Friday, November 14, 2008

UN Round Up

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, pages 34-35

United Nations Report
European Court of Justice Rejects Procedures Enforcing U.N. Terrorism Watch List

By Ian Williams

I used to say that one of the attractions of the United Nations was that it was nice to know there was some authority between the White House and the heavens. Now I am happy to reveal that there is an additional body above the U.N., which has occasionally proven all too susceptible to White House pressure.

The European Court of Justice, which has frequently done so much to improve British governance, has overturned European governments’ implementation of the U.N. terrorist watch list, saying that it breaches fundamental rights. It annulled the European Council regulation which followed a U.N. Sanctions Committee decision by freezing the assets of Yassin Abdullah Kadi, from Saudi Arabia, and the Al Barakaat International Foundation of Sweden, part of the “Hawala” banking system used by the Somali Diaspora to transfer funds internationally. The Court was concerned at the lack of redress for people put on the list and complained that “the rights of the defense, in particular the right to be heard, and the right to effective judicial review of those rights, were patently not respected.”

While accepting that the EU had the right to act on the list, the Court gave a lesson to the world by insisting that there should also be a guarantee that those affected should be allowed to argue their case, “in order to ensure respect for his right to property.”

At the beginning of September, an American-led raid on a Pakistani village, killing at least 15, embarrassed the most pro-American candidate for the presidency there. Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, already had been embarrassed by the revelation that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad had been assisting and advising him.

The State Department reprimanded Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan and reputedly has ambitions to succeed Hamid Karzai as president there. However it is uncertain whether this was because the White House has been nurturing and supporting retiring—or rather, sacked—President Pervez Musharraf, or because of concerns over the chain of command.
Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, reputedly has ambitions to succeed Hamid Karzai as president there.

Under Democratic administrations, the U.N. ambassadorship is a high profile position. Often a cabinet post, it can cause problems when the secretary of state and one of his or her ambassadors are sitting side by side. Indeed, even without a cabinet conflict, we saw the tensions between John Bolton in the role and the State Department ultimately resolved by his departure.

Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher has some grounds for concern about crossed wires in a delicately balanced area where the U.S. was for long the major funder of those in Pakistan who were the sponsors for the Taliban. But the revelation of Khalilzad’s advice and help seems not to have affected Zardari’s recent election as president.
Western Sahara

Another envoy also dropped himself into trouble with candid advice, presumably because he correctly assumed his contract was not being renewed. Peter van Walsum, the Dutch diplomat who is the U.N. representative to Western Sahara, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that Western Sahara would never achieve independence, even though he admitted that international law and successive U.N. resolutions have called for self-determination in the vast desert country occupied mostly by the Moroccans.

He castigated Spanish civil society—whose NGOs are very active on the issue, since Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony—for encouraging the Sahrawis in their fruitless resistance. Van Walsum was careful, however, to whom he was candid. He almost had a point when he said the U.N. Security Council “is not ready to exercise its authority under article VII of the U.N. charter, and impose it.” But it was a little like telling a rape victim to stop struggling. Why did he attack the victims and their friends? A diplomat from a country with a record of acquiescence to “facts on the ground” in Srebrenica should be more circumspect. Why has he not pilloried Morocco and its friends in the Security Council—the U.S., France and Britain?

The silence of the U.N. Secretariat over the years has been stunning, since Morocco reneged on its 1991 agreement to allow a referendum in the territory. Indeed, there has often been complicity and connivance, as when then U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, in his last week in office, tried to get the Security Council to adopt a pro-Moroccan resolution over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

At the press briefing back in 1991 Johannes Mantz, the Swiss diplomat first charged with heading MINURSO, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, announced that it would only take a year to identify the voters and hold the referendum. I asked him at the time if he had consulted King Hassan of Morocco, who had made it plain that the only referendum he would allow was one that he was guaranteed to win. Since then, Hassan and his heir, Mohammed, each refused to allow the referendum, while the U.N. over 17 long years has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the sand dunes in preparation for it.

For some reason, while all other U.N. peacekeeping missions have come under congressional scrutiny, this, the most wasteful of all, was never questioned. Similarly, while Iraq and Iran were castigated for their failure to obey Security Council resolutions, there has been a deafening sound of silence about Rabat’s refusal to accept international law and Security Council resolutions, let alone honor its own promises.

France, with its own neocolonial interests in Morocco, has been a consistent supporter, but the Moroccan monarch now has more active American support on the issue, which nowadays always carries automatic British acquiescence as an added bonus.

At least partly, Washington’s support is because Morocco is Israel’s closest partner in the Arab world, despite the king’s position as chair of the Arab League committee on Jerusalem. The latter position ensures that Arab states perennially, and rightly, concerned about Palestinian refugees and the Israeli separation wall are, with a few expedient exceptions like Algeria, totally unconcerned about the Saharan refugees and the huge sand berm that Morocco has built across the territories it has occupied.

In the face of Moroccan obduracy, the fifth round of talks between Polisario and Morocco due this August was postponed.

As he left office Dan Gillerman, Israel’s envoy to the U.N., complained about all the breaches of U.N. Resolution 1701 and the failure of UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, to enforce it. “The UNIFIL soldiers were not sent there to give out chocolates to children or write traffic tickets,” he complained. “They were sent there to carry out a mandate which was very clearly defined,” which he claims they are not doing. Of course, Gillerman’s remarks resounded around the pro-Israel echo chamber. However, in September we had yet another reminder of just who is failing to deliver when an Israeli anti-personnel mine killed a Belgian U.N. peacekeeper on minesweeping duties.

These leftover munitions from Israel’s 2006 attack have killed at least 40 people—including 13 bomb disposal experts. More than 250 people have been injured by the munitions littering south Lebanon, which Israel was supposed to identify and chart for the U.N., which has itself identified 1,058 cluster strike locations

Israel has yet to respond to repeated requests from the U.N. to fulfil its part of 1701: detailed data on the strikes.

Of course, it has still not withdrawn from the border village of Ghajar, which it also is pledged to do. And Israel still, despite complaints, and indeed threats, from some UNIFIL contingents, persists in overflying Lebanon and the peacekeepers’ positions even though 1701 mandates it not to. In August, UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouzianne demanded Israel bring a halt to its overflights as “a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and of Lebanese sovereignty.”

Indeed Israeli sources had the chutzpah to complain that they needed to monitor Hezbollah because the group may use the “excuse” of continuing Israeli occupation of Ghajar and the Sheba’a farms to take action against the overflights. Since the occupation and the overflights are equally in violation of international law, this is a bit like a burglar complaining in advance that the householder is trying to stop him!
Security Council Settlements

With refreshing candor, U.N. Under Secretary General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council in his monthly report that the secretary-general had repeatedly stated that all the settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, ran contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel’s commitments under the road map and the Annapolis process.

Pascoe added that although two major stations in the West Bank had been partially opened to Palestinian traffic, leading to a significant improvement in access to those areas, the overall number of closures had remained unchanged at 608, as some previously removed obstacles had been re-installed. Construction continued on the barrier around East Jerusalem and within the West Bank, deviating from the Green Line and contrary to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

Meanwhile, while even Condoleezza Rice is audibly miffed about Israel’s settlement building activities, in clear violation of international law, U.N. decisions, and its own promises to the Quartet and its American ally, the Arab group at the U.N. reported failure in its efforts to get a simple resolution echoing the Quartet statement, which had called on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activities and dismantle its outposts.

The Lobby That Does Not Exist had the world’s only superpower scared to allow such a resolution through, and B. Lynn Pascoe, the former American diplomat, showed more courage than the entire panoply of American presidential candidates.

No comments: