Pillay Pitches Stronger Security Council Role for Successor

Special Session Human Rights Council
Aug. 21, 2014, Outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, on Thursday suggested her successor provide informal monthly briefings to the Security Council to avert future crises.

Pillay’s pitch came after she scolded the 15-nation body over its inaction on crises during her tenure such as Syria, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Iraq. “I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this Council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” she said in her final address to the Council.

The South African jurist was appointed in 2008 for a four-year term but fell foul of the US over her criticism of Israel and was only given a two-year second term.

The Council tends to act when a humanitarian situation arises out of conflict but Pillay stressed that human rights abuses are evident for years, even decades, before a major crisis erupts and the Council must must do more to prevent, rather than react to, conflicts.

Pillay also said Ban Ki-moon can do more in providing early warning to the Council on emerging crises. Ban launched the Rights Up Front plan last year in response to the UN’s “systematic failure” in responding to the final months of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka.  The plan’s aim is to prevent human rights abuses by acting on early warnings of human rights abuses.

“Within Rights Up Front, the Secretary-General can be even more proactive in alerting to potential crises, including situations that are not formally on the Council’s agenda,” she said.

Article 99 of the UN Charter empowers the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The human rights chief, who will be succeeded by Jordan’s outgoing UN envoy, Prince Zeid, also suggested the Council build on the new Arms Trade Treaty, “which requires arms exporters and importers to confirm that weapons will not be used to commit violations.”

“Where there are concerns about human rights in States that purchase arms, one condition of sale would be that they accept a small human rights monitoring team, with deployment funded by the Treaty’s Trust Fund,” she said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are among the six biggest arms sellers in the world.

Prince Zeid assumes the role of high commissioner for human rights on Sept. 1. He has been succeeded as UN envoy by Dina Kavar, who becomes the sixth female ambassador to currently serve on the Council.

– Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Image/UN Photo

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

UNSC Draft on Gaza Invokes International Humanitarian Law

Palestinian Amb. Riyad Mansour Addressing the Security Council on Friday - UN Photo

Palestinian Amb. Riyad Mansour Addressing the Security Council on Friday – UN Photo

July 18, 2014 – The draft resolution that Jordan plans to circulate to Security Council members on Gaza includes a clause that explicitly refers to International Humanitarian Law.

Operative paragraph 3 of the draft textCalls upon all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in a Time of War of August 12, 1949.”

This language was absent from Resolution 1860 that ended Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09, an omission that disappointed several Council members then.

The statement that the 15-nation body agreed on July 12 also called upon parties to observe International Humanitarian Law.

A Council diplomat speaking to UN Tribune said the inclusion of language on international humanitarian law and on the protection of civilians in Saturday’s statement was significant. Council statements, while not binding, have to be agreed on by all fifteen members.

The diplomat added that at present there is no disagreement among Council members and there was consensus at Friday’s meeting in support of the Egyptian proposal for an immediate ceasefire.

The Council will meet again on Tuesday to discuss the crisis and, unless there is an end to hostilities by then, the resolution could be put to vote. If so, the ministerial committee formed by the Arab League on July 14, which is chaired by Kuwait and includes Morocco, Egypt and Jordan, would likely head to New York, at the foreign minister level, to press for adoption of the resolution. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El Araby is also a member of the ministerial committee.

International humanitarian law regulates the conduct of war and grave breaches of its rules constitute war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, which Palestine said it will join if Israel’s Operation Protective Edge continues.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Friday reported that 268 Palestinians have been killed since July 7, including 193 civilians. Among those killed in the past eleven days are 59 children, representing 22 percent of all fatalities.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Jordan ‘s New UN Ambassador is Sixth Woman on Security Council

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June 9, 2014 – Jordan’s appointment of Amb. Dina Kavar as its UN envoy increases female representation on the Security Council to an unprecedented 40 percent.

All UN regional groups now have female representatives in the 15-nation Council with Jordan joining Argentina, Lithuania, Luxebourg, Nigeria and the US in appointing women to the post.

Kavar is the third female diplomat to currently serve as UN ambassador from the Arab Group along with Oman’s Lyutha Al-Mughairy and Qatar’s Sheikha Alya Bint Ahmed Bin Saif Al Thani.

Kavar, who recently served as Amman’s envoy to Paris, replaces Prince Zeid who stepped down last month and was nominated on Friday to replace Navi Pillay as human rights commissioner.

Some 30 of the UN’s 193 member states are currently represented by women.

Chile’s Ana Figueoa was the first woman to serve on the Security Council in 1952. The United States, the only permanent Council member currently represented by a woman, has appointed four female UN envoys with Samantha Power preceded by Susan Rice (2009-13), Madeline Albright (1993-97) and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (1981-85).

The UN has never had a female secretary-general and after eight successive men at the helm, there is mounting speculation that a woman will succeed Ban Ki-moon in 2016.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Kosovo: What’s in a name(plate)?

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The presidents of Kosovo and Serbia participate in a UNSC meeting, May 27, 2014. (UN Photo)


May 28, 2014 – When the presidents of Kosovo and Serbia addressed the Security Council on Tuesday, Tomislav Nikolić sat behind a nameplate that stated his country while Atifete Jahjaga sat behind a nameplate that simply said her name.

That’s because Serbia is a UN member state but Kosovo is not and its path to full membership is likely blocked for the near future as Russia is sure to veto any Security Council resolution on the matter.

Pristina participates in regional meetings in Europe under a Kosovo nameplate per a 2012 agreement known as the asterisk agreement that stipulates that an asterisk on the nameplate refer to a footnote that states “this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.”

While Kosovo’s path to full UN membership is blocked in the Council, it could go to the General Assembly, as Palestine did in 2012, and petition for non-member observer state status which would require a simple majority of 97 UN member states supporting the resolution.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki addressing the Security Council in January 2013.

Palestinian FM Riad Malki addressing the Security Council in January 2013. (UN Photo)


As it stands, 96 countries recognize Kosovo including 23 of the 28 EU member states. Spain and Cyprus, who both voted in favor of Palestinian recognition at the UN, have not yet recognized Kosovo – both wary of the implications for their own territorial issues regarding Catalonia and Northern Cyprus. Greece, Romania and Slovakia are the remaining EU countries that have yet to recognize Kosovo.

Non-EU holdouts include Morocco and Pakistan. Both have expressed support for an independent Kosovo state but are similarly concerned about implications due to the situations in Western Sahara and Kashmir.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

China, Russia Double Veto UNSC Draft on Syria ICC Referral

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin addresses the Council, May 22, 2014. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin addresses the Council, May 22, 2014. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

May 22, 2014 – The draft resolution that would have referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court was defeated after vetoes from China and Russia.

It was the fourth time Beijing and Moscow cast vetoes on a resolution concerning Syria, having previously voted against resolutions in October 2011, February 2012 and July 2012.

The French-drafted text had over 60 co-sponsors including permanent Council members Britain and the US as well as non-permanent members Australia, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg and South Korea.

The Council’s African members – Chad, Nigeria and Rwanda – all voted for the text but did not co-sponsor the resolution. Nor did Argentina, who also voted for the resolution, but declined to co-sponsor because of what the country’s ambassador called the “selectivity” of the draft.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

In Key Shift, UNSC Draft on Syria ICC Referral Expresses Commitment to Follow Up

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May 21, 2014 – In the two situations that the Security Council has referred to the International Criminal Court – Darfur and Libya – not a single person wanted by the Court has ended up in The Hague.

Current prosecutor Fatima Bensouda expressed her frustration at the Council’s lack of support for her office when she presented her 18th report on Darfur in December last year: “Inaction and paralysis within the Council has not only prolonged the suffering of Darfur’s victims, but has bolstered Mr Al-Bashir’s resolve to ignore this Council.”

The Council appears to have taken note and unlike resolutions 1593 on Darfur (2005) and 1970 on Libya (2011), the draft text that would refer the situation in Syria to the ICC includes a support clause with operative paragraph 5 stating that the Council “expresses its commitment to an effective follow up of the present resolution.”

The follow up that the prosecutor’s office wants most is concrete action to enforce its arrest warrants. Sudan’s Bashir has travelled to more than a dozen countries since his warrant for arrest was issued including most recently to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is a state party to the Rome Statute.

While the draft Syria resolution looks set to fail by way of a Russian veto, the shift in language will be taken note of in The Hague.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Uruguay Not Co-Sponsoring UNSC Resolution on Syria ICC Referral

Security Council Meeting on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The High Representative for BiH, Valentin Inzko
May 20, 2014 –  Uruguay’s mission to the UN on Tuesday said it will not co-sponsor the draft Security Council resolution referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The country, a strong supporter of the ICC and the first Latin American country to implement the Rome Statute into law, was among the states listed in a letter circulated on Monday by the Swiss Mission to the UN calling for other countries to co-sponsor the draft text which is expected to be voted on later this week.

“While Uruguay strongly supports such a referral, it will be unable to co-sponsor the resolution and therefore prefers not to associate itself with the call for co-sponsorship,” its mission said in a statement.

No other details were provided and calls to its mission for more information have not yet been returned.

Uruguay was one of 18 countries worldwide that lost aid for refusing to sign a Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the United States because they said it would breach their obligations under international law.

The draft resolution referring Syria to the ICC includes a clause that exempts nationals from countries outside of Syria that are not party to the Rome Statute.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UNSC Draft Resolution on Syria ICC Referral Exempts Saudis, Iranians and Lebanese

Security Council meeting The situation in Libya

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Briefing the Security Council on Libya, May 13, 2014 (UN Photo)

May 13, 2014 – The draft Security Council resolution circulated by France that calls for referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court would exempt the bulk of foreign forces on both sides from investigation and prosecution.

An operative paragraph in the draft Syria text states that the resolution “decides that nationals, current or former officials, or personnel from a state outside the Syrian Arab Republic which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that state for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Syrian Arab Republic, established or authorized by the Council unless such jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the state.”

The paragraph uses the exact wording as in the two previous resolutions where the Council referred situations to the ICC – Resolution 1593 on Darfur (2005) and Resolution 1970 on Libya (2011).

In both cases, and also with the current draft Syria text, it is understood that the exemption paragraph is included at the insistence of the US.

But the paragraph exempts all non-Syrians from countries that are not party to the Rome Statute. That includes Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the US, China and Russia.

When former US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, was asked about the exemption clause in 2011 as it related to non-Libyans fighting for Gaddafi, she said the ICC would focus on the “big fish” and not the “foot soldiers.”

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who refused to take questions on Syria during a press conference at UN headquarters on Tuesday, could assert her independence if – and it seems unlikely at this stage – the French-drafted resolution is adopted, she accepts the referral but rejects the limitations imposed on her investigation.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

North Korea Tells US via UN to ‘Drop the Bad Habit’ of Arguing With Others

A model of the "Unha-9" missile on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang, July 2013 (credit: wikimedia)

A model of the “Unha-9” missile on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang, July 2013 (credit: wikimedia)

March 12, 2014 – North Korea has sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to complain about the United States reaction to its recent missile tests.

The letter, transmitted  from Pyongyang’s UN ambassador, Ja Song Nam, said the missile tests from Feb. 21 to March 4 “were smoothly conducted with no slight impact not only on regional peace and security but on the international navigation order and ecological environment.”

The tests, which took place at the same time as joint US-South Korea military exercises, drew a complaint from the United States, who have asked the Security Council to “take appropriate action” as the launches “clearly used ballistic missile technology” which Pyongyang is banned from using under Security Council resolutions.

The United States and its followers should not dare make much fuss, terming the just rocket-launching drills of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ‘provocation’ and ‘ ‘threats,'” the letter says.

It adds that the only provocations were the joint US-South Korea military drills “and base remarks made by such a guy as United States Secretary of State Kerry, who labelled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ‘closest closed country,’ ‘evil place’ and ‘country of evil.'”

The letter says its is “absurd” that the US says North-South relations can only be mended when Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program “is the self-defensive treasured sword to defend the whole Korean nation and preserve the regional peace and security from the increasing nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States,” the letter says.

“The United States had better coolly judge the situation and drop the bad habit 
of deliberately taking issue with others,” the letter concludes.

Full text of the letter is below.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

North Korea Letter to UN published by UN Tribune