Yearly Archives: 2008
In this week’s UN Plaza, I interview Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. Richard is an expert on the International Criminal Court and in the diavlog we discuss and debate the relative merits of the court. In the segment below, Richard explains the significance of the recent arrest of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Congolese Vice President and Militia Leader. Bemba was arrested outside his wife’s home in Brussels last week and is now awaiting extradition to the Hague. As Richard explains, this is a very important development for the court.
If any weapon deserve to be banned, it seems that so-called “cluster bombs” fit the bill. A description from The Washington Post:
The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or “bomblets,” that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the bomblets are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.
Despite the bombs’ deplorable after-effects, the United States opted not to sign onto an agreement to ban the weapons. I’m not sure which justification is less defensible: that cluster bombs are a valuable part of the U.S. military’s arsenal (they have not been used at all in over five years) or that banning them could somehow hinder the U.S.’s disaster relief efforts.
Likewise, the fact that the other major users and producers of the bombs — Russia, China, Israel, and Pakistan — also did not sign the treaty does not seem to warrant retaining cluster bombs for defensive reasons. That said, there may still be hope for curbing the use of these munitions. Remember: the United States also did not sign the 1997 ban on landmines — and that has not inspired it to join the lonely ranks of Burma in planting the deadly devices. Perhaps, though, it’d be better to just sign both treaties and come out against weapons that mutilate and kill children.
Yesterday, women’s rights activists and UN officials testified in Stockholm about the escalation of violence against women in Iraq since U.S. occupation:
The United Nations’ special representative to Baghdad, Staffan de Mistura, cited a recent UN human rights report on Iraq as saying that ‘in Basra 100 or more women had been killed or mutilated because they were wearing what was considered by some as inappropriate dress. The dress was not inappropriate at all.’
De Mistura also mentioned the high number of so-called ‘honour crimes’ in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
‘Since the (2003 US) occupation we have seen a deterioration of women’s rights,’ said Lena Ag, the secretary general of the Swedish organisation Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman).
The testimony took place the day before the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) conference, which looks at the political and security status since its peace plan they launched five years ago.
Iraqi women’s rights activists also stressed the importance for more women, and civil society in general, to take part in development efforts in Iraq.
‘Women are a potential factor for democratic and development processes in Iraq,’ said Hanaa Edwar Busha, one of the founders of the Iraqi Women Network, stressing that women represent around 55 percent of the Iraqi population.
>>Myanmar – The ruling junta belittled foreign aid in the wake of the cyclone as “chocolate bars” and stated that the 2.4 million victims could “stand by themselves” in an editorial in the state-run newspaper. The junta simultaneously accused the international community of being stingy as the UN’s $201 million flash appeal hasn’t been filled by donor nations. Meanwhile, the NY Times reports that an “economy warped by years of misrule” is hindering aid delivery.
>>Nepal – Yesterday, a special assembly elected in April abolished Nepal’s 239-year-old Hindu monarchy. The king’s palace will be turned into a museum; he has 15 days to vacate.
>>Iran – Yesterday, Ali Larijani, a rival to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the former nuclear negotiator, was elected as the speaker Iran’s parliament. He is conservative and a supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, but is seen as being more pragmatic and open to diplomacy. However, his election is more likely due to butter issues, discontent with Ahmadinejad’s management of the economy.
- The Effects of Global Warming on America
- Clinton, Obama, McCain United on Darfur
- IHT: Even With Access, Distributing Aid in Myanmar is a Challenge
Today is International Peacekeeper’s Day. In a new video for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, United Nations Messenger for Peace George Clooney explains what peace is not…
Middle East: During the last 48 hours of the continued ceasefire, humanitarian workers have delivered food to hundreds of thousands of people, repaired water and sanitation infrastructure, re-stocked medical supplies, and some of the 520,000 displaced Palestinians have returned to their homes. However, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator remarked the scale of needs remains “unprecedented in the Gaza Strip.”
Middle East: At today’s informal session of the General Assembly on Gaza the SG remarked that the most recent ceasefire has held since yesterday at 8 a.m. local time. He noted that a durable ceasefire is necessary and UN shelters must continue to remain safe zones. The SG thanked UN staff in Gaza and will fly the UN flag at half-mast tomorrow in memory of those who died in the conflict.
Middle East: The SG commended Israeli and Palestinian parties for committing to a 72-hour ceasefire that took place at 8 a.m. local time today. He urges all parties to abide by the ceasefire and commence peace talks in Cairo to address underlying issues and agree on a durable ceasefire to sustainably stop the violence. The UN lends its full support toward these efforts.
Middle East: The SG condemned yesterday’s shelling outside of an UNRWA school in Rafah that killed at least 10 Palestinian civilians. The SG stated that the attack violated international humanitarian law and UN shelters must continue to be safe zones and not combat zones.
SG: Last night the SG spoke at a joint press conference with the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica where he repeated his call for an unconditional and extendable humanitarian ceasefire. Speaking about yesterday’s shelling of a UN shelter he said: “Nothing – nothing – justifies such horror” and demanded “that all parties immediately respect UN premises”.
SG: The SG met with President Ortega yesterday in Nicaragua where he visited a wind farm and praised the country’s commitment to renewable energy. The SG arrived in Costa Rica today where he is expected to lecture about “Costa Rica and the United Nations: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century”.