Detlev Mehlis is out, and Serge Brammertz is in, as the U.N. palm-reading of the Syrian state's ruddy hands continues where the murder of Rafik Hariri had sought to leave off.
Born in 1962, Brammertz acquired degrees in law and criminology (followed by the doctorate, once again in law) and received appointment as National Magistrate in Belgium by age 35. He was made Federal Prosecutor five years later and International Criminal Court Deputy Prosecutor one year after that; this elevation to the adventurous body was greeted with the official announcement that "Belgium will continue to support any and all action which aims, through the ratification of the Statute of Rome by additional countries, to ensure that the International Criminal Court is endowed with universal jurisdiction."
Contrary, perhaps, to our instincts about these things, the latest tap upon Brammertz' shoulder, carried out as it has been by the soured and abashed Kofi Annan, has been greeted by at least some of the relevant Americans. "Bush administration officials reacted warmly to the news," The Washington Post relays, "saying that Brammertz has a reputation as a tough and thorough investigator." The Post goes on to report that said officials "have no objection to supporting a prosecutor recruited from the ICC," pointing out somewhat less warmly that the Court is, for those not keeping track, "an institution the United States has long opposed."
What is critical, and what the selection of Brammertz appears not to defeat, is the maintenance of an encircling and contracting wall of inevitability around the Syrian government: Brammertz steps into a role where objections are registered as car bombings and death threats are the norm (courtesy of Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant, the thugs who have already shorn the 'threat' element from their treatment of high-profile anti-Syrian journalist MP Gibran Tueni, timed within hours on December 12 to the most recent Mehlis report).
The legacy of Hariri, through the investigation that memorializes his name, is that Syria is literally a case-study stomping grounds for the inexorable and quite nonviolent holding to account of what appears certainly to be a crank bloodnumb regime by the ministers of international law. Rarely do great-power interests overlap and coincide, and then in such a way as to line up with the prerogatives and obligations of the would-be universal criminal justice program. Pinning Bashar Assad and his family of cronies under a glare similar to that now trained on Ante Gotovina keeps international law robust but narrowly tailored, its targets a suitably exclusive rogue's gallery. To the extent that ICC lawyers are hired out personally by the United Nations for independent investigations against enemies of the United States specifically and ordered liberty as a whole, American opposition to the ICC takes on an academic flavor -- feeling more a matter of style than substance.
Of course, the entrenchment of a new, binding, and globe-spanning power of U.N. criminal law is substantial indeed, but in a world where power politics has always been the open secret of legitimate international norms, France, America, the United Nations, and everyone else short of Assad and his brethren stand everything to gain and nothing to lose from the all-for-one support of Brammertz' one-for-all assignment.