During a visit to Washington last week, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé sounded determined to force a divided U.N. Security Council to vote on a resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters, saying the need to show resolve in the face of Syrian repression was worth the risk of provoking a likely Russian veto.
Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, Juppé told reporters in Washington that he believed that Russia might back down if the allies could muster a significant majority -- say, 11 yes votes in the 15-nation council -- raising the political costs of obstruction.
On Tuesday morning, Juppé offered his strongest hint that France and its Western allies, including the United States, may be preparing to back down and withdraw the text. In response to questions from the French National Assembly, Juppé acknowledged that Western powers have been unable to overcome misgivings about a resolution on Syria from key council members, including the BRICS members Brazil, Russia, India and China, and South Africa. Lebanon, the council's lone Arab country, is expected to vote against the resolution.
The United States had initially cautioned its European partners against forcing a showdown in the council that would simply highly its deep divisions over Syria, providing a political boost to President Bashar al-Assad's government. But Britain, France, and other European governments argued it would be unconscionable for the council to remain silent in the face of mounting atrocities in Syria.
The BRICS have countered that the United States and its European allies overstepped the Security Council's mandate, contained in resolution 1973, authorizing the use of force to protect civilians in Libya. They say that the Western coalition has effectively entered a civil war on behalf of the rebels and that their true aim is the overthrow of Moammar al-Qaddafi's regime.
"We strongly believe that the resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation," South African President Jacob Zuma told the South African parliament this week.
The Europeans believe they have secured nine votes, the bare minimum required for adoptioin of the Syria resolution in the Security Council. But they have held out hope that they could convince the Russians to back down if they could only secure another couple of votes, thereby isolating Moscow and Beijing, which is expected to back the Russian position. But a week of diplomatic outreach has failed to turn a single vote.
"At the Security Council -- despite all the efforts that we're making, in particular with the British and the Americans -- we still haven't achieved our goal," Juppé said. "Indeed, China and Russia are threatening -- on the grounds of principle -- to exercise their right of veto. We will take the risk of putting a draft resolution condemning the Syrian regime to a vote if we reach a sufficient majority. Currently, we probably have nine votes at the Security Council. We still need to persuade South Africa, India and Brazil; we're working on this every day. I think that if we were able to achieve 11 votes, we would put this draft resolution to a vote and everyone would have to assume their responsibilities; we'd then see if China and Russia would go so far as to veto the resolution."
European governments have directed their lobbying efforts at Brazil and South Africa in the hopes that they could somehow peel them away from the Russian camp. French ambassador Gerard Araud pressed Brazil this week to reconsider its stance in a newspaper interview in the Brazilian paper O Estado De Sao Paolo. "The Security Council's credibility and that of its members is at stake, as it is their mandate is to protect international peace and security," Araud said. "We've been discsuing this text for two weeks. In that time 400 people, including women and children, have died, sometimes under torture. Let's be clear: Inaction on the part of the Security Council is not an option. We must all rally together and we're counting on Brazil."
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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today dismissed a U.S.-backed European effort to adopt a U.N. resolution condemning Syria's bloody crackdown on protesters as a meaningless gesture, saying "it is not enough to pass non-binding measures wagging a finger at Damascus."
The Florida Republican said the United Nations must "impose strong sanctions on Damascus" in response to its "nuclear intransigence, its gross human rights abuses, its longstanding development of unconventional and ballistic missile capabilities, and its support for violent extremists."
"A non-binding measure will fail to compel the regime to change its behavior," she added. "Responsible nations must develop, implement, and enforce stronger sanctions, in the Security Council and beyond, in order to meet this goal."
It is true that a European draft Security Council resolution, backed by the United States, contains no specific threat to punish Syria with sanctions or military force, though it does call on states to prevent Syria from trading in weapons. But is it the toothless initiative she claims it is?
U.S. officials say that they have focused on imposing unilateral sanctions on Syria because the prospects for concerted U.N. action on that front is dim, given resistance from several council members: China, Russia, Lebanon, India, South Africa, and Brazil.
These governments see the European initiative to condemn Syria less as a feckless exercise than a potentially sinister first step in process that may exacerbate political tensions in the Middle East or lead to possible foreign intervention in Syria. Russia and China may be prepared to exercise their veto power to stop it.
"It could be misunderstood by destructive opposition forces in Syria who, as you know, declare they want regime change in Damascus," Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin told Russian state television this week.
The reason that Moscow and Beijing are so alarmed about the draft is that experience at the United Nations demonstrates that once the Security Council makes a demand of a country, it frequently comes back to demand more if it is ignored.
On February 22, a week after Muammar al-Qaddafi ordered a bloody crackdown on Libyan demonstrators, the council adopted a "non-binding" presidential statement condemning Tripoli's action and demanding that it stop. Qaddafi ignored it.
Within a month, the Security Council had issued two legally binding, Chapter 7 enforcement resolutions imposing sanctions on Libya, launching an International Criminal Court prosecution, and authorizing military action against Qaddafi's forces. Clearly, the threshold for action is considerably higher in Syria, which still can count on support at the United Nations from Arab governments. But events on the ground, including fresh reports of government repression and the flight of Syrians into Turkey, could change governments' calculations.
Wide-ranging Security Council sanctions against Iran and North Korea also began with relatively mild non-binding statements demanding that Tehran and Pyongyang halt the development of their ballistic missile and nuclear programs. For the moment, the Security Council has yet to act on the International Atomic Energy Agency's determination that Syria was secretly developing a clandestine nuclear reactor before Israeli destroyed it in a September 2007 airstrike.
But U.S. and European governments will likely address Syria's nuclear ambitions after they finish the current push to censor their alleged political repression of civilians.
The draft resolution currently under consideration condemns Syria's "systematic violation" of human rights, "demands" an immediate end to the violence, and "unfettered" access to U.N. rights monitors and aid workers. It also calls on Syria to lift the siege on anti-government towns, implement democratic reforms, and cooperate with the U.N.
In some sense, the most important are a pair of provisions at the end of the draft that require the U.N. secretary-general to report on Syria's compliance with the council's demands within two weeks, and then again every month after, ensuring that the Security Council will have frequent opportunities to ratchet up the pressure. The council will, as they say in U.N. parlance, "remain actively seized of the matter."
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Britain introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution today condemning Syria's "systematic" violations of human rights as part of a bloody crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, and calling for a "credible and impartial" investigation into abuses of peaceful demonstrators, according to a confidential copy of the draft obtained by Turtle Bay.
The British draft, which was co-sponsored by France, Germany, and Portugal, aims at using the U.N. Security Council to ratchet up political pressure on Syria to restrain its forces. But it faces the prospects of a veto by China and Russia, Syria's closest allies on the 15-nation council. The United States has vowed to support the draft resolutions.
U.N. diplomats say they are confident that they have secured the minimum nine votes required for adoption of a resolution, and they were prepared to risk a veto from Russia or China. "If anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience," British Prime Minister David Cameron said today.
Here is a copy of the British draft resolution:
Draft SCR on Syria
The Security Council,
Expressing grave concern at the situation in Syria and condemning the violence and use of force,
Welcoming the Secretary-General's statements articulating continued concerns about the on-going violence and humanitarian needs, and calling for an independent investigation of all killings during recent demonstrations,
Welcoming also the G8 statement of 27 May 2011, and other regional and bilateral diplomatic efforts to address the deteriorating situation in Syria,
Welcoming further Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 of 29 April 2011, including the decision to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a mission to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law and to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability,
Considering that the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in Syria by the authorities against its people may amount to crimes against humanity,
Expressing concern at the reports of shortages of medical supplies to treat the wounded, caused partly by deliberate prevention of such supplies by the Government of Syria, and at the reports of numerous civilians trying to flee the violence,
Echoing the Secretary-General's concern at the humanitarian impact of the violence on a number of Syrian towns, and fully supporting the UN's humanitarian assessment mission to Syria,
Recalling the Syrian authorities' responsibility to protect its population, and to allow unhindered and sustained access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian organisations,
Underlining the need to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly and of expression, including freedom of the media and access for international media,
Stressing that the only solution to the current crisis in Syria is through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, noting the stated intention of the Government of Syria to take steps for reform, regretting the lack of progress in implementation, and stressing the need for the Syrian Government to implement reforms fully,
Stressing also the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under the control of the Government of Syria, on peaceful protesters and other individuals,
Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria,
Concerned by the continuing deterioration of the situation in Syria and the potential for further escalation of the violence,
Further concerned by the risks to regional peace and stability posed by the deteriorating situation in Syria, and mindful of its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Condemns the systematic violation of human rights, including the killings, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and torture of peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists by the Syrian authorities, and violence against security forces, and expresses deep regret at the deaths of hundreds of people;
2. Demands an immediate end to the violence, and for steps to address the legitimate aspirations of the population, and calls upon all sides to act with utmost restraint, respect human rights law and international humanitarian law, and refrain from reprisals;
3. Calls upon the Syrian authorities to:
(a) immediately lift the siege of affected towns, including Jisr al-Shughour and Deraa, restore medical, fuel and electricity supplies and communications, and allow immediate, unfettered and sustained access for international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies and workers;
(b) implement reforms aimed at allowing genuine political participation, inclusive dialogue and effective exercise of fundamental freedoms, immediately release all prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained persons, and immediately lift restrictions on all forms of media; and;
(c) launch a credible and impartial investigation in accordance with its international obligations and hold to account those responsible for attacks against peaceful demonstrators, including by forces under the control of the Syrian Government, and co-operate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights mission as set forth in Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/RES/S-16/1 of 29 April 2011;
4. Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Syria of arms and related materiel of all types;
5. Requests the Secretary-General to report on implementation of this resolution within 14 days of its adoption, and every 30 days thereafter;
6. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
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Nearly two months ago the U.N.'s chief peacekeeping official, Alain Le Roy, convened a press conference to talk up a string of U.N. successes around the world.
In Haiti, the United Nations helped usher through a relatively peaceful political transition; in Ivory Coast, U.N. attack helicopters backed a French assault that brought down Ivoirian strongman Laurent Gbagbo; and in Sudan, the United Nations oversaw a landmark independence referendum in Southern Sudan that is likely to set the stage for the south's recognition this summer as the U.N.'s newest member. "In the three cases, the peacekeepers made a huge difference," Le Roy said.
Le Roy contrasted the U.N.'s achievements with the darkest days of U.N. peacekeeping in the 1990s when U.N. blue helmets stood by in the face of mass atrocities in places like Srebrenica and Rwanda, and paid tribute to the sacrifices of U.N. personnel who had died in the cause of peace, including 44 U.N. civilian and uniformed peacekeepers who were killed in a 10-day stretch in Afghanistan, Congo, Haiti, and Ivory Coast.
But in recent weeks the U.N. has suffered some heavy body blows to its reputation: In Haiti, a medical panel published circumstantial evidence suggesting U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal may have been responsible for introducing cholera into Haiti, killing more than 4,000 people. And in the contested town of Abyei, Sudan, a battalion of 850 U.N. peacekeepers from Zambia hid in their barracks as Sudanese forces looted and burned homes, prompting sharp criticism from local officials and U.N. Security Council diplomats who described their conduct as disgraceful.
Violence flared up last month in Abyei, Sudan's most dangerous flashpoint, in the run-up of Southern Sudan's plan to declare independence next month from the north, splitting Africa's largest country into two nations. Abyei was supposed to join Southern Sudan in holding a referendum on independence, but the move stalled over differences involving oil revenues, water, and voting rights. The dispute pits the farming tribes of the Ngok Dinka, who are aligned with the south, against the Khartoum-backed nomadic herding tribes of the Misseriya, who graze their cattle in Abyei during the dry season. U.N. officials have long feared that a fight over Abyei could trigger a resumption of civil war between north and south, which claimed more than 2 million lives before a 2005 peace accord halted the fighting.
Troops from the southern Sudanese People's Liberation Army opened fire on a contingent of U.N. peacekeepers escorting a Sudanese military convoy. The Sudanese military's reaction appeared premeditated and disproportionate, according to U.N. diplomats. Sudanese aircraft, tanks, and troops riding motorcycles attacked the town, burning homes and looting property. Nearly 80,000 people, mostly members of the Ngok Dinka tribe, fled their homes, and thousands of pro-government Arab Misseriya tribesmen have since flowed into to take up residence. An internal U.N. report, obtained by the Associated Press, said the Sudanese Armed Forces' "occupation" of Abyei might result in ethnic cleansing. "The SAF attack and occupation of Abyei and the resultant displacement of over 30,000 Ngok Dinkas from Abyei could lead to ethnic cleansing, if conditions for the return of the displaced Ngok Dinka residents are not created," according to the report.
Responsibility for the current upsurge in violence in Abyei rests primarily with Khartoum and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement. But the episode provided another depressing example of U.N. timidity that recalled some of the worst moments in U.N. history. A battalion of Zambian blue helmets based in Abyei remained in their barracks for two days as Sudan's army attacked the town, ignoring pleas from the U.N. special representative, Haile Menkerios, to take action. "When the Sudanese army invaded, they retreated to their bunkers," Asha Abbas Akuei, who represents Abyei in the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, told Rebecca Hamilton in an article published on Slate.
The Abyei episode points to a deeper problem that has plagued many of the U.N.'s most complex peacekeeping missions. The United Nations has been forced to rely primarily on infantry troops from developing countries without the more advanced military hardware -- including attack helicopters, advanced logistics, and intelligence -- that is required to succeed, according to peacekeeping experts. "Large-scale heavy infantry frankly don't do much to reinforce the political process unless they have mobility that can deliver military punch," said Bruce Jones, director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
In Ivory Coast, where the U.N. certified the presidential election of opposition leader Alassane Ouattara last November, the U.N. peacekeeping mission failed to compel the loser, Laurent Gbagbo, to step down or to protect civilians targeted by his forces. It was not until France, backed by U.N. peacekeepers and forces loyal to Ouattara, intervened that the course of the conflict changed and Gbagbo was deposed.
"So here we were in Cote d'Ivoire in a total stalemate, going nowhere against a second-tier army," Jones said. "It took a combination of Ouattara's forces and the French to turn the day. It shows a very small contribution of high-order [military] capability can transform a peacekeeping force from being irrelevant to being very productive. It shows that peacekeeping can work, but it took a while to get there."
Abyei, Jones added, provides a painful illustration of the limits of U.N. peacekeeping without the advanced military resources that the French were able to bring to bear in Ivory Coast, but which no major outside power has been willing to commit to Sudan. The few countries that possess those capabilities, including the United States, Britain, France, and other advanced military powers, have been unwilling to supply them, citing other obligations from Afghanistan to Iraq and now Libya. Khartoum, meanwhile, has sought to block Western powers with the military wherewithal to confront his troops from serving in the country.
"It's very far from clear that large-scale infantry can do much in Abyei," Jones said. "So, we're spending a billion dollars a year" to field a peacekeeping mission "without the vital ingredient that can actually make it work. If we can't stop major violations … then what are we doing there?"
A U.N. peacekeeping spokesman, Michel Bonnardeaux, said a review of the Zambians' conduct concluded that "our troops could have and should have had more visibility to deter any violence against civilians and the destruction against property." But "it must be recognized that most civilians left the area before the peak of the crisis and that UNMIS [the U.N. Mission in Sudan] troops and civilians were themselves in imminent danger as the UNMIS compound was hit," he said.
Bonnardeaux said the U.N.'s top military advisor, who traveled to Sudan to interview the Zambians, has instructed the contingent "to be more proactive and visible" in the future.
The U.N. Security Council, however, is exploring the possibility of authorizing the deployment of Ethiopian troops into Abyei to help restore order and prevent a resumption of a civil war. Under the proposal, the northern army would withdraw from the Abyei area to make way for thousands of Ethiopian soldiers, who would help monitor a cease-fire along the border.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, issued a statement demanding that Sudan withdraw its forces from Abyei and "ensure an immediate halt to all looting, burning and illegal resettlement." The council also voiced "grave concern following the reports about the unusual, sudden influx of thousands of Misseriya into Abyei town and its environs that could force significant changes in the ethnic composition of the area."Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
After months of discrete campaigning, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon will formally announce Monday that he will seek a second five-year term at the head of the world premier diplomatic organization, according to U.N. diplomats familiar with the plan.
Ban will outline his plans in a breakfast Monday with representatives of the Asia Group, a bloc of Asian and Middle East countries, before holding a press conference to publicly announce his intention to serve out another term when his mandate expires on December 31. Ban's team is hoping to secure support for his bid from the 15-nation U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly by June 21.
U.N. diplomats say that it's all but certain that Ban, who faces no competition for the job, will easily be approved for a second term. During the past several months, he has traveled to key capitals, including Beijing, Moscow and Washington, to shore up backing.
Throughout much of his first term Ban has faced intense criticism from political observers, top aides, and human rights advocates, who see him as too timid to confront the world's worst rights abusers, and too willing to accommodate the world's major powers.
Last summer, Foreign Policy's columnist, James Traub, counseled that "States that care about the United Nations - and above all, the United States - should prevent him from doing further harm to the institution by ensuring that he does not serve a second term."
But Ban has successfully secured support from the countries that count, the permanent five members of the council - the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain - that possess the power to block any UN chief. And Ban has received some praise in recent months for his outspoken support for pro-democracy demonstrators in the Arab world, including in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
After his announcement, Ban plans to write to member states to inform them of his intention and seek their support. He will also make his case to other U.N regional groups. Ban has long hinted that he would seek the U.N. top office for a second term, telling the Agence France Press just last month that "I am willing to make myself available."And he has scheduled much of his travel over the past six months to ensure visits to the capitals of key members.
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France and Britain will press for the passage of a U.N. Security Council vote on a mild, but legally-binding, resolution condemning Syria for its bloody repression of anti-government protesters, and demanding Damascus show restraint and provide access to U.N. humanitarian aid workers, according to U.N. diplomats.
The decision sets the council's Western powers on possible collision course with China and especially Russia. Moscow has signaled it may be prepared to veto a Security Council resolution on Syria, diplomats say. The standoff is coming to a head as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on demonstrators entered its ninth week with little sign of an end to the violence. The Syrian uprising represents the greatest threat to the Assad dynasty's control over the country since it came to power in a 1963 military coup.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron will make one last effort at a G-8 Summit in Deauville, France, Thursday and Friday, to persuade Russian President Dmitry Medvedev not to veto the resolution, according to council diplomats. Diplomats are confident that China will not veto the resolution if Russia doesn't.
After weeks of behind the scenes lobbying, Britain and France say they are confident that they have secured the minimum nine votes required for passage of the resolution in the 15-nation council. They are hoping to increase that number. But they said they intend to press for a vote later this week even if Russia threatens to block the vote.
On Twitter, Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague wrote today that the "rising death toll in Syria is worrying and unacceptable." He said Britain "is calling for more international pressure on Syrian authorities, including at [the] UN."
France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said recently that the "threat of a Russian veto" looms over the council deliberations on Syria but that prospects for a majority of supporters for council action is improving.
The United States had been initially reluctant to support the European initiative on the grounds that a blocked resolution would strengthen the Syrian government's hand by showing the council is politically divided.
But American diplomats have assured their European counterparts that they will support the push for a resolution. Bosnia, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, Nigeria, and Portugal have also assured the Europeans they will vote in favor of the resolution.
The Security Council's Western powers have already encountered stiff resistance from China, Russia and Lebanon to criticizing Syria in the Security Council. Last month, the three countries helped block a French and British initiative to adopt a non-binding council statement condemning Syria's conduct.
Russia is concerned that once the council weighs in on the Syrian crisis it will be only a matter of time before the council's Western powers begin to demand tougher action, including sanctions and possibly even the use of force. Moscow has already expressed concern that the West exceeded its mandate to protect civilians in Libya by taking sides in the country's civil war. The United States and its coalition allies maintain that they are faithfully implementing their mandate to protection civilians. And none of the Western powers have threatened the use of force against Damascus.
Brazil, India, and South Africa have also voiced concern about a new resolution, though New Dehli has indicated to some colleagues that it would be prepared to support a modest resolution that criticizes Syria's conduct. Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, appealed to South Africa to rally behind the resolution.
"South Africa has said behind closed doors in the Security Council that they would not support Security Council action on Syria because they feel NATO abused the mandate the council gave it on libya," said Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch's U.N. representative, who is visiting South Africa. "Wwhat we are teling them is do not punish Syrian civialins for what NATO is doing in Libya."
He also challenged the U.S. rationale for not pressing more aggressively for action on Syria. "The argument that a Russian veto would somehow expose the divisions of the Security Council cuts both ways," he said. "You could also argue that the complete silence is emboldening the Syrian regime."
As the Europeans sought to build greater support for the resolution the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a statement today saying that it was "very likely" that a Syrian facility bombed by Israeli war planes in 2007 was "very likely" a nuclear reactor.
U.N. diplomats said the Europeans were unlikely to immediately raise concerns about the development in the Security Council, saying they fear it might complicate ongoing efforts to secure adoption of its resolution condemning Syria for its bloody crackdown.
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The White House today announced it would impose unilateral sanctions against Syria, signaling its desire to ratchet up pressure on President Bashar al Assad to halt his crackdown on protesters.
The U.S. action drew rare praise from foreign policy conservatives, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, who said the move "should mark the end of the failed policy of engagement and accommodation with Damascus."
But at the United Nations, the American delegation has been hesitant to press for an equally hard-line approach, fearing an aggressive push to penalize Syria in the U.N. Security Council might provoke a Russian or Chinese veto.
In late April, Chinese, Russian, Lebanese and other diplomats effectively blocked an effort by the Europeans to push through a mild, non-binding, Security Council statement condemning Syria's violent crackdown on mostly unarmed protesters.
The United States is concerned that another failed push for Security Council action on Syria would give comfort to President Assad, exposing the deep international rift over the right approach to restraining Syria.
In the absence of an American push, Britain and France have taken the lead in seeking a tougher approach. In recent days, the two European powers have sounded out other Security Council members about the prospects for the adoption of a resolution that would condemn Syria and urge it to halt further violence.
Britain and France are confident that they can muster the minimum nine votes required to adopt a modest resolution that would condemn Syria, ask it to show restraint, and encourage political reform. Britain and France also believe it may be worth risking a Russian or Chinese veto, and exposing them as defenders of a brutal Middle East regime that is resistant to democratic change sweeping the region. "There is a real risk that the council, by failing to act, is sending the signal that what Assad is doing is within the bounds of international tolerance," said one council diplomat. "We need to change that."
The United Nations maintains that more than 850 people have been killed in Syria in recent months, most of them civilian targets of a bloody government crackdown. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has charged Assad with ignoring a recent call for restraint by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which condemned Syria's conduct
While the U.S. worries that forcing a losing vote may play to Assad's advantage, they are likely to support Britain and France if they decide to move ahead with a vote on a resolution, according to diplomats.
The deadlock over Syria contrasts starkly with the council's response to a Libyan crackdown on protesters in February. In a remarkable show of unity, the 15-nation council voted unanimously on February 26 to impose sanctions on President Moammar Qadaffi's regime, and authorize an investigation by the International Criminal Court prosecutor into allegations that the regime committed crimes against humanity. On Monday, the court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, requested arrest warrants for President Qaddafi, his son Saif, and his intelligence chief, Abdullah Senoussi.
But the unity has frayed since the council passed a subsequent resolution authorizing military action to protect civilians by a vote of only 10-0, with five abstentions. Since, then China, India, Russia, and other council members have accused the United States, Britain and France of exceeding the authority granted by the council to protect civilians by taking sides in a civil war.
The effort to squeeze Syria has also been complicated by the role of the council's lone Arab state Lebanon, which lead previous efforts at the United Nations to condemn Libya and to address allegations of government repression in Yemen. But Lebanon is unwilling to back any measures against Syria, which exerts enormous influence over Lebanese affairs. And there is no sign that other Arab governments will challenge Lebanon's approach.
The current dispute over Syria "is the hang over from Libya," one council diplomat told Turtle Bay. "China and Russia feel a bit betrayed because the coalition went further than what was in the resolution. It diminished the possibility of replicating the Libya model in Yemen and Syria," where Russia and China have blocked action.
"There is a negative vibe post-Libya in the council," the diplomat said. "you did this in Libya and now you're going to pay for it. It's a pity. There is this political game of power in the council while people are being hurt on the ground."
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Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, today lodged a complaint against the U.N.'s top humanitarian relief official Valerie Amos, following Amos' highly critical assessment of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and along its borders.
Amos, a former British politician who serves as the U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, issued a series of highly barbed public statements and tweets criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians during a four-day visit to the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
She also took issue with Israel's shooting deaths of about 15 "innocent" Palestinians who crossed the defacto border into Israel Sunday from Syria and from southern Lebanon. Thousands of Palestinians sought to cross the borders to commemorate the 1948 Naqba, or catastrophe, which marks the displacement of Palestinians during the birth of the state of Israel.
"I am extremely concerned at the level of violence today, and at the number of deaths and injuries in the region" Amos said on Sunday. "The situation cannot continue in this way. It is innocent people who are losing their lives."
Israel maintains that the border-crossings were instigated by the Syrian government as a way of distracting attention from its bloody crackdown on nation-wide protesters challenging the government rule. The White House has stated that Israel has the right to defend its border from unauthorized border crossings, and that Syria and Lebanon have an obligation to prevent them.
In a meeting today with Amos, Ayalon challenged her characterization of the victims as innocent. "Those from enemy countries who breach our borders while using violence and calling for Israeli's destruction, cannot be considered innocent, but an immediate and present danger to the citizens of Israel," he said, according to a statement released by the Israel foreign ministry. "Israel has the right and duty, as does any nation, to defend itself and its borders. It is disappointing that the person in charge of humanitarian affairs at the UN requires explanations on why defensible borders are a fundamental right of Israel's citizens."
Ayalon also took issue with Amos agency's characterization of the plight of Palestinians, saying "there is not now, nor has there been, a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, these reports are inflaming the atmosphere and hurting regional stability."
Amos, meanwhile, faulted what she called restrictive Israel building practices which prevent Palestinians from rebuilding crumbling schools and other vital facilities in Israeli controlled lands. "Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives. They are evicted from their homes Their homes are regularly demolished," Amos said. "I don't believe the people of Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass communities and families. They would not like to be subjected to such behavior."Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was never a fan of John Bolton, the controversial U.S. ambassador to the UN who once suggested the organization would be know worse off if you blew up the top ten floors of its headquarters. But he kept his feelings to himself...until now.
In an interview with the Financial Times' Alec Russell, Annan said that Bolton was a lousy negotiator. "It was remarkable that for someone who has spent that much time at the State Department, and as smart as he was, he wasn't a very effective diplomat or even negotiator," Annan told the interviewer.
Annan recalled one moment when he confronted the combative U.S. envoy for bullying people. Annan said he was at a luncheon with Bolton and other U.N. Security Council when Bolton sought to kill off a discussion of some disagreeable matter. "'Uncle Sam is not going to like this.'" Annan recalled Bolton saying, according to the FT interview. " So I said, ‘Look, stop going around trying to intimidate people. Let them speak their mind, and you can put your views across, but don't try to intimidate them with Washington and Uncle Sam.' And of course, the Council members were all relieved to hear that."
The antipathy towards Bolton appeared more personal than ideological. Annan recalled George W. Bush and his wife Laura as "wonderful human beings," and said he held not grudge against another hardliner in the Bush Administration, including Donald Rumsfeld. "He made mistakes, some serious mistakes, but we all make mistakes. That doesn't make him worthless as a human being."
The remarks are hardly surprising, given Bolton's frequent criticism of Annan's stewardship of the United Nations. In his memoir, Surrender is Not an Option, Bolton mocked Annan's staff for having "floated the notion that he was a "secular pope."
"Being a Lutheran, I didn't even believe in religious popes, and I was absolutely determined there weren't going to be any more "secular popes" on the 38th floor," Bolton wrote. The U.N. Secretary General's office is located on the U.N.'s 38th floor, though the office is vacant until the renovation of the U.N. headquarters is completed. Bolton did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on Annan's remarks.
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Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was never a fan of John Bolton, the controversial U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who once suggested the organization would be no worse off if you blew up the top 10 floors of its headquarters. But he kept his feelings to himself … until now.
In an interview with the Financial Times' Alec Russell, Annan said that Bolton was a lousy negotiator. "It was remarkable that for someone who has spent that much time at the State Department, as smart as he was, he wasn't a very effective diplomat, or even a negotiator," Annan told the interviewer.
Annan recalled one moment when he confronted the combative U.S. envoy for bullying people. Annan said he was at a luncheon with Bolton and other U.N. Security Council when Bolton sought to kill off a discussion of some disagreeable matter. "'Uncle Sam is not going to like this,'" Annan recalled Bolton saying, according to the FT interview. "So I said, 'Look, stop going around trying to intimidate people. Let them speak their mind … and you can put your views across, but don't try to intimidate them with Washington and Uncle Sam.' And of course, the Council members were all relieved to hear it."
The antipathy toward Bolton appeared more personal than ideological. Annan recalled George W. Bush and his wife Laura as "wonderful human beings" and said he held no grudge against another hard-liner in the Bush administration, including Donald Rumsfeld. "He made mistakes … some serious mistakes, but we all make mistakes. That doesn't make him worthless as a human being."
The remarks are hardly surprising, given Bolton's frequent criticism of Annan's stewardship of the United Nations. In his memoir, Surrender Is Not an Option, Bolton mocked Annan's staff for having "floated the notion that he was a "secular pope.'"
"Being a Lutheran, I didn't even believe in religious popes, and I was absolutely determined there weren't going to be any more 'secular popes' on the 38th floor," Bolton wrote. The U.N. secretary-general's office is located on the U.N.'s 38th floor, though the office is vacant until the renovation of the U.N. headquarters is completed. Bolton did not respond to phone and email requests for comment on Annan's remarks.
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On Wednesday, Turtle Bay posted a story, based on a previously unpublished U.S. diplomatic cable obtained through WikiLeaks, claiming that an official from the European Commission, Yves Horent, passed on information suggesting that high level U.N. and EU officials predicted that Pakistan's foreign minister was destined to become U.N. secretary-general in 2007.
According to the cable, Horent told the Americans that Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and Louis Michel, the former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, predicted that Kurshid Mehmood Kurasi, was certain to get the job. The prediction turned out, of course, to be flat wrong. The then U.N. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was already well on his way to firming up support for top U.N. job, and the Pakistani never even emerged as a candidate.
But Horent, who didn't initially respond to an email request late Tuesday for comment, since sent me an email this morning insisting that the American drafter of the cable is dead wrong, and that he couldn't even name the former Pakistan diplomat until he received my email and read the story on my blog.
"I am rather surprised by this information that is plainly wrong," said Horent. "Whoever wrote the cable you are referring to was obviously misinformed and /or confused."
"I never gave any briefing to the U.S. Embassy of this kind of political or diplomatic issues," Horent wrote. "My dialogue with the U.S. Embassy in Dar Es Salaam was sporadic and strictly limited to refugee matters in Tanzania, which was then part of my work. I do not recognize the name of the person I am supposed to have communicated with the U.S. Embassy, where my contacts were limited to the refugee coordinator."
Horent said that Guterres and Michel, who did not respond to requests for comment this week, had indeed visited Tanzania at the time, but that their visit "was entirely focused on humanitarian issues. U.N. appointment matters were not discussed. I did not even know who was Mr. Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri until a few minutes ago when I carried out a quick internet search!"
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The Kuwaiti government has informed Western officials that it will mount a bid for the Arab seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, setting the stage for a likely end to Syria's controversial campaign to join the 47-member rights body, U.N. based diplomats told Turtle Bay.
Syria has not yet announced a decision to withdraw from the race, and its U.N. ambassador, Bashar Jaafari, told Turtle Bay Monday afternoon that his government planned to continue its pursuit of the seat. But the U.N.-based diplomat said that Syria has been engaged this week in talks with Kuwait and other Arab countries about the prospect of swapping Syria's rights seat for another U.N.-based post in the future.
In January, the U.N.'s Asian bloc, which includes Arab governments, selected a slate of four candidates, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Syria for four vacancies in the region. And last month, the U.N.'s Arab bloc publicly backed Syria's bid. The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to vote to select the council's 15 new members on May 20.
But Syria's campaign has come under fire from the United States, European governments, and human rights activists in the wake of a bloody government crackdown, involving the use of tanks and live fire, on unarmed protesters. This morning, the New York Times published an editorial telling the members of the Arab and Asian blocs that they should be ashamed of their decision to support Syria.
In recent days, support for Syria in those groups has begun to wane. Last week, two key regional powers, Egypt and India, signaled that it was time for Syria to bow out of the race.
"Syria seems to have finally decided to withdraw from this election," said Peggy Hicks, head of global advocacy for Human Rights Watch. "But while the battle here in New York may be over, the violence in Syria is continuing and Human Rights Watch and other human rights activists will continue to press Syria to follow this action with concrete changes on the ground."
Western diplomats also interpreted the decision of Kuwait, which had previously refused to compete for the seat unless Syria stepped aside, as a sign that the Arab countries had struck a deal and that Syria would abandon its bid.
They hailed the development as a sign that the Human Rights Council, which has long been criticized for accepting rights abusers into its ranks, is showing a new willingness to block the world's worst rights abusers from joining the club.
Iran was forced to scrap its campaign to join the council last year in the face of widespread opposition. And the rights council took the unprecedented decision to suspend the membership of one of its members, Libya, because of concern over its brutal treatment of protesters.
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On Wednesday evening, Ban Ki-moon's office abruptly released a long-awaited report by an independent medical panel the U.N. chief had commissioned to "investigate and seek to determine the source of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti." The four-member team, headed by Dr. Alejandro Cravioto, head of the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh, never really fulfills that mandate.
Instead it concluded that the forces contributing to the spread of a disease-poor sanitation and a dysfunctional health care system -- were so varied as to make it impossible to identify a specific culprit. "The independent panel concludes that the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances as described above, and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual," according to the panel's report.
But the reports' underlying findings appear unlikely to do much to allay Haitian suspicions that the deadly epidemic that killed 4,500 Haitians and sickened more than 300,000 was delivered to Haiti's doorstep by a contingent of U.N. blue helmets from Nepal. On the contrary, the report adds to the existing evidence suggesting that U.N. peacekeepers are among the most likely sources.
Cholera made its first appearance in nearly a century in Haiti last October, and even today, it continues to kill and sicken Haitians. The panel concluded that the disease was introduced into the Haitian population by human activity in the Meye Tributary, a branch of the Artibonite River, and quickly spread throughout the river delta, infecting thousands of Haitians along the way. At the time, Nepalese peacekeepers were stationed at a camp in Mierbalais, along the banks of the Meye, fueling suspicion that the waste of an infected peacekeeper had flowed into the river.
The panel dismissed an earlier study by a French epidemiologist, Renaud Piarroux, who concluded that the cholera outbreak was introduced into Haiti by an infected U.N. soldier, saying he had not provided sufficient evidence to support his case. The panel also noted that U.N. medical records show no evidence that Nepalese peacekeepers had shown signs of illness before or during the outbreak.
But the panel compiled circumstantial evidence pointing at the Nepalese peacekeepers as a possible cause. Genetic analysis reviewed by the panel indicated that the Haitian cholera strain all but certainly originated in South Asia, and possibly came from Nepal. One set of genetic tests examining mutations in cholera gene samples indicated that "the strains isolated in Haiti and Nepal during 2009 were a perfect match."
The panel also found that the "sanitation conditions" at the U.N. camp in Mierbalais "were not sufficient to prevent contamination of the Meye Tributary System with human fecal waste." The timeline of the cholera's spread, which struck communities throughout the delta in a matter of days, "is consistent with the epidemiological evidence indicating that the outbreak began in Mirebalais and within two to three days cases were being seen throughout the Artibonite River Delta." In sum, "the evidence overwhelming supports the conclusion that the source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholarae as a result of human activity."
Suspicion first fell on the Nepalese contingent, which arrived at Mierbalais between Oct. 8 and Oct. 24, the same period the first cholera deaths were recorded in the region. The troops had just completed three months of training in Kathmandu, Nepal, and a medical exam, though the panel does not say whether they were screened for cholera. The soldiers were then allowed to return to their homes for 10 days before traveling to Haiti. Peacekeepers from other countries, including a contingent of 60 Bangladeshi policemen posted at Mierbalais, were also deployed in the area. "The precise country from where the Haiti isolate of Vibrio cholerae arrived is debatable," the panel stated. But the "initial genetic analysis" indicates similarities with strains found in South Asia, including Nepal.
The panel acknowledges that the outbreak highlights the inherent risk of spreading cholera through the deployment of foreign aid workers and peacekeepers in a crisis zone. And it prescribes a series of measures the U.N. should undertake -- including improve sewage treatment in UN camps, cholera screening and the distribution of antibiotics -- to prevent the introduction of cholera into a vulnerable trouble spot. But the report provides no discussion of whether the U.N. or the team sought to conduct their own tests of the Nepalese peacekeepers after the outbreak to determine whether any had been infected.
The panel nonetheless decided to give the United Nations, and the Nepalese, the benefit of the doubt. "The introduction of this cholera strain as a result of environmental contamination with feces could not have been the source of such an outbreak without simultaneous water and sanitation and health care deficiencies. These deficiencies, coupled with conducive environmental and epidemiological conditions, allowed the spread of the Vibrio cholerae organism in the environment, from which a large number of people became infected."
In the end, the panel echoed the U.N.'s talking points throughout the cholera crisis: that the battle to end the scourge should take priority over determining how it got there. "The source of cholera in Haiti is no longer relevant to controlling the outbreak," he said. "What are needed at this time are measures to prevent the disease from becoming endemic," the report concluded.
Surely, no one would quibble with that sentiment. But wasn't the panel's primary mission to do just that?
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The U.N. has appointed a World Bank investigator with experience probing war crimes and fraud abuses from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Balkans as head of the U.N.'s premier internal anti-fraud unit, filling a personnel vacuum that has dampened morale and severely hampered the U.N.'s ability to combat corruption within its own ranks, according to internal U.N. memos obtained by Turtle Bay.
Carmen La-Pointe, a Canadian auditor who heads the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), announced the hiring of Australian investigator, Michael Stefanovic, in an internal memo obtained by Turtle Bay. She also announced the hiring of an American national, Dr. Deborah L. Rugg, to head up another Inspection and Evaluation division. Stefanovic will start up the job in August.
U.N. and U.S. officials hope the arrival of new team will bring stability and purpose to a department that has been plagued leadership gaps and severe staff shortages that have hampered the U.N.'s ability to police a far flung empire of political, humanitarian, and peacekeeping missions. The breakdown in the U.N.'s investigations division has posed political risks for the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki moon, who has faced criticism for doing too little to rein in corruption and reform the global instution, and the United States, which had faced criticism for moving too slowly to appoint a high-level U.S. management official to oversee U.N. reform efforts.
"The United States had previously raised concerns about the performance of the investigations division in particular, and we had urged it to more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct," Joseph Torsella, the recently appointed U.S. ambassador for U.N. Management and Reform, said in a statement that was provided to Turtle Bay. "OIOS is poised to become the strong and independent watchdog it was intended to be."
A former Australian policeman, Stefanovic has served since 2006 at the World Bank, where he is currently manager of the External Investigations Unit, which investigates cases of fraud and corruption in the organization's global operations.
He previously worked as OIOS's chief resident investigator in Ivory Coast, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Before that, between 1999 and 2003, Stefanovic was employed as a war-crimes investigator with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He also participated in a 2004 U.S. State Department mission that traveled to Chad, near the Sudanese border, to document allegations of genocide arising from the conflict in Darfur.
The U.N. internal investigations division has been hobbled by leadership lapses almost since OIOS was established in 1994 as a kind of inspector general's office. In 2007, an outside consultant claimed that the management culture in the investigations division was so dysfunctional that it should be shut down. The investigations unit has not had a permanent director since 2006, when its American chief, Barbara Dixon, stepped down.
Inga-Brit Ahlenius, a Swedish auditor who previously headed OIOS, sought to hire a highly regarded former U.S. District Attorney, Robert Appleton, for the post. Appleton, who served as the temporary head of a U.N. procurement task force, carried out some of the most aggressive anti-corruption probes in the U.N.'s history. But he also provoked the ire of influential governments, including Singapore and Russia, whose nationals were targeted by the task force.
Appleton's appointment was blocked by Ban's office on the grounds that Ahlenius had violated recruitment procedures that required female candidates be included on a short list of prospective candidates. Ahlenius countered that Ban has interfered in the independence of her office by preventing her from selecting her top deputies. Appleton has since gone on to file a discrimination grievance against the U.N. for blocking his appointment.Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.
There are "reasonable grounds" to charge Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's security forces with having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during a bloody, two-and-a-half- month long crackdown on Libyan protesters, according to the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The prosecutor, Argentine lawyer Luis Moreno-Ocampo, claimed in a report to the U.N. Security Council that his investigators have established preliminary but "credible" estimates that at least 500 to 700 civilians have been shot to death by government forces. He said he intends "in the next weeks" to submit his first application for arrest warrants against officials "most responsible for crimes against humanity" in Libya since Feb. 15, 2001. The abuses, he noted, are ongoing.
The prosecutor's office "will select for prosecution those who bear the highest responsibility, including those who ordered, incited, financed, or otherwise planned the commission of alleged crimes," the report states. The report also raises concerns that anti-government mobs or armed opposition forces may have engaged in "the unlawful arrest mistreatment and killings of sub-Saharan Africans perceived to be mercenaries. Reportedly angry mobs of protesters assaulted Sub-Saharan African in Benghazi and other cities and killed dozens of them."
The Security Council voted unanimously on Feb. 26 to authorize the international court to conduct an investigation into alleged excesses by Qaddafi's forces since Feb. 15, when they launched a brutal crackdown on Libyan demonstrators demanding democratic reforms. It is the second time since the court's inception that the 15-nation council has voted to trigger an ICC probe. In March, 2005, the council also backed an investigation into war crimes by the Sudanese government in Darfur. The court has since issued an arrest warrant against Sudan's leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for allegedly committing genocide.
Under the terms of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, Libya should be given the first chance to investigate allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the report states that government initiatives, including the establishment of a national commission by Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, to investigate reports of abuses, have been inadequate.
The report raises the prospect that Colonel Qaddafi and members of his family and inner circle may yet be charged committing war crimes. If so, it would be the second time the court has charged a sitting head of state with such crimes.
"The shooting at peaceful protestors was systematic, following the same modus operandi in multiple locations and executed through Security Forces," the report states. "The persecution appears to be also systematic and implemented in different cities. War crimes are apparently committed as a matter of policy."
The death toll has been hard to determine in Libya because of widely divergent estimates on both sides of the country's conflict. As of March 15, Qaddafi estimated that only 150 to 200 people had died during the conflict, half of them members of the government security forces. The Libyan Interim National Council claims that up to 10,000 have died, and that more than 50,000 have been injured, according to the report.
The prosecutor's report states that it has been difficult to determine the precise number of victims because bodies have been removed from the streets and doctors have been prohibited from documenting "the number of dead and injured in the hospitals after the violent clashes began."
The prosecutor said his investigation will begin with an examination of a brutal February clampdown in Benghazi, where civilian demonstrators protested the arrest of two locals, Fatih Terbil and Farag Sharany, who were demanding justice for victims of the governments' bloody 1996 massacre of inmates at the Abu Salim prison.
"On 17 February, 2001, thousands of demonstrators congregated in the square around the high court of Benghazi, protesting such arrests and calling for political and economic freedom," according to the report. "Security forces entered the square and reportedly fired live ammunition into the crowd, killing numerous demonstrators. This was the beginning of a series of similar incidents in different cities across Libya which appears to demonstrate a consistent pattern of Security Forces firing live ammunition at civilians."
The prosecutor's report also cited allegations that government forces committed war crimes, including through the blocking of humanitarian supplies and through the use of "imprecise weaponry such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas."
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Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council today that there is another good reason to confront Libyan forces. Moammar Qaddafi has reportedly been passing out tablets of Viagra to his front line troops to help them rape women.
Rice made the allegation in a closed-door meeting of the Security Council after facing criticism from council members that the Western-backed coalition has effectively sided with Libya's rebels in the country's ongoing civil war. China, Russia, India and other have expressed concern that the NATO-backed military coalition has exceeded its mandate to protect civilians, and had become a party to the country's conflict.
Rice countered that it is "ridiculous" to describe the conflict in Libya as an ordinary civil war, or to draw moral equivalence between Qaddafi's forces and the rebels. She said the opposition only took up arms after Qaddafi's forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators.
She also cited reports of Qaddafi's forces shooting at mosques, targeting children and "issuing Viagra to his soldiers so they go out and rape," according to an account by a U.N. diplomat present in the room.
U.N. council diplomats said that Rice provided no evidence to support her claim, which appeared earlier this week in the British tabloid, the Daily Mail. Human rights advocates say the allegation first surfaced publicly last month when a doctor in Ajdabiya, Suleiman Refadi, claimed in an interview with Al Jazeera English that Qaddafi's force's had received packets of Viagra and condoms as part of a campaign of sexual violence. "I have seen Viagra, I have seen condoms," Refadi told Al Jazeera.
Human Rights Watch had interviewed the same doctor previously, and determined that he had no direct evidence to support the claims, and they were not able to identify victims and witnesses in Adjabiya who confirmed such reports. Though they also had no evidence to refute the claims.
Fred Abrahams, a special advisor for Human Rights Watch, said the organization takes reports of sexual attacks seriously, and "we are actively investigating" allegations of the use of sexual violence by Qaddafi's forces in the conflict. "We have a few credible cases of gender based violence and rape, but the evidence is not there at this point to suggest it is of a systematic nature, or an official policy. On Viagra and condom distribution we have nothing so far. It's not to dismiss it, but we do not have" the evidence.Follow me on Twitter @columlynch
Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi was a foe of the International Criminal Court long before its prosecutor opened an investigation last month into possible crimes against humanity by the Libyan strongman and members of his inner circle.
For years, Col. Qaddafi has championed efforts within the African Union to undermine the Hague-based court, arguing that the tribunal unfairly targets only African countries for prosecution. During Libya's Security Council stint in 2008-2009, Qaddafi's U.N. envoy's struggled to block initiatives backing the court.
All that changed when the small Central American country, Costa Rica, led a quixotic diplomatic effort in 2008 to convince the Security Council opponents of the ICC - China, Russia and Libya - to pressure Sudan to cooperate with the tribunal, which has charged three Sudanese nationals, including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with war crimes and genocide.
Rebecca Hamilton, recounts the Costa Rican effort in her new book Fighting For Darfur. According to Hamilton, Costa Rica mounted a campaign to press for the passage of a non-binding U.N. Security Council presidential statement endorsing the ICC's investigation into Sudan's ruthless counterinsurgency campaign in Darfur, which led to the deaths of more than 300,000 Darfuris, and drove more than 2 million people from their homes.
Costa Rica's U.N. mission reasoned that the Security Council had distanced itself from the court in the years following the passage in 2005 of Resolution 1593, which authorized an ICC investigation into crimes in alleged crimes Darfur. In a June, 2008, address to the council, Costa Rica's foreign minister Bruno Ugarte scolded the council for failing to support "what, as time passes, seems to be a policy of appeasement of Khartoum and of indifference to the atrocities that are occurring in Darfur." He lined up support for the statement from 9 of the councils 15 members, enough to secure passage if none of the council's 5 permanent members cast a veto.
But Costa Rica encountered particularly stiff resistance from China, which was preparing for the upcoming Olympic Games, and Libya. Security Council statements are only adopted if each of the council's 15 members support it.
Faced with a stalemate, Costa Rica upped the ante, announcing plans to put a similarly worded, but legally-binding Security Council resolution on the matter to a vote, a maneuver that would have required China to exercise its veto to block. The United States, which had been prepared to support a presidential statement, was reluctant to support a binding resolution supporting a court it has long opposed.
"However, it was the Chinese mission that really panicked," Hamilton wrote. "They begged Costa Rica not to present the resolution, promising to sign a president statement supporting the ICC if Costa Rica agreed not to move forward with the resolution. But, as the Costa Ricans told China, the biggest impediment to a presidential statement going through at this point was Libya. Jorge Ballestero, a diplomat at the Costa Rican mission to the United Nations, told Hamilton that China assured them: We can talk to our friends."
Shortly after, China and Libya dropped their opposition to the presidential statement which urged Sudan "to cooperate fully with the court...in order to put an end to impunity fro the crimes committed in Darfur." Ballestero said that Costa Rica had calculated, correctly, that China could not afford to cast a veto over Darfur at a time when it was seeking to burnish its international reputation in the lead up to the Olympics.
Ironically, a top Libyan official at the time, Ibrahim Dabbashi, last month led a diplomatic revolt against Qaddafi's government, and backed efforts by the U.N. Security Council to approve an ICC investigation against Qaddafi's government.
(Disclosure: Hamilton interviewed me in connection with her book, and we once shared a byline on a story in the Washington Post on the ICC investigation into alleged genocide in Sudan)
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Despite repeated talk about the possible establishment of a U.N.-authorized no fly zone, Britain, France and the United States have yet to table a no-fly resolution in the U.N. Security Council. The caution reflects reservations over the plan in Washington, D.C. and African and Arab capitals and the reluctance of Western powers to intervene in the Libyan crisis without broad regional backing.
On Monday, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague outlined three requirements for the imposition of a no-fly zone: there must be a clear trigger, possible a bloody crackdown on civilians; there must regional support from African and Arab governments; and there must be a legal basis for pressing ahead. (It was unclear whether today's reports of civilians casualties, including women and children, in Zawiyah would constitute such a trigger.)
Many council members believe a Security Council vote is legally required for the creation of a no-fly-zone. But Britain, France and the United States have previously enforced a no-fly zone over Iraq without Security Council approval, citing the overwhelming humanitarian demands of intervening to protect civilians.
For the time being, Britain and France, who have taken the lead in negotiating the draft resolution establishing a no fly zone, are expected to await the outcome of high-level meetings of the Arab League and the African Union later this week before deciding to introduce their draft to the 15-nation council.
Still, in a closed-door session of the council this morning, Britain and France sought to prod the council into preparing for action, saying that a week old resolution calling for an end to government violence has not succeeded.
Britain's U.N. ambassador Mark Lyall-Grant expressed concern about the "risk of a civil war" in Libya and said the council needs to "consider further steps" to rein in Col. Moammar Qadaffi's government," council sources told Turtle Bay. France's U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud said the council needs to consider "all options, including a no fly zone," according to the sources, who provided a detailed account of the meeting.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meanwhile, took a slightly more cautious approach, saying that while the council may have to consider range of options, including "strengthening sanctions...no one option is the silver bullet." Germany's U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, also raised the prospect of tightening sanctions, proposing possible new restrictions on the Libyan financial sector.
The council's other members, including China and Russia, pushed back, saying it is too early to consider stepping up pressure on Qaddafi's regime. Libyans, they argue, should sort out their own problems. Brazil's U.N. ambassador, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said that it was not the right time to consider further "coercive measures" against Libya.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.