This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
Contents of this issue: US hails arms treaty; sexual violence in conflict.
The United States told the General Assembly on April 2nd, following adoption of the arms trade treaty: “We believe that our negotiations have resulted in a treaty that provides a clear standard, in Article 6, for when a transfer of conventional arms is absolutely prohibited. This article both reflects existing international law and, in paragraph three, would extend it by establishing a specific prohibition on the transfer of conventional arms when a state party knows that the transfer will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, or the enumerated war and other crimes. Article 7 requires a state party to conduct a national assessment of the risk that a proposed export could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law, as well as acts of terrorism or transnational organized crime. Taken together, these articles provide a robust and complementary framework that will promote responsible transfer of decisions by states parties.”
Sexual violence in conflict.
I come now to a dreadful subject, one on which the UN has just published a major report, A/67/792-S/2013/149. Despite its importance, the report has not seen the light of day in any news medium that I am exposed to. Therefore UN Week is now presenting some aspects of the report, including its novel emphasis on sexual violence against men and boys.
As is often the case in UN reports to which many persons have contributed, this one speaks in the voice of the Secretary-General. That gives it added status beyond what it would enjoy if a single author or even a committee were given credit. Here is how it announces its goal.
“The report presents information on parties to conflict credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence.” Id. at 1. “The term ‘sexual violence’ refers to rape, sexual slavery forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence or comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men or children with a direct or indirect (temporal, geographical or causal) link to a conflict. * * *
“6. The country sections of the present report highlight several emerging concerns, including the perpetration of sexual violence against men and boys, the plight of children born as a result of rape and the practice of forced marriages by armed groups. * * *
“10. Although women and girls are predominantly affected by sexual violence, men and boys too are victims of such violence. Sexual violence has been perpetrated against men and boys as a tactic or war or in the context of detention or interrogation, including in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, and the Syrian Arab Republic. The social consequences of this violence are acute. More monitoring and information regarding male victims and the types of sexual violence perpetrated against them is required to tailor prevention initiatives, sensitization campaigns, treatment protocols and services for survivors.” READ from para 11.
Details follow on Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen.
Under a heading ‘Sexual Violence in post-conflict situations,” the following countries are referred to in detail: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.
Later in the report, accountability and reparations are discussed. “111. National courts remain the principal venue for holding individuals accountable for crimes of sexual violence. * * * 112. The focus of international criminal justice and mixed tribunals on combating acts of sexual violence, including rape, in the context of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, represents an important complement to national efforts. * * *
“113. The trial in the International Criminal Court of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and leader of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, in connection with events in the Central African Republic represents a critical test case for the principle of command responsibility for sexual violence as a war crime and a crime against humanity. ** *
“114. * * * In December 2011, a hearing on sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge regime revealed that sexual violence was a daily reality for most women, that acts of sexual violence were seldom punished and implicitly endorsed by an ‘enemy policy’ promulgated by leaders at the highest levels and that survivors continue to suffer from trauma, discrimination and stigma.”
Having dealt with national and international prosecutions to penalize sexual violence, the report then turns to a newer technique, targeted sanctions. “115. The unique ability of the Security Council to impose targeted sanctions raises the stakes for perpetrators and, as such, is an important aspect of deterrence.”
The Secretary-General’s specific recommendations included the adoption by the Security Council “of targeted and graduated measures by relevant sanctions committees, and to consider means by which such measures may also be taken in relevant contexts where no sanctions committees are in place.” This technique is a new version of criminal prosecution that is not burdened with rigorous scrutiny of evidence by the accused or its legal counsel.
Annexed to the report is “a list of parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the Security Council agenda.” The parties are listed under headings of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and the Syrian Arab Republic.
This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
Contents of this issue: a new era in UN peacekeeping
UN press release SC/10964 put it precisely on March 28th when it started off with this: “The Security Council today approved the creation of its first-ever ‘offensive’ combat force, intended to carry out targeted operations to ‘neutralize and disarm’ the notorious 23 March Movement (M23), as well as other Congolese rebels and foreign armed groups in strife-riven eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”
In contrast with this excited utterance, the New York Times, the next day, half way down page A-10, headed a story with, “U.N. Approves New Force to Pursue Congo’s Rebels.” The second paragraph ended with, “The intervention brigade will be the first such unit created within a traditional United Nations peacekeeping force.”
The new resolution, 2098 (2013), harks back to recent resolution 2086 (2013) while “reaffirming the basic principles of peacekeeping including consent of the parties, impartiality, and non-use of force except in self-defense and defense of the mandate . . . .” Then the unanimous Security Council on March 28, “Acting under Chapter VII of the [UN] Charter, * * *
“9. . . decides that MONUSCO shall, for an initial period of one year and within the authorized troop ceiling of 19,815, on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping, include an ‘Intervention Brigade’ consisting inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma, under direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander, with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups as set out in paragraph 12(b) below and with the objective of contributing to reducing the threat by armed groups to state authority and civilian security in eastern DRC and to make space for stabilization activities. * * *
“12. Authorizes MONUSCO, through its military component . . . to take all necessary measures to perform the following tasks, through its regular forces and its Intervention Brigade as appropriate; * * *
(b) Neutralizing armed groups through the Intervention Brigade.
In support of the authorities of the DRC . . , carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade . . . in strict compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law and with the human rights due diligence policy on UN-support to non-UN forces (HRDDP), to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize those groups , and to disarm them . . . .”
While voting in favor of the resolution, Guatemala questioned involving the UN in “peace-enforcement” activities. And yet, Article 42 of the UN Charter makes clear provision for peace-enforcement, saying that the Security Council “may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
Contents of this issue: World Meteorological Organization; other UN specialized agencies.
World Meteorological Day, observed on 23 March, celebrates the creation of WMO in 1950 to promote international cooperation in the field of weather, climate, water and other related sciences. This year’s theme, “Watching the Weather to Protect Life and Property,” focuses on the crucial role that meteorological and water services play in alerting people to natural hazards such as floods, topical cyclones and droughts.
“Much more must, and can, be done to allay human suffering. Tropical cyclones, heavy rainfalls and floods, droughts and cold and heat waves affect the entire world, alerting us to some of the worst implications of growing climate variability and change,” WMO Executive Michel Jarraud said. “Weather and climate early warnings and disaster risk reduction are central to any sustainable development.”
For more than 60 years, WMO has been the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.
This year also marks 50 years of World Weather Watch program, launched by WMO following a General Assembly request to investigate the potential of weather satellites as part of the agenda for the peaceful use of outer space.
The program is considered to be an outstanding example of international cooperation through which countries share information for weather forecasting, and the foundation for more modern scientific insights in computing, telecommunications and satellites.
Because of advances in modeling techniques, scientists are now able to better understand the Earth’s complex global weather and climate system, and are starting to make seasonal and longer-term forecasts.
To mark the Day, WMO hosted a forum last week in Geneva featuring leading experts from around the world who discussed the evolution of coordinated climate and weather observations, telecommunications and meteorological forecasts.
Other UN Specialized Agencies
Universal Postal Union (UPU)
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
One of the better known of the specialized agencies is the World Health Organization (WHO). A sample of its work is the following announcement dated March 23rd:
“The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has informed WHO of a new confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (nCoV). The patient is a contact of the previous case reported in the Disease Outbreak News on 12 March 2012. This person suffered a mild illness, and has recovered and been discharged from hospital. Currently, there is insufficient information available to allow a conclusive assessment of the mode and source of transmission. To date, WHO has been informed of a global total of 16 confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including nine deaths.
“Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States (MS) to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns. WHO is currently working with international experts and countries where cases have been reported to assess the situation and review recommendations for surveillance and monitoring. All MS are reminded to promptly assess and notify WHO of any new case of infection with nCoV, along with information about potential exposures that may have resulted in infection and a description of the clinical course. WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied. WHO continues to closely monitor the situation.”
In addition, there are the following Programs and Funds:
- International Trade Centre (ITC)
- Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
- United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
And that is not all; there are several dozen other UN-related organizations with a variety of titles and of relationships to the organization proper. The proliferation of offshoots reminds one of the “alphabet agencies” that came into being in the 1930s in the United States, in an effort to cope with a major economic depression and the gathering clouds of war.
Where did all this variety of units come from, and on that authority? Chapter III of the UN Charter consists of two articles. Article 7 says that the principal UN organs are the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. Article 7 then goes on to provide that, “Such subsidiary organs as may be found necessary may be established in accordance with the present Charter.” That is the basis for the plethora of UN-related organs.
There then appears in Chapter III the little-mentioned Article 8: “The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.” There must be quite a few Member States that cannot subscribe to that standard in good faith.
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
Contents of this issue: US declares for all women, not just most; UN help after civil war; freedom of expression and pro-nazism; Russia under the magnifying glass.
US declares for all women, not just most
On March 16th, the US Mission to the UN stated that, “The United States welcomes today’s adoption of the Agreed Conclusions on the theme of the elimination of violence against women and girls. This agreement is a testament to both the gravity of the issue and the seriousness with which it was treated by the members of the Commission [on the status of women]. * * *
“While delegates have shown flexibility in reaching an outcome we can all be proud of, we lament that some important aspects were left out. Most notably, we believe that the Agreed Conclusions should and must apply to all women, regardless of their sexual orientation or/and gender identity. We regret that some delegations prevented this recognition explicitly, but are confident that a day will come soon when we are able to do so. We also hope that the term intimate partner violence more accurately captures the range of relationships where abuse can take hold, and will continue to press for that important distinction. Today’s agreement is only a beginning.”
UN Help after civil war.
Let’s assume that in 1865 there had been a UN Human Rights Council that offered to assist the North and South in dealing with post-US Civil War problems. We can to some extent judge how effective such outside intervention would have been based on recent experience in Sri Lanka.
The two parts of Sri Lanka that struggled for years are separated by geography, culture, ethnicity and religion. The north, whose territory reaches yearningly towards nearby India, is largely Hindu, and its people Tamil. The much larger south is predominantly Buddhist and Sinhala.
After the final decisive battle, “2. In June 2010, the Secretary-General appointed the Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka to advise him on accountability issues in Sri Lanka and offered it as a resource to the Government, and particularly to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The Panel . . . found credible allegations of potential serious violations of international law committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). * * * ” A/HRC/22/38 at 3.
The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission “concluded that ‘the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people” and that the “process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledge-ment of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society of both Sinhala and Tamil communities.”
With that much background, I want now to run through some of the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and we can all be thinking how such steps might have worked out in post-Civil War America. [read from pages 16 and 17.]
Freedom of expression and pro-nazism.
On December 20, 2012, the General Assembly adopted resolution 67/154, entitled “Glorification of Nazism: inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” For some reason the resolution was not published on the web until March 13, 2013.
Russia under the magnifying glass.
As part of the Universal Periodic Review, the Russian Federation was the subject of a compilation prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, A/HRC/WG.6/16/RUS/2, which “does not contain any opinions, views or suggestions on the part of OHCHR other than those contained in public reports and statements issued by the Office.” Id. at 1. I will skip through the compilation and highlight some notable portions
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
Contents of this issue: Security Council achieves unanimity; Susan Rice on Women’s Day; US Senate gets a nudge.
Security Council achieves unanimity.
The Security Council on March 7th passed unanimously a resolution strengthening and expanding the scope of United Nations sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) by targeting the illicit activities of diplomatic personnel, transfers of bulk cash, and the country’s banking relationships, in response to that country’s third nuclear test on 12 February.
Acting under the Charter’s Chapter VII, through resolution 2094 (2013), the Council strongly condemned the test and maintained the sanctions it first imposed on the DPRK in 2006 under resolution 1718, deciding that some of those, along with additional restrictions, would apply to the individuals and entities listed in two annexes of today’s text.
In that connection, a travel ban and asset freeze were imposed on the Chief and Deputy Chief of a mining trading company it deemed “the primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons”, as well as on an official of a company designated by the Sanctions Committee to be the main financial entity for sales of conventional arms, ballistic missiles and goods related to assembly and manufacture.
The Council also froze the assets of a national-level organization responsible for the research and development of advanced weapons systems, and a conglomerate, designated by the Sanctions Committee in 2009, to be specializing in acquisition for the country’s defense industries and support to related sales. Further, it added to the list of prohibited equipment and technologies, and included a list of luxury goods that cannot be imported.
States are directed under the resolution to enhance their vigilance over the diplomatic personnel of the DPRK, in a provision aimed at halting any activities that could contribute to the country’s weapons program, or which would violate any prohibited activities ban.
More specifically, States are directed to prevent the provision of financial services or the transfer of any financial or other assets or resources, including “bulk cash”, which might be used to evade the sanctions. They are also called on to prohibit in their territories the opening of new branches or offices of “DPRK” banks and to prohibit such banks from establishing new joint ventures.
Moreover, in the effort to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to or from the DPRK or its nationals of any banned items, States are authorized to inspect all cargo within or transiting through their territory that has originated in the DPRK or that is destined for that country. They are to deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their territory, if they have reasonable grounds to believe the aircraft contains prohibited items.
States were also asked to supply any information on non-compliance and to report to the Council within 90 days, and thereafter, at the Committee’s request, on measures they have taken to implement the text. The Sanctions Committee is directed to respond to violations and is authorized to add to the list. The expert panel, under the Committee’s auspices, was extended until 7 April 2014.
The Council promised to keep the situation under continuous review and stated it was “prepared to strengthen, modify, suspend or lift the measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance”, or to “take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test”.
The fact that the meeting began at 10:11 a.m. and ended at 10:14 a.m. shows that Security Council resolutions are usually not drafted and negotiated in public meetings, but rather by exchanges of texts in private after the texts have been approved in the capital cities of the Member States.
One amusing feature of the resolution is paragraph 23 which “reaffirms the measures imposed in paragraph 8 (a) (3) of resolution 1718 (2006) regarding luxury goods, and clarifies that the term ‘luxury goods’ includes, but is not limited to, the items specified in annex IV of this resolution.” Here is how annex IV defines “luxury goods”:
(a) Jewelry with pearls;
(c) Precious and semi-precious stones (including diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds);
(d) Jewelry of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal.
2. Transportation items, as follows:
(b) Luxury automobiles (and motor vehicles): automobiles and other motor vehicles to transport people (other than public transport), including station wagons;
(c) Racing cars.
When asked by a reporter, “how would you make sure that it’s going to be enforced,” US Ambassador Rice replied that, “We are of the view of course that every member state is legally obliged to fulfill to the letter the terms of this resolution and the prior resolutions with respect to North Korea and every other binding sanctions regime. And we and our partners having unanimously passed this resolution are committed together to ensuring its effective implementation.”
Susan Rice on Women’s Day.
On March 8th, US Ambassador Susan Rice said that, “as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we applaud the progress and achievements of women all across the world. From the announcement that combat positions would be open to the women bravely serving in the U.S. military to the record number female members of the U.S. Congress currently in power, the U.S. has made real progress towards leveling the playing field for American women and empowering them to live up to their full potential.
“But today is also a day to acknowledge the progress we as Americans and international community have yet to make. One in three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetimes. More than 30 million girls worldwide do not receive the benefit of any schooling, and more than 280,000 women die each year from childbirth complications that can be anticipated and treated.
“Our societies are not truly free, if we do not uphold our fundamental ideals of fairness and equality. We as a people are not free when women and girls still struggle for their survival and safety or find their reproductive rights blocked. When women around the world still face discrimination and even death because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, our values are compromised.
“Yesterday, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act, which launches new programs to help survivors of rape and assault, strengthens tools to hold offenders accountable, and offers increased protections for Native American women and the LGBT community. The U.S. is working to improve girls’ access to education and to ensure that all women have access to reproductive health services as well as maternal, newborn and child health services.
“On this International Women’s Day, I applaud the dedication of all who work to ensure that every girl and every woman can realize her fundamental right to live free from violence and fear and to reach her full potential. Let us step up the fight to protect and support our sisters, mothers and daughters.”
US Senate gets a nudge.
The “advance unedited version,” A/HRC/22/52, of a report of the Special Rapporteur, Ben Emmerson, on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, included this at 17: “45. In March 2009 the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence began a comprehensive investigation into the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program, chaired by Senator Dianne Feinstein. * * *
“46. The Special Rapporteur calls on the United States to release the full Senate Select Committee report as soon as possible, subject only to the specific redaction of such particulars as are considered by the Select Committee itself to be strictly necessary to safeguard legitimate national security interests or the physical safety of persons identified in the report.”
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
In this issue: UN “Day” celebrations; Cambodia Tribunal to hear sexual violence cases; an international public servant beyond compare.
February 15th was World Radio Day at the UN, where a variety of commemorations are held. In addition, February 20th was World Day for Social Justice. The month of March has a number of celebratory days scheduled at the UN. The 8th will be International Women’s Day, and the 21st will be both the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and World Down Syndrome Day. World Water Day comes on the 22nd, and March 25th will be International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Perhaps the most notable annual celebration at the UN is its observance of the Holocaust, in view of the antipathy felt by some UN members toward Israel.
Cambodia Tribunal to hear sexual violence cases.
On March 1st a senior UN official welcomed the recent decision by Cambodia’s genocide tribunal to annul a previous ruling that would have prevented it from trying crimes of sexual violence committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.
“This ruling provides an opportunity to send a clear message that conflict-related sexual violence is a crime against humanity and that no matter how long it takes perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura.
This latest ruling of the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) will allow acts of sexual violence, namely forced marriage and rape, to be included in its case against three former Khmer Rouge officials who have been charged with crimes against humanity and genocide.
Nearly two million people are thought to have died during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Since then, countless victims have come forward to tell their stories of forced marriage, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual violence.
“The use of forced marriage in particular was systematic and wide-spread, employed by the regime to secure loyalty to the Government by breaking family bonds and taking a major life decision, who to marry, out of the hands of citizens and entrusting it to the State,” Ms. Bangura said.
“By not including forced marriage in the current case, the court ignores the pain and suffering of all these victims. The brave women who have stepped out of the shadow of shame and stigma represent just a fraction of the thousands of cases of sexual brutality that took place during this time.”
Ms. Bangura stressed that the ruling sends a message to victims that they have not been forgotten and that they will receive justice, and called on the court to give their cases the attention they deserve. “Those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge should not be victimized again by having their cries for justice ignored,” she added.
The ECCC is an independent court set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, and uses a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel.
As the UN Human Rights Council began its 22nd session, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, noted that, while many instances of human rights violations have been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), that can happen only if the country where the violations allegedly took place is among the 122 States Parties of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, or if the case is referred to it by the Security Council, neither of which has occurred as to Syria. Council references have occurred regarding Darfur in 2008 and Libya in 2011. Since September 2012 the High Commissioner has repeatedly called on the Council to refer Syria to the ICC.
An international public servant beyond compare.
Sir Brian Urquhart, who celebrated his 94th birthday in February, is a living chronicle of a large chunk of 20th century history.
Throughout his four decades of service to the United Nations, starting as one of its very first staff members and ending as an Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, he also helped shape history-making moments. He was present for the birth of the United Nations in 1945, and was witness to many of the Organization’s – and the world’s – seminal milestones.
All of these easily amount to a front-row seat on history. But Sir Brian’s links to history go even further. As a youth, his experiences include attending a lecture given by Indian independence leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi while in primary school and taking part in the coronation of King George VI.
As a soldier in World War II, he was involved in the surrender of German scientists working in nuclear research; he was one of the first Allied troops to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; and he even helped Danish author Karen Blixen, of ‘Out of Africa’ fame, out of a predicament at the end of the war. To top it off, his role in ‘Operation Market Garden’ – one of the most well-known military actions of the later stages of the war – was immortalized in an epic film.
I think I’d like to be remembered as an exemplary international civil servant – if there is such a thing. No, take out exemplary. As a good international civil servant, because I think it’s very important.
As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a tribute message on the occasion of Sir Brian’s 90th birthday four years ago, “You have had an enormous influence on every Secretary-General. Even today, staffers everywhere seek to live up to your example. And you remain one of our wisest and staunchest advocates.”
The then-Belgian Congo became an independent state on 30 June 1960, under the name of Republic of the Congo. Post-independence chaos, including an attempt at secession by the mineral-rich province of Katanga, led to a request for UN intervention, which the Security Council authorized over 13-14 July 1960.
Service in the Republic of the Congo was a hazardous assignment for UN staff. During the life of the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC), there were 250 civilian and military fatalities.
Sir Brian’s first service in the African country was in 1960 as an assistant to Ralph Bunche, who was then serving as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Congo. Ireland’s Conor Cruise O’Brien was then serving as the UN Representative in Katanga, but eventually left, partly due to threats against his life. In late 1961, Sir Brian replaced Mr. Cruise O’Brien in the sensitive position in the secessionist province.
Soon after his arrival in Elizabethville, as the capital of Katanga province was then known, Sir Brian was kidnapped and beaten by disaffected Katangese troops, coming close to being killed.
Thousands of soldiers from more than ten countries served with the UN Force in the Republic of the Congo, helping to restore order and calm in the country in relation to the breakaway province of Katanga.
In the wake of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s departure from the post of UN Representative in Katanga, Sir Brian said that it was a job that no one in their right mind would have wanted. Yet he took it.
Sir Brian explained that there wasn’t any way that he wouldn’t take it, that he was asked to take it by Ralph Bunche, who was his boss and in whom he had enormous confidence. He said we were in a hopeless mess at that time. The morale of that whole force had completely gone to bits. And we’d had to take Conor Cruise O’Brien out because he was in physical danger of being seriously damaged – and there wasn’t any way that you could say no. I wouldn’t have dreamt of saying no. I got kidnapped the second night I was there, actually, which was unfortunate.
Sir Brian said that being kidnapped made him anxious to get back and try to fix the situation. He said he was lucky because the colonel of the Gurkhas [serving as UN peacekeepers], S.S. Maitra, who was his great friend, was a fantastic soldier. The Gurkhas had this unbelievable reputation in Katanga. They were supposed to be able to cut people’s limbs off in mid-air with their kukris [a machete-like knife used by the Gurkhas], but they were wonderful soldiers. So he said he really survived by saying they could kill him – but the Gurkhas would come and avenge his death Sir Brian added that, since nobody had the foggiest idea where he was, it wasn’t true, but nonetheless it worked. And he thinks it’s what saved him.
As a result of the fighting and general unrest in the Republic of Congo’s Katanga province, tens of thousands of people sought shelter and assistance from UN peacekeepers until they were able to return to their homes.
Throughout the first decades of the UN’s existence, Sir Brian worked very closely with Ralph Bunche, an academic who had been active in the US civil rights movement and had been working in the US State Department when Secretary-General Trygve Lie had him come to the UN to oversee the Department of Trusteeship. He was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation work in the Middle East. The two colleagues, Bunche and Urquhart, became close friends over the years. In addition to penning a biography of the UN’s second Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, Sir Brian also wrote a biography of Mr. Bunche.
Sir Brian said he first met Ralph Bunche when he got into the UN Preparatory Commission in London in 1945. Sir Brian was still in uniform because he didn’t have any civilian clothes. He and his wife took Bunche to the London Zoo on a Sunday because Bunche had nothing else to do. Sturdy friendships can start inauspiciously but blossom mightily thereafter.
John and Douglas Carey, Editors
In this issue: petitions to UN bodies.
In 1960, many colonies became independent states, especially in Africa. The process of decolonization was spurred by the General Assembly committee on decolonization, known as the Committee of Twenty-Four. A prominent feature of its activity was its hearing of petitions from persons seeking decolonization of their own and other homelands.
The hearing of petitioners became so familiar a feature of GA committees that its use was grafted onto treaties then being drafted, most notably the two human rights covenants, one on civil and political rights and the other on economic, social and cultural rights. Here, the petition process was made part of instruments separate from the main treaty, in what is called optional protocols. In this way, a country can sign on to the main treaty without committing itself to having a committee receive and consider complaints against it from petitioners.
In a little more than two months, on May 5th, the Optional Protocol to the Economic, Social and Cultural rights Covenant will come into force, now that ten countries have both signed and ratified it. The US has neither signed nor ratified the Protocol, though we have signed the Covenant itself, back in 1977.
We have not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which was adopted by the General Assembly in December 1966, and came into force from January 1976. It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to individuals, including labor rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living. As of October 2012, the Covenant had 160 parties. A further seven countries, including the United States of America, had signed but not yet ratified the Covenant.The Covenant is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The ICESCR has its roots in the same process that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A “Declaration on the Essential Rights of Man” had been proposed at the 1945 San Francisco Conference which led to the founding of the United Nations, and the Economic and Social Council was given the task of drafting it. Early on in the process, the document was split into a declaration setting forth general principles of human rights, and a convention or covenant containing binding commitments. The former evolved into the UDHR and was adopted on 10 December 1948.
Drafting continued on the convention, but there remained significant differences between UN members on the relative importance of negative civil and political versus positive economic, social and cultural rights. These eventually caused the convention to be split into two separate covenants, one to contain civil and political rights and the other to contain economic, social and cultural rights. The two covenants were to contain as many similar provisions as possible, and be opened for signature simultaneously. Each would also contain an article on the right of all peoples to self-determination.
The first document became the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the second the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The drafts were presented to the UN General Assembly for discussion in 1954, and adopted in 1966.
A non-governmental organization pressing for ratification of the Optional Protocol by Germany is called the Association of Intersexual People, which would like to be able to petition the relevant UN committee for enforcement of the Covenant’s guarantee of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. It is reported that in Germany intersexual children are subjected to surgery to remove either male or female genitals. www.dw.de/new-un-social-rights-mechanism-gets-teeth/a-16610208
I had not previously heard about intersexual people, only about LGBT (lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual) people, but now I have become aware of the broader formulation of LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual).