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UN Week- 12/12/2011

December 27, 2011

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey

Contents of this issue: international criminal tribunals’ achievements; Human Rights Day; LGBT Rights Abroad

On December 7th, US Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council that, “since we last addressed the Council on the Tribunals, shortly after the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the last remaining fugitive under ICTY indictment – Goran Hadzic – was captured. * * * But we understand that this is only one step on a long road to peace and justice.

          “Even as the ICTY is completing its mandate, and even as we look forward to the start of the Residual Mechanism, the ICTY is extremely busy, with proceedings in 15 cases against 35 persons. We are confident that President Meron and the Tribunal as a whole can meet the challenge of concluding those trials fairly and efficiently, while also coordinating the transfer of key functions from the Tribunal to the Residual Mechanism. [comment on “Residual Mechanism and Judge Theodor Meron, former NYU Law Professor].

          “The ICTY recently held a conference to discuss what kind of legacy it is leaving for future generations. Among other things, the ICTY has shown that the international community can establish an effective judicial institution that will bring to justice those who perpetrate atrocities. * * * The ICTY has shown that it can provide fair trials, that war crimes fugitives cannot escape justice, and that victims can now expect that those who commit crimes against civilians will be held to account. * * *

          “Mr. President, the United States continues to call on states in the former Yugoslavia to cooperate fully with the ICTY. We encourage the Government of Serbia to continue its efforts to determine how Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic were able to avoid justice for so many years, and to take appropriate measures against their support networks. We also look forward to cooperation from the relevant countries in the region on the apprehension of Radovan Stankovic, who escaped in 2007 from prison in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, we note the Government of Croatia’s record of cooperation with the ICTY, and urge it to work to support the ICTY and continue to cooperate with the Prosecution.

          “Turning to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the United States welcomes the June 24, 2011 judgment in the case against the former Minister of Women’s Development and five others. The conviction of the former Minister of Women’s Development is a significant milestone because it demonstrates that rape is a crime of violence that has been used as a tool of war by both men and women. The United States also welcomes the November 17, 2011 judgment in the case against the former Mayor of Kivumu, who had authority over the local police, yet failed to prevent the massacre of more than 1,500 people.

          “When we last addressed these issues in the Council in June, the United States welcomed the then-recent apprehension of fugitive Bernard Munyagishari in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, 198 days after his arrest, the United States is discouraged that the nine remaining fugitives remain at large. Ensuring completion of the work of the Tribunal and smooth and efficient transition to the Residual Mechanism is not only the work of the Tribunal. Every member state has an obligation to apprehend the remaining fugitives. The United States, along with many others, is making a concerted effort to assist other nations in bringing these fugitives to justice. We ask all states to redouble their efforts and cooperate fully with the ICTR to locate and apprehend the remaining fugitives. * * *

          “Due to the hard work of the Office of the ICTY Prosecutor and the Serbian authorities, all of the fugitives indicted by the ICTY have been apprehended. We now hope that all parties will make the necessary but difficult decisions to actively encourage interethnic reconciliation by speaking to their communities of the rewards of peace. With the ICTR, the situation is slightly different, since so many indictees remain at large. We pledge our assistance in bringing the remaining ICTR fugitive indictees to justice as quickly as possible, and our doors are always open for consultation with the ICTR.

          “Since the end of World War II, the United States government has viewed justice for victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide as an essential element for peace and stability. We take this opportunity to affirm again those convictions, and to applaud all those who contribute to this important task.” [refer to work of Ben Ferencz at Nuremberg]

Human Rights Day

On December 9th, US Ambassador Susan E. Rice stated that, “Today, we reaffirm our commitment to a 63-year-old declaration that the world’s people are ‘equal in dignity and rights’—words that have been fought for through the generations by heroes and heroines of every nationality, culture and creed.

          “In 2011, a year that will be remembered as a touchstone in humanity’s long struggle for dignity, we were reminded yet again that the ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are irrepressible. Shouts for freedom in Tunisia and Egypt reverberated throughout the region and inspired every corner of the globe. Threats and abuses in Libya drew resistance from the country’s brave citizens and isolation abroad. In Cote d’Ivoire, a crisis ended and a legitimately elected president took power. In South Sudan, a people won responsibility for their own future. Yesterday’s voices of terror and hate were drowned out by youthful calls for a more just and hopeful future.

          “Yet we were also reminded that justice in the struggle for human rights does not come easily. Under repressive regimes in Syria, Iran, and North Korea, far too many people remain unable to enjoy their basic, universal human rights. Activists and journalists, living examples of humanity’s deep longing to assemble and speak the truth, still face kidnapping, torture, or murder. Too many people endure discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, tearing at our common humanity. Too many innocents are consigned by traffickers to terrifying lives of bonded labor.

          “The United States will always stand firmly behind the principles underlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We will continue to choose engagement over isolation by participating in UN bodies in Geneva and New York. We will continue to speak out for those whose rights are threatened. And we will continue to support humanity’s inspiring march forward, knowing, ultimately, that rights are not conferred by the United Nations or any one government, but, rather, reside within the soul of every human being.”

LGBT Rights Abroad.

          “On December 6th, Ambassador Rice had stated that, “Today, President Obama directed all agencies to protect and promote the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons abroad. At the United Nations, we have strongly supported efforts to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for the LGBT community, and the President’s action adds yet more force to our urgent fight.

          “Since taking office in 2009, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly within the UN system to advance the human rights of the world’s LGBT persons. Early on, we signed the UN General Assembly’s Statement on Sexual Orientation on Gender Identity. We joined the LGBT Core Groups in Geneva and New York. We won NGO consultative status for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. We championed the first UN resolution dedicated to advancing the basic and fundamental rights of LGBT persons. Last December, on Human Rights Day, we pledged to restore language including LGBT individuals in a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings. Within two weeks, we did so.

          “There is far more work to do before our LGBT friends, neighbors, parents and children live in a world free of discrimination. Through steadfast defense of our universal values, persistent engagement with international partners, and the full force of U.S. efforts under the law, we will get there. I look forward to continuing our work and proudly carrying out the President’s directive.”

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