An independent U.N. human rights researcher this morning announced the opening of an investigation into the use of drone attacks and other targeted assassinations by the United States and other governments.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, told reporters in London this morning that the "exponential" rise in American drones strikes posed a "real challenge to the framework of international law," according to a statement issued by his office. Emmerson said there was a need to develop a legal framework to regulate the use of drones, and ensure "accountability" for their misuse.
"The plain fact is that this technology is here to stay," he said. "It is therefore imperative that appropriate legal and operational structures are urgently put in place to regulate its use in a manner that complies with the requirement of international law.
The decision to open a drone investigation drew praise from critics of America's drone policies. "We welcome this investigation in the hopes that global pressure will bring the U.S. back into line with international law requirements that strictly limit the use of lethal force," said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. "To date, there has been an abysmal lack of transparency and no accountability for the U.S. government's ever-expanding targeted killing program."
The Obama administration has defended its use of drones as a more humane alternative to military combat. John Brennan, the White House advisor on counterterrorism and the president's new nominee to lead the CIA, defended the U.S. program as "ethical and just," saying that the targeted nature of the strikes was more humane than traditional military strikes, lessening the prospects that civilians are killed.
Emmerson challenged what he characterized as Brennan's contention that the United States and its allies are engaged in a global war against a stateless enemy which requires the prosecution of war across international borders. Emmerson said that "central objective" of his inquiry is to "look at evidence that drone strikes and other forms of remote targeted killings have caused disproportionate civilian casualties in some instances, and to make recommendations concerning the duty of states to conduct throughout independent and impartial investigations into such allegations, with a view to securing accountability..."
Emmerson said that he has assembled a team of international lawyers and experts, including British lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice and New York University professor Sarah Knuckey, to help identify cases in which targeted killings may have resulted in civilian casualties. He said they would focus on 25 case studies in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, to see whether there is a case worthy of prosecution. He said he would present his findings in October.
Emmerson is an independent U.N. rights expert, and his investigation is not sanctioned by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon or the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. But his association with the United Nations is likely to carry greater political weight than those of independent administration critics.
Emmerson first announced plans to look into the American drone program in October, on the eve of U.S. presidential elections, citing frustration with both candidates' positions on drones."The Obama administration continues to formally adopt the position that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone program," he said at the time. "In reality, the administration is holding its finger in the dam of public accountability," he said according to a prepared copy of the speech.
Emmerson said today that the investigation emerged as the result of a request last June from China, Pakistan, and Russia, to investigate the use of drones in counterterrorism operations.
"The inquiry that I am launching today is a direct response to the requests made to me by states at the human rights council last June, as well as to the increasing international concern surrounding the issue of remote targeted killing through the use of UAV's [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]," he said. "The exponential rise in the use of drone technology in a variety of military and non-military contexts represents a real challenge to the framework of established international law."
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Last week, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took Pakistan to the diplomatic equivalent of the woodshed, organizing a high-level New York disarmament conference where foreign ministers and other dignitaries excoriated Islamabad for blocking international negotiations aimed at banning the production of nuclear weapons fuel.
Ban's decision to convene the conference reflected widespread frustration that Pakistan has paralyzed one of the world's principal arms control forums, the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, at a time when the United States is showing a renewed interest in striking new disarmament deals there. Pakistan, which did not speak at the New York meeting, maintains that it needs to reserve the right to produce nuclear weapons fuel to catch up with its atomic rival, India, which it believes possesses a larger stockpile.
In response to Pakistan's blocking action at the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United States and several other states said last week that it may be time to bypass the Geneva-based arms control forum, which has negotiated some of the most important arms control treaties, including the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The disarmament conference, which has 65 member states, has not held formal negotiations in 12 years. But in his landmark April, 2009, Prague speech on nuclear disarmament, President Obama sought to revive the negotiating forum, calling for the resumption of negations on a Fissile Material Cut Treaty (FMCT).
A month later, the conference approved a work program in May 2009 to begin negotiations on the FMCT, and to begin talks on other issues including nuclear disarmament, the prohibition of nuclear weapons in outer space, and on the provision of assurances not to launch a nuclear strike against non-nuclear powers. But Pakistan has single-handedly blocked negotiations.
"We were ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the complicated and difficult negotiations for an FMCT," Gary Samore, President Obama's special assistant on nuclear disarmament, told the U.N. conference Friday. "Unfortunately, it was not to be. Instead, a single country -- a good friend of the United States -- changed its mind and has blocked the CD from implementing its work plan."
The idea of a treaty banning the production of fissile material -- or nuclear weapon fuel-- dates back to the early days of the U.S. and Soviet atomic arms race. The United States, Russia, Britain and France have already announced that they have stopped the production of fissile material, according to Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association. Kimball said that China, and Israel, are also believed to have stopped production of fissile material, but have not announced it. But Pakistan and India are believed to be continuing their production of it. "Pakistan is adamant. They continue producing fissile material because they feel they are behind the Indians," he said.
The advantage of negotiating a treaty within the U.N. Conference on Disarmament is that it is the only arms control body that brings together all of the world's nuclear powers. But ten states -- Australia, Austria, Norway, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, and Uruguay -- have said publicly that the time is nearing to try something new, either by abandoning the conference's current form or beginning negotiations in the U.N. General Assembly.
"If we cannot begin these negotiations in the CD, then we will need to consider other options," Samore said. "In any event, it is time to get back to work. The treaty is too important to allow the CD's dysfunction and the interests of one state to dictate the pace of progress on disarmament."
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Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi presented the U.N.'s members with a stark challenge: Help Pakistan recover from its most devastating natural disaster in modern history or run the risk of surrendering a key front in the war on terror.
"This disaster has hit us hard at a time, and in areas, where we are in the midst of fighting a war against extremists and terrorists," Qureshi warned foreign delegates, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at a U.N. donor's conference on the Pakistani flood. "If we fail, it could undermine the hard won gains made by the government in our difficult and painful war against terrorism. We cannot allow this catastrophe to become an opportunity for the terrorists."
Qureshi provided one of his darkest assessments to date of the political, economic and security costs of Pakistan's floods, which have placed more than 20 million people in need of assistance, destroyed more than 900,000 homes and created financial losses of over $43 billion. "We are the people that the international community looks towards, as a bulwark against terrorism and extremism," he said, adding that Pakistan "now looks towards the international community to show a similar determination and humanity in our hour of need."
The blunt speech was part of a broader effort by Pakistan, the United Nations, the United States and its military allies in the region to goad the international community into stepping up funding for the relief effort, which has been severely underfunded. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged an additional $60 million to the U.N. flood relief in Pakistan, bringing the total U.S. contribution to $150 million. Britain's development minister, Andrew Mitchell, pledged an additional $33 million, saying that the pace of funding for has been "woefully inadequate."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who recently visited the flood disaster region, also sought to dramatize the extraordinary nature of the floods, which have inundated 20 percent of Pakistan, an area larger than Italy. Ban said more people have been affected by the flood than the combined populations hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Cyclone Nargis, and the Haitian earthquake. "Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami; its destructive power will accumulate and grow with time," Ban told U.N. delegates. "At least 160,000 square kilometers of land is under water -- an area larger than more than half the countries of the world."
"We have never seen anything like this before. 1919, I'm told was a mega flood. This far exceeds that," Qureshi told a gathering of diplomats, investors, journalists and Pakistani-Americans at a discussion on the flood at the Asia Society.
Qureshi, who was joined by Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, singled out the United States for leading the international effort to respond to the worst natural calamity in modern history. "Thank you America," said Qureshi, noting that ordinary Pakistanis recognized the role that the United States has played since the floods struck. "You have contributed significantly; you have shown the world that you are a caring nation."
He also thanked George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist, who announced plans today to allocate $5 million -- more money than the vast majority of foreign countries contributing to the flood response -- to a Pakistan democracy program he runs to help those in need. The InterAsian Development Bank also announced it would make $2 billion in low interest loans over the next two years to help pave the way to a massive reconstruction effort.
Today's pledges moved the U.N. closer to raising the nearly $460 million it is seeking to fund relief operations over the next six months. The fund raising effort has drawn criticism of many of Pakistan's closest allies, including oil rich sheikdoms like Saudi Arabia and China, which have provided only a trickle of aid to the U.N.-led relief effort."I think the Chinese should step up to the plate," Holbrooke said in a briefing with a handful of reporters. "They always say Pakistan is their closest ally."
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, which has faced sharp criticism for its slow response, announced that it will pledge about $105 million in assistance, most of it in the form of relief supplies. Only about $5 million will be provided in cash to the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority. None is earmarked for the U.N.'s relief efforts. The European Union has also increased its funding commitment by $39 million to about $90 million. Several other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, also made new contributions today.
But Qureshi defended his country's allies, saying that Saudi Arabia has been sending relief planes into Pakistan ever since the flood began and that China has stepped in to provide life-saving assistance to more than 27,000 Pakistanis who live near the Chinese border. "They have never let us down in the past and I don't expect them to let us down now," he said of China.
Qureshi and Holbrooke said they were acutely aware that the Pakistani floods could have massive strategic implications for their countries' security interests in the region, but insisted that, for now, their main focus was on saving lives. Holbrooke also made it clear that the U.S. saw the flood as an opportunity to showcase American generosity, saying he and other top U.S. diplomats had developed a slogan. "We want to be the first in, with the most assistance," he said.
Qureshi acknowledged criticism that the Pakistan government was slow to respond in the initial days of the flood. "Initially there was shock and paralysis but we are now getting our act together," he said. "We've been struck by this national calamity; we will face it and we will muster the resources and get out of this."
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Faced with simultaneous natural disasters, the U.N.'s chief relief coordinator John Holmes sought to jar the world's governments into focusing attention on the massive flooding in Pakistani, saying it has affected more than 14 million people, more than any other natural catastrophe in recent history.
Holmes and Pakistan's U.N. ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon sought to dramatize the massive scale of the flooding as part of a public relations campaign to raise $460 million from foreign governments to respond to the crisis. In a joint press conference, they said Pakistan's worst flood in 80 years has killed at least 1,200 people, destroyed thousands of villages, washed out several hundred bridges and wiped out a huge portion of the country's cotton and wheat crops.
"It's like going back to primordial history," Haroun told reporters.
The presentation underscored the challenges of translating international sympathy for victims of far-flung major humanitarian crisis into cash, particularly at a time when massive fires have struck Russia, and flooding and landslides have killed several hundred in China. Many U.S. relief agencies are continuing to provide basic relief for the victims of the worst earthquake to Haiti in 200 years.
Holmes said the impact of the rains in Pakistan will only worsen with monsoon conditions expected to continue for another month. He expressed concern that a shortage of clean water, sanitation, and medical care could lead to spread of deadly water born diseases, including diarrhea.
"The destruction is not over -- far from it," Holmes warned donor states, who have already pledged about $150 million to relief efforts. "The flood wave now continues its way through the southern Sindh province, where millions more are expected to suffer...The monsoon could last for another month."
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Last night, 25 armed, masked men set fire to a U.N. summer camp at a beach in Nuseirat, Gaza, destroying inflatable pools and tents and roughing up a group of guards protecting the facility. It was the second attack on a U.N. recreation facility in just over a month. On May 23, a group of 30 masked, armed men set fire to another U.N. summer camp facility under construction in Gaza City. They also threatened to kill the U.N.'s top relief official in Gaza.
U.N. officials told Turtle Bay they don't know who attacked the recreation facilities but they suspect the vandals are Islamic extremists who object to programs that allow boys and girls to jointly swim, play volleyball, and learn about the arts, theater and other cultural activities.
"This is another example of the growing levels of extremism in Gaza," John Ging, the director of operations for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, said in a statement. "The overwhelming use of UNRWA's Summer Games has once again obviously frustrated those that are intolerant."
The U.N. established the Summer Games program four years ago. The U.N.'s 1,200 camps provide a rare distraction from the hardships endured by more than 250,000 Palestinian refugees that live in the Gaza Strip. The program runs from June 12 through August 5. In last night's raid, the assailants tied up the guards, set fire to tables and easels, and slashed inflatable pools and tents.
In response, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued a statement condemning the act of "vandalism," and saying such attacks are "an assault upon the well-being of Gaza's children." The statement called on the "de facto authorities" -- a reference to Hamas, the Islamic movement that came to power through elections in 2007 and whose legitimacy the U.N. does not fully recognize -- to "combat any incitement" against U.N. activities, and to ensure the safety of U.N. personnel and facilities.
Ging said that the U.N. will rebuild the Nuseirat summer camp immediately, and that the United Nations remains committed to continuing the summer program, "which is so important for the physical and psychological well-being of Gaza's children, so many of whom are stressed and traumatized by their circumstances and experiences."
Ging said the attacks on U.N. summer camps provided "further evidence, if that were needed, of the urgency to change the circumstances on the ground that are generating such extremism." Gaza has been the target of an Egyptian and Israeli blockade, which has banned many goods from entering the Palestinian territory. Facing mounting international pressure, Israel has agreed to ease the blockade by increasing the number of items that can be imported to Gaza.
Israel's deputy U.N. ambassador, Daniel Carmon, told Turtle Bay the camp attacks are "another reflection of what Israeli has been saying for years: that the territory is literally occupied by a terrorist organization, Hamas," that promotes and permits "extremism, terrorism, rockets over Israel and now, attacks against summer camps managed by the international community."
The U.N. summer camps compete with Hamas-run programs for the hearts of the more than 700,000 children under the age of 15 that live in the Gaza Strip, the Associated Press reported. About 100,000 kids reportedly attend Hamas camps.
"Hamas camps teach an anti-Israeli doctrine and military-style marching, along with horseback riding, swimming and Islam," according to the U.S. news agency. "The U.N. says its hopes to help shield Gaza's children against the lure of militancy, a task that is getting harder in this impoverished territory."
U.N. officials say that Hamas has permitted the U.N. summer camps to function since coming to power in 2007. And Hamas's interior ministry condemned last night's attack, attributing it to "groups led by those with a misguided idea who want to distort the situation in Gaza." Hamas said it would investigate the attacks, and provide additional security at the U.N. camps.
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Pervez Musharraf's military government failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the hours leading up to her December 2007 assassination, or to vigorously investigate her killing by a 15-year-old suicide bomber, according to a U.N. fact-finding commission of inquiry.
The three-member U.N. commission, headed by Chilean diplomat Heraldo Muñoz, also accused unnamed high-ranking Pakistani authorities of obstructing the commission's access to military and intelligence sources.
The 65-page report (pdf) -- which relied on interviews with 250 people and several key governments -- provided a blistering account of government lapses that led to one of the most significant political assassination in a generation. In one of its most damning passages, it accused police investigators of deliberately seeking to avoid solving the case out of fear of discovering the possible involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.
"Ms Bhutto's assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken," the report stated. It said that none of Pakistan's local or national security authorities "took the necessary to respond to the extraordinary, fresh and urgent security risks that they knew she faced."
The report also harshly critiques Bhutto's political party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), for failing to provide adequate back-up security for the former Pakistani leader. Many of those individuals are now in the government of Bhutto's husband, President Ali Asif Zardari, who was partly involved in overseeing his wife's security.
But the report charges Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who was responsible for providing supplemental security on the day of the attack, with fleeing the scene of the explosion, leaving Bhutto's vehicle isolated, a decision that amounted to "a serious security lapse."
"The commission recognizes the heroism of individual PPP supporters, many of whom sacrificed themselves to protect her; however, the additional security arrangements of the PPP lacked leadership and were inadequate and poorly inadequate."
The sharply worded tone of the report appeared to take Pakistani authorities by surprise. Minutes after a copy was presented to the Pakistan's U.N. ambassador Abdullah Haroon, he cancelled a scheduled press conference and announced he would be traveling back to Pakistan to hand-deliver the information to his government.
The Dec. 27, 2007, attack took place as Bhutto was leaving a campaign rally in a neighborhood in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. She died after the force of the explosive forced her head into the handle of an escape hatch of a campaign vehicle. Twenty-four other people were killed in the attack and another 91 were injured.
The commission found that local police "inflicted irreparable damage to the investigation" by hosing down the crime scene hours after Bhutto's assassination and failing to collect evidence. It also challenged the Pakistani government's assertion, made in a press conference shortly after Bhutto's assassination, that a Taliban militant, Baitullah Mehsud, was the mastermind behind the killing. It said that telephone intercepts provided by the Intelligence-Services Intelligence, the powerful Pakistani spy agency, were too ambiguous to prove Mehsud's role in the attack.
The U.N. commission said that the police investigators focused primarily on low-level operatives and ignored potential suspects "further up the hierarchy in the planning, financing and execution of the assassination." It also said the investigation was "severely hampered" by Pakistan's intelligence agencies, which conducted a parallel investigation and selectively shared information with the police.
"The commission believes that the failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms. Bhutto' assassination was deliberate," the commission concluded. And it called on the Pakistan "to carry out a serious, credible, criminal investigation that determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime of historic proportions, and brings those responsible to justice."
As a U.N. commission last month finalized its wide-ranging probe into Benazir Bhutto's 2007 assassination, the Pakistani press began publishing a flurry of leaks suggesting the U.N. sleuths had overlooked promising leads and failed to interview key witnesses, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had purportedly warned the former prime minister her life was in danger.
The stories have placed the United Nations on the defensive, raising questions among Pakistanis officials about the exhaustiveness of the U.N. inquiry. But it has also fueled suspicions at the U. N. that Pakistan may be laying the spadework for a public relations counterattack when the long-anticipated report is issued on April 15. The report -- which has not yet been made public -- is expected to sharply criticize the Pakistani security establishment for its failure to protect Bhutto or to preserve the crime scene after her assassination, according to U.N. officials.
Pakistani authorities have publicly urged the U.N. commission to reopen the investigation, arguing that a more thorough examination of evidence is required. Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, said Pakistan has asked the commission to question two unidentified heads of state who warned Bhutto of "serious threats to her life." Babar told the Associated Press the interviews "can make the report more credible."
The revelations surfaced shortly after Zardari, who was Bhutto's husband, made an urgent appeal to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to delay the release of the U.N. commission's report. Zardari, who had pressed Ban to authorize an investigation into her death weeks after he was sworn in as Pakistan's new leader, provided no explanation as to why he wanted to delay the release of the findings.
The move represents a political retreat by the Pakistani leader, who is now facing challenges to his authority on several fronts. The Pakistani parliament is moving to strip him of powers he inherited from Pakistan's military government, and Pakistan's Supreme Court is set to reopen a pair of corruption cases against him.
"For two years now the government of Pakistan has been pushing for a U.N. investigation into what happened," a U.N.-based official familiar with the probe told Turtle Bay. "Now that the work is done, the information coming from them seems to be geared towards discrediting whatever the commission produces."
The three-member U.N. commission, headed by Chilean U.N. ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, conducted a nine-month-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan in October 2008 following an eight-year exile to campaign in elections for the country's presidency. The commission also includes former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman, and Ireland's former deputy police commissioner, Peter Fitzgerald, who conducted a damning 2005 probe that linked Syrian authorities to the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Ban's spokesman Farhan Haq told Turtle Bay: "On the basis of what the commissioners have informed us, so far, they believe that their work is done. The government of Pakistan is free to provide any further information it believes it is worthy of consideration. The commissioners have seen a considerable amount of relevant information, including what has been in the news media in recent days, and after conferring in light of the latest information, they continue to say that they have completed their work."
The U.N. investigators have held meetings with several current and past Pakistani military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials, including former military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf. A senior U.N.-based official confirmed that Munoz's team had sought interviews with Rice and other foreign dignitaries believed to have information. (Side note: Rice was a classmate of Munoz's at the University of Denver. They both studied under professor Josef Korbel, a former Czech diplomat and scholar whose daughter, Madeleine K. Albright, went on to become the first female U.S. secretary of state.) But Rice and others refused to cooperate with the U.N. commission, which lacks subpoena power to compel sources to testify, according to a second U.N.-based officials familiar with the probe. Asked to respond, a spokeswoman for Rice, Caroline Beswick, told Turtle Bay: "Unfortunately, Dr. Rice is not granting interviews at this time. Thank you for your request."
The fact that Bhutto was a prime target was no secret. A suicide bomber attacked her motorcade in October 2007, the day she returned from exile, killing more than 130 people. Bhutto was not harmed.
But establishing who ultimately succeeded in killing Bhutto has been elusive. After her killing, Musharraf's government blamed Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant commander allegedly linked to al Qaeda. But Bhutto's supporters have challenged that theory. Even before Zardari requested a delay, a Pakistani newspaper reported that the U.N. commission was pursuing four retired military officers suspected of conducting a rogue operation. But the second U.N.-based official familiar with the investigation said it was untrue.
Zardari's defenders say his call for a delay reflects a desire to get to the bottom of his wife's death. "It's pretty obvious protection of her was totally inadequate given the fact that she had been the subject of a major, incredibly deadly, assassination attempt in October," said former U.S. diplomat Peter Galbraith, a close friend of Bhutto's and Zardari's.
Galbraith said he was asked by Zardari to participate in the U.N. investigation, and that Ban had agreed to appoint him to the commission. But he subsequently was offered the job as deputy U.N. special representative in Afghanistan. He was subsequently fired from that job over a dispute with his boss, Kai Eide, on the U.N.'s handling of fraudulent ballots in the country's August elections.
"The only thing I know is that there were some people they wanted interviewed that hadn't agreed to be interviewed," Galbraith said. "I think he genuinely wants an honest and full report on the circumstance of his with wife's murder. I don't believe it will put him in greater political difficulty."
Correction: This post originally stated that Rice and Muñoz attended the University of Colorado. It was actually the University of Denver. Turtle Bay regrets the error.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
President Asif Ali Zardari prevailed
upon the U.N. Tuesday to delay the release for two weeks of a fact-finding
report that is expected to criticize Pakistan's security establishment for its
handling of the December 2007 assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The move represents a political retreat by the Pakistani leader, who requested the U.N. probe during his first weeks in office, but is now facing challenges to his authority on several fronts. The Pakistani parliament is moving to strip him of powers he inherited from Pakistan's military government, and Pakistan's Supreme Court is set to reopen a pair of corruption cases against him.
The United Nations announced the delay just about two hours before a three-member U.N. fact-finding commission was scheduled to release a report on Bhutto's assassination in a press conference at U.N. headquarters.
But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "accepted an urgent request by the president of Pakistan" to put off the release until April 15, according to Martin Nesirky, Ban's chief spokesman. Nesirky provided no explanation as to why Zardari asked to put off the release of the report, which has not been presented to Ban or the Pakistani government. He said the U.N. commission had informed Ban that its report is "complete and ready to be delivered."
Pakistan sought to use the delay to get the U.N. to reopen the investigation to consider new evidence. Pakistan's presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the Associated Press that the U.N. commission should question two unidentified heads of state he claimed had called Bhutto before her death to warn of "serious threats to her life." But the U.N. insisted that the investigation was complete and there was no need to pursue new leads.
commission, headed by Chile's U.N. ambassador, Heraldo Muñoz, has conducted a nine-month long inquiry into the
circumstances surrounding the Dec. 27, 2007, attack that killed Bhutto after an
election campaign rally in Rawalpindi. Bhutto's murder, just 10 weeks after her
return from exile, sparked riots throughout Pakistan.
The report does not place blame on individuals for ordering Bhutto's killing, according to U.N. officials. But it sharply criticizes the Pakistan military for furnishing Bhutto with inadequate security on the day of her murder. It also faults Pakistan's former military government for allowing the crime scene and Bhutto's vehicle to be washed shortly after the killing.
A senior U.N.-based diplomat, who has met with members of the commission, said the report was also consistent with the findings of a Scotland Yard team that concluded Bhutto was killed by a single suicide bomber who blew up her vehicle. The team did not determine whether someone had ordered the killing.
The abrupt, last-minute appeal for a delay by Zardari comes about 18 months after the Pakistani leader made a personal appeal to Ban to conduct a wide-ranging probe into his late wife's murder. At the time, Zardari said he was less interested in holding the killers accountable than in having the United Nations produce an exhaustive document that honors his wife's democratic crusade in the face of Islamist extremism.
"I'm not looking to hang three 17-year-olds who were misguided by someone," Zardari said in a September 2008 interview with me for the Washington Post. "We are fighting for a cause that is larger than us."
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
For years, the U.N.'s top peacekeepers have been among the world's staunchest critics of private security contractors, often portraying them as unaccountable mercenaries.
Now they are clients.
As the U.N. prepares to expand its operations in Afghanistan, it is in talks with a British security firm to send in scores of additional Nepalese Gurkhas to the country to protect them.
The U.N.'s top security official, Gregory Starr, the former head of U.S. State Department Security, has also been advocating an increase in the use of private security firms in Pakistan, where U.N. relief workers have been the target of kidnappings and killings, according to U.N. officials.
The embrace of a private security contractor marks a shift for the United Nations, which has relied on governments to supply peacekeepers to protect U.N. staff. In Iraq, the U.N. used a contingent of Fijian peacekeepers for protection. But it has accelerated its move toward hired guns in Pakistan since the Taliban launched an October attack against a U.N. residence, killing five U.N. employees, including two Afghan security guards, and triggered the withdrawal of U.N. personnel from the country.
Those officials will return along with an additional 800 U.N. staff that have been budgeted for the Afghan mission. The latest drive has been led by Starr, who relied heavily on private security contractors to protect American diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. Starr who joined the U.N. last May, once defended the security company Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater USA, following allegations that it killed Iraqi civilians. "Essentially, I think they do a very good job," he told Reuters in 2008.
Starr declined to discuss the U.N.'s policy. But a U.N. spokesman, Farhan Haq, responded on behalf of Starr. "He wanted you to know that our understanding of the current usage of the term ‘Private Security Contractors' typically refers to contractors doing close protection work for movement security, such as Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy, Dyncorps, Aegis, and many other companies providing this type of service. However, the U.N. doesn't avail itself of this type of service. We do use some private companies to provide static security guards at some sites in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but primarily rely on host countries to provide our security."
Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.