Monthly Archives: September 2009
The famed jurist explains why the international community should concern itself with accountability for alledged war crimes in Israel and Gaza.
both Israel and Hamas have dismal records of investigating their own forces. I am unaware of any case where a Hamas fighter was punished for deliberately shooting a rocket into a civilian area in Israel — on the contrary, Hamas leaders repeatedly praise such acts. While Israel has begun investigations into alleged violations by its forces in the Gaza conflict, they are unlikely to be serious and objective.
Absent credible local investigations, the international community has a role to play. If justice for civilian victims cannot be obtained through local authorities, then foreign governments must act. There are various mechanisms through which to pursue international justice. The International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction by other countries against violators of the Geneva Conventions are among them. But they all share one overarching aim: to hold accountable those who violate the laws of war. They are built on the premise that abusive fighters and their commanders can face justice, even if their government or ruling authority is not willing to take that step.
In case you had not noticed, posting has been somewhat light here the past few days. This is not because there is a dearth of UN and global affairs to cover. Rather, we are implementing some major, major changes to UN Dispatch which will become operable next week. You are going to love it. Trust me.
We knew this day was coming. And, true to his reputation, the Goldstone report provides a dispassionate account of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed both by Hamas and during Operation Cast lead. There is a lot of horrifying stuff contained there in. I suggest you have a look.
The question is, now what?
The report suggests that the Security Council refer the situation to the International Criminal Court should local processes fail to provide appropriate accountability for the alledged crimes. That is the sort of route taken by the Council when it came to crimes in Darfur. Sudan, like Israel, is not a member of the ICC, so any court action would have to be mandated by the Security Council. Presumably, this sort of action would be blocked by Israel’s historical ally on the Council, but so far, the American government has been silent on the Goldstone report. We’ll have to wait and see how firmly the Obama administration stands behind the recommendations contained therein.
Meanwhile, Abraham Foxman debases himself with this kind of sentiment:
Israel refused to deal with Goldstone or the council, despite Goldstone’s Jewish credentials and longstanding ties to Israel — he’s a trustee of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, among other things. Foxman suggested that the United Nations was using Goldstone’s credibility to disguise an inherently biased report.
The idea that one of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid activists and a former head of the Rwanda and Yugolosav war crimes tribunal is just a patsy would be laughable if it did not come from the president of a formerly respectible group like the ADL.
The talented American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith, who serves as the deputy to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, has apparently left the country amidst a dispute with his boss, Norwegian mission chief Kai Eide.
According to numerous press reports, the dispute was over the Eide’s decision to order a recount of some 10% of disputed ballots from the recent (fraud-laden) Afghan election. The recount may pull Karzai under 50% of the vote, thereby triggering a recount. Galbraith argued that a more robust recount be ordered and that a larger proportion of the ballots be either annuled or recounted. The dispute between old friends grew heated and Galbraith left Kabul for Boston. He was previously scheduled to be in New York for the UN General Assembly next week.
The big question on my mind is the extent to which Galbraith’s insistence on a wider investigation of election fraud is a proxy for the Obama administration’s estimation of Karzai. If so, Karzai could be in some serious trouble.
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”.