UNHRC’s Navi Pillay faulted for abuse of power

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[Continued from Thursday March 6, 2014]

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Veteran Canadian antiwar activist Ken Stone writing for the website ‘Syria 360’ argued in an article written last year that Pillay has abused her power to facilitate western military interference in Libya and Syria to change regimes. He argues that the western media, and CNN in particular, have used interviews with Pillay to promote military intervention in Libya and Syria, where she relates the actions of these regimes to defend their country from rebel forces, to human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

In the name of humanitarian intervention
“Two very useful precedents for illegal, but so-called ‘humanitarian’, intervention by NATO were set by the United Nations in regards to Libya,” argues Stone. “The first was that the doctrine of the responsibility to protect (R2P) was successfully invoked, for the very first time, as a legal ground for over-riding the fundamental principle of national sovereignty as the basis of international law.”

R2P holds that, if a government cannot protect the human rights of its own citizens, the international community may step in to do so. In the case of Libya, R2P was used to justify United Nations Resolution 1973, the motion that authorized NATO to create a no-fly zone over Libya.

“Resolution 1973 was perverted by NATO within hours into a full-blown military intervention for regime change in Libya that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Libyans, pogrom against black persons resident in Libya, the assassinations of Muammar Gaddafi and members of his family, massive infrastructure damage, the de facto partitioning of the country, and a failed state machine,” notes Stone.

He argues that the first precedent (above) could not have been realized without the fancy legal footwork executed in advance by the nimble Pillay in demonizing Mouammar Gaddafi and his son, Saif, at the UN. “The second precedent, then, was the initiative taken by the UN Human Rights Council, chaired by Pillay, in calling for an international inquiry into violence against civilians in Libya,” he says.

Stone goes on to detail how Pillay has been playing a similar role in appearing in the international media accusing the Syrian government of crimes against humanity and calling upon the ICC to mount a war crimes investigation against President Assad, while ignoring the role played by foreign-funded mercenaries in the civil war. “Humanitarian intervention is a powerful tool in the West, where even people on the ‘left’, who should know better, fall for it,” notes Stone.

Libya is the real tragedy of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ that has turned into an ‘Arab Winter’. This brings into question the real motives of those International NGOs who promote human rights with an evangelical zeal.

Libya under Gaddafi may have been an authoritarian state in terms of freedom of speech (not any worse than U.S. allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and UAE), but, was a success story in human development. In Gaddafi’s Libya, the right to free education for everyone from elementary school right up to university and post-graduate studies at home or abroad were implemented with government subsidies; there was free health care with 1:673 doctor-patient ratio; free electricity for all citizen; interest-free housing loans; and free land for farmers.

Libya had no external debts and its reserves amounted to $150 billion. Today we have a Libya that is ruled by warlords and terrorists and human rights campaigners are silent about the human rights abuses taking place today in Libya and no one is asking the question what is happening to Libya’s huge financial reserves and its oil? Who is benefiting from it?

What happened in Libya amounts to a war crime for which both NATO and International Crisis Group (ICG) that came up with the R2P formula should be held accountable, analysts say. But, UNHRC is muted about it. Instead, a report will be tabled at the current session titled “Technical assistance for Libya in the field of human rights”.

The report does not discuss accountability issues with regards to human rights in the implementation of the R2P formula nor does it address in any serious manner the problem of the anarchy created as a result of regime change. It assumes that there is a regime in charge, when there is not.

A question often asked by Sri Lankans is why Pillay is not calling upon President George W Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameroon and ICG to account for the war crimes USA, UK and NATO forces have indulged in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya?

During her visit to Sri Lanka last year, at a press conference, she said that UNHRC has indeed questioned these countries on certain human rights issues and they have responded. But, what the Sri Lankan journalist didn’t press her on is why she cannot do the same with Sri Lanka, rather than indulge in a public spat and witchhunt?

Opening up old wounds
Most people in Sri Lanka believe that what she is trying to do is to open up old wounds and it is completely counter productive to promoting reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. Nor is it helping to improve human rights in Sri Lanka, where a government that is threatened by what they see as an international conspiracy to change regime, has cracked down heavily on internal dissent and freedom of expression.

Weeraratne argues that Pillay’s methods are harming human rights and increasing the credibility gap of UN agencies in the eyes of the international community (which is not just the U.S., EU and its allies). Instead he argues that UNHRC should adopt the Japanese model of solving a post-war crisis.

“The Japanese approach advocated by the Buddhist Prince Shotuku to use the method of consensus and dialogue, and not allow the accused party to lose face is a far more enlightened approach to resolution of complex human rights issues than the ‘ burning at the stake’ inquisitorial approach of the West” notes Weeraratne.

“It is the employment of double standards and devious methods to achieve ulterior political ends of powerful Western actors that have resulted in the moral collapse of the UN and related agencies.”

Kalinga Seneviratne is IDN Special Correspondent for Asia-Pacific. He teaches international communications at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. (IDN-InDepthNews – March 3, 2014)

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