International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: United Nations

As Syria Continues To Crumble – The UN Passes Resolutions Against Israel

“French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault this week called the bloodshed in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad is butchering civilians, “a descent into Hell” and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.”

Unfortunately, the Security Council one again failed to act- instead the UN General to passed 6 resolutions targeting Israel.

One of these resolutions includes, the UN calling on Israel to withdraw from Syria’s Golan Height’s, territory that the Tel Aviv regime has occupied since 1967. 37 countries, by an overwhelming majority on November 30, have proposed this resolution.

“The resolution also condemned Israel’s non-compliance to the Security Council Resolution 497 since 1981 until now, describing as null and void Tel Aviv’s decision issued on December 14, 1981 to impose its control over the occupied Golan Heights.”

This resolution stresses that the Geneva Convention of protection of civilian individuals in time of war, apply n the occupied Golan Heights. Not only that, the UNGA also reemphasized that the basic principle of inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force based on the golan-heights-israel1international law and the UN Charter.
Israel regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area, since the regime has used the region to carry out military operations against the Syrian Government.

The resolution were all part of the General Assembly’s “Palestine Day”. While I do not like Israel settling in territories that does not belong to them (especially since they have been trying to seize a lot of surrounding Arab territory for a while now), I do like the fact that they have been against the Syrian Government. The UN Security Council continues to do absolutely nothing about the situation in Syria (when it should be the number 1 priority) and instead they are diverting the attention to other problems.

UN: LGBT Rights Wins

On November 21st, 2016, a closed vote by the General Assembly committee has now newly appointed a UN expert (independent investigator) to help protect and address violence/discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Human Rights Watch, claimed the expert’s: “work is a victory for human rights”, as many conservative countries (Mostly African) tried to block and halt this act, but in the end failed to do so.

05-16-ki-moon-free-equalThe Human Rights Watch along with 180 NGOs from 156 countries around the world called on the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Includes all member countries) to take a “principled stand’ that LGBT rights are also considered human rights. This vote rejected the African states draft resolution, “which deals with human rights, calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate.” They said that the work of the investigator should be suspended.

The Western countries successfully proposed an amendment (allowing investigator to continue his work) that devastated the African draft resolution. “The amendment was adopted in the third committee on Monday with 84 votes in favor, 77 against and 17 abstentions”.

Even though the Western countries won, Russia and Egypt spoke in behalf of 57 member-organization of Islamic Cooperation, stating that they would not cooperate with the investigator Muntarbhorn.

Being gay is a crime in 73 countries.

Russia’s Bid for Human Rights Council

(New York City) On October 28, the United Nations General Assembly will select new members for the Human Rights Council. Russia is running for a chance to represent Eastern Europe at the council (against Croatia and Hungary), which has two available seats. But the crime that they have committed in Aleppo has put them under fire and is hindering their chances.

Human Rights Council is considered to be the “world’s foremost human rights body”. More than 80 human rights and organizations, that include Human Rights Watch and Refugee International, have urged UN member states to drop Russia from the running, because of their military campaign in Syria. “Russia’s gross disregard for civilian lives in Syria and its responsibility for illegal attacks makes it unfit to serve on the council,” Louis Charbonneau of Human Rights Watch.

2008_un_humanrightscouncilRussia has been supporting President Assad’s regime in Syria against the rebels and ISIS since September of 2015. Since then they have committed war crimes. Human Rights watch says that since September 19, 2016, “The attacks included the use of barrel bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, and damaged or partially destroyed at least five hospitals in six separate attacks”. Russia have also been continually been providing the Syrian government with weapons.

I agree with these organizations, Russia must learn that there are consequences for their actions. I feel as if many have called them out on their wrong doings, but nobody has taken action. I feel as if this will help start sending the right message that the international community recognizes the crimes that they have committed and will not stand for it.

Crimes Against Humanity in Burundi

France International News released an article explaining that Burundi has committed crimes against humanity, and could potentially result in genocide in the near future. President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi is going to be seeking a third term in office, which is the main reason for the recent increase in violence. Experts authorized by the UN human rights office have been examining the crimes being committed in Burundi that are mainly done by state officials protecting the current regime. The crimes committed include the torture, killing, sexual abuse, and disappearance of thousands.  A major concern of the experts, is that this increasing violence will escalate to an ethnic war due to the history of Burundi and its surrounding nations.  International intervention and aid is being called upon in order to prevent another mass genocide. 

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The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) is warning the international community that surrounding states are struggling to appropriately accept the some 300,000 refugees that have fled from Burundi. The surrounding countries need aid in providing proper shelter, education, and health care for the refugees, many of which are children and women.  The count of 300,000 refugees has just recently been surpassed and will continue to rise if nothing is done to resolve the tension in Burundi. The UN Human Rights Council, which Burundi serves on, is questioning whether or not Burundi should remain an active member. 

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The White House tolerates an atrocity in Syria

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Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reported that the United States acted illogically in response to the attack on UN humanitarian aid trucks in Syria the day prior. Although the Red Cross and UN officials suggested a war crime had been committed, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to give up on the US’s tentative relationship with Russia ― one of the parties suspected to be responsible for the horrific bombing. The State Department recorded Kerry declaring that the previously discussed cease-fire agreement, clearly violated by this vicious act, was “not dead” and that talks with Russia should continue. There is abundant evidence that the aid convoy, distinctly marked “humanitarian”, had not deployed before those parties involved in the conflict had been notified of its incoming presence. Russian and Syrian officials deny any and all responsibility for Monday’s attack, but contrary to their unconvincing testimony, there is little doubt about their involvement at this point. How alarming is it that our government is willing to show an overwhelming level of tolerance for such abhorrent atrocities for the sake of protecting a proposed alliance with Russia, the alleged perpetrator of this attack?

Kenya tells UN to close Dadaab camp after Garissa attack

On April 2nd, 148 students were killed in an attack by Somali militants from the al-Shabab Islamist movement. The attack took place at a college in Garissa. The United Nations has been asked by William Ruto to close Dadaab camp. Ruto is Kenya’s Deputy President.

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Dadaab camp is the largest refugee camp in Africa that is surrounded by the desert in the north east of Kenya near the border of Somalia. Set up in 1991, the camp arranges housing for families escaping conflict in Somalia. Dadaab has been a home for some families for 20 years. In addition Dadaab has a Unity Primary School where about 2,500 children get a free education.

Ruto has given the UNHCR 3 months to close the refugee camp and “make alternative arrangements for its residents- otherwise, Kenya would ‘relocate them ourselves.’” He insists the the camp be closed and that the residents are moved back to Somalia. Somalia now has safe areas where the militants have been chased out of by African Union Forces. Moreover Ruto has asked for the relocation of more than 500,000 Somalis.

So far the UN has taken no action, according to the head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Kenya.

Other controversy with the Dadaab camp is that before, Kenyan members of parliaments and governors have accused al-Shabab of hiding in the camp. Furthermore the group was responsible for a siege at the Westgate mall in 2013 located in Nairobi.

Will the UN take action? It is in my opinion that the UN is unlikely to close the camp and relocate all of its inhabitants. At the moment the camp has a strong community and resources. There are families, schools, and stores established in Dadaab. I do believe though that the UN will increase it’s measures of security and continue monitoring the al-Shabab Islamist movement. This then beckons the question of whether or not this action will be enough.

UN seeks money for Boko Haram victims

Boko Haram is widely known as a radical Islamic militant group that has been prevalent in international news over the last year due to the numerous attacks against civilians in Nigeria and surrounding countries. Details of the horror committed by Boko Haram include attacks on villages, churches, mosques, and schools, including the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in April, 2014. Over the past six years, it has been estimated that these terrorist acts have caused the displacement of around 192,000 people in neighboring countries Cameroon, Niger, and Chad, as well as about 1.2 million within Nigeria.

In an attempt to help all of those who have fallen victim to attacks by Boko Haram, the UN is coordinating an effort to support these refugees by seeking $174 million in aid. Liz Ahuiha, the coordinator for the Nigeria refugee effort, believes the aid is crucial to helping victims, as “Displaced people in northeastern Nigeria and across borders are in a very dramatic situation, they fear for their lives and are at this point unable to return to their homes”. Should the UN agree to provide aid, the money will help provide these refugees with clean water, shelter, food, medical treatment, and access to education.

Given that the ICC has condemned actions by the radical Islamist group ISIS, it will be interesting to see if they come out with further condemnations and actions against the human abuse crimes committed by Boko Haram. As well, if the UN grants this money for aid, could it be possible for a UN referral for an ICC investigation? While that is a hope, it seems unlikely in the near future as the UN has not opened an investigation against ISIS.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/10/africa/nigeria-un-refugee-help/index.html

The Aftermath of Liberia’s Civil War … and General Butt Naked

During class, there was quite a bit of discussion around Charles Taylor and his trial at The Hague. However, there wasn’t much talk about the current state of Liberia and perpetrators besides Taylor. In this Vice documentary, we see a terribly bleak picture of what it’s like on the ground. The ex-warlords walk around as free men, sometimes still leaders in their communities.

Especially evident in West Point, utter lack of basic needs is rampant. Women are being forced to work as sex workers to pay for basic necessities like food, electronic shops serve as fronts for the large heroin and crack businesses, children are getting high or working as thieves instead of going to school. Throughout the documentary, it seemed as if most people had resigned themselves to this as the status quo.

The latter half of the documentary spotlights Joshua Blahyi, aka General Butt Naked. One of the most notorious warlords during the Liberian Civil War, Blahyi cut open innocent children and fed their blood and hearts to his child soldiers to give them mythical powers. Blahyi himself believed that doing so made him invulnerable to bullets, and throughout the Civil War, he was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people. While I found his blatant display of remorse fascinating, I was even more surprised by the fact that he has thus far not been punished for his crimes. Rather, he was pardoned after publicly converting to Christianity and serving as a priest.

Even after watching through the documentary twice, I still find myself conflicted over how sincere Blahyi is. I am pretty certain however, that political motivations underlie Blahyi’s pardon, and given the vast economic and social problems facing the country, in addition to Blahyi’s potential value in rehabilitating ex-child soldiers, I can’t say the pardon was a terrible decision. While Blahyi definitely had his moments of irrationality (i.e.: his “born-again Christian” moment), he appears to be a much more sane, much more reasonable man than I expected given his reputation.

Could Venezuela Situation go to the ICC?

VenezuelaProtests

Over the last several days Venezuela has been thrown into chaos. Since the death of President Hugo Chavez last Spring, Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s close political ally, was sworn in as President of Venezuela.  Both Chavez and Maduro were/ are members of the National Socialist Party, and their leadership has been heavily criticized as being undemocratic and at times oppressive.  While Chavez ‘s name carried with it a sort of iconic appeal, Maduro’s rule has been decidedly shakier.  This sentiment came to a head with the recent outpouring of public protest against the Venezuelan government.

President Maduro has named the opposition– the protestors– as fascist rebels, while the protestors continue to demand lower inflation rates, increased availability of staple items, and increased security.  As many as fifty deaths have been reported, although this number is potentially skewed.  Reports indicate that the internet has been shut down in areas of high opposition concentration, and numerous incidents of police brutality have arisen.  There are mass shortages, especially in more rural areas, due to the devastating freeze the unrest has caused throughout the country.

Many potential solutions to the violence have been raised.  The UN has advocated no specific policy, but rather calls for the protection of human rights.  Pope Francis, himself Latin American, called for a more strategic approach, encouraging the two sides to end the violence and begin a process of reconciliation.  There has been little talk of the potential for this case to come to the International Criminal Court– this is for several reasons.  First, although Venezuela is party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, it is unlikely they would report their own situation, because of the two-sided nature of the violence.  Police forces have been far more brutal, but not all protests have been peaceful. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it is unclear whether the situation in Venezuela meets the gravity threshold set by the ICC’s mandate.  Indeed, tbe ICC is meant to prosecute only the most serious atrocity crimes, and although Venezuela suffers, prosecution at an international level may not be a viable solution.  Perhaps Venezuelans will end up heeding the Pope’s words, and focusing on reconciliation quite soon.

Road to Accountability in Sri Lanka

CORRECTION-SRI LANKA-UNREST

Next month, the United Nations Human Rights Council will vote on a resolution concerning Sri Lanka and whether or not an in vestigation can be brought forth concerning the crimes and human rights abuses on both sides of the bloody, decades long conflict during its last few months of conflict in 2009. Many member states in the UN–including the United States–want to initiate an investigation into the horrific finale of Sri Lanka’s  war and hold it accountable for its perceived gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. A United Nations panel reported that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the last stages of the violence between the mainly Sinhalese-dominated government and the militant rebel group LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), many of them by military shelling. Crimes against humanity have been cited on both sides of the conflict, as the Sinhalese police and armed forces were known to be notoriously brutal, including dumping bodies in mass graves and rivers and beheading its victims and placing their heads on spikes. The LTTE, conversely, was well-known to have recruited child soldiers and commit a myriad of other human rights abuses during the war. BBC News estimates that in the years before 2009, over 70,000 people had died in the last 25 years of the conflict.

However, despite the end of the conflict, the country’s government has refused to hold any officials accountable for crimes and has resisted every inquiry by the international community into investigating these human rights abuses. Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has ignored two separate UN resolutions calling for Sri Lanka to investigate the war crimes initiated by both the LTTE and governmental forces. Sri Lanka has clearly shown that it is unwilling to start an investigation into its own actions concerning human rights abuses, so in what way can the international community force those responsible for gross human rights abuses to be held accountable? Sri Lanka is not a member-state of the ICC, so what can be done to find justice for those who suffered during the civil war–both from the LTTE and the reigning government?

Here are my sources:

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/02/08/comment-renewed-pressure-sri-lanka-over-war-crime-allegations

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/04/opinion/holding-sri-lanka-to-account.html?_r=0

UN Acting as “Parallel Government” in South Sudan?

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A recent BBC article reports that South Sudan President Salva Kiir has publicly accused the UN peacekeeping mission of hiding rebels and guns at their camps following the rebel’s capture of Bor over the weekend. South Sudanese forces led by the information minister attempted to gain access to the UN base in search of armed rebels, insisting that the UN should allow the government to search for weapons and rebels within the camps and demanding Unmiss (UN Missionaries) hand over any weapons or government vehicles they have acquired.

 

The UN has increased its presence in the region as the political dispute between Mr. Kiir and former deputy Riek Machar has escalated into full-scale conflict since mid-December. More than 500,000 people have been displaced (with approximately 70,000 residing in UN bases), and well over 1,000 civilians have been killed. The UN also states both government soldiers and rebels are guilty of committing atrocities that include ethnic killings, and fervidly denies any claims to holding weapons and knowingly sheltering rebels.

Based on the swiftly rising civilian death toll, in addition to threat of widespread ethnic killing, UN forces are obliged to maintain their presence in the region in order to protect the human rights of civilians. Persistent efforts of South Sudan forces to enter the UN base are additionally quite worrisome given the lack of cordiality between South Sudan forces and UN peacekeepers. While the UN insists of their neutrality, Mr. Kiir’s claims of the UN undermining the South Sudan government are toxic, heightening tensions between the two groups. To what extent is the UN capable of holding off South Sudan forces from entering their base? How is the international community expected to react to these repeated violations of South Sudan against their agreement with the UN?

Some scholars argue that this violence spread at such a fast rate due to the fact that there was no accountability for the 1991 massacres at the hands of Riek Machar’s revolt. Furthermore, both parties contest that their opponents are responsible for all atrocities committed during the current conflict. Thus, if/when this conflict ends, is it possible for reconciliation to be reached within victim communities despite a history of lacking accountability? Even if this conflict results in an international tribunals, would it even be regarded as legitimate by the region? I ask this based upon the inevitable claims of “victor’s justice” by the losing party, in addition to the high tensions already present between the UN and the Sudanese government.

Weaknesses of the ICC

Darfur and Sudanese President al-Bashir

In Darfur, an estimated 500,000 civilians have been killed and four million displaced since the beginning of the conflict. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has been accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity. However, no attempts have been made to apprehend him, and a fair trial seems unlikely for the near future. Why?

This shows one of the weaknesses of the ICC; it’s authority is dependent on the cooperation of the international community. In this case, the United Nations would prefer that President al-Bashir stay in place in order to secure a peace agreement with the recently seceded South Sudan. Because international justice institutions are dependent on international politics, it is difficult for them to remain objective and fair.

South Sudan and International Support

Over the last few weeks, the international community has turned its attention to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan, one that began almost exactly three years after the country held its first-ever elections after seceding from Sudan. The United States, United Nations, and African Union have all contributed to efforts to encourage peace, and observers have already begun discussing how South Sudan will rebuild after the conflict is over.

The conflict began in mid-Decemberwith fighting in a military barracks in Juba, the capital, which President Salva Kiir labeled an attempted coup by his former Vice-President, Riek Machar. Kiir had fired Machar in July. Fighting quickly spread throughout the country, and the availability of arms allowed many civilians to become involved. Violence between the Dinka and the Nuer, the country’s two largest ethnic groups, led to abandoned neighborhoods in  The International Crisis Group estimates that there have been close to 10,000 casualties in South Sudan, and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.

A New York Times Room for Debate column along with articles on The Atlantic’s website and the blog African Arguments have considered the role of the international community—particularly the U.S. and other Western powers—in a post-conflict South Sudan. Hank Cohen, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, noted that South Sudan started with very little in the way of infrastructure—only 35 miles of paved roads, little access to electricity or running water, and few schools. In supporting a UN trusteeship for South Sudan, Cohen argued that, unlike African countries that gained their independence in the 50s and 60s, South Sudan had little support for its governance—practical help with the challenge of governing a new nation. G. Pascal Zachary, for The Atlantic, also supported trusteeship for South Sudan, and the article’s headline, “Post-Colonialism,” anticipated the numerous criticisms of neocolonialism.

South Sudan will likely need some form international support—the AU hosted peace talks, the UN and NGOs are providing aid—but the extent of what that can and should look like is unclear. The US was instrumental in helping South Sudan gain its independence, and so some have claimed that we have a unique responsibility—and opportunity—to help South Sudan recover. And the pieces calling for foreign governance are correct in identifying infrastructure as a significant limitation to statebuilding.

The crisis brings up the question of international responsibility to intervene. Foreign and UN troops are on the ground in the country, but how long should they stay? What is the correct balance of military, civilian, and technical support? At what point would their presence move beyond support and into either neocolonialism or, post-transition, supporting an unstable government?

U.N. Peacekeeping in the Eastern Congo

This article offers an interesting insight into the myriad difficulties faced by U.N. military intervention, specifically in the Eastern Congo. As highlighted in the article, MONUSCO has repeatedly failed to protect the civilian population as per its mandate-the most striking example involved rebels decapitating civilians and parading their heads in front of an apathetic peacekeeping force. The litany of failures by MONUSCO is appalling, as per the article:

In 2005, MONUC (the former name for MONUSCO) expelled 63 of its soldiers for paying refugee children for sex. A separate internal inquiry the same year found that Pakistani peacekeepers sold weapons to militias in exchange for gold. While those incidents may be exceptional, TIME has seen in repeated trips to eastern Congo how, at the first sign of trouble, blue-helmet peacekeepers habitually barricade themselves into their bases, leaving crowds of several thousand refugees who tend to gather outside to fend for themselves.

Given the fairly obvious failures of the U.N. peacekeeping force to protect civilians, does it instead make more sense to focus efforts on alternative means of support? A large majority of the authors read and discussed thus far are concerned with rebuilding societies after conflict and devastation have occurred, not during. Given the inability of the U.N. to protect civilians through peacekeeping forces, what other means can be employed, or is it simply a matter of reforming MUNESCO?

Realism and the ICC

International relations scholars as well as ordinary people have accepted that the international system is anarchic in nature, meaning there is no actor above states capable of regulating their interaction. Thus, states must arrive at relations with other states on their own, rather than it being dictated to them by some higher controlling entity. Moreover, many believe that the international system exists in a state of constant antagonism. States are also the most important actors in this system, and they are unitary and rational pursuing self-interest.

Yet, in this anarchic system, it is unclear where the ICC stands. It is an institution that operates outside of the sovereignty of states on a complementarity principle. While it operates a “back-up,” it can intervene without the consent of sovereign states because overarching international individuals believe that sovereign states are inadequately running their government or judicial procedures.

Despite the fact that states are rational actors who should be able to perceive when to call in international reinforcements, the ICC overrides their sovereignty when it gets involved. For example, in the Uganda case, it is clear that the state authorities thought themselves to be capable of handling the LRA commanders, yet the ICC still indicted Joseph Kony and four other elite LRA commanders. Are there abuses that are able to transcend sovereignty to necessitate international involvement? Also, what criteria does the ICC examine when it decides to intervene in national conflicts?

The vagueness of the Rome Statute and its articles is the main cause of frustration among sovereign nations, particularly the transitional ones. They often feel powerless before the ICC and the UN Security Council that is often behind it. Additionally, if the ICC as an institution were to create more binding, explicit provisions for its involvement in internal conflict of sovereign nations, perhaps it would build credibility. That way, its actions would not look arbitrary to other states. Further codification and explanation of the ICC will alleviate individual national concerns as to its violation of the anarchic system. Otherwise, it looks like the individual prosecutors behind the ICC and the UN Security Council are targeting states they deem irrational and incapable of using their own mechanisms to solve conflicts.

How is the Palestinian UN vote more than symbolic?

Following the General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestine from permanent observer to non-member observer state defined by pre-1967 borders, there are new political ramifications to consider. Though the international community as a whole has furthered the legitimisation of the two state-solution, it has come at the cost of Israel’s political autonomy. Amidst peace negotiations, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s bid for statehood has evoked opposition from Israel:

  • It has threatened to withhold crucial tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA and restrict movements of its officials from the West Bank.
  • On 14 November, a position paper leaked from Israel’s foreign ministry proposed “toppling” Mr Abbas.
  • Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said that if President Abbas continued with the bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo Accord, under which the PA was established.

While I do think it is a valid objective to override Israel’s sovereignty (not disregarding the fact it sprung from an IGO itself) for the sake of a transitioning Palestine, I can also understand why the U.S. government (see Secretary Clinton) has branded the vote counter-productive in the context of peace vs. justice. Because the Oslo Accords were established in the spirit of a bilateral agreement, the role  of external actors in validating Palestine’s statehood has pre-empted negotiations and has thus antagonised Israel. In terms of practical significance, Israel is now less willing to cooperate in political stability (newly authorised construction of settlements in occupied territory) and has gone as far as saying the vote will “hurt peace”  since “This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens… By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”

Another matter of interest is how Palestine’s UN-appointed statehood will be interpreted under Article 12 of the Rome Statute which looks to the Secretary General and General Assembly to clarify statehood parameters in contested cases. The ICC prosecutor previously argued that court jurisdiction on PA was contingent upon non-member observer status but Palestine may now re-attempt ICC membership. Consequently, Palestine could pursue legal action for forced displacement of populations; no matter how long this process could take to come into realisation, the issue remains that Israel views the possibility as a credible threat presently, when peace has not been reassured. It seems then that Palestinian sovereignty is a justice imperative but the sequencing is less than ideal for peace.

Palestine and the vote on “non-member observer state” status

Tomorrow, the UN General Assembly will vote on the PLO’s bid to become a non-member observer state. Spain has said it will back Palestine, Germany will not and the UK has stated that they will abstain, unless assurances are made from Palestinian leaders to open negotiations and not turn to the International Criminal Court. France and Russia have already said they both support the bid, while the US strongly opposes it.

Elliot Adams, in his blog “Pressure Points,” however, questions the outcome of this decision. His main argument is that while the actual vote matters very little, it is what Palestine and Israel will do as a result: “Does the PLO, now called “Palestine” at the UN General Assembly, engage in “lawfare” against Israel? Does it rush to the International Criminal Court [ICC] to seek indictments of every Israeli general?” While the Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror has stated on Meet the Press that Israel will wait to see how Palestine acts after the vote and respond accordingly, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke out on the radio today saying that “surprises” are in store for the Palestinians if they proceed with the move.

 Only time will tell what ends up happening but the UN General Assembly vote tomorrow will certain have an important impact on the situation that is to follow.

Can (Well-Meaning) Individuals Impede Peace and Justice?

As we saw in the ICC documentary shown in class as well as our various reading assignments related to the court, former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo certainly (even if inadvertently) had a polarizing effect on the international community’s response to ICC actions in pursuit of justice. The fact that Moreno-Ocampo so significantly colored nations’ perceptions of the ICC brings up a bigger question: To what extent can an individual influence the attainment of justice?

Making this question more pressing is the news of Carla Del Ponte’s involvement with the UN’s Independent International Commission on Inquiry, currently charged with investigating alleged human rights violations in Syria. Del Ponte, the “feisty” (to say the least) former chief prosecutor of the ICTY and ICTR has taken up the cause of ensuring that justice is served to those responsible for the Syrian atrocities. Keeping in mind the fact that her behavior is credited with the decision to split the ICTY/ICTR chief prosecutor’s responsibility between the two courts, I wonder what impact her stubborn disposition (which she claims to be quite proud of) and abrasive means of interacting with state leaders will have on the situation unfolding in Syria.

While the answer to my aforementioned question may seem obvious—one person does have the potential to jeopardize justice (this is, of course, a debatable claim though)—it is complicated by the potential tension between peace and justice. If Del Ponte takes a hard line advocating for justice for Assad (and, in light of recent news, maybe even rebel leaders as well) in the form of criminal trial proceedings, will that impede an end to the conflict? Furthermore, when it comes to polarizing—albeit well-meaning—individuals such as Moreno-Ocampo and Del Ponte, how do we reconcile their personal strategies (as prominent leaders in the field of transitional justice) for seeking justice with the broader strategies for achieving peace and justice on the macro-level?

UN to investigate plight of US Native Americans for first time

Although this does not connect (yet) to the ICC or other direct means of international justice, I found it very interesting because it brings up the question of international interference in domestic matters of our own country. For the first time the UN will conduct an investigation into the plight of Native Americans in the United States.

James Antaya, UN special rapporteur on indigenous people is leading the investigation. Antaya is originally from New Mexico and well versed in Native American issues. In 2010, the United States signed the UN declaration on rights of indigenous peoples. This declaration establishes minimum basic rights for indigenous people globally. Antaya states that the goal of this human rights inquiry is to assess “how the standards of the declaration are reflected in US law and policy, and [identify] needed reforms and good practices.”

I think that it is generally observed that life for Native Americans living on US reservations is at best rough. Personally I believe this investigation is warranted and I am interested in reading the report when it is concluded. The potential recommendations are obviously still unknown but how do you guys think the US will react to the report when it is issued? I’m wondering what your reactions are to having the tables turned on us and being the target of an investigation by the United Nations.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/22/un-investigate-us-native-americans

Sudan “State of War”

As we have talked about in class, Sudan was divided into north and south last summer.  Troops from the South took over Heglig, a city high in oil production.  Heglig is a border city between the North and South, so as can be expected, problems are arising.  Today, the government we all know and “love” from Khartoum decided to declare a State of War until Southern Sudanese troops let go of Heglig.

General Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein is also suggesting that South Sudan is trying to overthrow the government by giving a rebel group from Darfur funds.  They even went as far as filing a complaint about South Sudan to the United Nations who responded by saying that hostilities need to end before more deaths occur.

Let’s not forget that both sides have accused the other of committing atrocities, Sudan is charged with attacking unarmed civilians, and South Sudan is charged with setting up arms on its border with the north.

Russia plans to veto Syrian resolution if considered “unacceptable”

As unrest in Syria continues and shows no apparent signs of slowing, the U.N. Security Council has finally decided to meet and come up with a draft resolution to address the crisis and seek to have Syrian President Bashar Assad cede power.  The decision to come together and develop a resolution comes after nearly an 11-month struggle of the Syrian people against the Assad regime and plenty of pressure from Western nations and the Arab League.  However, there are concerns that Russia and China, who have both resisted the push to develop a resolution, will continue to be an obstacle.  “If the text is unacceptable for us we will vote against it, of course.” Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin told reporters in Moscow.  The Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. Li Baodong voiced their concerns in saying: “China is firmly opposed to the use of force to solve the Syrian problem and resolutely opposes pushing for forced regime change in Syria, as it violates the United Nations Charter and the basic norms guiding the practice of international relations.”  The U.N. Security Council is meeting in a closed session working on a resolution this afternoon, so we’ll have to wait and see if anything meaningful comes out of the session.

What do you think, will Russian and Chinese opposition lead to a neutered resolution?  Or will they just veto whatever happens to be drafted?

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