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India lashes out against ‘powerless’ UN Security Council

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United Nations: Calling the Security Council ineffective and powerless, India has lashed out against its lack of accountability and transparency in mandating peacekeeping operations and blamed it for the rising casualties among peacekeepers.

“We are dismayed at the opaque manner in which the Security Council continues to mandate peace operations, without any accountability or transparency,” India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said Monday at a General Assembly session on peacekeeping operations.

“The human costs of this failing are evident in both the rising number of casualties among UN peacekeepers, as well as an alarming growth in the number of civilians, now reaching 60 million according to the Secretary General, whose lives are being disrupted by the conflicts that an ineffective Security Council is powerless to resolve,” Mukerji added.

As of the end of September, 85 peacekeepers have died this year.

Mukerji appealed to Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft to “take the lead to prioritise agreement on an early reform of the Security Council during this 70th Session.”

He also reiterated India’s consistent demand the implementation “in letter and spirit” the UN Charter provisions that require the Security Council to consult with troop-providing countries when issuing peacekeeping mandates.

Speaking at the session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also backed the call for better coordination between the Security Council and the troop-contributors. “A shared understanding of the tasks involved between the Security Council and the troop and police contributing countries was required, as was cooperation with national actors and local communities,” he said.

The session was centered on Ban’s report on implementing the recommendations of the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) which was headed by Jose Ramos-Horta and included Abhijit Guha, a retired Indian lieutenant general.

Mukerji said that implementation report had great importance for India, which is the largest overall troop contributor to UN peace operations, with over 185,000 troops that have served in 48 of the 69 UN missions. India currently has 7,794 personnel under UN’s blue flag.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered to increase India’s troop-contribution by 10 percent when he participated at a summit on peacekeeping last month, Mukerji said. India would also be adding three police battalions with a high proportion of women and provide training for peacekeepers from other nations, he added.

Mukerji welcomed the “renewed focus on prevention and mediation” in Ban’s plan for implementing the HIPPO. All the 42 speakers at the session supported the emphasis on political solutions to end or prevent conflicts to maintain peace.

South Asian countries are among the largest contributor of personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations. Bangladesh, which is currently the largest contributor, has 9,432 personnel in UN missions, Pakistan 7,533 and Nepal 5,346.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative also welcomed the proposal for better consultations with troop-contributing countries. Like many others, she opposed deploying peacekeepers for counter-terrorism operations.

Bangladesh Deputy Permanent Representative Sadia Faizunnesa called for involving all the countries sending troops to the UN operations in implementing the HIPPO recommendations.

(Arul Louis, IANS)

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Islamic State War Crimes in Iraq being Investigated: UN Team

The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq secure evidence of atrocities committed by Islamic State militants "that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide

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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk toward the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate (voa)

Iraq, September 22, 2017: The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to establish an investigative team to help Iraq secure evidence of atrocities committed by Islamic State militants “that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

Britain, which drafted the resolution, said the team would bring some justice to those who had experienced atrocities at the hands of IS, variously known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, called the resolution “a landmark” that would “provide an indispensable record of the scope and scale” of IS atrocities.

“This means justice for those people who have been victimized by ISIS,” Nadia Murad, a former IS captive in Iraq, said in a Facebook Live video after attending the council vote with well-known international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

ISLAMIC STATE
Yazidi survivor and U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human trafficking Nadia Murad, center, visits her village for the first time after being captured and sold as a slave by the Islamic State three years ago, in Kojo, Iraq, (VOA)

Clooney represents women of Iraq’s Yazidi minority who were kidnapped and held as sex slaves by IS militants after the terrorist organization conquered large swaths of Iraq in mid-2014.

“It’s a huge milestone for all of those who’ve been fighting for justice for victims of crimes committed by ISIS,” Clooney said in the Facebook Live video. “It says to victims that their voices will be heard and they may finally get their day in court.”

Since then, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have driven IS from most of the land it had seized in Iraq, retaking all the major urban areas, although the group still controls some pockets in Iraq as well as territory in Syria.

ALSO READ UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

IS fighters have been on the run in Iraq since U.S.-backed Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul, Iraq’s second city and the Islamic State’s former stronghold capital, in July.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled the August 2014 massacre in Sinjar, and U.N. rights investigations have documented horrific accounts of abuse suffered by women and girls, such as Murad. About 3,000 women are believed to remain in IS captivity.

But Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution as a missed opportunity by the council “to address war crimes and rights abuses by all sides to the conflict in Iraq.”

“No one denies the importance of tackling the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi and international forces is not only flawed, it’s shortsighted,” said Balkees Jarrah, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “The pursuit of justice is essential to all victims who saw their loved ones tortured and killed, or houses burned and bombed, regardless of who is responsible.” (VOA)

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India-Pakistan peace process: US President Donald Trump may get involved, says US Representative to UN Nikki Haley

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Donald Trump. Wikimedia
United Nations, April 4, 2017: The US is concerned about the state of India-Pakistan relations and President Donald Trump himself may get involved in a peace process between the two South Asian antagonists, Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN said on Monday.

“This administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward,” Haley, who holds a cabinet rank in the Trump administration, said.

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“I would expect that the administration going to be in talks and try and find its place to be part of that (process).”

She added, “And also wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates as well.”

India has opposed external involvement in bilateral issues with Pakistan.

During his campaign in 2016, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, but was careful to add that it was only if the two nations wanted him to.

In an interview to The Hindustan Times he said that he “would be honoured” to be a moderator. “I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.”

Haley was answering a question from a reporter at her news conference on assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April.

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The reporter pointed out that India does not want an interlocutor for talks with Pakistan, while Islamabad wanted the US or another country to facilitate talks between them and asked if the US would get the leaders of the two countries to talk.

With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeping a low public profile and generally avoiding the media, Haley is emerging as the public face of US diplomacy making her presence felt in the media aided by her cabinet status.

Her statement about India-Pakistan relations, therefore, assume importance and it is the first high-level Trump administration statement on India’s relations with Pakistan.

While it is not clear what steps the US could take, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Trump in Washington in May when the two could discuss it.

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Former President Barack Obama also had said during his 2008 campaign that the US should mediate the Kashmir dispute. The offer met with strong opposition in India and he did not actively follow it up when he became President.

“We don’t think we should wait until something happens” Haley said. “We very much think we should be pro-active in what we are seeing, tensions rise and conflicts seem to bubble up and so want to see if we can be a part of that.”

“So, that will be something you will see, that is something that members of the National Security Council participate in,” she said. (IANS)

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologizes to people of Haiti, 6 Years after UN Peacekeepers were blamed for Causing Cholera Epidemic on Island Nation

The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends the Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016. The United Nations leader apologized three times to the people of Haiti, Dec. 1, 2016, in Creole, French and English for the cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake. VOA
United Nations, December 2, 2016: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologised to the people of Haiti on Thursday, more than six years after U.N. peacekeepers were blamed for causing a deadly cholera epidemic on the island nation.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologise to the Haitian people,” Ban told an informal meeting of U.N. member states.

“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” he added.

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The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English.

Ban’s apology, his most direct to date, fell short of admitting that U.N. peacekeepers brought the potentially fatal illness to Haiti.

“This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti,” he said. “It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organisation worldwide.”

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Ban, who will leave office at the end of this month, said the U.N. has a moral responsibility to act and deliver for the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this, but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all, is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.

More than 9,000 died

It is widely accepted that Nepalese peacekeepers who were sent to assist Haiti in its recovery after the devastating 2010 earthquake, contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera.

The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians. Subsequently more than 9,000 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and some 800,000 were sickened.

Haiti’s U.N. Ambassador Denis Regis said the U.N.’s apology represents “a radical change of attitude.”

“The U.N. has shown it can admit making mistakes as well as draw the lessons for the future and address the harm and damage done, even when done involuntarily,” the envoy said.

Litigation

Some of the victims sought compensation, suing the United Nations in U.S. District court, but the court ruled that the international organization is protected by diplomatic immunity.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has represented some of the victims. He welcomed the secretary-general’s apology.

“It appears to be a pretty strong and really historic step forward,” Concannon told VOA. But he is keeping the legal option open.

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“We did not file a lawsuit because we wanted to win a lawsuit,” he said. “We filed a lawsuit because we wanted the U.N. to apologize, and to install the water and sanitation necessary to stop cholera, and to compensate the victims. If the U.N. is going to do that without a lawsuit, it’s better for all concerned.”

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA
A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016.

Eradicating cholera

The United Nations released a 16-page report Thursday which details a two-track “new approach” to cholera in Haiti. It calls for $400 million in initial funding.

The first track involves intensifying the U.N.’s support to reducing and ultimately ending the transmission of the water-borne illness through improved access to health care and treatment. It also seeks to address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and did not have an adequate sanitation infrastructure at the time of the 2010 earthquake, which contributed to the rapid spread of the disease and difficulty in containing it. The government has said it wants to eradicate cholera by 2022.

The second track appears to still be under development, but would focus financial assistance packages to community-based projects to help those most affected by cholera.

Haiti has struggled with thousands of new suspected cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the nation on October 4. (VOA)