Redefining victory in Ukraine and securing justice for Hassan Diab
Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force
April 25 update: War remains a territorial stalemate. Intense fighting continues in Bakhmut and along the Donetsk front line. Net territorial change in the past month: Ukraine +32 square miles.
A path to end the war
Our Ukraine focus today is a Quincy Brief written by Canadian Zachary Paikin, of the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, entitled The Ukraine War & European Security: How Durable Is America’s Strategy? (quincyinst.org, 25 April 2023).
The United States and its allies have yet to agree on what they deem an acceptable endgame to the war. In Paikin’s view:
Without clearly and credibly proposing policies that can lower the temperature, and without beginning to envisage what a future European security order might look like, the United States risks prolonging the conflict — with potentially unforeseeable consequences if popular war–weariness continues to grow.
In summation, Paikin argues:
Alongside continued support for Ukraine, carefully crafted diplomatic proposals can make the outcome of the war more predictable, lower the risk of escalation, and stabilize the U.S.–Russia rivalry.
While a window for pursuing them may not emerge until later this year, the time to begin preparations is now.
Paikin provides an important new way to consider assessing victory for Ukraine.
If Ukraine cannot retake all its territory by force, perhaps victory for Ukraine should be viewed not in territorial terms, but rather with respect to whether it can survive as a sovereign and viable state, capable of charting a path toward a “European” future.
Especially if one considers the requirements to move from EU candidate country status to full membership, there is much to commend Paikin’s argument that
for Kyiv the more significant struggle is to secure the rule of law, foster functional state institutions and pursue key reforms rather than winning back all territory.
And he cautions:
These essential tasks will become more difficult the longer the war persists.
Russia’s place in Europe
In Paikin’s view:
The consolidation of Europe’s post–Cold War continental order around NATO and the EU has left Russia without a role in a shared security system that it can deem to be commensurate with its claimed status and attuned to its declared vital interests.
Great power or not, Russia retains significant disruptive power and a sizable stake in the European security system.
Therefore, there remains the structural challenge of finding an adequate place for Russia in Europe on mutually acceptable terms.
The question of timing
On the prospects for a negotiated settlement, Paikin writes:
Today, there is little basis for a negotiated settlement. Russia continues to insist on Ukrainian capitulation to its (admittedly amorphous and shifting) demands, while Ukraine believes it can retake all its territory militarily.
But after renewed Ukrainian offensives in the spring and summer….it may have become evident to both Moscow and Kyiv that realizing the entirety of their military aims is impractical, at least within the confines of the current war….
As such, the autumn of 2023 may mark a moment where transatlantic allies can develop and put forward a shared understanding of an end to the current phase of hostilities and the conditions for a ceasefire or partial negotiated settlement that both Kyiv and Moscow might accept.
Paikin therefore proposes:
While maintaining support for Ukraine, the Biden administration should begin developing policy proposals to put into action later this year. These could be threefold — and would be aimed at persuading Moscow that it can secure some of its core interests through diplomatic rather than military means.
Paikin summarizes his first proposal as follows:
- The Biden administration should signal its openness to revitalizing (“renewing and reinterpreting”) the principle of indivisible security in the Euro–Atlantic area, to ensure that the security concerns of all regional actors are given a fair hearing.
This proposal touches on one of the core principles that should inform the European security order.
In Moscow’s interpretation, indivisible security implies that no state in the Euro–Atlantic area should increase its security at the expense of another state.
Signaling a desire to develop shared understandings on the nature of this principle could therefore clear a path for more detailed discussions on security guarantees for both Russia and Ukraine.
The second proposal calls on the Biden administration to:
- Coordinate with allies to communicate proposals for sanctions relief in exchange for a phased disengagement of Russian forces following a ceasefire, which would result in a longer–term political process to resolve Ukraine’s territorial integrity while creating the space necessary to focus on discussing security guarantees for all parties.
While the lifting of sanctions would only take place after Russia has fulfilled certain measures [eg phased Russian withdrawal from occupied territory and the insertion of an internationally recognized interposing force], for the sake of credibility the Biden administration must [first] indicate that it is open to this possibility.
Such signalling by the Biden administration is fundamental to defining the endgame:
So long as Moscow believes that there is little prospect of sanctions relief, it will have no incentive to compromise on its military aims.
The third proposal is that the Biden administration establish a “transatlantic task force” to:
- Build trust by developing ad hoc proposals for arms control on the continent, to counterbalance the current dynamic of ramping up military–industrial production for an era of renewed interstate war in Europe.
Paikin outlines the added benefit of such a mechanism beyond helping to avoid a ‘race to the bottom’:
And given that a ceasefire or settlement in Ukraine could eventually involve an arms control component regarding limitations on the placement of forces and missiles, this task force could have a positive effect on efforts to prevent renewed hostilities between Moscow and Kyiv.
For the full analysis, which we highly recommend, click HERE.
China’s mediation of Ukraine war
In a positive step, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone on 26 April 2023 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who subsequently reported on Twitter:
I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 26, 2023
According to Le Monde with AFP:
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that during the call Xi told Zelensky “talks and negotiation” were the “only way out” of the war.”
At a press conference after the call, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said:
The Chinese side will send a special representative of the Chinese government on Eurasian affairs to visit Ukraine and other countries to conduct in-depth communication with all parties for a political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
The article also recalled that
Zelensky has said repeatedly he would be open to talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi.
Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason comments:
A fundamental issue for Ukraine is reassurance that Russia will not violate the peace agreement in future. Security guarantees from both China and the US can play a key role in such reassurance.
For further analysis of the potential role of China, see Can China broker peace in Ukraine? Don’t rule it out (Rajan Menon and Daniel R DePetris, theguardian.com) 28 April 2023.
THE MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE AGAINST HASSAN DIAB
On Friday, 21 April 2023, the French Special Assize Court found Canadian citizen Hassan Diab guilty in absentia of a horrific 1980 synagogue bombing in Paris despite overwhelming evidence that he was not in France at the time.
In an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail on the same day entitled Canada must put a stop to injustice in the Hassan Diab case, once and for all former head of Amnesty International Canada Alex Neve and Law Professor Robert J. Currie wrote:
It is an indictment of the French justice system that the crime has remained unresolved ever since the devastating terrorist attack at the Rue Copernic synagogue killed four people and injured 46 others on Oct. 3, 1980.
But justice is not served by scapegoating.
Their op-ed outlines the “Kafkaesque 15-year journey through the Canadian and French legal systems” that Hassan Diab and his family have had to endure, including:
- Extradition in 2014 from Canada to France, despite the Canadian extradition judge’s ruling of the “weak case” against Diab and the “unlikely” prospects of conviction, due to the “stunningly low bar” required under Canadian law for the granting of extradition.
- Three years mainly in solitary confinement in France before trial, despite French assurances during the Canadian extradition proceeding that they were ready to go to trial.
- A successful appeal by French prosecutors from the 2018 dismissal of the case, requiring a trial, despite discredited handwriting evidence and corroborated alibi evidence that Mr. Diab was writing university exams in Lebanon at the time of the attack.
- A trial in absentia in France, resulting in a conviction on 21 April 2023 and a sentence of life imprisonment, based on the same weak and discredited evidence that caused the case to be withdrawn by French judges in 2018.
Neve and Currie write:
Unsourced, unverified, and anonymous intelligence information, abandoned by French authorities during the extradition, was also brought back to court, and cannot be challenged.
There is no transcript of the proceedings, making it impossible to examine exactly what transpired.
Neve and Currie continue:
Evidence and rules of criminal procedure that would never be allowed in a Canadian courtroom have carried the day. There is little doubt that the resulting conviction is profoundly, scandalously unsound.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comments in 2018
After Dr. Diab’s 2018 return to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said:
I think, for Hassan Diab, we have to recognize first of all that what happened to him never should have happened […] and make sure that this never happens again.
A statement from Justice Minister David Lametti after the latest verdict indicated that he would review the French court’s written decision when it is released.
He further stated:
It would be inappropriate to speculate on any potential requests for extradition for Dr. Diab to France.
But, in Canadian law, the decision whether or not to proceed with the extradition is entirely at the minister’s discretion.
In the view of Neve and Currie, with which we strongly agree:
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti can rescue Mr. Diab from this maze of injustice once and for all.
He must make it clear to the French government that Canada will no longer be complicit in this travesty, and that under no circumstances will any further extradition request be granted.
PLEASE CALL ON JUSTICE MINISTER LAMETTI TO TELL THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT THAT CANADA WILL REFUSE ANY FURTHER EXTRADITION REQUESTS FOR HASSAN DIAB.
Note that the Federal NDP has also called on the Government of Canada to “block the extradition of Dr. Hassan Diab”.
Here are the relevant email addresses:
NDP Justice Critic Randall Garrison: < Randall.Garrison@parl.gc.ca >
Conservative Justice Critic Rob Moore: < Rob.Moore@parl.gc.ca >
Bloc Quebecois Justice Critic Rhéal Fortin: < Rhéal.Fortin@parl.gc.ca >
Green Party Justice Critic Elizabeth May: < Elizabeth.May@parl.gc.ca >
And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.
We call upon the Minister of Justice to advise the Government of France forthwith that Canada will reject any further extradition requests for Hassan Diab.
We further call upon the Government of Canada to expedite a long-overdue reform of Canada’s extradition law to ensure such a travesty of justice can never happen again.
Photo credit: Wikimedia (French Special Assize Court)