Posts by: Alex DeWaal

Last weekend, the first few days after the United Kingdom’s long-heralded, anti-climactic Brexit Day, the online petition to Parliament to revoke Article 50 and stay in the EU hit 6 million signatures. The various pro-Brexit petitions mustered a tenth of that number. The previous weekend, a million people rallied in London to demand the […]

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In South Sudan’s political marketplace, a bad peace deal—or a badly-implemented peace deal—can be as bad as no deal at all. A collapsing peace deal has the potential of unleashing exceptionally severe violence.

According to the ‘do no harm’ precept, those who design peace agreements and steer their implementation, should not allow optimism of the […]

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In March 1990, Africa Watch (the Africa division of Human Rights Watch) published a report on Sudan entitled Denying ‘The Honor of Living,’ Sudan: A Human Rights Disaster. Chapter 4 was entitled ‘Starvation as a Weapon of War’. It was the first HRW report to document links between human rights violations and the […]

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Our March 2019 Employee of the Month is Charles Koch—the Koch brother who remains politically active following the retirement of his younger brother David last year. The Koch brothers are paragons of the new American feudalism, who turned pillaging the commons for personal enrichment into a doctrine for societal misgovernment and planetary recklessness under the […]

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Monuments to Famine

On March 4, 2019 By

Since 1995, more than a hundred memorials to the Irish famine have been erected, from St Stephen’s Green in Dublin to sites in Sydney and Toronto. There are modest memorials in Liverpool and Cardiff – but nothing in London. The closest Britain has come to an apology was in 1997, when Tony Blair acknowledged the ‘deep scars’ of the famine. But the famines in India and Ireland are not yet part of our national story. A public monument, in White- hall, opposite the Treasury, or in St James’s Park, near the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, would be a first step – one we could take actively, rather than prevaricating until apologies are demanded by formerly colonised peoples. The memorial should leave space available to inscribe the names of famines in which British government complicity might come to play a part. ‘Yemen’ will be the first to be added.

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The history of twenty-five years of international criminal tribunals suggests that few culprits of starvation crimes would be indicted and fewer still tried and convicted. Even a successful prosecution would be mostly symbolic, as most perpetrators would escape. But this should not discourage us. Criminalizing starvation has many ramifications. It allows us to shift the shame of starvation from the victim to the perpetrator, to explore restorative justice including reparations, and to develop guarantees of non-recurrence.

The ultimate objective isn’t putting a villain in jail, but making the infliction of starvation so morally toxic that it is unthinkable.

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