Tag Archives: United Nations

Jeane Kirkpatrick on socialism

Jeane Kirkpatrick (1926 – 2006) was an American diplomat and political scientist. An ardent anti-communist, she was a longtime Democrat who became a Republican in 1985. After serving as Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy adviser in his 1980 campaign, she became the first woman to serve as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Kirkpatrick served on Reagan’s Cabinet on the National Security Council, Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Defense Policy Review Board, and chaired the Secretary of Defense Commission on Fail Safe and Risk reduction of the Nuclear Command and Control System.

She wrote a syndicated newspaper column after leaving government service in 1985, specializing in analysis of the activities of the United Nations. In 1986, Kirkpatrick published an article called The Myth of Moral Equivalence  in which sharply criticized those who she alleged were claiming that there was ‘no moral difference’ between the Soviet Union and democratic states.

“As I read the utopian socialists, the scientific socialists, the German Social Democrats and revolutionary socialists—whatever I could in either English or French—I came to the conclusion that almost all of them, including my grandfather, were engaged in an effort to change human nature. The more I thought about it, the more I thought this was not likely to be a successful effort. So I turned my attention more and more to political philosophy and less and less to socialist activism of any kind.”

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UN decision is not ‘the end of the road’ that Assange claims it is

The Conversation

Holly Cullen, University of Western Australia

A United Nations panel has found that Sweden and the UK have arbitrarily detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange contrary to their obligations under human rights treaties. The panel called on the two governments to ensure Assange’s rights are respected and to compensate him for his time in detention.

Assange, who sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and has lived there ever since, described the findings as “the end of the road” for Sweden’s attempts to prosecute him for sexual offences and for the UK’s attempts to extradite him to Sweden. However, the UK and Swedish governments rejected the panel’s findings.

So, in practice, what do the panel’s findings actually mean?

Background and what the panel found

Assange was accused in 2010 of a number of sexual offences in Sweden. A Swedish prosecutor demanded Assange’s presence in the country for questioning by means of a European Arrest Warrant.

Following the request for extradition, Assange was arrested and at first held in prison in the UK, then placed under house arrest. He contested the warrant’s validity, but in 2012 the UK Supreme Court ruled he could be sent to Sweden for questioning. Shortly after, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which issued this opinion, is one of the UN’s special procedures on human rights. It is made up of five independent experts on issues relating to detention. Its mandate includes investigating complaints brought by individuals or groups and helping countries improve their procedures. It is currently developing a set of principles and guidelines on procedures for court review of detention.

Most of the body’s opinions relate to cases where the complainant’s detention lacks any legal basis and there is a clear violation of legal due process. In its opinion on Assange, it determined that the detention was disproportionate rather than lacking a legal basis. It focused on the length of time since the initial arrest and concluded that the Swedish prosecutors had not acted with due diligence to progress Assange’s cases.

Unlike many human rights cases involving complaints about delay in criminal procedure, the opinion did not consider how Assange’s own actions contributed to the length of detention.

What now?

This opinion was not an appeal; the body was not reviewing the national court decisions. It cannot – it is not a judicial body.

Despite Assange’s seeming assertion that such opinions are legally binding because they are based in international law, countries are not obliged to follow them. However, most do.

As a result, while there is no legal impediment to the UK and Sweden ignoring the opinion, there will be pressure on them to respect it. The UK finds itself in a difficult situation because it has clear legal obligations to execute a European Arrest Warrant. Those obligations conflict with the opinion.

The UK and Sweden have the right to request review of the opinion within 60 days. Such a review may have a reasonable likelihood of success because, unusually, this opinion was not unanimous. One of the panel’s five members, Leigh Toomey, withdrew from deliberations because, like Assange, she is an Australian national.

Another member, Vladimir Tochilovsky, dissented from the majority opinion. He concluded that Assange was not subject to arbitrary detention because he entered and has remained in the Ecuadorian embassy voluntarily. Tochilovsky also asserted that other UN or European human rights procedures would have been more appropriate because they would have been able to look at Assange’s human rights in general, rather than just at arbitrary detention.

This disagreement will probably form the basis of the request for review of what – even for some legal commentators – is a controversial decision. Far from being the end of the road for the Assange saga, this decision marks just another staging post.

The ConversationHolly Cullen, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Crimes against the environment: the silent victim of warfare

The Conversation

Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University

Acts perpetrated during the course of warfare have, through the ages, led to significant environmental destruction. These have included situations in which the natural environment has intentionally been targeted as a “victim”, or has been manipulated to serve as a “weapon”.

On Friday the United Nations marked the “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict”.

Throughout history the environment has been a silent victim of human conflict. The problem is ongoing. It is time we properly recognised crimes against the environment and made those responsible for such crimes fully accountable.

Scorched earth tactics

In the 5th century BC, the retreating Scythians poisoned water wells in an effort to slow the advancing Persian army. Roman troops razed the city of Carthage in 146 BC, and poisoned the surrounding soil with salt to prevent its future fertilisation. The American Civil War in the 19th century saw the widespread implementation of “scorched earth” policies.

In August 1945, we witnessed the destructive capability of weapons technology, when the United States detonated atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in massive loss of life and environmental destruction.

During the Vietnam War, the United States implemented Operation Ranch Hand to devastating effect to destroy vegetation used by the enemy for cover and sustenance, through the use of chemicals such as Agent Orange. Attempts were also made to deliberately modify the environment to create floods along vital supply routes utilised by the North Vietnamese forces.

More recently still, who can forget the haunting images of more than 700 burning Kuwaiti oil well heads, which had been deliberately ignited by retreating Iraqi forces during the Gulf War in 1991 – a scene that was likened to Dante’s Inferno.

Over the following ten years, the Saddam regime built barriers and levees to drain the al-Hawizeh and al-Hammar marshes in southern Iraq, an area some believe is the site of the biblical Garden of Eden. This effectively destroyed the livelihood of the 500,000 Marsh Arabs who had inhabited the area of this unique ecosystem.

Actions such as these demonstrate how the deliberate despoliation of the environment can have catastrophic effects, not only on human populations, but also in ecological terms. For example, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well as having the potential to kill many thousands of people in a single attack, have effects that may persist in the environment, in some cases indefinitely.

The devastating effects of environmental warfare can continue long after the conflict is resolved, jeopardising or destroying the lives and livelihoods of those reliant on the natural environment.

Resource wars

Moreover, access to natural resources – or the lack of access – can itself be the trigger for conflict.

Approximately five million people were killed during the 1990s in armed conflicts relating to the exploitation of natural resources such as timber, diamonds, gold and oil. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has found that, over the last 60 years, at least 40% of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources.

Recent conflicts in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Angola were not only fought over natural resources, but the exploitation of those resources in turn funded the combating parties to acquire weapons. This has given rise to the phenomena of “conflict resources ”, where natural resources commercialise and prolong conflict. It becomes a vicious self-perpetuating cycle.

Defending the environment

Environmental degradation and exploitation can thus be both a cause and a consequence of armed conflict. The International Court of Justice has clearly recognised that damage to its environment may constitute an “essential interest” of a state. Such recognition will only increase as the world gains further insights into the broader state of the global environment, including the disastrous effects of climate change.

Despite all of the evidence, however, deliberate environmental destruction during warfare is still largely regarded, as rape once was, as an unfortunate consequence of war.

The existing rules under international humanitarian law, international environmental law and international criminal law purporting to limit deliberate environmental destruction have largely been ineffective and inappropriate. The impact of environmental destruction has paled when measured against perceived military advantages. The United Nations International Law Commission is currently looking at this issue in an attempt to establish the relevant applicable principles.

It is, of course, true that war and armed conflict are inherently destructive of the environment. But that is no reason to allow leaders to deliberately or recklessly target the environment in order to achieve their military goals. Deliberate destruction is no longer acceptable, particularly given the ongoing development of weapons capable of widespread and significant damage.

There is therefore much more that should be done. Just as international law has made great strides forward by classifying rape during armed conflict as a war crime, a crime against humanity, or even genocide in certain circumstances, we should recognise that intentional environmental destruction can also constitute an international crime. Proper modes of accountability should be incorporated into the mechanisms of international criminal justice.

“Crimes against the environment” should therefore be incorporated as a separate crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, in order to better protect our most cherished assets for future generations.

Steven Freeland is the author of Addressing the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court published in 2015.

The ConversationSteven Freeland, Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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