Can the UN ever be the relevant moral authority to arbitrate incidents of genocide in which it has itself been implicated? By Miranda Husain*


The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has done what it said it would. And after doing business for nigh on close to quarter of a century — it will be shutting up shop at the year’s end.
The last person to stand in its dock was Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serbian commander responsible for overseeing the slaughter of some 8,000 Muslim men at the start of the Balkans conflict. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The ICTY was established back in 1993 under UNSC resolution 827. Its mandate was to prosecute those responsible for violating international humanitarian law dating back to 1991. It has sat in The Hague for the last 24 years. Given that Mladic’s crimes pertain to 1992-1995 — this begs the question as to whether or not justice has an expiry date.
After all, Slobodan Milosevic’s trial dragged on for so long that he died before any semblance of justice was served.
The matter of just how lengthy this process has been, however, must be viewed within the context of whether the UN is the relevant moral authority to arbitrate when it comes to incidents of genocide in which it has itself been implicated. Kofi Annan was at the time head of the world body’s peacekeeping operations. His tenure also notably overlapped with that of the Rwanda genocide; which paved the way for the UN to set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). And in both these cases — the Blue Helmets ended up with much blood on their hands.
As far as the wars in Bosnia go, Dutch peacekeepers are charged with inaccurately declaring Srebrenica a safe area and then refusing to arm the Muslims with recently surrendered weapons to defend themselves against the approaching Serbian forces. What happened next has been termed the worst massacre in post-Second World War European history. Mr Annan graciously admitted to UN failure on his watch. This was an understatement; and it gave the usual warmongering western suspects a most welcome pretext for the new concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’.
Kofi may have owned up to missteps in Bosnia. He may have even apologised for Rwanda; lamented the war of aggression in Iraq. Yet it is this reckless violation of the UN Charter that has given us Iraq. Lebanon. Libya. Syria. Yemen. For justice to be done — the world body will first have to be put on trial
And with that, the violation of territorial integrity was duly legitimised. While Kofi’s career went from strength to strength. By the time the NATO-led war on Kosovo took place he had already been UN Secretary General for two years. Which begs an equally important question: can a world body that doesn’t self-correct; that not only fails to hold to account its own but actively rewards them despite all available evidence really be trusted to deliver justice?
The answer must be a resounding no.
Apart from Milosevic, the former Serbian president, no one has ever been held to account for Kosovo. He was, of course, at one time the IMF man in Belgrade. But that was before the men who rule the world turned on him for being either unable or unwilling to undertake the required social and economic reforms to bring the last socialist outpost in Europe into the American neo-liberal fold. This has therefore led to certain pundits contending that the NATO-led humanitarian intervention there had nothing to do with ethnic cleansing and everything to do with gradual US dominance over Europe.
This is something that Noam Chomsky has written about extensively. Indeed, he has even gone as far as to argue that those waging war retrospectively manipulated the chronological order of events; meaning that there was no ethnic violence before the Alliance started raining down their bombs.
And in Kosovo’s aftermath, what has happened to the architects of that military aggression? The answer is nothing at all. Except that Tony Blair went on to be awarded the Charlemagne Prize for his efforts to bring peace and stability to Europe. As for Kofi, he and the world body were some two years later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. And as for Bill Clinton, he has had a boulevard named after him as well as a commemorative statue go up in Pristina.
Mr Annan may have owned up to missteps in Bosnia. He may have even apologised for Rwanda. Just as he lamented the war of aggression in Iraq. But none of this cuts it. Because it can never be a substitute for accountability. And it is this reckless violation of its own Charter that has given us Iraq. Lebanon. Libya. Syria. Yemen.
So, no. The ICTY hasn’t quite delivered justice for the Bosnian Muslims. For no UN ad hoc tribunal can do that. Because it would have to first put the world body itself on trial.

 

*The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at Cette adresse e-mail est protégée contre les robots spammeurs. Vous devez activer le JavaScript pour la visualiser. and tweets @humeiwei