Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

Two Steps Forward and Ten Steps Back

Friday, November 25, 2005

The silence was deafening. On Wednesday the UN General Assembly could not manage to pass a resolution on human rights abuse in Sudan and once again said nothing in the face of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Also this week it was decided, in the backrooms, that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency would not push the case of Iran's nuclear (and genocidal) ambitions onto the agenda of the UN Security Council. Back in September there was much extravagant and erroneous reporting that the decision to move Iran to the Council had been taken. The IAEA subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then Iran announced its intention to obliterate a UN member state. Acquiring the means to do so, according to the IAEA, is still not a sufficient threat to international peace and security to warrant the attention of the UN Security Council.

Then there was the case of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Hezbollah terrorists launched an unprovoked attack on Israel across international borders. Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Ron Prosor reported that UNIFIL was warned in advance by the Israel Defence Forces about preparations being made for an impending attack and refused to intervene.

The UN Security Council could not manage to adopt a resolution on the obvious breach of international peace and security by the cross-border attack from Lebanon of Hezbollah against Israel. It did, however, manage a lower level expression of concern in the form of a press statement read out by the President of the Security Council which momentarily jettisoned the usual "cycle of violence." The statement expressed "deep concern about the hostilities, which were initiated by Hizbollah." Although hot pursuit across international borders in response to an armed attack is a legitimate act of self-defense on Israel's part, the Council felt it necessary to admonish "all parties to respect the Blue Line." It also remembered that Lebanon has a government and a legal responsibility to prevent its territory from being used to launch attacks against a neighbor. The press statement specifically "call[ed] on the Government of Lebanon to...exert its monopoly over the use of force all over its territory..."

This week a deal was struck between the European Union and the Palestinian Observer to withdraw the anomalous resolution on the rights of the Palestinian child. The Europeans finally figured out that the hijacking of the UN agenda by the Organization of the Islamic Conference was a little too blatant with three UN resolutions on children: one on all children, one on the girl child and one on Palestinian children. Parts of the resolution have reportedly migrated to another resolution to be introduced next week at the General Assembly's plenary session, so the jury is still out as to what got sold. If not much, that's one of 21 annual discriminatory General Assembly resolutions on Israel down.

The UN General Assembly's Third Committee, the primary human rights body of the Assembly, concluded its 2005 session with only 6 country-specific resolutions that's only 6 UN member states it managed to name as seriously violating human rights..

In a series of resolutions roadblock after roadblock was put in the way of future UN action on human rights, all cast of course in the mold of human rights protection: "diversity of democratic systems in electoral processes," "unilateral coercive measures", "the promotion of peace," and the "defamation of religions."

As for the UN "reform" train, on most everything it's still hanging around the station.