The Cable

State Department’s top lawyer stepping down

State Department Counselor Harold Koh will leave government and return to teaching at Yale law school, after four years in a key role in setting the Obama administration's legal policies dealing with international terrorism, the State Department has confirmed.

"Harold Koh was thrilled to serve Secretary Clinton and President Obama as State Department legal advisor over the last four years. But his life is teaching, and he is ready to start the next chapter," a senior State Department official told The Cable.

There is no word yet on Koh's replacement. His resignation comes only days after the Pentagon's top lawyer, Jeh Johnson, also announced his plans to leave the administration.

The Yale Daily News reported that Koh will return to Yale law as a full-time professor. He was dean of the law school from 2004 until 2009, when he was appointed by Obama to his State Department post. Koh is often noted as a defender of the Obama administration's use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries, which some say is at odds with his previous statements criticizing the George W. Bush administration's tactics in fighting the war on Islamic extremists.

"In this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks," Koh said in March 2010, in the administration's first public defense of the killings.

Koh was also the target of some GOP senators, who alleged he was jeopardizing American sovereignty by supporting American acquiescence to parts of international law, such as when the State Department agreed to abide by two additional protocols to the Geneva convention in March 2011.

"Some Americans, including many leading academics and some high-level government officials, view sovereignty as an outmoded notion," Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said in an infamously longwinded speech on international law at a think tank dinner last year, referring to Koh. "In certain American intellectual circles, sovereignty is viewed not as a principle to be upheld, but a problem to be remedied. That view, with roots that reach back decades, is particularly strong among some faculty members at our prestigious law schools."

Koh declined to be interviewed for this article. Kyl is also retiring this year.

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The Cable

Obama’s envoy to Sudan stepping down

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Monday that his special envoy to Sudan, Amb. Princeton Lyman, will leave the administration. Human rights groups are hoping his replacement comes with a Sudan policy focused more on protecting the country's oppressed.

"Princeton has done a tremendous job in helping to realize the promise of an independent South Sudan, and working toward the international vision of Sudan and South Sudan living side by side in peace," Obama said in a statement. "The people of Sudan and South Sudan, who have suffered so much, have the opportunity to seize a brighter future because of Princeton's efforts to urge both sides to put the interests of their people first." 

Lyman will stay in his position until a new envoy is named, and he left Tuesday on a trip that will take him to Juba, South Sudan, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the State Department said. In Juba, Lyman will meet with government officials, civil society leaders, and representatives of international organizations.

"Ambassador Lyman's visit comes at a critical time in the delayed implementation of the historic agreements between Sudan and South Sudan signed on September 27.  The Sudanese and South Sudanese people deserve swift and complete implementation of these agreements, as called for by the AU Peace and Security Council in its October 24 communiqué," the State Department said in a statement. "Special Envoy Lyman will engage South Sudan on the resolution of outstanding issues, such as the disputed area of Abyei, and the implementation of the crucial agreements, including the creation of the safe demilitarized border zone and the resumption of oil production between the two countries.""

In Ethiopia, Lyman will attend a meeting of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism being convened by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel Chairman Thabo Mbeki, the multilateral mechanism meant to solve the outstanding issues between Juba and Khartoum. 

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, praised Lyman in a statement Monday. 

"Ambassador Princeton Lyman is a quintessential diplomat, problem solver, and human rights advocate, and I am saddened to learn of his departure as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan," Coons said.

Seventy-six U.S.-based human rights organizations wrote to Obama today to urge him to shift U.S. Sudan policy in his second term toward more focus on preventing mass atrocities.

Among the concerns of the human rights community are that humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is getting worse, including widespread suffering, food shortages, human rights abuses, fear, displacement and loss of life. Humanitarian access to all areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile is difficult and aid groups are worries that the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in those two areas has the potential to undermine the fragile peace between Sudan and South Sudan.

The letter requests that the Obama administration deliver humanitarian aid to starving Sudanese civilians even absent agreement from the government of Sudan, instruct the National Security Council to accelerate decisions on protection of vulnerable populations from air attacks, and to seriously consider the destruction of Sudan's offensive aerial assets and the imposition of a no-fly zone.

"In your first term, your administration pursued a policy of engagement, marked by conciliatory diplomacy," the letter states. "Under the oversight of two Special Envoys, this policy has failed to stop the government of Sudan from committing ongoing mass atrocities. We now ask that you revamp your Sudan policy to address the root cause of Sudan's multiple conflicts, the repressive and genocidal Sudan regime."