The United States and the Human Rights Council

The hopes quickly went on smoke at the end of the 12th session marking the official attendance of the United States to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

H. Cartier-Bresson · Séville, 1933. © Cartier-Bresson & Magnum

H. Cartier-Bresson · Séville, 1933. © Cartier-Bresson & Magnum

When the United States announced their candidacy to the Human Rights Council earlier this year, many had welcomed the decision with the hope that some cases completely blocked under the government of George W. Bush could finally move forward, including those involving Israel, Gaza and the occupied Palestinian Territories. But hope quickly went up in smoke at the end of the twelfth session, which marked the United States official entry to the HR Council. The US administration had sent specially from Washington Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He defines America’s standing in the council:

We see our role as broadly engaged in a range of issues. Our intention is to address all issues and suggest ways to advance the Council over its program to help the greatest number. We are in new relationships, new alliances. For example, we worked with Egypt on a resolution on freedom of expression that resolves disputes that we had. The Council needs this type of exchange. Our intention is to apply universal principles to everyone, including ourselves. We know that the US must lead by example in its own affairs and participate actively in the Council. Our situation of human rights will be reviewed next year with the procedure of Universal Periodic Review, and we encourage other countries to do likewise.[1]

The intentions were initially positive but Americans have widely criticized the Goldstone report on Gaza and US pressure has resulted to postpone the vote on the resolution at the next session in March 2010. The recommendation of the Goldstone mission to seize the International Criminal Court if no independent investigation is conducted within six months scared off Israel.

In turn, the US, who refused to join the ICC, might be revising its position:

We are currently reviewing our policy regarding the ICC and the ratification of certain conventions, like the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which could pose a challenge for the USA. It’s a fresh start. And we will consider all treaties this way. I think this will be a long process. No doubt, priority will be done to the elimination of discrimination against women. We will create a new dynamic.[1]

But these are all political considerations that have taken hold in the Human Rights Council, although many NGOs have welcomed the opening created by the joint resolution between the US and Egypt on freedom of expression. Other resolutions which have been voted are at least as important as those on the Aboriginal peoples, the right to truth, the effects of toxic chemicals on human rights or access to care.

On the merits, the important thing for Fred Abrahams, senior researcher for HRW on the Middle East, is the implicit message by the reaction of the USA, Israel and the European Union – the latter very discreet on the Goldstone report:

If Europe and the US want to promote justice, for example in Africa, they must apply equally the concept of justice to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Otherwise, there will always be a double standard.

The Human Rights Council is criticised for its too political positions at the expense of serious violations of human rights situations. The United States have disappointed by their position on the report on Gaza. They will be very expected for the next March session of the Human Rights Council.

Related Posts:
· U.S. faces criticism from HR abusers at Universal Periodic Review
· The Spanish Law of Universal Jurisdiction, now in Brackets?

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[1] Véronique Gaymard, RFI – Chronique des droits de l’homme, Paris 3 oct. 2009

The Spanish Law of Universal Jurisdiction, now in Brackets?

The Spanish National Criminal Court (Audiencia Nacional), open to individuals supported by combative magistrates such as Pinochet’s antagonist, judge Baltasar Garzón, has ostensibly become a breeding ground for politically-charged prosecutions having little or no connection to Spain. Investigations have been initiated against renowned American officials including Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice related to the torture of terrorism suspects. Seven Israeli politicians and military officers, with former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, are the subject of an explorative investigation because of a July 2002 Gaza Strip air strike that resulted in fourteen civilian deaths. Chinese officials are being investigated for abuses in Tibet and forty Rwandan army officers have been indicted in connection with alleged post-genocide reprisal massacres. Detractors allege that activists going for political purposes and settling scores have took control on Spanish UJ. The Spanish government gives the impression to acquiesce and has been opposed to these extensive global justice efforts. In fact, Spanish public prosecutor’s office has explicitly disputed the UJ power of the Audiencia Nacional. In addition, since the exciting days of Pinochet, only one defendant has been tried and sentenced under the Spanish UJ law (Argentine naval captain Adolfo Scilingo, who turned himself in to Garzón in 1997 and was condemned at last to 640 years in jail for “Dirty War” crimes during the Argentina’s military dictatorship).

Henri Cartier-Bresson · Gestapo Informer (1945)

Henri Cartier-Bresson · Gestapo Informer (1945)

So what happened? Now the Spanish justice system can intervene only when there are Spanish victims or when the alleged responsible will be on Spanish soil if the country concerned cannot or will not prosecute alleged perpetrators. For Gonzalo Boyé, of the Madrid Bar, working with the Palestinian Center of Human Rights, the NGO that filed a complaint before the Spanish courts for the bombing of Gaza in 2002, in restricting this law it means that the Justice is not the same for everyone.

“Until now, no one in Spain had put back the law in doubt, as it was to pursue criminal Latin Americans or Africans. The problem arose when we had cases involving Israel and China. This means that the government is applying the “double standards”. On the one hand, it deals with crimes against humanity and war crimes or torture, when committed by Africans or South Americans. The other one has a very different situation, where such crimes are committed by countries that are very important in the eyes of the government.” [1]

The political and diplomatic pressures overcame the justice. Foreign leaders abroad have put forth demands on Spain to restraint the Audiencia Nacional jurisdiction and it appears that Madrid, willing to remain a player on the international stage, is ready to do the right thing. This is a deliberate political pressure. We must not forget that on 29 January 2009, the Foreign Minister of Israel, Tzipi Livni, said the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel-Angel Moratinos, had ensured her that the law would be changed and five months later, this legislative change had taken place. We should not be very brilliant to understand that Spain has changed its law to meet Israel demand . Yet conversely, Israel maintains its own law of UJ, which means that while in Spain a war crime is committed, Israel might try it. Why Spain could not judge a war crime committed in Gaza?

Poster by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo NGO with photos of the disappeared

Poster by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo NGO with photos of the disappeared

In 2003 Belgium had to restrict the scope of its own law of UJ, under pressure from Israel and the United States, but the Belgian law was much broader than in Spain, according to lawyer Patrick Baudoin, President Honorary FIDH:

“The Belgian courts were an absolute UJ, as nowhere else. Ie, that a Belgian court could try an Argentine criminal for crimes committed in Peru against nationals of the United States without anyone found on Belgian territory, neither the victims nor the alleged perpetrators. Therefore, it had gone too far […]. This is not the case of Spain. Here the Spanish judge must ensure that in the country there is no justice who “passes” in a way. In addition, it only then the court can go further because there is no reason for this impunity to prevail. “[1]

The principle of UJ provided in the four Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture, allows any country to initiate, as recalled Reed Brody, European press director at Human Rights Watch:

“There are many European countries that have this in common, that if a victim of their nationality or whether the alleged charge is found on their territory, the country in question is competent. Where Spain had a head start, now we can do nothing unless the person is coming to Spain. However, […] nobody is in Spain or another country for a very short period, because it does not give the time needed to start proceedings and seek a warrant.”

The Spanish lawyer Gonzalo Boyé must lay an extension to the former complaint on Gaza in 2002 to events earlier and later. It would include the bombing in Gaza in 2008, which made victims of Spanish nationality. A rebound occurred on June 30: The Spanish judiciary has decided to shelve the investigation into the complaint on the bombing of Gaza in 2002. A resolution that does not worry Mr. Boyé. The complainants have submitted an appeal to the Spanish Supreme Court. As to the law of UJ, the Senate will consider it in September 2009.

Related Posts:
· The United States and the UN Human Rights Council
· Garzon, an ‘inconvenient’ judge, now sitting in the dock

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[1] Véronique Gaymard, RFI – Chronique des droits de l’homme, Paris 4 july 2009

Obama’s Strategic Challenges Ahead

obama-administrationAfter the customary hundred days, President Obama would have signed 12 executive orders and 13 presidential decrees. He completed 13 official travel (including three abroad) and delivered ten messages to the nation, –three of them in prime time. That is, in a frenetic pace that would parallel the hyperactive Roosevelt. In addition, despite having lost almost 20 points in popularity since the investiture, he is yet one of the most popular presidents since the Kennedy era (62% approval roughly).

Foreign Policy

The first trial by fire with Russia will get on the START I Treaty renewal (Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction) which expires in December 2009. In spite of the promising preliminary contacts, the withdrawal of accreditation to two Russian diplomats to NATO accused of espionage (in a case linked to Hermann Simm, Estonian Alto officer sentenced to filter information from the Alliance for the Russian secret services), coupled with the planned NATO exercises in Georgia by May, (judged “provocative” by Mendeiev,) have strained Russian-American relations. With these preambles, it is foreseeable that the agreement truncates and the tension will increase with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield (NDM), regarded by Putin as a direct threat to Russia. NDM considers the installation of missile base interceptors in Poland, on the one hand; and one radar in the Czech Republic. It would come on stream in 2010. On the assumption that Obama will continue forward, Russia would presumably respond by the installation of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad (Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania) and the deployment of three regiments in Kozlesk.

Appeasement.

On the European stage, we could attend the end of the honeymoon period involving Obama and Sarkozy. Disagreement on matters as government making in Israel, shortly prone to the Palestinian argument that it would not be dischargeable in the medium term that the EU was forced to revise the preferential economic agreements with Israel. They could focus on the beginning of a new EU-US trade war, subsequent to imposition of protectionist measures in both countries. As for instance the import of agricultural products, (plague “miner tomato European” and “outbreak swine” in the USA). And finally, the Obama’s request for a substantial increase of allied troops in Afghanistan could lead to a postponed affirmation of French sovereignty that would result in the departure of French troops from Afghanistan (and in a parallel way of other European allies) before the French 2012 presidential vote. Obama will be forced to engage actively in an opening course of action for a new peace process in the Middle East.  After limited progress done by his special emissary (former senator Mitchell), the situation would have worsened consequently to Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet arrangements. An unlikely coalition government with the Palestinian, the ongoing the policy of expanding Jewish settlements and the completion of the West Bank Wall coupled with the failure of talks between Hamas and Abbas to form a Palestinian unity government: these are the controversial issues.  Obama would be therefore compelled to participate personally in the negotiation process. He is supposed to focus on the future Palestinian state set up.  At the end, the process would render the signing of a peace treaty between the new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the new President of the Palestinian Authority –which would be the representative of the new unity government that would emerge after the inevitable approach of Hamas and Fatah. That agreement would get the political blessing of Egypt, Russia, Syria and Iran. Saudi Arabia, USA, EU, Japan and United Arab Emirates would follow as necessary partners in the economic reconstruction of Gaza, with an estimated cost of $ 2,000 million. It should be comprehensive and binding for all Middle East countries and would seriously contribute to the establishment of a new “status quo” in the area –it goes without saying, once the nuclear dispute with Iran is resolved and the restoration of diplomatic relations between both countries is done.

Gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq and transfer to Afghanistan.

Due to enlargement of the area of Taliban influence in Afghanistan, Pentagon considers transferring about 100,000 troops from Iraq by 2010 (where only about 50,000 remain until the final withdrawal in 2011). Taliban insurgents have gained a presence in 72% of the territory of Afghanistan, (increasing of 18% compared to November 2007) and are close to the capital Kabul. Taliban have established a kind of government de facto in some Afghan cities and towns. Regain of Russian military assistance (military advisers, logistics and information from spies, satellites) to the Taliban militia in their fight against the NATO forces deployed there, is a fact. In order to lengthen the conflict; along the deficient resolution of European allies to achieve gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan.  However, leaving U.S. alone could result in a dangerous Vietnamization of the conflict. Moreover, involving increasingly difficult to get approval on Budget from Congress, –embodied in the Obama’s petition for an additional $ 83,400 million to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 (estimated costs of both wars would be of $ 8,000 million per month roughly).

Lifting the trade embargo on Cuba

Obama would pay special attention to its traditionally considered backyard, trying to halt the Russian influence in Latin America after the agreement signature for Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Cuba (drawing on the political myopia of an administration obsessed with Busch Axis of Evil). Thus, after recent goodwill measures towards Cuba along with the start of informal talks, the lifting of trade embargo is essential. Just to help achieve the necessary empathy for the start of official bilateral round negotiations between both governments. Nevertheless, if no closer agreement is accomplish on those issues, the signing of a treaty on military cooperation between Russia in Cuba is predictable –getting specific military bases on Cuban territory with Iskander missiles and strategic aircraft with nuclear weapons. In addition, US-Pan American Alliance outset (led by Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina) could merge massive economic assistance and preferential agreements with countries open to trade boycott. Same governments are well disposed to isolate the progressive populist regimes of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia to achieve their destabilization.

After the customary hundred days, President Obama would have signed 12 executive orders and 13 presidential decrees. He completed 13 official travel (including three abroad) and delivered ten messages to the nation, –three of them in prime time. That is, in a frenetic pace that would parallel the hyperactive Roosevelt. In addition, despite having lost almost 20 points in popularity since the investiture, he is yet one of the most popular presidents since the Kennedy era (62% approval roughly).
Foreign Policy
The first trial by fire with Russia will get on the START I Treaty renewal (Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction) which expires in December 2009. In spite of the promising preliminary contacts, the withdrawal of accreditation to two Russian diplomats to NATO accused of espionage (in a case linked to Hermann Simm, Estonian Alto officer sentenced to filter information from the Alliance for the Russian secret services), coupled with the planned NATO exercises in Georgia by May, (judged “provocative” by Mendeiev,) have strained Russian-American relations.
With these preambles, it is foreseeable that the agreement truncates and the tension will increase with the Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield (NDM), regarded by Putin as a direct threat to Russia. NDM considers the installation of missile base interceptors in Poland, on the one hand; and one radar in the Czech Republic. It would come on stream in 201. On the assumption that Obama will continue forward, Russia would presumably respond by the installation of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad (Russian enclave situated between Poland and Lithuania) and the deployment of three regiments in Kozlesk.
Dissension between Sarkozy and Obama.
On the European stage, we could attend the end of the honeymoon period involving Obama and Sarkozy. Disagreement on matters as government making in Israel, shortly prone to the Palestinian argument that it would not be dischargeable in the medium term that the EU was forced to revise the preferential economic agreements with Israel.
They could focus on the beginning of a new EU-US trade war, subsequent to imposition of protectionist measures in both countries. As for instance the import of agricultural products, (plague “miner tomato European” and “outbreak swine “in the USA). And finally, the Obama’s request for a substantial increase of allied troops in Afghanistan could lead to a postponed affirmation of French sovereignty that would result in the departure of French troops from Afghanistan (and in a parallel way of other European allies) before the French 2012 presidential vote.
Obama will be forced to engage actively in an opening course of action for a new peace process in the Middle East.  After limited progress done by his special emissary (former senator Mitchell), the situation would have worsened consequently to Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet arrangements. An unlikely coalition government with the Palestinian, the ongoing the policy of expanding Jewish settlements and the completion of the West Bank Wall coupled with the failure of talks between Hamas and Abbas to form a Palestinian unity government: these are the controversial issues.
Obama would be therefore compelled to participate personally in the negotiation process. He is supposed to focus on the future Palestinian state set up.  At the end, the process would render the signing of a peace treaty between the new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the new President of the Palestinian Authority –which would be the representative of the new unity government that would emerge after the inevitable approach of Hamas and Fatah.
That agreement would get the political blessing of Egypt, Russia, Syria and Iran. Saudi Arabia, USA, EU, Japan and United Arab Emirates would follow as necessary partners in the economic reconstruction of Gaza, with an estimated cost of $ 2,000 million. It should be comprehensive and binding for all Middle East countries and would seriously contribute to the establishment of a new “status quo” in the area –it goes without saying, once the nuclear dispute with Iran is resolved and the restoration of diplomatic relations between both countries is done.
Gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq and transfer to Afghanistan.
Due to enlargement of the area of Taliban influence in Afghanistan, Pentagon considers transferring about 100,000 troops from Iraq by 2010 (where only about 50,000 remain until the final withdrawal in 2011). Taliban insurgents have gained a presence in 72% of the territory of Afghanistan, (increasing of 18% compared to November 2007) and are close to the capital Kabul. Taliban have established a kind of government de facto in some Afghan cities and towns.
Regain of Russian military assistance (military advisers, logistics and information from spies, satellites) to the Taliban militia in their fight against the NATO forces deployed there, is a fact. In order to lengthen the conflict; along the deficient resolution of European allies to achieve gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan.  However, leaving U.S. alone could result in a dangerous Vietnamization of the conflict. Moreover, involving increasingly difficult to get approval on Budget from Congress, –embodied in the Obama’s petition for an additional $ 83,400 million to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009 (estimated costs of both wars would be of $ 8,000 million per month roughly).
Lifting the trade embargo on Cuba
Obama would pay special attention to its traditionally considered backyard, trying to halt the Russian influence in Latin America after the agreement signature for Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Cuba (drawing on the political myopia of an administration obsessed with Busch Axis of Evil).
Thus, after recent goodwill measures towards Cuba along with the start of informal talks, the lifting of trade embargo is essential. Just to help achieve the necessary empathy for the start of official bilateral round negotiations between both governments.
Nevertheless, if no closer agreement is accomplish on those issues, the signing of a treaty on military cooperation between Russia in Cuba is predictable –getting specific military bases on Cuban territory with Iskander missiles and strategic aircraft with nuclear weapons. In addition, US-Pan American Alliance outset (led by Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Argentina) could merge massive economic assistance and preferential agreements with countries open to trade boycott. Same governments are well disposed to isolate the progressive populist regimes of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia to achieve their destabilization.