Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slovakia Will Do Everything Necessary to Help the Arms Trade Treaty Enter into Force

The international system must implement security sector reforms to adequately address conflicts and terrorism, as well consolidate peace and the rule of law in post-conflict regions, the Slovakian President told the United Nations General Assembly today. “We cannot have a secure, safe and stable environment without effective arms control and disarmament procedures in place as the basic instrument for conflict prevention,” Ivan Gašparovic told world leaders on the first day of the Assembly’s annual Debate. 

“The signing of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has shown that the UN has the potential to make history and substantively contribute to increasing security in the world through its shared commitment to taking a responsible approach to arms trading.”

Mr. Gašparovic said Slovakia is prepared to do everything necessary to help the treaty enter into force. The ATT is the first international treaty regulating the global arms trade. It was overwhelmingly approved earlier this year in the UN General Assembly. The vote was the culmination of a decades-long push to halt illegal shipments of weapons such as missiles, combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

He also endorsed other international treaties that would help address security issues such as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear tests in all environments, for military or civilian purposes, and called on the international community to reach an agreement on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. 

“Terrorism continues to remain one of the most serious threats to peace and security. It plays a key role in many conflicts. A majority of its victims are civilians,” he said. “We can find a solution through our joint efforts only, under the UN’s auspices.”

In addition, Mr. Gašparovic emphasized that security sector reform is a key component in post-conflict development and in strengthening the rule of law, and reiterated Slovakia’s commitment to work with the UN to build the Organization’s capacities in this regard. “If we cannot give people security, safety, education and jobs, they will be quick to draw guns again in desperation,” he said. “There can be no peace without economic stability and prosperity.”

To prevent further conflicts, countries must ensure sustainable development and social stability, two topics which will be addressed during this session of the General Assembly. This has enormous potential to be effective if countries work together, he said, adding that: “Slovakia wants to actively participate in the preparation of development goals beyond 2015 and is getting ready for a new stage in development cooperation.”

(UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Amir of Qatar Calls for Security Council Reform and an End to the Massacres in Syria

In his statement to the 68th General Assembly’s General Debate, the Amir of the State of Qatar urged an end to the “destructive actions and horrible massacres” in Syria, and called for reform of the Security Council to more objectively deal with such global challenges.

“The…failure to impose the political settlement we all prefer for Syria is due basically to the inability of the Security Council to take the required decision to stop the bloodshed and the continued intransigence of the Syrian regime and its refusal of all regional and international initiatives,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told world leaders gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

He called of accelerating the process of Council reform “in order for it to be more capable of dealing objectively with global challenges and responding to the aspirations of people” and not have decisions monopolized for long periods by one or two states.

In his statement, the Amir said the ability of those responsible for the brutal crimes and massacres in Syria, “which have shocked every human conscience,” to continue enjoying impunity “questions the credibility of the human rights and international legal mechanisms of the international community”.

He said that “the issue is not whether or not Syria possesses chemical weapons... But the issue is the use of such weapons by the regime against its own people.

“The Syrian people have not risen up for putting the Syrian chemical weapons under the international supervision but for getting rid of despotism and corruption and to end the injustice it has been facing,” he added.

The Amir called on “our Syrian brothers to unify their ranks for entering a transitional period that leads to establishing a governing system that guarantees freedom and dignity for all Syrians without discrimination on the grounds of gender, nationality, sect or creed.”

(Excerpt from a UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

South Africa Calls for a "Level Playing Field" for Africa in a New Global Development Agenda

South African President Jacob Zuma today urged a level playing field for his continent in setting a new global development agenda for the years following the end of the current cycle in 2015, warning that new international demands were impeding Africa’s development.

“We raise this point…because it appears that the global economic meltdown has brought about new developments that are detrimental to the developing world, especially Africa,” he told the United Nations General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate, citing a tendency to renegotiate the “rules of the game.”

“New issues are being introduced as prerequisites for development and partnerships which in fact become huge non-tariff barriers. These include the green economy and clean technology,” he said, noting that while these issues are important and need to be addressed, the manner in which they are crafted restrains economic development as they are used as obstacles.

The year 2015 is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set specific goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability and HIV/AIDS reduction, and Assembly President John Ashe has said the current session of the Assembly must lay the groundwork for global development in the decades beyond.

Mr. Zuma said such an agenda allows individual regions and States the space to address the development needs peculiar to their circumstances and priorities. For Africa in particular, it should address poverty eradication, income inequality and job creation, focusing on all three dimensions of sustainable development - eradication of poverty through economic development, social development and environmental sustainability.

“Any development agenda beyond 2015 must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in order to equalize the international playing field,” he stressed. 

As he and many other leaders of developing countries have done in the past, Mr. Zuma called for reform of the Security Council by 2015 so that the currently 15-member body democratically represent the world’s nations at large.

“The UN Security Council still remains undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair to developing nations and small States, and disenfranchises the majority of the Member States of the United Nations who form the majority in this General Assembly,” he said. “We cannot remain beholden indefinitely to the will of an unrepresentative minority on the most important issues of international peace and security.

“There has been too much talk about the need for reform, with too little action. We would like to challenge the Assembly today: Let us set ourselves the target to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations in 2015 with a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UN Security Council.”

(UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

France Calls on Permanent Members of the Security Council to Renounce Veto in Cases of Mass Crimes

French President François Hollande today called for a UN Security resolution that would authorize the potential use of force if Syria fails to comply with its agreement to hand over its chemical weapons following the last month’s sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb. France wanted a strong reaction to respond to this appalling crime and to dissuade [President] Bashar al-Assad’s regime from committing new massacres,” he told the UN General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate, noting that this pressure led to Syria’s agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

The divided Council has been unable to adopt a resolution on Syria and Mr. Hollande called on the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – to collectively renounce their right to a veto in the case of crimes against humanity.  

“France has three demands,” he said, referring to Council negotiations over verification and the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpiles. “The first is that the text enables the Security Council to take up the issue at any time. The second is that the resolution includes measures under Chapter VII in case of Syrian non-compliance with its commitments,” he added, referring to the chapter in the UN Charter that provides for the possible use of military force amid other measures to ensure compliance. “The third demand is that those who committed these crimes must be brought to justice.” 

Stressing the need for urgent action to end the fighting, in which he said 120,000 people have been killed and a quarter of the population driven from their homes, Mr. Hollande said the forthcoming Geneva meeting must not be just a talking shop but must take decisions to install a transition government with full executive powers to re-establish peace, protect every community and organize future elections. 

Turning to other hot spots in the Middle East, he noted the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, stressing that these were the only path to peace and a two-State solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure borders. He also referred to hopeful statements by Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani on engagement over his country’s nuclear programme.

“His words must now be translated into acts,” he said. “What France is waiting for from Iran are concrete deeds that prove that this country has military nuclear programme even if it obviously has the right to pursue its civil programme.” Iran says its nuclear programme is solely for the peaceful production of energy, but many countries fear it is seeking nuclear weapons. 

Turning to Africa, Mr. Hollande cited the threat of terrorism, voicing horror at the “barbarous attack” by militants on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. But he also pointed to hopeful signs such as the Security Council-backed French and African intervention in Mali to drive out militants and terrorists from the north and restore stability in the West African country.

He called for a similar Council resolution to provide the logistical and financial means for an African force to restore order in the conflict-riven Central African Republic.

“In every field – security, proliferation, development, climate – there is no worse danger than inaction,” he concluded. “The worst decision is not to take one. The worst danger is not to see it. It is the responsibility of the UN to act. And each time it reveals its impotence, peace loses. 

“That is why I propose code of good conduct to for the Council’s permanent members: in the case of mass crimes they must renounce their right to a veto.”

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Turkish President Tells UN that the Security Council's Failure to Act on Syria is a "Disgrace"; Also Says "Islamophobia" is a New Form of Racism

Stressing the centrality of a “strong, efficient, and credible” United Nations for ensuring world peace and stability, Turkish President Abdullah Gül today called it a “disgrace” that the Security Council has not ended the civil war in Syria and ensured a stable transition from the current regime.  “The burden of ending Syria's plight now rests on the shoulders of the international community,” he told the General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate, noting that the world’s deepest crises are being spawned by increasingly frequent internal conflicts, and welcoming the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons as only a first step.

“We must realize that inaction by the Security Council only emboldens aggressive regimes. We need a UN capable of forcing the perpetrators of brutal actions to submit to justice and the rule of law. Only through such a UN can we achieve the truly peaceful world envisioned by this institution's founders,” he said, stressing that decisive action is the only way that the UN system will remain relevant and credible.

“The agreement to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal must not allow the regime to avoid responsibility for its other crimes,” he added, referring to the more than 100,000 people who have died and the over 6 million who have been driven from their homes in the two and a half years since protests erupted against President Bashar Al-Assad.

“It is a disgrace that the United Nations Security Council has failed to uphold its primary responsibility in this case,” Mr. Gül said, regretting that political differences, balance-of-power politics, and geopolitical considerations within the 15-member Council have prevailed over action to end the tragedy. 

He noted that the Syrian conflict neither began with the chemical weapons attack which killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb last month, nor will it end with an agreement to eliminate them. 

On other issues Mr. Gül called for an effective international partnership against terrorism, stressing that the scourge only be defeated “once we get rid of ‘my terrorist/your terrorist’ distinctions. 

He decried the emergence of “Islamophobia” as a new form of racism, urging a balance between freedom of expression and respect for religion, called on Israel to accept the establishment of a viable contiguous Palestinian state, and reiterated Turkey’s commitment to a just and negotiated settlement for Cyprus, which has been divides since 1964 when inter-communal fighting erupted between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. 

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President of Nigeria Urges Continued Support to Fight Terrorism

Addressing today General Debate of the 68th United Nations General Assembly, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called for continued international efforts to overcome transborder crimes, such as terrorism and piracy, and promoted the fundamentals of democracy as requisite for sustainable development in Africa. Noting the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Jonathan said that the reign of terror anywhere in the world is an assault on our collective humanity and urged that “we must stand together to win this war together.” 

Terrorism is a challenge to national stability in Nigeria, the President said, particularly in the north-eastern part of the country where the militant group known as Boko Haram is active. “We will spare no effort in addressing this menace,” Mr. Jonathan said, adding that all action is carried out with regard for fundamental human rights and the rule of law. 

Turning to piracy, also a form of terrorism, Mr. Jonathan said Nigeria has promoted cooperation to mitigate its impact and consequences. Most recently, alongside the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) , the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission to confront the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. 

Mr. Jonathan also noted that Nigeria adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in April and called for Member States to follow suite. 

On the use of chemical weapons, Mr. Jonathan said that Nigeria condemns “in the strongest possible terms” their use in Syria, and urged a political solution “including the instrumentality of the United Nations.” He also highlighted the threat of nuclear weapons, which are as unsafe in the hands of small Powers as they are in the hands of the major countries. “It is our collective responsibility to urge the international community to respond to the clarion call for a peaceful universe in an age of uncertainty.”

In his statement, Mr. Jonathan, said Nigeria’s desire and determination to actively cooperate for overall well-being make the theme of this year’s General Debate on the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the succeeding post-2015 sustainable development, all the more apt. 

He noted that the UN conducted inclusive consultations and surveys with Nigerians as part of the post-2015 process which will be discussed by world leaders this week, including a Nigerian-led event on the MDGs tomorrow on the sidelines of the Assembly debate.

Mr. Jonathan, the first African leader to address the chamber this morning, noted that a post-2015 development agenda is particularly relevant “to us in Africa,” where the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, food insecurity, and climate change continue to engage the attention of the political leadership.

He said that a new Africa is emerging, a “renascent Africa that has moved away from the era of dictatorship to a new dawn where the ideals of good governance and an emphasis on human rights and justice are beginning to drive state-society relations.” 

This emergent Africa will require “continued support and partnership of the international community,” said Mr. Jonathan, whose country serves as co-chair on the Expert Committee on Financing for Sustainable Development. He added, however, that Africa no longer a “destination for aid but one that is involved in constructive, multi-sectoral exchanges on the global stage.” 

In his statement, Mr. Jonathan also highlighted the “apparent lack of progress” in United Nations reform, particularly on the issue of the Security Council. 

The President of Nigeria, which is seeking election for one of the five non-permanent seats on the Council during 2014 and 2015, today issued a call for democratization of the body for the “enthronement of justice, equity and fairness” and the “promotion of a sense of inclusiveness and balance in our world.”

(UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President of Chile Calls for Permanent Members to Abandon Veto

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera today called for profound reform of the United Nations Security Council, increasing its membership, abandoning the veto enjoyed by the five current permanent members, and instituting a super-majority rule for the adoption of major decisions. “We join in the appeals to countries with the right of veto to refrain from exercising that right in situations of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide or ethnic cleansing, since doing so prevents the Council from effectively defending the most fundamental values and principles of mankind,” he told the General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate.

Chile supports the inclusion of Brazil, Germany, Japan and India as permanent members of the Security Council and the African continent's request for fair representation, he said.  Currently the Council consists of 15 nations, five permanent members with the right of veto – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – and 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.  

But Mr. Piñera stressed that Council reform is not limited to mere enlargement.  “It also means abandoning the rationale of vetoes, reflecting an old world that no longer exists, and replacing it by a rationale of special quorums, suitable for this new 21st century world, so that the most important decisions concerning international security, which inevitably affect us all ultimately, can be adopted by large and forceful majorities truly representative of the community of nations,” he said. “Basically, if we advocate democracy, dialogue and participation when we govern our countries, I see no reason not to apply these same principles and values when we take decisions affecting the whole world.”

Efforts to change the Council’s structure to make it more reflective of an age when the world body’s membership has almost quadrupled to 193 from just 51 at its founding in 1845 have been on the UN agenda for decades but so far without success. 

Mr. Piñera also highlighted the importance of the “responsibility to protect” including the use of international force in sovereign countries as a last resort to prevent major human rights crimes.

“This concept considers as a primary duty to protect the population within its borders,” he said. “And if a State cannot or does not want to accomplish with this primary duty, then the international community can intervene within the frame of its three accepted pillars: prevention, support of the international community in this task and the proportional use of force, but always in accordance with the United Nation Charter, as a last resort and when strictly essential to prevent or deter genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity.”  He also reaffirmed Chile’s commitment to democracy, multilateralism and regionalism, and condemned the use of chemical weapons and indiscriminate force in the Syrian civil war.

(UN press release)

September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

UN General Assembly: Address by U.S. President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama addressed the opening of the United Nations General Assembly earlier today.  Here is a link to a video of his remarks.

President Obama said that, although the end of America’s involvement in a decade of war was a shift away from a “perpetual war-footing,” a glance at today’s headlines indicated the dangers that remained. The convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa had laid bare deep divisions within societies. Peaceful movements had been answered by violence — from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change. Nowhere had those trends converged more powerfully than in Syria. The international community recognized the stakes, but its response had not matched the scale of the challenge. Aid could not keep pace with the suffering; a peace process was still-born; extremist groups had taken root to exploit the crisis; Assad’s traditional allies had propped him up, and, on 21 August, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

President Obama asked: “How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?” As a starting point, the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons. When he stated his willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response, he said he “did not do so lightly.” The ban against chemical weapons had been agreed to by 98 per cent of humanity, and strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocated in the trenches, Jews slaughtered in gas chambers and Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands. The evidence was overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on 21 August. It was an insult to human reason and to United Nations’ legitimacy to suggest that anyone other than the regime had carried out that attack.

The Syrian Government, he continued, had taken a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles. Now was the time for a strong Security Council resolution to verify that it would keep its commitments, or face consequences if it did not. “If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.” He did not believe that military action — by those within Syria, or by external Powers — could achieve a lasting peace. Neither did he think a leader who “slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death” could regain the legitimacy to lead a “badly fractured country”. The notion that Syria could return to a pre-war status quo was a “fantasy,” he said.

Time had come for the Russian Federation and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule would lead to the outcome they feared: an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate, he said. It was important to support the moderate opposition within Syrian. The Syrian people could not afford a collapse of State institutions, he underlined, stressing that a political settlement could not be reached without addressing the legitimate fears of Alawites and other minorities. Pursuing a settlement was “not a zero-sum endeavor,” nor did the United States have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbours, the elimination of chemical weapons and ensuring it did not become a safe haven for terrorists. As the international community moved the Geneva process forward, he urged all nations to meet humanitarian needs in Syria, and he announced a further $340 million in assistance to the country.

Outlining the United States’ policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, he said it was prepared to “use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region.” It would confront external aggression against its allies and partners, as it did in the Gulf War, and ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. It would dismantle terrorist networks that threatened its people and work with its partners to address the root causes of terror. It would “take direct action” to defend the United States against terrorist attacks. Finally, it would not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction, and it rejected the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.

In the near-term, he said, American diplomatic efforts would focus on two key issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While those issues were not the cause of all of the region’s problems, they had been a major source of instability for far too long and resolving them could serve as a foundation for a broader peace. The United States and Iran had been isolated from each other since 1979, and he did not think “this difficult history can be overcome overnight — the suspicion runs too deep.” Although the United States preferred to resolve its concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme peacefully, it was determined to prevent that country from developing a nuclear weapon. The Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Hassan Rouhani has just reiterated that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon. He would direct United States Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue that effort with the Iranian Government.

He reiterated that the United States would never compromise its commitment to Israel’s security nor support for its existence as a Jewish State. Israeli and Palestinian leaders had recently demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks, with current talks focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem. Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic State depended on the establishment and stability of a Palestinian State. All sides must recognize that peace was a powerful tool to defeat extremists. Moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region were languishing without work. “The time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace,” he urged.

On the Arab Spring, he said that, when peaceful transition towards democracy had begun in Egypt and Tunisia, the world had been filled with hope. However, over the last few years, particularly in Egypt, the world had witnessed how difficult a transition to democracy and openness truly was. The United States would continue its constructive relationship in Egypt and would reject the notion that democratic principles were simply Western exports incompatible with Islam. Promoting peace was the task of a generation, he said, adding that the sectarian violence in Bahrain, Iraq and Syria must be addressed by the peoples of those nations.

Although the United States had a “hard-earned humility,” the danger for the world was not an America that was too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, but that, after a decade of war — rightly concerned about issues back home and aware of the hostility that its engagement in the region had engendered throughout the Muslim world — might disengage, thereby creating a vacuum of leadership no other nation was ready to fill. Different nations would not agree on the need for action in every instance, and while the principle of sovereignty was at the centre of our international order, it “cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye to slaughter.”

“If we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better — all of us — at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order,” he said. Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals; through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules; through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict and not merely its aftermath; and through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized. Sometimes, all that would not be enough and, in such moments, the international community would need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force might be required to prevent the very worst from occurring.

(mew) (Summary of President Obama's remarks by the United Nations)


September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Book on Victim Participation in International Criminal Proceedings Wins Award from the International Association of Penal Law

B.N. McGonigleThe book Procedural Justice? Victim Participation in International Criminal Proceedings published by Intersentia was recognized this past weekend with an award from the U.S. National Chapter of the International Association of Penal Law (L'Association International du Droit Pénal), the Paris-based society of international criminal law scholars.  The award was presented to the book's author, Brianne N. McGonigle (pictured here holding the prize-winning book).  The presentation was made by Professor Michael J. Kelly, director of the International and Comparative Law Program at Creighton University School of Law, during a special program held as part of the International Law Weekend Midwest.  ILW-Midwest was held at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Brianne McGonigle Leyh is an attorney specializing in international criminal law and procedure, human rights and transitional justice. Currently, she is researching and teaching at Utrecht University’s Netherlands Institute of Human Rights and University College Utrecht. In addition to her work with the university, she is an executive editor of the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights and she co-directs the Netherlands Office of the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG).

Dr. McGonigle has worked as a Co-Counsel on a legal team representing Civil Parties before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia ("ECCC"), has experience working for a defense team at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ("ICTY") and held a Visiting Professional position at the International Criminal Court’s Office of Public Counsel for Victims. 

Click here for more information about the International Association of Penal Law.

Mark E. Wojcik (mew)

September 24, 2013 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Another victim of the Syrian conflict

A less publicized victim of the ongoing armed conflict in Syria is its cultural and religious treasures. The International Council of Museums (ICOM), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State, has developed a Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk.  The Red List was created to respond to the widespread looting of museums and archaeological sitesin Syria and to help authorities identify Syrian objects that may be protected by national or international law. The destruction and looting of sites and monuments that have been preserved for millennia places
Syria at risk of losing a cultural legacy of universal importance. 

A meeting will be held in New York tomorrow to launch the Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects at Risk. The event will be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and will feature remarks from Anne Richard, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Dr. Hans-Martin Hinz, the President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), Thomas Campbell, Director of the Museum; Irina Bakova, the Director General of the United Nations Scientific, Educational, and Cultural Organization; and Bonnie Burnham, President of the World Monuments Fund.


September 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Allegations of Abuse by UN Peacekeepers in Mali

The United Nations mission in Mali has received allegations of serious misconduct by its peacekeeping troops last week, including an alleged incident of sexual abuse. 

“The Secretary-General is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness and, in line with established procedure, is in the process of notifying the troop contributing countries,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told a news briefing in New York today. “The troop contributing country has primary responsibility for investigating the matter and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary and judicial measures are taken should the allegations be well founded.”

The Security Council established the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in April with a targeted strength of 12,600 to support the West African country’s recovery from a coup and the occupation of its north by Islamist fundamentalists, its transition back to stability and democratic governance and the promotion of human rights and provision of humanitarian aid. 

The UN has long had a policy of zero tolerance against sexual abuse or any other misconduct by troops or other personnel in its peacekeeping and other missions. Mr. Nesirky said the alleged misconduct occurred in the north-eastern town of Gao on 19 and 20 September and the Mission acted immediately to determine the facts being alleged and to preserve evidence. The Mission has also provided assistance to the alleged victim.

MINUSMA will offer all necessary support to the troop contributing country to ensure that it is able to fulfil its responsibilities in taking appropriate action should the allegations prove true, he added. 

“The UN Mission in Mali is committed to the highest standards of conduct by all its personnel, military, police and civilian. The Secretary-General has a policy of zero tolerance for any form of sexual exploitation and abuse, and will do everything possible to see that a thorough process of investigation and, as appropriate, accountability takes place,” he declared. 

As of 31 July MINUSMA had a total of 6,294 uniformed personnel, 5,494 of them military and 800 police.

(UN press release)

September 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Yorkers Flee the City as United Nations Opens

When I lived in New York, it was common for people to get as far away from the city during the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly annual General Debate.  Traffic will be horrible as heads of state from around the world put New York City's finest through some elaborate traffic moves.  Some 30 world leaders are set for the opening day at United Nations Headquarters in New York for the General Assembly's annual General Debate, which kicks off tomorrow and aims to set the stage for building a new global development agenda which both protects the planet and promotes equity, justice and prosperity for all people.   The UN reports that 84 heads of State, 41 heads of Government, 11 Deputy Prime Ministers and 65 Foreign Ministers are scheduled to address the Assembly on sustainable development, poverty eradication, climate change, human rights, and a range of peace and security issues.  It's an exciting time and we hope to share many highlights with you over the next weeks.


September 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Human Trafficking in Italy

Warning that human trafficking in Italy, particularly for the sexual exploitation of women and girls, is growing, a United Nations human rights expert has called on the Government to boost its efforts to combat the scourge.  “Italy needs to rekindle its fight to end human trafficking, especially the unabated exploitation of the prostitution of foreign women and girls,” the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo said in Rome at the end of a nine-day official visit. “The anti-trafficking measures initiated by the Government require continuing monitoring and evaluation if significant progress is to be made and the vicious cycle broken.” 

Ms. Ezeilo noted that sexual exploitation, especially involving women from Nigeria and Eastern Europe, is the most prevalent and documented form of trafficking in Italy, and the Arab uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria, have further exacerbated the problem of migrant inflow, smuggling and trafficking in persons for labour and sexual exploitation. “The phenomenon of trafficking in persons in Italy is unfortunately growing in scale and traffickers are getting more daring in exploitation and abuse of their victims,” she said,

She recounted the stories of two victims she spoke to. One was a 21 year old Nigerian girl who travelled by plane from Nigeria transiting through Turkey, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia. Not only was she trafficked but was held in debt bondage as her father back in Edo state had put up his land as collateral for the payment of the 60,000 euros illegal contract to bring her to Europe. The young woman was moved from Turin to Milan and Paris to sell her body to repay her debt. She was rescued following a random identification check in Italy where she now benefits from assistance. The traffickers have continued to threaten her family in Nigeria since her disappearance from their radar.

In the second case Ms. Ezeilo recalled the traumatized face of an Asian woman victim of trafficking for labour exploitation who was forced to work in a sweatshop sewing all day. She was a victim of violence by her so-called boyfriend who exploited her. She lost her sight and suffered severe injuries on her hand for which she underwent surgery and is now recuperating in a shelter. “Her determination to survive despite her traumatizing experience reminds us of a collective responsibility to bring succour to trafficked persons,” she said.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Human Rights Lawyer Among Those Released in Iran

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the efforts of the new Government in Iran in promoting dialogue with the international community, and its recent release of a dozen political prisoners, as he met with the country’s Foreign Minister. Among the political prisoners released this week is human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, as well as a number of women’s rights activists, political activists and journalists. 

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban recalled that he had raised this issue during his visit to Iran last year and had urged the Government to release these prisoners. “I am glad that they have finally taken action,” he said, as he reported on his meeting today with Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif.

“I told the Minister that I am pleased that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now taking some concrete steps to fulfil the promises made by President [Hassan] Rouhani during his recent election campaign. The Secretary-General is scheduled to Mr. Rouhani next week “to discuss matters of mutual concern” on the sidelines of the annual high-level debate held by the General Assembly. 

Mr. Ban and Mr. Zarif also discussed Iran’s growing cooperation with the international community on a host of issues, including the nuclear file, as well the role Iran could play in promoting a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

(Adapted from a UN press release)

September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

International Day of Peace

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace, a time for individuals, organizations and governments to reflect on how their actions do or do not contribute to the establishment and maintenance of peace. 

The United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 36/67 in 1981 to establish the International Day of Peace (IDP).  The resolution states in part that it is a day, “…to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” In 2002, the UN General Assembly officially declared September 21 as the permanent annual date for the International Day of Peace.

People around the globe will be celebrating peace on this day with festivals, concerts, a global peace wave and moments of silence and reflection.


September 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Convention on the Rights of the Child and Its Optional Protocols

United Nations officials today urged Member States that have not done so to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Child and its three Optional Protocols, stressing that this is vital to protect children from abuse and mistreatment worldwide. “Millions of children around the globe suffer daily from violence, exploitation and abuse. Ignored by statistics and neglected by policy action they are silent victims, excluded from the public debate,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, addressing the press. 

Countries will have the opportunity to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocols at the 2013 Treaty Event, which will be held 24 – 26, and 30 September and 1 October at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, providing protection and support for the rights of children. Its three Optional Protocols deal, respectively, with protecting children from trafficking, prostitution and child pornography; prohibiting their recruitment in armed conflict; and allowing children to bring forward their complaints to the UN if their rights are being abused.

“The Treaty Event is an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm or to express their commitment to be accountable for the rights of the child everywhere – all children under their jurisdiction,” Ms. Santos Pais told reporters during a briefing in New York. “It is also a way of recalling that ratification, while very important, is just the start of a very long process, and a continuous process of national implementation.”

The Convention is the most widely and rapidly ratified treaty in history, but has not achieved universal ratification. Currently, 193 States are party to the Convention. Somalia, South Sudan and the United States are the only Member States that have not ratified it.

The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force in 2002 and has been ratified by 152 countries. Twenty States have signed but not ratified it and 22 have neither signed nor ratified it.

“Every new commitment brings us closer to a world where all States agree that children belong far from the battlefield,” said the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children on Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, also at the press conference.  “The goal is within reach and many countries have taken the additional step to criminalize the use of children under 18 in conflict in their national legislation.” 

The Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography provides is closer to universal ratification as 164 States have ratified it, and less than 30 are yet to join. The third Optional Protocol allows children to bring complaints to the UN was adopted in December 2011, and has been ratified by only six countries and signed by 37. 

“Ratification and implementation of the Protocols lay the foundation for children’s protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.” said Ms. Santos Pais. “Children are key actors in this process.” During the press briefing, Ms. Santos Pais launched a child-friendly version of the Third Optional Protocol to inform children them about their rights and prevent their victimization.

The child-friendly version was developed in consultation with children in different regions of the world and is an advocacy tool to help young people raise awareness and promote the safeguard of the rights of the child. 

“This means a lot to children around the world, especially those who were born or are growing up in countries torn apart by conflict,” Ms. Zerrougui told reporters, adding that she had seen the devastating impact of conflict on children who had been recruited by armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. 

“States should take all possible measures to prevent such recruitments. That includes legislation to prohibit and criminalize recruitment of children under 18 and involve them in hostilities,” she said, adding that Governments should also provide support to help children who have experienced abuse.

(from a UN press release)

September 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iran Releases Prisoners of Conscience

The Iranian Government has released several prisoners of conscience, including human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, winner of Sakharov Prize for defending human rights. She was released after two years in jail, far short of her 6-11 year sentence.  President Rouhani pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians, and called for expanded political and social freedoms, including freedom of expression. This move appears to be a good step in that direction.


September 19, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cambodia Tribunal Borrows Money to Pay Its Employees

The United Nations has secured a loan from major donors to meet the salaries of national staff working for the tribunal responsible for trying genocide suspects in Cambodia.  The loan to the national component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the payment of arrears of national salaries is being made on a strictly reimbursable basis, according to Lars Olsen, spokesperson for UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials. 

“The United Nations continues to work with major donors to try to identify additional funding to meet the salaries of national staff for the remainder of 2013,” he said in a statement. “We hope that the national staff of the ECCC will now be able to return to work on this basis.”

More than 100 of the court’s local employees reportedly went on strike in early September after not being paid for a month.

“The United Nations underlines that the only sustainable solution to the lack of funding for the salaries of national staff is for the Royal Government of Cambodia to meet its obligation to pay them,” said Mr. Olsen. “Any further strikes could risk delaying the judicial proceedings and jeopardise the court’s ability to function.”

The ECCC, established in 2003 under an agreement between the UN and Cambodia, is tasked with trying senior leaders and those most responsible for serious violations of Cambodian and international law committed during the Khmer Rouge rule. It is staffed by a mix of Cambodian and international employees and judges.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

September 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Advice to Law Students from Justice O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivered a speech yesterday at the University of Colorado in honor of Constitution Day.  She was asked what advice she had for new law students.  We are told that this was her answer: 

"Learn everything you can. Be a good student. Do your homework. Learn to write. Learn to express yourself well. Learn everything they have available to teach you."

Hat tip to Lisa T. McElroy (Drexel University)


September 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Should States Oppose Omar al-Bashir's Visit to the UN?

Human Rights Watch has issued a press release calling on Member States of the United Nations to oppose Sudanese President Omar al Bashir's visit to the United Nations General Assembly.  They have also called on Member States to boycott any meetings or events in which Bashir participates because the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants for his arrest in connection with crimes against humanity Sudan.

Bashir's visit does raise difficult issues.  On the one hand, one of the purposes and succcess of the United Nations over time has been to provide a forum for international debate, negotiation and diplomacy.  In order to perform this function, sometimes unpopular or even criminal views must be allowed to be aired.  Partly for this reason, the UN offers diplomatic immunity to visiting government officials. On the other hand, as Human Rights Watch points out, the UN and Member States of the ICC are under an obligation to cooperate with the ICC and assist in enforcing its work.  In this case, allowing al-Bashir to travel and engage in public meetings abroad does seem contrary to the spirit and letter of the ICC arrest warrents.

Your views on this issue are welcome.


September 18, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)