UN Security Council Remove Osama bin Laden from Sanctions List

Feb. 25, 2013 – The U.N. Security Council has removed Osama bin Laden from its list of individuals subject to a travel ban and assets freeze for associating with Al Qaeda.

The Security Council’s 1267 committee made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on its website.

While bin Laden breaching his travel ban was no longer an issue, it is believed that an investigation into any assets he may have left was the reason for delaying his de-listing.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Irish Government Take First Steps in Addressing UN Torture Committee Recommendations on Magdalene Laundries

Feb. 19, 2013 – Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday made a formal apology to the women who were inmates of the Magdalene Laundries run by Catholic nuns from 1922 to 1996.

Women and girls were involuntarily admitted to these institutions, had their names changed, were deprived of an education, were forced to work without pay, and suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

In 2011, the UN Committee Against Torture took up their case and made the following recommendations:

“The Committee recommends that the State party (Ireland) should institute prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that were allegedly committed in the Magdalene Laundries, and, in appropriate cases, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences committed, and ensure that all victims obtain redress and have an enforceable right to compensation including the means for as full rehabilitation as
possible.”

A Government-commissioned report earlier this month revealed that more than 10,000 women had passed through these institutions from the founding of the state until when the last one closed in 1996.

That report also revealed the Irish State was involved in these laundries in a number of ways: by sending women and girls to the workhouses, by returning runaways, and by paying for the services of the laundries.

When Kenny spoke on Feb. 5 after the release of the report, his lack of an official apology was met with bitter disappointment by the survivors and their families.

On Tuesday, he delivered that apology, saying: “I, as Taoiseach (Prime Minister), on behalf of the state, the Government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry.”

He also said a fund will be established to compensate the women and the Government will contribute funds to the establishment of a national memorial “to remind us all of this dark part of our history.”

Following Kenny’s apology, Samantha Long, whose mother Margaret was an inmate in a Magdalene laundry, tweeted:


- Denis Fitzgerald

Horrific Abuses Against Syrian Children – U.N. Inquiry

Feb. 18, 2013 – Almost half of Syria’s population is under the age of 18 and they are bearing the brunt of the violence in the conflict that is now entering its third year.

Accounts of the killing, rape, torture and detention of minors as well as attacks on schools and hospitals are documented in the latest report from the UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Syria, which was released on Monday and covers the six months from mid-July 2012 to mid-January 2013.

“Children of both sexes have been unlawfully killed and wounded; they have been subjected to, and possibly singled out for, sexual violence,” the report says. “They have been subjected to other forms of torture in detention facilities, checkpoints and during military and security force operations.”

The CoI says it has “documented a substantial number of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks, and disproportionate attacks” that have resulted in the death and injury to children, including “attacks on refugee camps, bakeries, schools, village houses and other everyday locales” by government forces using artillery and air power.

Children as young as twelve, and in one case as young as eight, have been held in adult detention centers, where they have been tortured and deprived of adequate food and water, according to people interviewed by the CoI.

A 14-year-old boy told the Inquiry that he was arrested after taking part in a protest outside his local mosque in early June: “He described being beaten with electric wire and a hosepipe while being hung, suspended from the ceiling; being burnt with cigarettes and hot metal; being hit in the face resulting in a broken nose; and being threatened with rape.” He was released in late October, the report says.

The UN investigators conducted 41 interviews in relation to sexual violence and “direct accounts were sought from victims and eyewitnesses.” They write that “there are particular difficulties in collecting evidence in cases of sexual violence against women and girls due to cultural, social and religious beliefs surrounding marriage and sexuality.”

In one case that the CoI has recorded, a girl whose mother had worked with the Free Syrian Army was abducted  by four men, two in military uniform, and taken to an unknown building for questioning.

The girl “described her kidnapping and rape in [location withheld] in December.” 

“During the interrogation, she was beaten with electrical wire, given injections, beaten and had cigarettes extinguished on her chest. She was denied food and water for extended periods of time. On the fifth day of her detention, four young men were brought into the room where they raped her,” the report states. 

“Two days later, she was released. Her father took her to a gynecologist outside Syria. In a separate interview, the doctor confirmed bruises, cigarette burns, injection marks on arms, and sexual injuries to the victim. This 14-year-old girl has tried to commit suicide three times, saying, ‘My life has no value. I lost everything, what has gone will never come back.’”

In another incident, a local resident told the UN investigators that a neighborhood in Homs was searched by Government security forces and Shabbiha in September.

“Security forces went from house to house detaining men. If men were not found in the house, the soldiers claimed they must be fighting with the FSA. The resident said that his aunt had been one of the women captured by Shabbiha along with between 40 and 50 other women from different streets and taken to a wedding hall in the town. He said women were raped, and daughters raped in front of their mothers. Some were kept for hours and others were kept for a few days with one woman kept up to 12 days.”

The full report is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald

FIFA Grant Kosovo Right to Play Friendly Matches

FIFA Grant Kosovo Right to Play Friendly Matches

An Independent Scotland Not Likely to Face Difficulties Joining UN

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Feb. 11, 2013 – British Prime Minister David Cameron was correct when he said earlier on Monday that an independent Scotland will have to renegotiate its relationship with international bodies but secessionists need not worry about Edinburgh encountering problems joining the UN.

While Kosovo and Palestine see their path to full UN membership blocked in the Security Council by Russia and the United States respectively, there are several examples of newly-independent states getting admitted hassle-free as full United Nations member states.

South Sudan was admitted to the UN on July 9, 2012, a year after it broke from Khartoum. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were both admitted to the UN on Jan 19, 1993, nineteen days after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.

Several former Soviet states were also admitted in the early nineties including Central Asian countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The former Yugoslav states Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia all joined the UN in 1992 or 1993. Before then, Bangladesh was admitted shortly after its separation from Pakistan. An earlier example is the readmission of Syria after it broke from the then United Arab Republic.

Full membership of the United Nations requires a recommendation from the Security Council and a simple majority vote in the General Assembly.

Barring an unlikely veto from the UK, Edinburgh should not have a problem getting the Security Council’s recommendation and would be expected to easily secure General Assembly approval.

A more troubling scenario for Scotland is whether it would have to renegotiate the 14,000 international treaties the UK has signed.

Denis Fitzgerald

‘Flying Cameras’ for DRC not Armed Drones says Peacekeeping Chief

Feb. 6, 2013 – The head of U.N. peacekeeping operations on Wednesday said the planned deployment of unmanned aircraft vehicles for surveillance in the Democratic Republic of Congo should not be conflated with the use of drone aircraft by the United States to launch missiles.

“Maybe the word should not be drones because these days, you know, people associate the word drones with the image of missiles being launched,” Herve Ladsous said at a press conference when asked about the recent authorization by the Security Council to allow MONUSCO deploy surveillance drones in the DRC. “No, no, no,” he said. “This clearly is UAVs for surveillance purposes only, basically a flying camera.”

Or, to put it another way, drones that take pictures, not lives.

The U.N. says it will use the drones to monitor the movements of militia groups and to help it better respond to humanitarian situations.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Breakdown of $1.5 Billion Raised at Syria Aid Conference

Feb. 4, 2013 – Thirty-eight countries plus the European Commission pledged more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria at a donors conference in Kuwait last week.

The amounts ranged from $20,000, from Cyprus, to $300 million, by three countries – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. 

Japan, $65 million; Finland, $4.5 million; Poland, $500,000; and Botswana $50,000 were among the donors.

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About one-third of the funds raised are targeted for the UN humanitarian response plan for delivering aid inside Syria. That plan requires $519 million from January to June 2013 to assist 2.5 million Syrians. More than 50 percent of hospitals inside Syria have been damaged and about one-third are out of service. The National Hospital in Damascus has been completely destroyed, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. There are also shortages of food, fuel and medicines. The disbursement of aid is contingent on donor countries following through on their pledges.

The remaining funds are targeted to assist the ever growing number of refugees in neighboring countries. The number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries currently exceeds 750,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

At least 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011 when the government started using lethal force to suppress anti-government protests.

Denis Fitzgerald

South Korea Take Reins Of Security Council For February As North Korea Threatens Action


Feb. 1, 2013 – South Korea assumes presidency of the Security Council for February as the threat of another nuclear test by North Korea looms.

A confluence of events make February a ripe month for Pyongyang to consider conducting its third nuclear test. That Seoul is presiding over the body that has already passed two rounds of international sanctions against it is reason enough but there are two other events this month that North Korea may well mark with an expression of its defiance of the international community.

Late leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday falls on Feb 16 and the inauguration of South Korea’s president-elect Park Geun-hye takes place Feb 25. In a Jan 25 letter to the Security Council, North Korea gave note of its intention to “bolster the military capabilities for self-defence, including the nuclear deterrence, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to cope with the ever more undisguised moves of the United States.” 

Pyongyang has in the past shown a preference to act on holidays. It conducted its first nuclear test on Oct 9, 2006, timed to mar Columbus Day celebrations in the U.S., a second nuclear test on Memorial Day 2009, and a missile test – contravening Council resolution 1874 – on July 4, 2009.

The Council expanded sanctions against North Korea last month over its failed Dec 2012 missile launch. Pyongyang condemned the move and in the Jan 25 letter stated that, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will continuously launch satellites for peaceful purposes to conquer space and become a world-level power.” 

- Denis Fitzgerald