Can you now explain your love affair with Saudi Arabia?

Bravo United Nations for convicting Bosnian war criminal Radovan KaradzicBy White House (Pete Souza) / Maison Blanche via Wikimedia Commons
Voices Opinion Saturday, March 26, 2016 - 18:05

History has a very bad memory. History will not remember the decision by a United Nations (UN) tribunal this week to convict Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes. History has already forgotten how United States (US) President George W. Bush pounded Iraq and is responsible for what has followed. History has even less time to remember the MSF hospital that was bombed last month somewhere there – where?

History has work to do, beginning with seeing how hypocritically naked it has come to be. The failure of the world to stop the brutal massacre of innocent people through 1992 – 1995 in former Yugoslavia (for which Karadzic is now convicted), is also an indictment of the UN and by extension all of us. Just like the world body failed to stop the bombing of Iraq, just like it has failed to bring justice to Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan and Kashmir, to mention a few recent and historical failures on the war front. Most recently the UN elected Saudi Arabia to chair a human rights body in Geneva. History, written by victors, has already forgotten that grotesque decision. A year after that event, the French government honoured a Saudi Prince in 2016 with a high civilian medal. Read here.

The history of the dead, the uninteresting, the non-strategic and the dying is what keeps international courts and tribunals busy claiming they are building a case log. My experience as a journalist and diplomat teaches me that by the time these crimes reach a court, it is purely an academic discussion about how people were killed, were the women raped and were they starved before they were killed. Most war tribunals are devoid of humanity and empathy, their convictions driven by political expediency.

Karadzic, considered the main architect of the Bosnian massacre, was found guilty of genocide and a pre-meditated plan to kill “every able-bodied male” in the town of Srebrenica in 1995. Some 8,000 Muslims were killed and dumped into mass graves. I covered this story closely from Geneva where the peace talks were held (much like the Syrian talks now) and from Sarajevo where the battle raged. I attended private briefings by the three warring sides from Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Everything, especially the peace talks, was limousine-friendly, cold and calculating – how history would judge them was of no consequence.

Karadzic and his killer in arms Ratko Mladic must be punished. In sentencing him for 40 years in prison, the tribunal said Karadzic, now 70, is also guilty of taking UN employees as hostages to prevent NATO from carrying out airstrikes in the region. It must be said in the same breath that the UN stood by pretending helplessness as atrocities were heaped on the people, much like we all are mute spectators of the massacres in Syria and Turkey. A UN report acknowledged its failure to stop the Srebrenica massacre. In another report, in another commission of enquiry and in another series of headlines, this failure was debated and international seminars swelled about the UN’s role in civil wars. It was important for the international community to distance itself from collective guilt and its own vacuity.

Kofi Annan, then head of UN Peace Keeping Forces (Boutros Boutros-Ghali was secretary General) said the world body had allowed Srebrenica, the safe area for Bosnian Muslims, to be overrun in July 1995 by Bosnian Serbs. “The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever” the UN report had concluded. Commenting on it editorially, the New York Times said “The fall of Srebrenica became a damaging symbol of the United Nation’s failure at peacekeeping in a new area of civil wars, and it demonstrated the inadequacy of a system that allowed political considerations to colour military decisions when troops were under the command of the United Nations.” The UN’s mea-culpa followed over a 100 interviews with people on the ground who witnessed the destruction singling out the Bosnian-Serb leadership as principle culprits. Read here.

If lessons were learnt from Srebrenica, the world would not have been a mute bystander at more systematic attempts to terrorise and annihilate entire peoples. Bush and his comrade in arms Dick Cheney would have been prevented from turning Iraq and the entire neighbourhood into killing fields from which is born the IS. Bush cannot set foot in some European countries because of an arrest warrant and he was advised by Swiss police to avoid a trip to Davos. The UN has not tried Bush for war crimes and United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Tony Blair has said his conscience is at peace on Iraq so there is question of any trial. The world body cannot bite the hands that feed it. It cannot, for example, try Russia Vladimir Putin or China’s leadership no more than it can tell French president Francois Hollande to take that Saudi award back – even that is not possible.

All of this would be bearable and to some extent even understandable if the UN didn’t do the opposite i.e. kiss the hand that beheads people and hangs them up on poles for vultures to feast on. The UN’s top five with veto power – US, UK, France, China and Russia – have failed and failed badly.

The UN is broken and it has a long struggle ahead to rebuild itself. To regain lost ground, it must be oil-blind, religion-blind, colour-blind and money-blind for a start. It needs to look at its brain, the deeply dysfunctional Security Council which spoke to World War !! reality.  If Karadzic’s track record of murder and mayhem is compared to that war, the question the UN must ask is this – what was it doing all these years through all the wars if it remembers that war? Europe? Why are the UN’s star performers still arguing about what is human and what is human rights in the 21st century?

Today’s wars come on top of older and continuous wars. Climate change, poverty and disease are no longer doctoral theses – they are upon the world in ways that require collective leadership. Anthony Banbury, UN Assistant Secretary General said he was leaving the organisation because he loved its values and principals too much. He said the UN was a “Remington typewriter in a smartphone world.” Ignore my views. Read that of an insider here.

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