UN hypocrisy in investigating war crimes
Posted on April 20th, 2011
In light of the questionable report produced by the panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to look in to ‘the modalities and applicable international standards’ in relation to investigating alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, a recent article in the Foreign Policy website by Colum Lynch which, based on leaked US cables, details the UN Secretary General’s acquiescence to US efforts to shield Israel from a war crimes probe in to its offensive in Gaza in 2008/09, should be of interest to Sri Lankan officials and the public. Ban’s action (or inaction) in relation to Israeli atrocities in Gaza, and his subservience to the US makes clear that Ban is not fit to hold the position of UN Secretary General, and that he has no moral authority (to say nothing of the questionable technical/legal authority under the UN charter) to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka. The hypocrisy of the US too, is revealed in this article, for despite its grandstanding and lecturing about the need for a UN investigation in to alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka, it actively tried to prevent the investigation of war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.
In relation to Sri Lanka, Moon defied the resolution of the 11th session of the UN Human Rights Council, and on dubious authority, appointed a panel consisting of three questionably qualified individuals with demonstrated bias against Sri Lanka to conduct an ill-informed investigation with unclear terms of reference, in to the post-war investigative and accountability modalities in Sri Lanka. However, as the Foreign Policy article details, when it came to investigating Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the Secretary General buckled under US pressure and opposed the recommendation of the Board of Inquiry (which he himself appointed) that the UN conduct a far-reaching investigation, and went to the extent of collaborating with Israel, the party accused of committing war crimes, in drafting his cover letter to the Board of Inquiry’s report, which was to be sent to the Security Council. Furthermore, he was courteous enough to contact the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who had pressured him to rescind the recommendations of the Board of Inquiry, to let her know that, as per her request, he had drafted the letter taking in to account Israel’s views and that the US should be happy with the outcome. It should be noted here that had the Human Rights Council not proceeded with a resolution to investigate the commission of war crimes in Gaza (a course of action it did not take in relation to Sri Lanka), there would have been no investigations at all in to Israeli atrocities, in light of Ban’s decision to disregard the advice of the Board of Inquiry he himself appointed. That a man who wilts under US pressure to oppose the recommendations of his own Board of inquiry, and then goes on to collaborate with officials of the country accused of war crimes, heads the UN, should concern all members of the UN, especially in light of that fact that he is likely to renominate himself for the position of Secretary-General of the UN, a position he is clearly unfit to hold.
Similarly, the leaked cables have also revealed the hypocrisy and duplicity of the US when it comes to seeking justice for victims of war crimes. Leaving aside the credible, and in some cases proven, allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity directed at the US, most recently for its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US’ efforts in trying to shield Israel from any investigation in relation to the Gaza war, leaves it in no position to lecture Sri Lanka on the efficacy of availing herself to the ‘expertise’ of the UN, or the importance of investigating and prosecuting war criminals. Whilst the US was one of the major backers of the UN Secretary General’s move (unauthorised under the UN charter) to institute a panel to investigate Sri Lanka (in contravention of the resolution of the UN human rights council), it not only actively oppose any investigation of Israel, but pressured the Secretary General to go against the advice of his own Board of Inquiry. Additionally, just this week, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN testified before Congressional hearings that the US would prefer that the UN report in to war crimes in Gaza ‘disappear’. Notwithstanding the retraction by Richard Goldstone of certain aspects of the report he co-authored on the commission of war crimes in Gaza by Israel (and Hamas), the other panel-members have re-iterated that they stand by the findings of the report, especially in light of the fact that, contrary to Goldstone’s later assertions, subsequent, follow-up investigations have not disproved the finding of the original report. And yet, the US wants the report to ‘disappear’.
Obviously, the US or her ally Israel does not need to investigate, account for, or punish those responsible for, war crimes. Similarly, when it comes to Israel, the current UN Secretary General does not seem to be interested in ‘credible, impartial’ investigations, despite overwhelming evidence, including advice from the Board of Inquiry he himself appointed, that Israel (and Hamas) had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. The conclusion one can decipher from the actions and behaviour of the US and the UN Secretary General is that the lives of some (seemingly including LTTE terrorists) are worth more than the lives of innocent Palestinian Arab civilians in Gaza.
War crimes are never justified and should always be investigated, with those responsible being brought to justice irrespective of whether they are from Sri Lanka, Israel or the US. However, as his behaviour in relation to the Gaza offensive reveals, the Secretary General does not seem to believe in the universal condemnation of, and punishment of those responsible for, war crimes. Whilst clearly hypocritical and morally repugnant, one should not be surprised that the US (and many other countries) would flout international law for its own benefit and for the benefit of its allies such as Israel; however, one would expect better of the UN Secretary General.
That Sri Lankan authorities have not raised these issues with the UN or the US, or publicised the self-evident hypocrisy of those who advocate for human rights and justice for victims of war for their own interests, is a mystery that does warrant an investigation.
Exclusive new cables released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States’ heavy-handed efforts to help Israel at the U.N.
In the aftermath of Israel’s 2008-2009 intervention into the Gaza Strip, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, led a vigorous campaign to stymie an independent U.N. investigation into possible war crimes, while using the prospect of such a probe as leverage to pressure Israel to participate in a U.S.-backed Middle East peace process, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables provided by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The documents provide a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the U.N. as American diplomats sought to shield Israel’s military from outside scrutiny of its conduct during Operation Cast Lead. Their release comes as the issue is back on the front pages of Israel’s newspapers, following the surprise recent announcement by Richard Goldstone — an eminent South African jurist who led an investigation commissioned by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council — in a Washington Post op-ed that his team had unfairly accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians.
Follow the link below for The Foreign Policy article by Colum Lynch dated 18 April 2011 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/18/special_relationship?page=full