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Discussing the International Criminal Tribunal; Directors of Five Broken Cameras Documentary Speak Out

Aired February 18, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Kenyans head to the polls in a few weeks to elect their next president. And for the first time ever, the campaign has featured a televised presidential debate.

The two frontrunners are Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and the current prime minister, Raila Odinga.

Memories of the violence that broke out after the last election in 2007 are still raw in Kenya. Indeed, Candidate Kenyatta has been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives.

And of course, his opponent didn't hesitate to deliver a debate zinger.


RAILA ODINGA, PRIME MINISTER, KENYA: I know it would pose serious challenges to run a government by Skype from The Hague.

I know that is not practical.


AMANPOUR: Jokes aside, this is a remarkable moment in the annals of power and international justice. For the past 20 years, the world has been steadily working towards holding even the very highest officials accountability.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY was established back in 1993. It was the first since the Nuremberg trials that prosecuted Nazi leaders for genocide after World War II.

At the turn of this millennium, for the first time ever, a sitting head of state was indicted, imprisoned and tried, Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, though he died before the trial ended. But generals and footsoldiers have been convicted. And in a landmark case, rape as a weapon of war has been determined to constitute a crime against humanity.

So from Sierra Leone to Liberia, from Congo to Libya, the long arm of international justice has reached out to meet people's demands to hold their leaders and their warlords accountability for the most heinous of crimes. It is tough, it is slow going and sometimes critics even say that seeking justice can get in the way of sealing (ph) peace.

But my guest, Judge Theodor Meron, says that there is no alternative. He's the president of the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, and he spent decades laying down the law.


AMANPOUR: Judge Meron, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Great to see you. Twenty years later -- and I remember when the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia was formed back in 1993 -- what has it achieved, would you say?

MERON: I think it has been really a first rate success.

When we started 50 years after Nuremberg, we started from the scratch. We had no support of government; we had no rules of procedure. We had to flesh out the crimes. And we had extremely limited, practically non-existent cooperation of states.

But I think that it's wonderful that, after those 50 years, we had a seismic change in international law, first of human rights revolution, followed by the establishment for the first time of international criminal courts.

AMANPOUR: And yet it has taken a long time.

MERON: A very long time.

AMANPOUR: Ratko Mladic, who was known as the Butcher of the Balkans -- I covered all the horrors that were committed by the Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia throughout the '90s -- it was only two years ago that he was captured and handed over to ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

Let me play you a sound bite, actually a witness testimony, one of the first witnesses who went on the podium.

MERON: By all means.


ELVEDIN PASIC, THE HAGUE WITNESS: The friends and the family members from Dugonjic, they were crying; the mom was crying. She -- and I asked Mom, why is she crying. So that's how somebody did something. She said they found Ibro Dugonjic; the old man was burned. People that stay there were also dead, except one, I think, was shot to death. But all the others were burned.


MERON: This is very sad to hear. And yet, our trials have been a marvelous vehicle to reveal the events which took place and provide a credible, historical record, at least of those things that have come up in the trial. And these are very many.

AMANPOUR: How difficult has it been to gather the evidence in these trials about the former Yugoslavia?

MERON: Extremely difficult. And during the first few years, the governments were really not cooperative. And it was a very hard task for the prosecutor. And it was to the credit of lots of witnesses who were often risked their lives and the lives of families, their families, despite gross intimidation that we have obtained that evidence.

AMANPOUR: The court was criticized for acquitting the two Croatian generals. And it raised questions and criticism, particularly from Serbia, then saying, well, look, this is just an anti-Serb court. How do you address those criticisms?

MERON: This is absolute nonsense. We are professional judges. And we are completely ethnicity-blind --

AMANPOUR: Ethnicity-blind?

MERON: -- ethnicity-blind; we are color-blind. We are nationality-blind.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me ask you that because it brings up a couple of tricky points.

MERON: Well, I've been warned.

AMANPOUR: How do you balance international justice and accountability with trying to get a peace accord? And there's two very clear incidents that fall into this purview.

You know, many years ago in Uganda, the president was trying to come to a peace agreement with Joseph Kony, who we all now know, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, child soldiers, terrible atrocities, and actually Uganda tried to see if they could shift the indictment away from Kony.

And Kony, in the end, wouldn't come out from the cold because of the indictment. A few years later, just now, the ICC, the International Criminal Court, wanted a Congolese warlord arrested, Ntaganda. The Congolese government agreed. He then left and created this latest spasm of bloodletting.

MERON: It's very difficult to give you an overarching answer to that. There is synergy in every particular situation. One thing which is clear to me: you will not get peace by sacrificing justice. That does not mean that the timing of various motions bearing on justice cannot be played with.


AMANPOUR: So the timing is important?

MERON: The timing is important; you can play with timing. But I don't think that you can -- you may play with the principle by sacrificing justice. You get nowhere.

AMANPOUR: How can the United States be taken seriously by countries such as, I don't know, Congo or wherever people are looking for accused criminals if they won't subject themselves to the reach of the ICC?

MERON: It took us, I think, something like 20 years to ratify the genocide convention. When it comes to ratification of treaties by the Senate, we are not exactly the fastest runner on the block.


AMANPOUR: Do you think it might happen?

MERON: -- (inaudible). Eventually, probably, it will.

AMANPOUR: I want to go back to when we first met and I interviewed you about a legal opinion you had written when you were the lawyer for the Israeli foreign ministry right after the Six-Day War --

MERON: Correct.

AMANPOUR: -- back in 1967. And you wrote that, "Civilian settlement contravenes the explicit provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention, which protects people living under occupation."

When you remember the legal opinion that you wrote, and you see that it's still going on, and now there are hundreds of settlements and about 400,000 Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, did you ever think you would get this far?

MERON: I probably was already worried about the future at that time, and that's why I drafted that opinion in such explicit and categorical terms, not on the one hand, on the other hand. That was it.

Now all I can say is that I continue to maintain that as a matter of international law, I was right then, I am right now. And I hope that the parties to the conflict will have the good sense to start real negotiations in which settlements will be on the table.

AMANPOUR: Judge Meron, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

MERON: Thanks for having me.


AMANPOUR: The U.N. deems the settlements illegal. But Israel continues to build them. And even its closest ally, the United States, calls them an obstacle to peace.

But what's it like to live in the shadow of those settlements? A Palestinian home movie that's up for an Oscar as Best Documentary on Sunday offers a vivid portrait. It's called "Five Broken Cameras," and it's made by a Palestinian and an Israeli, when we come back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

When a Palestinian farmer named Emad Burnat bought himself a home video camera to record the birth of his youngest son, he didn't realize he'd end up capturing the birth of a movement.

As the unofficial cameraman for his village of Bil'in on the occupied West Bank, Burnat documented five years of local resistance against the encroaching Israeli settlements and the separation wall snaking through his and his neighbors' lands.

These home movies have now been transformed into the Oscar- nominated documentary, "5 Broken Cameras." Very much a Palestinian film, it was nonetheless codirected by Burnat's friend and fellow activist, the Israeli filmmaker, Guy Davidi. And they joined me here in the studio to talk about their Oscar dreams and the serious message they're sending.


AMANPOUR: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi, thank you for joining me. Welcome to the studio.

Let me ask you, first, Emad, it's a really very touching film -- and I've seem quite a lot of these stories. But you decided to do this in a very personal way.

What was it that you were trying to say?

Why did you even pick up the camera in the first place?

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, that's the place when I picked the camera, I wanted to be part of the struggle of my people in the village for. So I wanted to fend for different purposes, to be a witness and to protect the people because I felt and the people felt that the camera could protect them and then because I was the only cameraman in the village.

AMANPOUR: I wanted to ask you, Guy, when Emad came to you with more than 500 hours of this footage and said, here, what could we do with this, what was your first reaction?

Oh, it's just another -- another protest video?

GUY DAVIDI, DIRECTOR: Exactly. Yes. Um, in the beginning, I didn't think that there was a reason to do something because there were, as you said, a lot of films that were done about this issue.

AMANPOUR: What was the specific piece of video that caught your eye?

DAVIDI: I remember I was watching a lot of footage and I caught -- caught my eye at this moment of an old man that is blocking the jeep from taking someone to prison. And I know a lot of people in the village, but I didn't know this old man.

So I asked him what was this guy?

And he told me, "That's my father."

AMANPOUR: Let me play the video and then we'll discuss it.


EMAD BURNAT (from captions): My mother and father try to stop the jeep. I keep thinking, "What should I do?"

I have to believe that capturing these images will have some meaning.


AMANPOUR: So, Emad, Guy, this actually was your father and your mother in there.

AMANPOUR: What was going on there?

EMAD BURNAT: This is my father trying to block the jeep and my mother by the -- my brother was arrested. So they were trying to take him from the soldiers.

So, yes, I was filming. This is my life. I feel that. And this is my story. So I wanted to tell the story from my personal perspective, because people come to make films; they just take shorts and go out there. They didn't feel how's the life there.

AMANPOUR: And as you say, it was also about documenting the birth of your son and how your son was raised.

And we're going to play another short clip about some of your son's first words.


EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Where are we?

GIBREEL BURNAT, EMAD'S SON: (from captions): Jidar.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): The wall?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Matat.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Cartridge. There's a matat.

GIBREEL BURNAT: (Speaking foreign language).

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Watch out!

GIBREEL BURNAT: (Speaking foreign language).

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Don't be afraid.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): What?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Jesh.

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Army.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): So in that short clip, we've seen that your son's first words, Gibreel's first words, were "fence" -- that's the separation fence -- "cartridge" -- spent shells and bullets -- and "army," jesh.

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, this is very strange life for the Western audience, for the people in America or in Europe to watch these scenes, because our kids grow up like this, in this situation. So they open their eyes. They are facing the soldiers around the houses, in the streets. And they talk about the army and the soldiers.

So this is how's the life is in -- so this is how our kids grow up there.

AMANPOUR: And for you, Guy, as an Israeli, I mean, was there sort of a conflict?

On the one hand, you want to tell this personal story; on the other hand, it's all about how these young kids grow up in the fear and the shadow of the Israeli forces and even worse.

DAVIDI: I think a lot of films that are dealing with this subject are -- you go and watch a film about the occupation and you come out and you're angry.

And I wanted, at least in the discourse of the film and the tone of the film, to bring a film that deals with the anger itself, that puts the anger in the center of the film.

AMANPOUR: Now, obviously, everybody wants to know how come a Palestinian farmer, villager who's documenting and diarizing his life behind the fence, joins forces creatively with an Israeli Jew.

Did you think you were going to get criticized? What did you think when you started this?

DAVIDI: Yes, it was -- it was very clear that, for both of us, that we would both be criticized for working with each other.

And I think that the minute we decided the film was be -- it's going to be -- Emad, the main character, it was going to be him in the focus, then, it was much more comfortable for me, as an Israeli, to work with Emad on that, because I'm helping him shape his voice and not -- and not interfering with my own voice in the film directly.

AMANPOUR: What I found quite touching, having covered much of the hard news in these kinds of stories, was that you were also focusing on your friends. One of them was nicknamed Phil.

And he was somebody that your young son, Gibreel, really liked.

And then one day, at one of these protests at the fence, he got shot.

You had to talk to your son about this. And he was asking you questions.

I want to play this video, because it's very human.


GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Why don't you kill the soldiers with a knife?

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): Because they'd shoot me.

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Will there be any left?

EMAD BURNAT (from captions): There will be.

Why do you want to hurt them?

GIBREEL BURNAT (from captions): Because they shot my Phil.

Why did they shoot Phil? What did he do to them?


AMANPOUR: Such complicated violence, political situation, and yet seen through the eyes of a -- of a child, just very ordinary questions about why this happened and what the reaction should be.

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, I, you know, I was shocked and he was shocked by -- when Bassem was killed. And everybody in the village also was shocked.

So when -- when Gibreel says that, it's not surprised me, because he was affected by what happens to Bassem or what's happening in the village.

AMANPOUR: And Gibreel was about four then?

EMAD BURNAT: Yes. And he -- always he was asking questions and what's going on, what's happening here.

AMANPOUR: Bassem, of course -- Phil was his nickname.

AMANPOUR: One scene in the documentary, you have your family come to Tel Aviv. And they go to the sea.

That's quite rare for Palestinian children today, right?

EMAD BURNAT: Yes, it's not easy to go -- to go to the sea for Palestinian kids or even for the Palestinians, because we have no access to the sea.

And so, you know, in the scene, when you see Gibreel and my other son, Taky-Adin -- Taky-Adin is 10 years old and Gibreel was 6 years old, the first time he's to see the sea.

And Taky-Adin, 10 years old, first time to see the sea. So it's very excited for them to see the sea and to come to the sea.

AMANPOUR: You know, there are two documentaries about your region. "Gatekeepers" is one of them, about the Israeli Shin Bet. This film, the Palestinian film, some have been critical inside Israel.

They said, what is all of this? These films going to the Oscars are slandering our nation.

What's your answer to that?

DAVIDI: It's our responsibility in Israeli society that we all try to raise the discussion about the consequences of what we do, so, you know, first of all, films and documentaries are not made in order to represent countries.

They are not -- this is not a Eurovision or a -- or a contest or Olympics. We are doing films in order to create change in our cultures. And that's why the reason that a good thing that in a country financed films that criticize itself. That shows a power to open discussions and to find solutions to the different challenges that we have.

AMANPOUR: Guy Davidi, Emad Burnat, thank you so much for joining me.

EMAD BURNAT: Thank you.

DAVIDI: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And this weekend, the filmmakers will walk the red carpet in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards. Emad Burnat will be at the ceremony with his wife and his son, Gibreel, the focus of his film. He hopes to take home the Oscar to his family and friends in the village of Bil'in.

And Guy Davidi told me that he's on a mission to have the film shown in Israeli schools, stressing how important it is for young Israelis to learn more about life among the Palestinians.

A teachable moment that comes not a moment too soon, as we'll see when we return.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, history, they say, is written by the victors. But in a world where there are no winners, the textbooks themselves have become another battleground. Palestinian schools have long been accused of teaching hate towards the Israelis.

But an exhaustive new study, funded by the U.S. State Department and composed of scholars on both sides of the divide, says that textbooks in Israel and the Palestinian territories glorify their own histories to the extent that the other don't even exist.

Take this map of Israel. And now as it appears in more than half of Palestinian textbooks, you'll notice that Israel isn't even there.

But take a look at how the Palestinian territories appear in three- quarters of Israeli textbooks. That' s right. They don't appear. There's no Gaza, no West Bank. And it's not just a question of dueling maps. Textbooks in Israel describe their brave nation as "a little lamb in a sea of 70 wolves, while Palestinian textbooks offer a counternarrative.

How can either side turn the page as long as this war of words continues? And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website, And you can always join us on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.