Ireland Becomes 47th Country to Ban Corporal Punishment

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Nov. 11, 2015 - Ireland has become the latest country to ban corporal punishment in all settings, including in the home, after its parliament adopted legislation on Wednesday repealing the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” of children.

The law makes Ireland the 20th European Union state to achieve prohibition of corporal punishment, the 29th Council of Europe member state, and the 47th state worldwide.

Some 80 states and territories worldwide have a law that provides a legal defence for the use of corporal punishment in childrearing derived from English law on “reasonable chastisement.”

Speaking in the Seanad, Ireland’s upper house of parliament, Senator Jillian van Turnhout said during the amendment debate that the reasonable punishment defence “still allows parents and some other carers to justify common assault on children.”

“With this amendment we have a way to unite and agree that all citizens are equal,” she said. “There must never be a defence for violence against children.”

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however slight,” and it calls physical punishment “invariably degrading.”

Corporal punishment in schools is banned in 127 states but only 10 percent of children worldwide are protected by laws banning corporal punishment at home and in school.

Sweden was the world’s first country to ban corporal punishment in 1979.

A full list of countries that have enacted laws prohibiting violence against children in the home and school is below, courtesy of the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment.

Most recent first:

2015 - BeninIreland
2014 - AndorraEstoniaNicaraguaSan MarinoArgentinaBoliviaBrazilMalta
2013 - Cabo VerdeHondurasTFYR Macedonia
2011 - South Sudan
2010 - AlbaniaCongo (Republic of)KenyaTunisiaPoland
2008 - LiechtensteinLuxembourgRepublic of MoldovaCosta Rica
2007 - TogoSpainVenezuelaUruguayPortugalNew ZealandNetherlands
2006 - Greece
2005 - Hungary
2004 - RomaniaUkraine
2003 - Iceland
2002 - Turkmenistan
2000 - GermanyIsraelBulgaria
1999 - Croatia
1998 - Latvia
1997 - Denmark
1994 - Cyprus
1989 - Austria
1987 - Norway
1983 - Finland
1979 - Sweden

Council to Meet on UNDOF Sept. 18

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Sept. 3 – The Security Council will receive Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the UNDOF mission in the Golan Heights on Sept. 12 and is set to meet with peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous over the future of the mission six days later.

Forty-five Fijian UNDOF peacekeepers taken hostage last week by Al Nusra remain in captivity.

Ladsous spoke to reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday and backed UNDOF force commander Iqbal Singh Singha amid reports that he ordered a Filipino contingent to hand over their weapons to the Al Nusra militants holding the Fijian troops.

He said the Filipino troops were told to “keep their weapons quiet” but not to surrender them.

He added that the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations is looking at “the way the force is configured.”

The Philippines announced in August that it is withdrawing its troops from UNDOF at the end of September citing security concerns (it is also withdrawing its troops from UNMIL in Liberia over the Ebola outbreak).

Ireland’s Defence Minister Simon Coveney told Morning Ireland on Monday that the Irish government would seek a review of the mission before deciding whether to send new troops when the current contingent end their tour of duty at the end of September.

Ban Ki-moon recommended over a year ago that the force’s self-defense capabilities be enhanced. While the force has received more robust armor, it is understood that both the UN Secretariat and troop contributing countries believe the Security Council has not done enough to ensure UNDOF has the defensive equipment it needs.

Irish troops, along with the Fijian contingent, were deployed after Japanese, Croatian and Austrian troops withdrew last year because of the security situation. Austria had been the longest serving contributor to the mission, having joined UNDOF when it was formed in 1974 to observe the ceasefire agreement between Syria and Israel following the end of the 1973 war.

The Council also increased the size of the force in June last year by about 300 troops. It’s current configuation has over 1,200 troops from six countries.

Ladsous said on Wednesday that in addition to Al Nusrah there are about six or seven other armed opposition groups operating in the area of separation.

In Ban Ki-moon’s report to the Council in June this year, he outlined a number of incidents in which the security of UNDOF troops was threatened. As a result of the security situation, Ban is required to report on UNDOF every three months instead of the usual six.

In his June 2014 report, Ban wrote that armed opposition groups were tailing UNDOF patrols, presumably as protection from Syrian government forces, that two peacekeepers were injured by a tank round on July 7, and that another patrol witnessed members of an armed group walking past its post with a severed head.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Al Nusra Confirms Holding UN Peacekeepers

 

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A photo posted on Twitter by the Al Nusral front showing the UN Fijian peacekeepers abducted from their position in the Golan Heights.

Aug 31, 2014 – The Al Nusra Front have confirmed they have taken hostage UN peacekeepers from Fiji abducted from the UN’s Golan Heights observer mission.

The group said it is holding the peacekeepers hostage “in reply to all crimes committed by the UN against al-Sham since 1974 in protecting the zionist Israeli border, we took 43 UNDOF hostages.”

The UN have said that 44 Fijian troops have been detained. It has not yet said who is holding them hostage.

“Al Nusra is on terrorist list and on sanction list. All we do is offer support for our brothers in Syris. In exchange, we face the UN article 7,” the group said. Article 7 of the UN charter authorizes the use of force to maintain international peace and security.

“We confirm all 43 UNDOF are in a secure place, in good health and receive medical attention,” Al Nusra said.

The UN observer force in Golan was established in 1974 in response to a ceasefire agreement agreement between Israel and Syria following the end of the 1973 war. It patrols a demiltarized zone agreed on both sides.

UN troops were mandated to observe the ceasefire, in the absence of a peace agreement between the countries, and occupy a zone which both sides declared should be demilitarized, according to their disengagement agreement.

Meanwhile, the UN says the 40 Filipino troops pinned down in their position have been vacated following a ceasefire agreed with armed groups.

Some 70 Filipino troops had come under fire in their positions following the abduction of the Fijian troops. Irish troops rescued some 30 of those peacekeepers on Friday. The remaining Filipino were troops engaged in a standoff with armed groups, including Al Nusra, until a ceasefire was arranged.

Fijian Commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitogan told the Fiji Times that he has been informed that his troops are safe and have been removed from the Golan by their captives but is unsure of their location. “I am sure sooner or later they will provide a demand to the UN but at this stage we can wait and see what happens in the next few days.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Fijian Peacekeepers Still Detained, Filipino Troops in Armed Standoff are Rescued

UNDOF
Aug. 29, 2014 – The UN continues to seek the release of the the Fijian peacekeepers detained in the Golan Heights and on Friday updated the number held hostage to 44.

Meanwhile, Filipino troops who were surrounded by armed elements have been evacuated to the peacekeeping mission’s headquarters in Golan in an operation aided by Irish peacekeepers.

The UN of Friday put the number of Filipino troops trapped at 72.

“Irish personnel secured a route, provided security as UNDOF troops withdrew from a UN position and escorted them to the Force Headquarters in Camp Faouar,” said a statement posted on the Irish Defence Forces website.

It is not yet known if all 72 troops have been evacuated.

The 44 Fijian troops detained by an armed group, believed to be Al Nusra, were first taken to a UN post staffed by Filipino troops, a source who had been briefed on the situation told UN Tribune. There the Filipino troops were threatened and ordered to hand over their weapons. The Filipino contingent managed to escape to another UN position and it is there they were surrounded by the armed elements who had also captured UN vehicles.

The UN is not aware of where the captive Fijian troops are being held or if all 44 are being held at the same location, a source said.

A spokesperson for the UN’s Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations declined to comment citing the sensitive nature of the ongoing situation.

Update: The UN spokesperson’s office late Friday sent the following statement to reporters:

The United Nations has received assurances from credible sources that the 44 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) who were taken from their position on the morning of Thursday, 28 August, are safe and in good health.  UNDOF has not yet had direct contact with these peacekeepers.

“UNDOF has been informed that the intention behind those holding the peacekeepers was to remove them from an active battlefield to a safe area for their own protection.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

New Books on the ICC, Agenda Setting, and Irish Peacekeepers

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Aug. 18, 2014 – Three new books look at the power politics at play in the UN with respect to the International Criminal Court, the global advocacy movement, and UN peacekeeping.

In David Bosco’s rigorous account of the first ten years of the ICC, Rough Justice, the evolution of the Court is examined alongside the evolving role played by major powers, primarily the United States, but also including China, India and Russia – who were, and who mostly still are, distrustful of the Court, along with other powers who are mostly supporters of the Court – Brazil, Britain, France, Germany and South Africa.

Bosco notes that the US actively petitioned other countries to not ratify the Rome Statute but later abstained in a 2005 UN Security Council vote referring the situation in Sudan to the ICC (He also writes that later all permanent members of the Council were against the ICC indicting Sudanese Pres. Bashir). In 2011, the US voted for Resolution 1970 referring the situation in Libya to the Court, but the Council have not, as Bosco reminds us, included an enforcement mechanism or allocated funds for the investigations in both these cases.

While the Council has referred situations to the ICC, when the authors of the Goldstone Report on Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008 concluded that the violations “fall within the subject-matter jurisdictions of the International Criminal Court,” Bosco writes that then US envoy to the UN Susan Rice “privately emphasized to Israeli President Shimon Peres the US ‘commitment not to allow the issue to move from the Security Council to the International Criminal Court.’”

He adds that there is mounting evidence that the Court prefers to avoid situations involving big powers, citing Afghanistan as another example.

Among his conclusions on the first ten years of the ICC, Bosco writes that “the court has, for the most part, become a toolkit of major powers responding to instability and violence in weaker states” but so far there is little evidence that is has altered “political power realities.”

However, “the failure of the US-led marginalization campaign and other efforts to delay or defer court processes on political grounds signal that even major powers are limited in their ability to challenge frontally justice processes that have begun… however, that inability may have opened space for less obvious mechanisms for control.”

Charil Carpenter’s Lost Causes is concerned with what issues get promoted by “global advocacy elites.” As just one instance, she notes that “internal wars are an important concern for conflict prevention analysts but gangs and urban violence are on the margins of the global security agenda” (yet most armed violence occurs in countries not in armed conflict).

Carpenter’s book is sub-titled ‘Agenda Vetting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security’ and her theory, which she expounds on with several examples, is that advocacy elites choose issues not based “on their merits, or mandate, or the wider political context, but partly on calculations about the structure of their institutional relationships – to other actors, to other issues.”

The material is at times dense but the book is well organized and the topics the author chooses to illuminate her theory are well chosen, and it provides good insight into how the UN, particularly the Security Council and the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, adopt positions. Carpenter writes that one advocate campaigning for compensation to families of civilians killed in conflict was advised not to contact the human rights officers at UN missions, who are mostly delegated to the UN’s third, or human rights, committee at the General Assembly, but instead to contact the person responsible for protection of civilians as these individuals are engaged with the Security Council which holds regular thematic debates on protection of civilians.

Michael Kennedy and Art Magennis’s Ireland, the United Nations and the Congo is a thoroughly researched account of the UN’s early peacekeeping forays using the experience of Ireland’s 6,200 troops contribution to the 1960 peacekeeping deployment to the Congo, ONUC.

Some of the insights are familiar to those who follow UN peacekeeping. That the government deploying the troops was more concerned about elevating its position and rank in the UN system than the welfare of the troops or the potential for success of the mission.

The book also examines the role of then secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, the iconic Swede who later lost his life in a plane crash over Zambia which is still being investigated. “He had maintained strict overall command of ONUC and emerges from UN records on Congo and from his personal papers not as the neutral international servant with a ‘halo’ which is visible for a considerable distance,’ but as a calculating pro-Western and at times Machiavellian operator.”

The book is meticulously researched and while it examines events fifty years ago, there are many parallels to current debates on peacekeeping such as peace-enforcement, cover-ups of atrocities committed by blue helmets and the political calculations of troop contributing countries.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Ireland Sending Peacekeepers to Golan

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Ireland currently has troops serving in the region with the UN force in Lebanon
(above) and with UNTSO. (photo: courtesy of Irish Dept. of Defence)

Update: The resolution to deploy 114 peacekeepers to UNDOF was approved by the Irish parliament by a vote of 95-17.

July 18, 2013 – The Irish parliament will vote Thursday on a motion to send a contingent of peacekeepers to beef up the depleted UNDOF force monitoring the line of separation between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights that was established following the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

The withdrawal of Japanese, Croatian and Austrian troops in recent months has cast doubts on the future of the mission, one of the UN’s oldest, and a proposal to send a Nordic contingent to replace the withdrawing troops has yet to come to fruition.

Fiji and Nepal have agreed to send contingents to bolster the force which currently stands at 933 troops. That figure includes Austrian troops as Vienna has agreed to gradually withdraw its 377 peacekeepers to allow time for reinforcements.

The Irish cabinet has already approved sending peacekeepers to the Golan Heights but parliamentary approval is needed for deployment, which would take place in September.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently appointed Irish Major General Michael Finn as head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, the UN’s oldest peacekeeping mission, an unarmed force comprised of military observers that works alongside UNDOF.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Mary Robinson’s Appointment Highlights Lack of Women Among UNSG Envoys

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March 19, 2013 – Former Irish President Mary Robinson’s appointment on Monday as Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes Region makes her only the sixth woman to currently hold such a post.

Of the 37 current personal and special representatives, envoys and advisors of Ban, 31 are men.

Non-governmental organizations have been pointing out for years that women are underrepresented in peace negotiations. In fact, no woman has ever been the lead negotiator in UN-sponsored peace talks.

Resolution 1325 passed in 2000 aimed to address that and calls for equal and full participation in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding but progress has been slow because of a long held preference for appointing men to post-conflict roles.

As UN secretary-general in 2001, Kofi Annan had 54 personal envoys, including deputies, but only one was a woman.

That has slowly begun to change under Ban and he appointed Hilde Johsnon from Norway as his special representative to South Sudan, Karin Lundgren of Sweden as his special representative to Liberia and Margaret Vogt of Nigeria as his special representative and head of the integrated peacebuilding office in Central African Republic.

Among deputy personal envoys, he has appointed Finalnd’s Kaarina Immonen to Liberia and Burkina Faso’s Rosine Sori-Coulibal to Burundi.

Mary Robinson will represent Ban as the UN readies a new plan to end conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A full list of Ban Ki-moon’s personal envoys is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: Un Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

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

Obama’s Next Bid for Re-Election – the UN Human Rights Council

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Ban Ki-Moon addresses the opening of the Human Rights Council’s current session in Geneva on Sept. 10 (photo credit: UN photo)

Nov. 7, 2012 – Among those running for 18 available seats on the UN Human Rights Council in Monday’s election is the United States, whose newly re-elected president, Barack Obama, decided to embrace the controversial body after his 2008 victory, arguing that Washington could better change and influence from inside than from outside.

Former US president George W. Bush boycotted the Council and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, but Obama reversed course and the US was elected to a three-year term in 2009.

The 47-nation Council has seen its influence grow in the past two years. With the Security Council deadlocked on taking action on Syria, the Human Rights Council appointed a commission of inquiry that’s investigating and documenting allegations of human rights abuses and possible war crimes in the country over the past 19 months. It also suspended Libya’s membership during Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown and prevented Damascus from vying for a seat in 2012, as well as blocking Sudan’s bid.

The Council has won praise too from pro-Israel groups – who’ve criticized the body for its disproportionate focus on the Jewish state – for appointing a human rights investigator on Iran in March 2011 and it has also won plaudits from Human Rights Watch for addressing human rights situations in Guinea, Myanmar and North Korea.

The US is one of five countries vying for three seats available in the Western European and Other States category. The other four candidate countries in the group are Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden.

The Western group is the only one with a competitive election as the other categories (Asia, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Eastern Europe) are running on a pre-arranged clean slate.

Countries ending their terms this year include China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Each country is elected to a maximum of two consecutive three-year terms.

Among the US allies who will join the Council in 2013 are Japan, South Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Estonia.

A list of all candidate countries and the current composition of the Council is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald 

UPDATE Nov 12: US reelected to Council with 131 votes along with Germany, 127, and Ireland, 124 – both serving for first time. Greece, 77, and Sweden, 75, defeated.