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Registered: 09/25/00
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The U.N. can't define terrorism, let alone confront it.
    #1504080 - 04/29/03 01:12 PM (15 years, 1 month ago)

The U.N. can't define terrorism, let alone confront it.

Monday, April 28, 2003 12:01 a.m.

GENEVA--U.S.-U.N. relations seem impossibly complex given the Security Council debacle both before and after the war with Iraq. They can be reduced, however, to a central issue: shared values.
The U.N. Charter is rooted in the essential principles of equality among human beings, and nations. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out universal human rights standards. The U.S., as a founding member, understood those human-rights principles to be consistent with American values.

The U.N.'s Iraq fiasco demands an answer to the unambiguous question of how U.N. bodies have performed against those fixed and indispensable principles. Is it still true that Americans can anticipate a common core agenda? With the conclusion last week of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights annual session, the record speaks for itself.

The commission is the primary U.N. organ responsible for human rights protection. The current chair is Libya. Yes, Libya. In addition to Libya, three of the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism are current members--Cuba, Sudan and Syria. On April 15, the commission adopted a resolution sanctioning the use of "all available means including armed struggle"--which includes suicide bombing--as a legitimate tactic against Israelis. Only five countries, including the U.S., voted against. The U.K. and France abstained, and Russia approved.
More than a quarter of the commission's resolutions condemning a state's human rights violations passed over the last 30 years have been directed at Israel. There has never been a single resolution on China, Syria or Saudi Arabia. The current session ended by defeating a resolution to criticize anything about the situation in Zimbabwe, and by eliminating the 10-year-old position of rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. This was despite a report of the U.N. rapporteur on torture informing commission members of the Sudanese practice of "cross-amputation"--amputation of right hand and left foot for armed robbery, and various cases of women being stoned to death for alleged adultery.

Commission meetings themselves are a platform for incitement to hate and violence. At this year's session, the Iranian deputy foreign minister threatened what he called a "vicious circle" of violence and future "extremism" resulting from the Iraq war. The Cuban representative demanded action against "the most critical case of . . . massive and flagrant violations of human rights [and] of the systemic institutionalization of racism--that of the United States." The Algerian delegate said: "The Israeli war machine has been trying for five decades to arrive at a final solution." The Palestinian representative called for the "elimination" of "Zionist Nazism."

More generally, the U.N. has no definition of terrorism. Even in the immediate wake of Sept. 11, the General Assembly has not been able to adopt a comprehensive convention against terrorism. The members of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States have blocked consensus on any common understanding of terrorism. In the view of countries like Saudi Arabia, expressed again during the current commission, "we should distinguish between the phenomenon of terrorism and the right of peoples to achieve self-determination." The Syrian member of the Security Council likewise impedes the implementation of Council Resolution 1373, the resolution detailing post-9/11 responsibilities of states to fight terrorism.

U.N. World Conferences are a breeding ground for intolerance. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights marked a turning point away from the promise of a post-Cold War U.N. and universal human-rights standards. For the first time, the U.N.'s declared universality was modified by "national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds." Subsequent U.N. world conferences and summits in the 1990s added more qualifiers. Unadulterated universalism is no longer a U.N. rallying call. This degradation of standards reached its nadir at the 2001 Durban World Conference Against Racism. The conference was a U.N. "antiracism" meeting permitted to become a stage for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. It produced a declaration reflecting those pressures. The U.N. has since made Durban the centerpiece of its antiracism agenda.

Hope for the integrity of the U.N. human-rights program has been placed by many on U.N. independent experts and treaty bodies. But the U.N. system has undermined their independence. Last year the commission itself insisted on naming the special rapporteur on racism, and thus ensured that his reports are preoccupied with discrimination against Arabs and Muslims, notwithstanding the actual array of racism and religious intolerance the world over. In February, the Egyptian candidate to the Committee on the Rights of the Child was elected with the highest number of votes. This although states had been told by the leading international child-rights nongovernmental organization: "NGOs feel that she is not very knowledgeable nor reliable on the issues . . . due to her strong affiliation and history with the Egyptian government."

When it comes to the war against terrorism, Israel is again the canary in the U.N. coal mine. Israel has been demonized by the U.N. for decades over alleged violations of humanitarian law, while facing five successive wars and remorseless terrorist campaigns. Early on in the Iraq war Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello tried applying the same distorted version of international standards toward the U.S. Mr. De Mello told the commission: "Parties must never direct attacks against the civilian population . . .even if the purpose is to strike a military target. This is true even if human shields are being used. . . . The precision of modern weapons . . . is not reliable, not least in densely populated urban areas. . . . Do not attack that particular target."

This kind of misrepresentation of humanitarian law is an ominous sign for the future U.N. agenda. The Geneva Conventions say no such thing. They do not grant immunity to military targets or terrorists using civilians as human shields. They prohibit the disproportionate use of force, that is, an attack on a military target "which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life" when "excessive." The convention is clear that the presence of "civilians shall not be used to render . . . areas immune from military operations. . . . in attempts to shield military objectives from attack."

The sad fact is that the U.N. is not only a failed leader in the protection of human rights, but is itself a substrate of xenophobia and aggression. The U.S. pays 22% of the U.N.'s regular budget. Yet today's U.N. operates in fundamental opposition to the values of the U.S.--and to its own universal human-rights foundations.

Ms. Bayefsky, an adjunct professor at Columbia University Law School and professor of political science at York University, Toronto, is a member of the governing board of UN Watch.


Edited by wingnutx (04/29/03 01:12 PM)

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Re: The U.N. can't define terrorism, let alone confront it. [Re: wingnutx]
    #1504107 - 04/29/03 01:22 PM (15 years, 1 month ago)

American definition

Terrorism: A tool to keep people in a state of panicked awareness, in which to justify and encourage the stripping of personal freedom for the sake of alleged "national security".

"Know your Body - Know your Mind - Know your Substance - Know your Source.

Lest we forget. "

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Registered: 09/25/00
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Re: The U.N. can't define terrorism, let alone confront it. [Re: Azmodeus]
    #1504183 - 04/29/03 01:45 PM (15 years, 1 month ago)

Thanks for clearing that up.

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