On 14 February 2012, Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat participated in an American University Law School`s 2012 Founders` Celebration entitled "The Impact of the Arab Spring Throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa: Building the Rule of Law and the Role of the International Community in Domestic Conflicts." Noura was invited to speak on immunity in international law as it relates to the already deposed and prospectively deposed heads of state of several Arab countries. Her panel, "Protection in Practice: Intervention, Accountability, and the Role of the International Community in Domestic Conflicts," also addressed questions of the utility and normative value of external intervention in national conflicts.
Noura dedicated her comments to exploring whether or not the human rights community could advocate for human rights principles as a stand-alone concept, without taking into account the humans whose lives they are directly affecting. Noura suggested that not taking into account those lives is not viable. In fact, the human rights community`s task is to engender a human rights lexicon that centers humans as agents of change responsible for their self-determination as opposed to objects who benefit from the splendor of human rights. Noura urged that this is especially critical for the human rights community as it looks to support the Arab struggles for democracy, justice, and dignity.
At the moment, when Arab peoples` have shaken off the yoke of decades-long authoritarian rule to reclaim their self-determination and reclaimed their ability to shape their own future as citizens of the state rather than as subjects of authoritarian regimes, advocates should be wary of allowing human rights principles to trump popular will. There is no one-size fits all remedy for the human rights community in response to the Arab uprisings. There is no single policy prescription concerning intervention, immunity, accountability, or protection.
Noura`s comments on immunity explored immunity in international and US jurisprudence, specifically in the International Court of Justice decisions in Germany v. Italy and Arrest Warrant, as well as the recent US Supreme Court decision in Samantar v. Yousuf. Noura concluded that while head-of-state immunity is settled as an immutable concept in international law, its disparate application in the United States and in the course of the Arab Uprisings demonstrates its politicized nature. This finding underscores the responsibility of human rights advocates to serve the best interests of humans struggling for their rights, rather than to advocate for human rights principles in a depoliticized vacuum.