War-Crimes Prosecutor, Frustrated at UN Inaction, Quits Panel on Syria

[Editor’s note: The resignation of Carla del Ponte highlights what we have always suspected – that there will never be any justice for the people of Syria in the international courts, not one of the real perpetrators of the terrible conflict inflicted on the Syrian people will ever see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a prison cell.Maybe a patsy will be tried and convicted, as was the case with a handful of Serbs who took the fall after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, but not one of the really guilty parties will find themselves in such a situation.Senior figures in the American, Israeli and Saudi governments, militaries and intelligence agencies would be of course, the prime figures who should be investigated and prosecuted, along with others from allied smaller nations.

However, do not hold your breath waiting for such a thing to ever happen – Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other architects of the great war crime that was the destruction of Iraq post 9-11 still remain at liberty, as do the perpetrators of 9-11 itself. Justice is not going to be served; del Ponte knows this and has railed against it. Good for her. Ian]

Tasnim News
War-Crimes Prosecutor, Frustrated at UN Inaction, Quits Panel on Syria

For six years, an independent United Nations-appointed panel has documented a litany of war atrocities in Syria that have grown increasingly brazen: torture of prisoners, attacks on hospitals, sexual slavery.

On Sunday, the panel confirmed that one of its three members — Carla del Ponte, a Swiss prosecutor — had resigned.

Speaking by phone from Ticino, Switzerland, late Sunday, Ms. Del Ponte said she had hoped the Security Council would either refer the case in Syria to the International Criminal Court or set up a special tribunal.

“I was expecting to persuade the Security Council to do something for justice,” she said. “Nothing happened for seven years. Now I resigned.”

Ms. del Ponte said she hoped her resignation would nudge the world body to act. “We are going nowhere,” she said, The New York Times reported.

The panel’s two remaining members, Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil and Karen Koning AbuZayd of the United States, confirmed Ms. del Ponte’s resignation in a statement, and said they felt compelled to continue.

“It is our obligation to persist in its work on behalf of the countless number of Syrian victims of the worst human rights violations and international crimes known to humanity,” the statement said. “Such efforts are needed now more than ever.”

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, as the panel is officially known, has produced a stack of reports that chronicle evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also has compiled names of perpetrators of the most serious crimes, which the panel once threatened to reveal. Its reports are an object lesson in how blatantly the laws of war have been broken, with no near-term prospects of accountability. The panel, at one point, called the Syria conflict “a proxy war steered from abroad.”

Only the Security Council has the authority to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court. That is unlikely, as Russia, a permanent veto-wielding member of the Security Council, backs the government of President Bashar al-Assad and has directly intervened in the war. So too has the United States, in what it says is an attempt to rout the Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS) from its strongholds along the Euphrates River.

The General Assembly, responding to the sense of inaction, established late last year a highly unusual office within the United Nations system to compile evidence of war crimes for prosecution in the future.

The commission was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, a Geneva-based body made up of 45 countries that Nikki R. Haley, the Trump administration’s envoy to the United Nations, has repeatedly criticized.

In June, the commission said that hundreds of civilians had been killed by United States-led airstrikes in and around Raqqa, the Daesh’s de facto capital in Syria. In 2016, it chronicled how government forces had detained and tortured people in Syrian prisons. That same year, the commission found that the Daesh had sold and enslaved minority Yazidi women.

Ms. del Ponte is no stranger to the frustrations of seeking justice for the gravest crimes. She served as a prosecutor in the war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia as well as the special tribunal for Rwanda. She wrote bitterly about how political imperatives obstruct the greater demands for justice.

Study: Israel leads in ignoring Security Council resolutions

Shlomo Shamir
October 11, 2002

NEW YORK – Israel holds the record for ignoring United Nations Security Council resolutions, according to a study by San Francisco University political science professor Steven Zunes.

On the eve of a possible U.S.-British assault on Iraq, Zunes decided to examine in depth one of the main arguments used by the Bush administration to justify changing the Baghdad regime – Iraq’s deliberate refusal to implement UN Security Council resolutions. He systematically went through all the states given instructions by the security council to find out how common a phenomenon it was. His results were somewhat surprising: “Some of the countries are considered and are known to be friendly to the U.S.,” he told Ha’aretz yesterday. “In the vast majority of cases I examined, the governments violating UN Security Council resolutions are countries that receive significant military, diplomatic and financial aid from the U.S.”

Israel leads the list. Since 1968, Israel has violated 32 resolutions that included condemnation or criticism of the governments’ policies and actions. Turkey is in second place, with 24 violations since 1974, and Morocco is third with 17 resolutions it ignored.

Newsday newspaper published the ranking yesterday, but Zunes said that he did not rank the states and claimed it was newspaper that came up with the grades. According to Zunes, out of some 1,500 UN Security Resolutions passed since 1947, 90 were openly, blatantly, and continually violated without the governments being held accountable for their actions.

Zunes specifically avoided counting resolutions that are vague or unclear so that governments could claim different interpretations to the meaning of the resolutions. Thus, the famous UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 are not included in his study. He also did not count resolutions that only included condemnations. Instead, he focused on those that included specific calls for changes in the subject governments’ policies.

The resolutions Israel violated were either about its annexation of East Jerusalem or settlements in the territories. Israel also ignored UN Security Council resolutions that called for Israel to cease using harsh measures against the Palestinian population and to cease expelling Palestinians.

In response, Israel’s deputy chief of mission at the UN, Aharon Yaakov, said yesterday that there are big differences between the decisions that refer to Israel and those that refer to Iraq. “Israel is the only democracy in the region and is fighting for its existence, while Iraq is a brutal dictatorship that attacked its neighbors and violates human rights, including the use of chemical weapons against its own citizens,” he said.

Powerful resignation letter by UN’s Rima Khalaf about removal of UN apartheid report


From Jadaliyya

The following is the resignation letter by ESWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf in response to the formal request by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that ESCWA withdraw the publication of a scholarly report (below) that found Israel guilty of apartheid.

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

I have carefully considered your message conveyed through the Chef de Cabinet and assure you that at no point have I questioned your right to order the withdrawal of the report from our website or the fact that all of us working in the Secretariat are subject to the authority of its Secretary-General. Nor do I have any doubts regarding your commitment to human rights in general, or your firm position regarding the rights of the Palestinian people. I also understand the concerns that you have, particularly in these difficult times that leave you little choice.

I am not oblivious to the vicious attacks and threats the UN and you personally were subjected to from powerful Member States as a result of the publication of the ESCWA report “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. I do not find it surprising that such Member States, who now have governments with little regard for international norms and values of human rights, will resort to intimidation when they find it hard to defend their unlawful policies and practices. It is only normal for criminals to pressure and attack those who advocate the cause of their victims.  I cannot submit to such pressure.

Not by virtue of my being an international official, but simply by virtue of being a decent human being, I believe, like you, in the universal values and principles that have always been the driving force for good in human history, and on which this organization of ours, the United Nations is founded. Like you, I believe that discrimination against anyone due to their religion, skin color, sex or ethnic origin is unacceptable, and that such discrimination cannot be rendered acceptable by the calculations of political expediency or power politics. I also believe people should not only have the freedom to speak truth to power, but they have the duty to do so.

In the space of two months you have instructed me to withdraw two reports produced by ESCWA, not due to any fault found in the reports and probably not because you disagreed with their content, but due to the political pressure by member states who gravely violate the rights of the people of the region.

You have seen first hand that the people of this region are going through a period of suffering unparalleled in their modern history; and that the overwhelming flood of catastrophes today is the result of a stream of injustices that were either ignored, plastered over, or openly endorsed by powerful governments inside and outside the region. Those same governments are the ones pressuring you to silence the voice of truth and the call for justice represented in these reports.

Given the above, I cannot but stand by the findings of ESCWA’s report that Israel has established an apartheid regime that seeks the domination of one racial group over another. The evidence provided by this report drafted by renowned experts is overwhelming. Suffice it to say that none of those who attacked the report had a word to say about its content. I feel it my duty to shed light on the legally inadmissible and morally indefensible fact that an apartheid regime still exists in the 21st century rather than suppressing the evidence. In saying this I claim no moral superiority nor ownership of a more prescient vision. My position might be informed by a lifetime of experiencing the dire consequences of blocking peaceful channels to addressing people’s grievances in our region.

After giving the matter due consideration, I realized that I too have little choice. I cannot withdraw yet another well-researched, well-documented UN work on grave violations of human rights, yet I know that clear instructions by the Secretary-General will have to be implemented promptly. A dilemma that can only be resolved by my stepping down to allow someone else to deliver what I am unable to deliver in good conscience.  I know that I have only two more weeks to serve; my resignation is therefore not intended for political pressure. It is simply because I feel it my duty towards the people we serve, towards the UN and towards myself, not to withdraw an honest testimony about an ongoing crime that is at the root of so much human suffering. Therefore, I hereby submit to you my resignation from the United Nations.


Rima Khalaf

Below is the report, which has been removed from the UN website.

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