Sunday, June 12, 2005
Some of the scenes from Abu Ghraib.
June 11 2005
AMONG THE conditions that the US has cited for not to withhold payments to the UN is a demand that the world body bar countries that violated human rights from UN human rights organisations. Well, if we go by what the London-based Amnesty International has to say about it, then the first country that should be kept away from UN human rights organisations is none other than the United States of America itself, followed by some of its closest allies.
The US demand is yet another milestone in the hypocritical policies adopted by the Bush administration. The world needs no pointed presentation of the systematic violations of human rights by the US.
Of course, Washington would reject the accusations and call them absurd. Perhaps, the only point, if you will, in its favour is that the rights of American citizens are not violated except those of American Muslims, particularly if they are of Arab origin.
Amnesty has recorded violations of the human rights by American soldiers, intelligence operatives, interrogators and officials. In sum, these records fully support Amnesty's description that the American detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cub, is a modern "gulag" — Stalinist-period labour camps and jails in the Soviet Union.
In addition are the findings that the US maintains secret detention facilities in "friendly" countries where the Central Intelligence Agency and its affiliated agencies and groups have a free hand in subjecting the detainees to any form of humiliation, torture and punishment that they deem fit.
Accodding to Amnesty Director William Shultz, "the United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared, held in indefinite, incommunicado detention without access to lawyers or a judicial system, or to their families, and in some cases at least we know that they are being mistreated, abused, tortured and even killed. And those are similar at least in character, if not in size, to what happened in the Gulag."
The US demand that the UN "reform" itself came last week with a congressional committee narrowly approving legislation. The bill says that the US would withhold half of its annual $500 million contribution unless the world body tstreamlined its bureaucracy, barred countries that violated human rights from UN human rights bodies and created an independent oversight board and ethics office.
The effort to get the bill approved was led by Henry Hyde, Republican chairman of the House of Representatives international relations committee.
He argued that the bill was the only way to force the UN to adopt reforms. “You can't have reform if you don't withhold dues," he said.
The Bush administration has said it does not approve of the legislation. However, it is not seen as resisting it either.
The Senate could take up the issue and adopt a similar move. After all, there are many US senators who are gunning for the UN, among them Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican who has led an investigation into the UN's role in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.
With John Bolton, a bitter critic of the UN who reportedly does not believe in the world body, poised to be approved as US ambassador to the organisation, the ground seems to be set for a battle over reforms.
There are critics who think the legislation on UN funding is linked to Bolton's nomination, which has been opposed by many members of the US Congress. They believe that the Bush administration prompted Republican members of Congress to get the bill approved in order to show that one of Bolton's prime tasks at the UN will be reform.
The US withheld dues to the UN for more than 10 years before settling it in September 2003.
Few doubt that the UN needs reform in its bureaucracy and financial administration as well as dispensation of services.
Beyond that, however, is the need for the world body to be re-established as the sole authority that not only upholds international law but also enforces it. It should have enough clout and teeth to supercede violating governments and apply world conventions and laws without discrimination and away from the threat of being undermined by actions of individual governments.
A cursory review of the UN's record will demonstrate without ambiguity that the US is in the forefront of countries which always used the UN Charter to their convenience. And now the US wants the world body to adopt American-designed reforms in return for funding.
The irony and paradox is clear even in a hypothesis. If the UN were to adopt the US demand for barring member states that violated human rights from UN human rights organisations, then the first to qualify for the punitive measure — apart from the US itself — would be some of the closest allies of the US, starting with Israel. Not very likely. So what is the purpose of the whole exercise? To selectively target countries which do not toe the American line?