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UN to Get Syrian War Crimes List in March 2013

On February 18, 2013, the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic announced that, “A confidential list of individuals and units believed to be responsible for crimes against humanity, breaches of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations will be submitted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the close of the commission’s current mandate, in March 2013.” See “Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.”

According to the commission report, dated February 5, 2013, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s (in photo below)Bashar al-Assad:

Government forces and affiliated militia committed the crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts. War crimes and gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law — including arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful attack, attacking protected objects, and pillaging and destruction of property — were also committed.

Anti-Government armed groups have committed war crimes, including murder, torture, hostage-taking and attacking protected objects. They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives inside civilian areas. Where armed groups carried out bombings in predominantly civilian areas, it had the effect of spreading terror and amounted to the war crime of attacking civilians. The violations and abuses committed by anti-Government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by Government forces and affiliated militia.

The report contends that, “Both Government-affiliated militia and anti-Government armed groups were found to have violated the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which the Syrian Arab Republic is a party.”

According to the commission, “Government-affiliated militia used children under the age of 18 in direct hostilities. Children under the age of 15 actively participated in hostilities as part of anti-Government armed groups, conduct that constitutes the war crime of using, conscripting and enlisting children.”

The commission’s conclusion: “… the only solution to the Syrian conflict is a political one, based on the framework set forth in the final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria of 30 June 2012 (Geneva communiqué) (A/66/865-S/2012/522).”

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Why U.S. Supported ICC on Arrest Warrant For Sudan's Omar al-Bashir

What is the Obama Administration's official position on the International Criminal Court's March 4, 2009, issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir? According to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:

The United States supports the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) actions to hold accountable those imageresponsible for the heinous crimes in Darfur. We remain determined in our pursuit of both peace and justice in Sudan. The people of Sudan have suffered too much for too long, and an end to their anguish will not come easily. Those who committed atrocities in Sudan, including genocide, should be brought to justice.  U.N. Security Council Resolution 1593, which referred the crimes in Darfur to the ICC, requires the Government of Sudan and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with the ICC and its prosecutor and urges all states and concerned regional organizations to cooperate fully.
The United States expects restraint from all involved – the Government of Sudan, armed rebel groups, and others. No one should use the ICC’s decision as a pretext to incite or launch violence against civilians or international personnel. The safety and security of all civilians, international personnel, and UN and African Union peacekeepers in Sudan must be respected. We will continue to work with all parties for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to bring an end to the conflict between North and South Sudan. The U.S. urges all parties to engage seriously with the Joint Chief Mediator of the UN and the African Union, Djibril Bassole, as he works to halt the hostilities in Darfur and to forge a political settlement that will bring lasting peace, justice, and security to the people of Darfur.

The U.S. has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It has also withdrawn its original signature. However, when he was a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama, the U.S. President, said the U.S. should be a signatory to the treaty and abide by it.

Meanwhile, according to Gerald Warner of the London Daily Telegraph, "America helped defeat a proposal that the warrant for Bashir should be suspended for 12 months - which would have been a welcome respite for the soup kitchens of Darfur. This is a policy change of considerable significance." See "Barack Obama may subject US troops to International Criminal Court."

For more information on the ICC, see the "Basic Legal Texts" that governs rules of evidence and other legal procedures. It's quite comprehensive.

Note: This article was first posted at The U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor & Review, a blog dealing specifically with U.S. foreign policy.

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Israel Reminded of the Obligations of an Occupying Power

STATEMENT BY BUREAU OF COMMITTEE ON PALESTINIAN RIGHTS ON SITUATION IN GAZA STRIP

The following statement by the Bureau of the Committee of the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on the situation in the Gaza Strip was issued in New York, 31 December [2008]:

The Bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People condemns in the strongest possible terms deadly military assaults and destruction perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Gaza Strip that have reportedly killed, by various accounts, more than 390 Palestinians.  The number, which has been constantly growing since Saturday, 27 December, includes many civilians, including women and children.  Considering the high number of those injured and the fact that the Israeli military operation is continuing, the death toll resulting from this escalation of violence is likely to rise.

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Susan Rice Would Be a Good Choice for U.S. Envoy to the U.N.

On November 24, 2008, news out of Washington, D.C. suggested that President-Elect Barack Obama will chose Susan Rice, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in President Bill Clinton's Administration, to represent the United States at United Nations. If given the job, she will replace Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, who also served as President George W. Bush's Ambassador to Afghanistan and Ambassador to Iraq.

I think Dr. Rice, who served on Mr. Clinton's National Security Council and was a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama during his presidential campaign, is a good choice. Unlike former Bush Administration U.N. Envoy, John Bolton,  Ms. Rice is unlikely to view the U.N. as the enemy or an organization to be bent to the will of the U.S.

If you want to know more about her views, please see Spencer Ackerman's November 14, 2008, article in The Washington Independent headlined "A Window Into Obama’s Foreign Policy."

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U.N. Expands 'Political Role in Iraq'

On August 10, 2007, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved "a 12-month mandate extension for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)." According to UNSC, this expands "the world body’s political role in Iraq, aimed at bringing together the strife-torn country’s rival factions, gaining broader support from neighboring countries, and tackling the deepening humanitarian crisis."

I would think the U.N. would want to eschew any political role for a purely humanitarian role. I guess the August 19, 2003, truck bomb that exploded outside the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad wasn't enough of a warning to remain neutral in Iraq.  Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N envoy in Iraq, was killed along with 21 staff members during a bombing  at  the Canal Hotel in Iraq. As Wikipedia notes, the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq "in 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990." They "continued until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. They were perhaps the toughest, most comprehensive sanctions in history, and have caused much controversy over the humanitarian impact, culminating with two senior UN representatives in Iraq resigning in protest of the sanctions," according to Wikipedia. See "Iraq sanctions." Some observers say the sanctions led to thousands of Iraqi deaths and a lot of anger. Some observers even think the bombing of U.N. headquarters was payback for the sanctions.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States before he took the U.N. post in July 2004, is the current U.N. envoy. According to the August 3, 2007, edition of the New York Sun:

Although it is being urged to overhaul its mission in Iraq, the United Nations plans to extend the contract of its long-term envoy to Baghdad, Ashraf Qazi, by at least three months, several U.N. sources said. Mr. Qazi, a Pakistani national, will remain in Baghdad while a decision is being made about his replacement. For months, American and U.N. officials said Mr. Qazi would be replaced when his current contract expires this month, but Secretary-General Ban has yet to choose a new envoy.
To read the Security Council press release on the expansion of the U.N. political role in Iraq and the resolution extending UNAMI's mission, please see "Security Council expands United Nations role in Iraq as part of efforts to end strife, win regional support, tackle humanitarian crisis."

For some background on the Security Council and Iraq, see the Wikipedia article titled  "The UN Security Council and the Iraq war.

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Will Venezuela Or Guatemala Get Security Council Seat? Who Knows?

Spain's eitb24, which bills itself as the "Basque News and Information Channel," reported October 16, 2006, that, "Venezuelan diplomats blamed heavy-handed U.S. lobbying after their country failed to muster enough votes to win a UN Security Council seat in four rounds of voting on Monday," October 16, 2006."

The news outlet said, "Guatemala topped Venezuela in the first four rounds of voting Monday [October 16, 2006] for a UN Security Council seat, but it failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to win a two-year term on the powerful United Nations body." See "Tiny Guatemala leads Venezuela in UN Council vote.

"That result opened the door for others to join the race, in what could be a blow to both countries' chances for a seat," eitb24 said.

Surely Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who frequently defies the U.S. and is leading a movement to lessen U.S. influence in Latin American, didn't think the U.S. would let him easily obtain a seat on the Security Council. One can imagine the threats and promises of aid received by some of those voting against Venezuela. 

To read why the Venezuelans are complaining, see "Guatemala tops Venezuela, Chavez's diplomats blame US lobbying."

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