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

Alleged Killer of Irish Peacekeepers Arrested in Detroit

Funeral of Private Derek Smallhorne who was killed along with Private Thomas Barrett in 1980

Funeral of Private Derek Smallhorne who was killed along with Private Thomas Barrett in 1980

July 17, 2014 – A Detroit man accused of killing two Irish peacekeepers serving with the UN in Lebanon in 1980 was arrested by US authorities earlier this week.

Mahmoud Bazzi, who was a member of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA), was arrested at his home in Dearborn on an immigration violation that could lead to his deportation back to Lebanon.

He moved to the US shortly after the April 1980 torture and execution of Privates Derek Smallhorne and Thomas Barrett who were serving with the nine-nation UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Bazzi’s brother had been killed a week earlier in a skirmish with UNIFIL troops and the killing of the Irish peacekeepers was said to be a revenge attack.

Bazzi reportedly boasted in the Lebanese press of his responsibility for the killings but years later when confronted by a reporter from Irish television said the SLA militia forced him to confess publicly to the killings. A third Irish peacekeeper who was abducted along with Privates Barrett and Smallhorne, John O’Mahoney, was also shot but survived and says Bazzi was the triggerman.

A spokesperson for UNIFIL in New York said they are aware of the arrest of Bazzi.

“Pending clarity on charges filed by US authorities against the individual we won’t comment specifically,” Aditya Mehta said in an email to UN Tribune. “Any attack against UN Peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a war crime.  We remain eternally grateful for the service and sacrifices of Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne, who were killed while serving in UNIFIL in 1980, and urge the authorities to hold those responsible to account.”

Ninety Irish peacekeepers have been killed serving in UN missions, more than half, 47, were killed serving with UNIFIL.

In total, more than 3,200 UN peacekeepers have lost their lives in the line of duty.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Syria Intervention Could Spell End of UN Golan Force

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August 29, 2013 – The future of the UN force monitoring the line of separation between Israel and Syria following the end of the 1973 war will be further jeopardized by threatened military intervention.

UNDOF has already been hit by the loss of troops from Austria, Croatia and Japan because of repeated attacks and abductions of blue-helmeted forces.

Departing peacekeepers are being replaced by promised contributions from Fiji and Ireland, with the initial contingent of Irish troops set to deploy Sept. 4.

But the threat of intervention is likely to lead the Irish government to delay the deployment, while a western strike inside Syria will see the UN face calls to withdraw its troops by those countries whose forces are currently deployed, leaving behind a dangerous security vacuum on the Israel-Syria border.

- Denis Fitzgerald

Photo: Austrian peacekeepers raise the UN flag on Pitulim Peak on Mt. Hermon following the withdrawal of Israeli Armed Forces, June 1974. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

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

UN Lag on Female Peacekeepers

 June 24, 2013 – Less than four percent of the UN’s 90,551 uniformed peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions throughout the world are women, according to the most recent figures available from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

These numbers came into focus today as the Security Council debated Resolution 1325, passed in 2000 and which calls for women’s full and equal participation in peacemaking and for an end to sexual violence in conflict. According to the resolution, recruiting more female military or police officers is a means of better protecting the safety and rights of women and girls.

In 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign to increase the number of  women peacekeepers to 20 percent in police units by 2014, and to 10 percent in military contingents.

Those targets are nowhere near being met. Women comprise about 10 percent of UN peacekeeping police units (1,251/12,480) and less than 3 percent of the military contingents (2,259/78,091). 

But the UN is hardly to blame for these numbers as it relies on member states to contribute troops for its peacekeeping missions and, globally, women are under-represented in police and army forces.

Just 7 percent of Delhi’s police force are women and 16 percent of the NYPD’s most recent graduating class were women.

On the military side, women make up about 15 percent of active US army service members, while in Norway, which tops many gender equality indexes, only about 10 percent of the country’s military is female. 

- Denis Fitzgerald

(photo: UN Photo/Saw Lwin)       

‘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

NYPD Blue Helmets

Shortly after his election as United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon was visited by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who upbraided the U.N. chief about the “860 fire code violations” at the world body’s Midtown East headquarters, telling him “that any other building in New York would have been shut down long ago.”

Ban assured the mayor, who was accompanied by then fire commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, that the upcoming $1.9 billion renovation of the sixty year old building would bring it up to code, an April 2007 diplomatic cable recently released by WikiLeaks reveals. 

But it was New York’s City’s police department rather than its fire department that was on Ban’s mind.

Secretary-General Ban complimented Mayor Bloomberg on the scope and size of the NYPD, making particular note that many of the officers speak languages other than English. Ban raised the idea of soliciting the NYPD to participate in UN peacekeeping mission.

It made sense from the U.N.’s point of view. There’s probably no other police force in the world as diverse as the NYPD. Twenty percent of the force are foreign born and 64 different languages are spoken among its officers, from Amharic to Yorub, according to the department’s website.

The proposal received a lukewarm response from the mayor though.

Bloomberg replied that the idea was unique and that he would need to discuss the matter with his police commissioner and other experts in his administration.

The idea doesn’t appear to have gained any traction. There were about 200 U.S. police serving with U.N peacekeeping operations in 2007, mostly in Kosovo, and there are currently some 75 U.S. police deployed with U.N. missions, the majority in Haiti.

Meanwhile, work on renovating the U.N.’s headquarters, and fixing those 860 fire code violations, is ongoing.