Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ambassador Tanin Addresses UN Security Council on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”

H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, today addressed the UN Security Council on the topic of “protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

The meeting, which was opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, heard briefings from Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes; and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay.

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In his opening remarks Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted that events around the world showed that the protection of civilians in armed conflict remained a common challenge world-wide. He said the Security Council made important progress in protection of civilians, but more needed to be done. In that regard, he underscored maximizing the effectiveness of “peace-keeping operations through increased Council support, and enhanced training of troop and police contributors.

In his statement, Ambassador Tanin alluded to the situation in Afghanistan, and said the increased awareness of the need to re-engage the Afghan people in the reconstruction and stabilization of their country, has helped enable the government of Afghanistan and its international partners to “focus on finding ways to meet the needs and expectations of the Afghan people.”

He however asserted that civilians continued to “pay a staggering price in the ongoing conflict” in the country. He said over six thousand Afghans, including women; children and the elderly were killed and injured in just last year. In that regard, he said the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their terrorist allies continue to show complete disregard for human life, embracing assassinations and executions in an effort to control the population through terror.

He said the cost of the conflict was not limited to just Afghanistan, but also international partners countries. He highlighted increased terrorist attacks on UN staff and members of humanitarian organizations who work in various fields, including health and education. In that regard, Ambassador Tanin expressed gratitude to UN staff and other partners “who continue to work under difficult circumstances for the sake of the Afghan people, and in pursuit of international peace and security.”

Moreover, he welcomed the increased measures by former ISAF former commander, General McCrystal, aimed at better protecting the lives of civilians. He expressed confidence that civilian protection would continue to receive due consideration from ISAF’s new commander, General Patraeus.

He nevertheless noted that civilian casualties remained a concern to Afghanistan, and undermined the people’s confidence in the good-will of the international community. He emphasized increased efforts at the national level “for building an efficient, effective and responsible army and police force dedicated to the protection of Afghans and maintenance of security and the rule of law.”

Ambassador Tanin also said the safety of the Afghan people should remain a priority, and it was necessary to enhance collaboration for strengthening the trust and confidence of Afghans in future efforts.

New York, July 7, 2010

Justice vs. Impunity

By KOFI A. ANNAN

The establishment of the International Criminal Court followed the gravest of crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In both cases, as we know to our shame, the United Nations and international community failed to take decisive and forceful action to protect the victims.

These terrible events did however, shock the world into action. Ad-hoc tribunals were set up to bring those responsible to justice. The Rome conference in 1998 agreed to establish an International Criminal Court to help end the global culture of impunity.

As the states party to the Rome Statute — which set up the I.C.C. — meet in Uganda this week to review progress, we can reflect that the balance has been tipped in favor of justice. More than two-thirds of U.N. member states have signed or ratified the Rome Statute and a permanent Criminal Court now exists.

The result is that in the face of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, the default position of the international community is no longer impunity but accountability.

Where such serious crimes are credibly alleged, investigation will now follow unless those denying the need for international justice can demonstrate that their national judicial mechanisms are serious and credible. This is, by the way, something yet to be done convincingly by those involved in the intensified conflicts in Gaza and Sri Lanka last year.

Getting this far has not been without major challenges. Powerful governments remain resolutely opposed to the I.C.C. Three permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, China and Russia — refuse to ratify the Rome Statute, as do others who aspire to permanent membership.

So while celebrating progress so far, we can’t be complacent. The opposition of those hostile to the I.C.C., combined with the inertia or distraction of those who support it, could mean the balance could easily tip away from justice.

And new challenges loom, including a debate within Africa, and beyond, about whether the pursuit of justice might obstruct the search for peace. The critics ask why leaders would want to make peace if the result for them is an appearance before the I.C.C. and the prospect of prison.

But in countries as far apart as Rwanda, Bosnia and Timor-Leste, we have learnt that justice is not an impediment to peace but a partner. When we abandon justice to secure peace, we most likely get neither. Indeed, impunity can, and has, contributed to renewed conflict as we saw in Sierra Leone.

The parallel pursuit of justice and peace does present challenges, but it can be managed. We must be ambitious enough to pursue both, and wise enough to recognize, respect and protect the independence of justice.

This debate has been intensified by the African Union’s call last year, following the prompting of a few leaders, for member states not to cooperate with the I.C.C. in enforcing the indictment issued against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan.

But we must not allow the views of a powerful few to threaten the aspirations of many. When I meet Africans from all walks of life, they demand justice: from their own courts if possible, from international courts if no credible alternative exists.

Indeed, African countries and their civil society played a major role in setting up the I.C.C. Sub-Saharan Africa is the largest single regional block in its membership.

In four of the five cases from Africa before the I.C.C., African leaders themselves referred them or are actively co-operating with the investigations. They have asked for international help to bolster their country’s judicial capacity.

In all of these cases, it is the culture of impunity, not African countries, which are the target. This is exactly the role of the I.C.C. It is a court of last resort.

But it is not just African countries which face challenges if we are to continue the momentum towards justice.

Questions of credibility will continue as long as some of the world’s most powerful countries stand outside the jurisdiction of the I.C.C. What sort of leadership is it that absolves the powerful from the rules they apply to the weak? We must demand that those who seek global leadership accept the duty of promoting global values.

We need to see a new wave of countries ratifying the Rome Statute after the Kampala conference, so that a permanent International Criminal Court becomes a universal one.

Further progress also depends on states genuinely exercising their primary responsibility, under the Rome Statute, to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for grave crimes.

There must be no going back or lessening of momentum. Our challenge is to protect the innocent by building a court so strong, universal and effective that it will deter even the most determined of despots.

Opening the Rome Conference as U.N. Secretary-General, I told delegates that “the eyes of the victims of past crimes, and of the potential victims of future ones, are fixed firmly upon us.”

That remains the case. We must not let them down.

Kofi A. Annan is former U.N. secretary-general (1997-2006) and the convener of the Rome Conference.

Source: The New York Times

President Karzai Announces Run-Off

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan announced on Tuesday that he had agreed to conduct a runoff.  He made the statement at a press conference, flanked by Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Kai Eide.

He said he accepted as legal the results announced by the Electoral Complaints Commission and the Independent Complaints Commission. Preliminary results had calculated President Karzai’s lead at 54%, but after an investigation into fraud by the ECC threw out almost a quarter of all ballots cast, that number was reduced to just below the over-50% necessary to declare an outright victory. According to the Constitution of Afghanistan, if in the first round of voting no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote, a second round will be held within two weeks.

His announcement was welcomed across the globe as a statesmanlike decision taken for the good of his country and in support of the laws and Constitution of Afghanistan. From the United States, President Obama praised the decision, calling it “an important step forward.” He said, “While this election could have remained unresolved to the detriment of the country, President Karzai’s constructive actions established an important precedent for Afghanistan’s new democracy.” In addition, Secretary of State Clinton and Senator John Kerry publicly supported the decision. Echoing his president’s sentiments, he said “A moment of great uncertainty has been transformed into a moment of great opportunity.” He thanked all of those Afghans who had risked their lives and, in some cases, lost their lives to vote and to protect those voting.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon commended President Karzai “for the leadership he displayed” and pledged the UN’s full support to the ongoing Afghan electoral process, saying the UN would do its best to ensure a fair, transparent second round for the elections. Special Representative of the SG Kai Eide commented on the decision also, particularly congratulating the Afghan institutions that have played such a crucial role in the process.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also welcomed the decision, and congratulated the people of Afghanistan for showing such “patience and resilience” during the long elections process.

The run-off will be conducted on November 7th. The IEC has said it is ready to conduct the elections on that date and has all materials necessary.

In his statement, President Karzai praised the courage of Afghan voters, who had risked their lives in the millions during the first round, and “call[ed] upon this country to take this as an opportunity to move this country forward and participate in this new round of elections,” adding that he hoped the international community would assist in ensuring that security for the new round would be in place on time.