, in Turkey, the debate focused on whether the atrocities actually occurred – the Armenian genocide in Turkey becomes an instrument of nationalist mobilization. Creating public discussions introduces opportunities to target situations and implement them into nationalism.

In assessing the relationship of nationalism and the rule of law, one must go behind the State because that is where all the interesting developments take place. International legal norms and structures develop as responses to nationalism. In response to international legal justice, Dr. Rangelov looked at the establishment of the Nuremberg trials and the revival of international criminal justice fifty years later in the midst of the war in Bosnia with the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It can be argued that both respond to nationalism and war, with the goal to suppress certain manifestations of nationalism and to criminalize their methods. By the mid-90s, the response to one of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia was the establishment by the United Nations Security Council of the tribunal, where the aim was to suppress a certain type of nationalism and to criminalize its objective of ethnic cleansing. What later becomes the subject matter is genocide. Dr. Rangelov argues that in both the international rule of law and the international paradigm, the response to nationalist projects was to suppress and criminalize such goals and methods.

Dr. Rangelov ended the event by observing the idea of pluralization to understand the implications of a society that address international justice by arguing that such repercussions, such as the impact of Yugoslavia tribunal, could be understood by looking at three fields: public discourse, politics, and law or legal order. There is an importance of determining how different social actors use the existence of the courts. For example, in public discourse as a result of the establishment of tribunal, one can see several different types of transnational discourses emerging, such as the liberal discourse, which sees the tribunal as an attempt to address the human rights abuse from the war and an attempt to pave the way for the construction of the moderate order, which is based on the rule of law. Pluralization is vital because it emerges against all odds and challenges the logic of globalization.

Video of Dr. Iavor Rangelov’s discussion can be accessed by clicking here.

How to Treat a Lady: Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in the 21st Century

Written by Mehgan Gallagher

The issue of gender equality has long perplexed me. Why is it that women are so respected in some ways, yet still treated like second-class citizens in other respects? For example, in some cultures women are considered spiritual creatures; for centuries, men have stood up when women enter a room out of respect, yet women all over the world, even in the 21st century face barriers that men do not. Laws from voting rights to martial rape and property rights have long kept women behind the curb in the realm of gender equality.

On April 14, 2014 234 school girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok in Northern Nigeria by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram. Following the abduction, people all over the world were outraged, not only by this sheer act of terror, but also by the lack of response by the Nigerian government. In April 2015, nearly 100 women and 200 girls were rescued by Nigerian troops. What happened to these women and girls for the year they were missing? Those who have been rescued reported conditions of women kidnapped by Boko Haram face rape, forced marriage, and conscription into the militant army.

Meanwhile India has been in the spotlight in the past few years with incidences of violence against women.   In December 2012, a 23-year old female medical student was returning home in South Delhi, India after watching a movie with a friend. On her bus ride home, she was beaten and gang raped by six men on the bus, including the bus driver. She was then thrown off of the moving bus. She spent two weeks in critical condition, and then died from her injuries. This incident sparked national and international outrage and protests regarding the shortcomings of India’s government in the protection of its women.

In many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there are laws that allow for “honor killings” and death by stoning for crimes such as adultery, which generally effect women more than men. This is due to many factors including illiteracy and inability to defend oneself in court. Just last year a woman was beaten to death outside a court house in Pakistan by her relatives after she eloped with someone outside of her religion. A report by the Pakistan Human Rights Commission confirms that this is not an isolated incident and that over 800 women were victims of these types of “honor killings” last year alone.

Although women are still subject to laws and cultural norms that disproportionately hold them back and subject them to horrific fates, I remain hopeful.   The once large salary gap in many industries is now almost a thing of the past in the United States.   Many social policies in Latin America have drastically improved the lives of women in the region. Women recently gained the right to vote in Kuwait.   Women play a vital world in world politics today and are members of parliament and government in many nations. There are many international NGOs as well as government entities that work toward gender equality and women’s rights. Technology and social media are also important tools in the fight toward women’s rights, making these once hidden issues international news and helping to spark social movements.   Perhaps one day, there will be no need to treat a lady differently than a man, and instead we will all be treated equally.

India’s Issue with Violence Against Women

In December 2012, a 23-year old female medical student was returning home in South Delhi, India after watching a movie with a friend. On her bus ride home, she was beaten and gang raped by six men on the bus, including the bus driver. The victim was then thrown off of the moving bus. She spent two weeks in critical condition, after which she died from her injuries. This incident sparked national and international outrage and protests regarding the shortcomings of India’s government in the protection of its women.

Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated case of a women’s rights violation in India. India has a sustained history and culture of violence against women. Less than two weeks after the rape, a 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped committed suicide after police pressured her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers. In February 2014, the husband and parents-in-law of a young woman burned her and her baby girl alive for dowry-related issues. In July 2013, India’s top court ruled that authorities must regulate the sale of acid due to the alarming rate at which it was being used by jilted boyfriends and others to attack women. In June 2012, a man chopped off his twenty year old daughter’s head with a sword after learning that she was dating.

While these were all sensational headlining cases, the reality of the deeply rooted culture of violence against women is far graver. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, “A total of 244,270 incidents of crime against women were reported in the country during the year 2012, as compared to 228,650 in the year 2011, recording an increase of 6.4%.” The total number of reported rapes rose 35.2% between 2012 and 2013. An average of 92 women are raped in India every day. Furthermore, India still has one of the lowest sex ratios on the world with approximately 35 million women simply “missing”.

Now, more than ever, India requires a transitional justice system focusing on gender-based violence. Women are disproportionally disadvantaged in their access to economic, social, and political utilities. For a transitional justice system to effectuate tangible change, the system must be made readily available to the female population of India. First and foremost, gender based initiatives must bring women into the discussions. Too often, women are underrepresented in the creation of their own solutions. When analyzing the trends of gender based violence and injustices, women should be a persuasive voice in the conversation.

Secondly, these issues must be dealt with on a legal, educational, and political level. India must abruptly address the social norms and cultural traditions that result in the crimes against women. The advocacy against gender-based violence should first emerge in an educational setting. To fight the violence, you must first be able to recognize the many forms it takes and it’s root causes. Educational institutions can facilitate this recognition by incorporating teachings on gender equality and the reality of harm inflicted on women. Early education of women’s rights would result in the reduction of victim blaming and social acceptability of violence against women.

From a legal standpoint, India’s laws against gender-based violence are incredibly antiquated and riddled with corrupt enforcement. A zero tolerance stance against gender violence is essential for progress. The cooperation and support of India’s political parties is critical to the creation of zero tolerance laws. Political parties should consider the abhorrent statistics of violence against women as a national failure, and as such, allocate vital resources to the issue. In 2014, India’s prime Minister, Narendra Modi, became the first prime minister to bring up the issue of rape and violence against women in his national address. While this is a clear step in the right direction, it is far from an adequate pace of progress. The state can, and should, play a large and necessary role in the advancement of women’s rights by raising awareness, creating zero tolerance laws, and mobilizing women.

India will require equal participation from educational, legal, and political advocates to eliminate violence against women. Ensuring gender justice and generating societal change will be a difficult, but long overdue, endeavor.

Video: “Walking the Walk: Implementing Comprehensive Transitional Justice Strategies”

April 7, 2014:  Dr. Agnes Hurwitz
“Walking the Walk:  Implementing Comprehensive Transitional Justice Strategies”
Click here for video

Video: “Hierarchies of Victimhood”

March 17, 2014:  Prof. Brandon Hamber
“Hierarchies of Victimhood: The Challenge of Policy Interventions Aimed at Alleviating the Suffering of Victims of Political Violence”
Click here for video

Transitional Justice in the Arab Region: Between Complexities and Standardization

A Conversation with Habib Nassar:

Please join the Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Middle East expert Habib Nassar about the latest developments in transitional justice in the Arab region.

Please note the discussion will start at 6:00 p.m. and will take place this Thursday, November 21 in the New York Law School Boardroom, W204.

Transitional Justice in the Arab Region: Between Complexities and Standardization

A Conversation with Habib Nassar:

Please join the Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Middle East expert Habib Nassar about the latest developments in transitional justice in the Arab region.

Please note the discussion will start at 6:00 p.m. and will take place this Thursday, November 21 in the New York Law School Boardroom, W204. 
Link for flyer can be found below.
Director for Middle East and North Africa
Habib Nassar is the director for the Middle East and North Africa and is responsible for developing PILnet’s programs in the region. He has 15 years of experience working on human rights and transitional justice in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Before joining PILnet in October 2012, he worked with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNDP as a senior transitional justice adviser for the Middle East and North Africa in 2012. Prior to that, Nassar worked at the International Center for Transitional Justice for almost 6 years. He first served as senior associate in charge of North Africa, focusing mostly on Morocco and Algeria. Between 2009 and 2012, he managed the MENA program and led its expansion to the Arab Spring countries.  Before joining ICTJ, Nassar worked for several local and international human rights groups. He worked as a MENA researcher for the Human Rights Defenders Program at New York-based Human Rights First. In Beirut, he was the secretary general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections working on elections monitoring and reform. Nassar also served as legal advisor and board member of the Committee of the Families of the Abducted and Missing Persons in Lebanon through which he worked on a strategy for addressing the problem of the “missing” during the war. He was an associate attorney at the Takla, Trad, and Daouk Law Firm in Beirut between 1998 and 2004. Nassar has a LL.M. from New York University School of Law, a post-graduate degree of Advanced Studies (DEA) in international law from Université Paris II and a law degree from Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut.

Brazil’s reckoning with transitional justice

On November 14, 2014, please join the New York Law School Transitional Justice Network for a conversation with Brazilian Transitional Justice Expert Marcelo D. Torelly about Brazil’s amnesty dilemma for dictatorship-era criminals.

This event is co-sponsored by the NYLS Institute for Global Law, Justice and Policy and the ASIL Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Interest Group; and chaired by Professor Ruti Teitel, the Ernst C. Stiefel Professor of Comparative Law at New York Law School.

Marcelo D. Torelly is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School. He has been Advisor, Brazilian Ministry of Justice on Transitional Justice issues, as well as Manager, Transitional Justice Exchange and Development Program, and has taught theory and philosophy of law at Brasilia Catholic University.


Thursday November 14, 2013


6:15pm – 8:00pm


New York Law School

185 West Broadway (corner of Leonard Street)

Boardroom, W204 (2nd Floor)

New York, New York 10013

* Light refreshments will be served.



A Reflection on the International Criminal Court with Luis Moreno Ocampo

On April 16, 2013, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court visited New York Law School to discuss the dilemmas currently confronting the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr. Ocampo began the discussion by reflecting on the evolution of the Court since its inception in 2002 and the unique challenges he faced as the first Chief Prosecutor of the Court, such as selecting which issues the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) should handle first.  Mr. Ocampo and his colleagues at the OTP were guided by three policies in making the decision: respecting the principle of complementarity, fulfilling the Court’s mandate to prevent future crimes and punishing the most responsible individuals.  Read more >>

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Planning for Transitional Justice in Syria

For the past two years the world has watched as the conflict in Syria has grown. What began as street protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in 2011 has escalated into a civil war, as the opposition to the Syrian government has become an organized military and political force in Syria. Given the nearly impossible task of collecting evidence of human rights violations after fact, there has been action by groups outside Syria who are already planning a transitional justice framework for a post-Assad Syria. With the UN Security Council condemning the Syrian government, the UN General Assembly calling for President al-Assad to resign and the U.S., Britain, France and Turkey officially recognizing the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people,” is now the appropriate time for the Syrian people to create a framework for transitional justice? Read more >>

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