Sunday, September 27, 2009

The World's Gallstone

Emmanuel Navon

Forgive the corny pun, but Judge Goldstone's last name is just too remindful of the gastrological symptom known as gallstone –a symptom that happens to epitomize what the UN has become to the international system: the painful decay of a dispensable organ. Indeed, the UN is the world's gallstone. Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew who "is a Zionist and loves Israel" according to his daughter Nicole, is probably sincere when he says that "bringing war criminals to justice stems from the lessons of the Holocaust." But Goldstone is doing a disservice to his lofty ideals by working for the morally corrupt UN.

Has Goldstone ever asked himself why the UN's Human Rights Council, which appointed him to investigate alleged human rights and humanitarian law violations in Gaza, decided to ignore far more serious war crimes against the Tamils by the Sri Lankan government?

Last May, the Human Rights Council decided to ignore calls for an international investigation into alleged war crimes against Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan government. The Council did not even express its concern for the hundreds of thousands of people facing indefinite detention in government camps, or for the repeated and indiscriminate shelling of civilians by the Sri Lankan army. In fact, the Council commanded the Sri Lankan government for its policies while accusing the crushed Tamil liberation forces of abuses.

During the Council's special session, UN High Commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay called for an independent international investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the violent repression of Tamil fighters by the Sri Lankan government. The UN itself estimates that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka since late January 2009. A majority of Council members (including China, South Africa, and Uruguay) ignored the call for accountability and justice for victims by Pillay. Instead, the resolution adopted by the Council emphasized the principle of non-interference in the domestic jurisdiction of states.

As Professor Leo Gross wrote back in 1983 in The American Journal of International Law: "The members of the United Nations now seem to be moved to moral indignation only in selected cases, which deprives indignation of its moral basis." The reason for this double-standard is simple: The UN is dominated by autocracies and human rights abusers who use the UN to cover up their crimes. That same majority is shrewdly mobilized by the Arab states to single out Israel. This is why the Human Rights Council is constantly on Israel's case while real human rights violators, such as the Sri Lankan government, are always off the hook.

By accepting his Gaza appointment, Judge Goldstone condoned (implicitly at best, explicitly at worst) the UN's double standards, hypocrisy, and moral bankruptcy. He has a record of doing so. When he served as chief prosecutor of the UN International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, he was appointed by and worked for the very people who should have been prosecuted in the first place.

The UN bears direct responsibility for the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 and for the mass murder of 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica (former Yugoslavia) in 1995. As General Dallaire, the Canadian commander of UN forces in Rwanda, testified before the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a well-equipped peacekeeping force could have stopped the genocide, and the UN Security Council could have easily created such a force in April 1994. As for Srebrenica, the UN command reneged on its commitments to the Bosnian Muslims when it vetoed NATO air strikes. According to a 1999 UN report on Srebrenica, UN officials ignored the plea of the Muslims not to be abandoned to Serb forces.

Founded by World War II victors to maintain international peace and security, the UN has progressively been taken over by nasty regimes that now constitute a numerical majority at the General Assembly. The Goldstone report is just a symptom of what is wrong with the UN.

Relief from gallstone pain can be achieved by removing the gallbladder altogether. Something similar should be administered to the UN. Gaddafi offered yesterday to move the UN headquarters to Tripoli. What a good idea. The free countries that founded the UN should take up Gaddafi's offer and leave their Frankenstein in good company.

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