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UN considering Indian demands in peace keeping operations

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United Nations, Jan 1: UN Security Council called for regular and more expansive consultations after admitting to its flawed consultation process with countries contributing troops to peacekeeping operations. This demand consistently pushed by India throughout last year and finally coming into implementation cap the tenure of Asoke Kumar Mukerji, who is retiring as India’s Permanent Representative. He had waged a constant battle to get the Council to properly consult with troop-contributing countries as it issues and monitors peacekeeping mandates.

The Council recognized that the consultation process involving it, the troop contributors and the UN Secretariat “do not meet their expectations and have yet to reach their full potential,” US Permanent Representative Samantha Power, the Council President for December, said in a statement released Thursday.

“The Security Council stresses the importance of substantive, representative and meaningful exchanges and underscores the importance of full participation by the three stakeholders so that meetings are useful and productive,” Power said.

In June in one of several speeches at UN debates, on peacekeeping, Mukerji had criticized the Council saying it was “enforcing the will of a small privileged minority within the Council to look at peacekeepers as instruments to wage war.” He cited its disregard of the UN Charter requirement for nations contributing troops “to participate in the decisions” of the Council on their deployment.

“India, for example, has not been so consulted,” he said. “This despite the fact that India is the single largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, having contributed more than 170,000 troops in 43 of the 69 peacekeeping operations mandated so far by the Council.” India currently has 7,798 personnel serving the peacekeeping operations.

In her statement released Thursday, Power called for extending the scope of the interactions between the Council, the Secretariat and the troop-contributors. “These consultations must extend beyond the issue of mandates of operations, and to areas such as safety and security of peacekeepers, strategic force generation, gender, conduct and discipline, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, implementation of protection of civilian mandates, capability, performance, equipment and national caveat,” she said.

The US role in shepherding the commitment through the Council in the waning days of 2015 during Power’s presidency adds to its weight. President Barack Obama’s international summit on the subject in September further showed interest in rejuvenating UN peacekeeping operations.

The Council also recognized the troop-contributing countries’ on-the-ground expertise. Power said, “The experience and expertise of troop- and police-contributing countries in theatres of operation can greatly assist the planning of operations.”

India has stressed the importance of continuing consultations to make use of the reservoir of experiences peacekeepers have. During a recent interview with IANS, Mukerji gave an example of the situation in South Sudan where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. Rights to graze cattle sparked conflicts between groups and these escalated, he said. While the Indian troops on the ground, who had been trained professionally to observe the conflict environment, were aware of it, the information had no avenue to reach the Council or the higher UN echelons, thus missing an opportunity to prevent the situation from escalating, he added.

Power said the Council also asked the Secretariat to consult with troop-and police-contributing countries when planning any change in military tasks, mission-specific rules of engagement, concept of operations or command and control structure or early peace building that would impact personnel, equipment, training and logistics.

This meets another of the peacekeeping issue that India has raised about the Council changing mandates midway through a mission or introducing new elements that could affect the security of peacekeepers. The Council added a so-called intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. India fears that its troops could become vulnerable to attacks stemming from the aggressive tactics mandated for the intervention brigades.

(IANS)

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Dalveer Bhandari re-elected as the judge of ICJ

Bhandari has also served as the judge of Supreme Court of India

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The judge of the international court of justice.
Dalveer Bhandari got 121 votes in a 193 members assembly. IANS

Arul Louis

United Nations, November 21

Judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday as the General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of strength that made Britain bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood.

“I am grateful to all the nations who have supported me,” Bhandari told IANS in the Assembly chamber after the election. “It was a big election as you know.” The withdrawal of its candidate by Britain, which had the backing of its fellow permanent members, was a setback for the Security Council that had been locked in a test of wills with the Assembly.

A candidate has to win a majority in both the chambers. Bhandari won majorities in the Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting over two meetings, while the Council blocked his election by giving majorities to Greenwood in the ten rounds of balloting it held.

“The British ultimately had to bow down to the will of the majority,” a diplomat said. “The Indians stared them down.” The Council’s permanent members have traditionally had a judge in the ICJ, assuming it to be a matter of right. This time the 193-member Assembly asserted itself, forcing the Council to back down and put at risk the continuation of the ICJ perk of the permanent members.

In letters written to the Presidents Miroslav Lajcak of the Assembly and Sebastiano Cardi of the Council, Britain’s Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft said that his country was withdrawing Greenwood’s candidature keeping “in mind the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy”.

Bhandari’s election was a dramatic face-saving turn of fortunes for India, as he lost the Asian seat on the ICJ to Lebanese lawyer-turned-diplomat Nawaf Salam, who had been campaigning for two years and had the backing of the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with 55 members in the UN.

Bhandari got a second chance only because an unpopular Britain could not get an Assembly majority for a remaining judgeship requiring a runoff where the two chambers of the UN split in their voting.

Bhandari’s cause became a rallying point for the nations not a member of the Council, who were chafing under the domination of the unrepresentative Council to make a popular show of force.

India hammered home the representative character of the Assembly compared to the Council and insisted that the UN members follow democratic principles and re-elect Bhandari by accepting the global majority he has received in the Assembly.

In the last round of voting on November 13, Bhandari received 121 votes, just short of a two-thirds majority in the 193-member Assembly, while Greenwood received nine in the Council.

“The precedent is clear,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at a reception for Bhandari attended by representatives of over 160 countries on Thursday.

“As is expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys the overwhelming support of the General Assembly membership can be the only legitimate candidate to go through.” Diplomats familiar with behind-the-scenes manoeuvres said Britain indicated late last week that it would withdraw Greenwood, but over the weekend changed course with the backing of some fellow permanent members and came up with a plan for the Council to call for ending the balloting and set up a joint conference to resolve the deadlock.

The statutes of the ICJ provides for a joint conference made up of three members each from the Council and the Assembly to resolve a deadlock that persists after three election meetings.

India feared the outcome and campaigned resolutely to avoid it, pointing to the precedents in the elections in 2011 and 2014 and earlier when the candidate leading in the Council withdrew in favour of the candidate with the majority in the Assembly even though in those cases permanent members were not involved.

Bhandari’s election upsets what has become a traditional balance in the ICJ. Besides a permanent member going unrepresented, four Asian countries will be represented on the ICJ bench instead of the usual three.

Three incumbent judges of the ICJ — President Ronny Abraham of France, Vice President, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, and Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil – were elected along with Salam in the first four rounds of voting on November 9.

Bhandari and the others elected will start their term in February next year. (IANS)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Sushma Swaraj at UN: After 70 years, India IT superpower, Pakistan is terror export factory

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Sushma Swaraj at the UN general Assembly
Sushma Swaraj at UN general Assembly

United Nations, Sep 23: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, on Saturday, launched a stinging attack against Pakistan at the UN General Assembly. She said that in the 70 years of the independence, India had grown as an IT superpower, while Pakistan has emerged as a pre-eminent factory for the export of terror.

“We are fighting poverty. But our neighbour Pakistan seems only engaged in fighting us,” she said in her address to the United Nations General Assembly and responding to Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi’s allegations that India was sponsoring terrorism.

She threw a taunt at the Pakistan Prime Minister while referring to his accusations that India was violating human rights in Jammu and Kashmir: “Those listening to him (Abbasi) had only one observation: ‘Look who is talking’.”

“A country that has been the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity became a champion of hypocrisy by preaching about humanity from this podium.

“I would like today to tell Pakistan’s politicians just this much, that perhaps the wisest thing they could do is to look within. India and Pakistan became free within hours of each other. Why is it that India today is a recognised IT superpower in the world and Pakistan recognised only as the pre-eminent export factory for terror.”?

She said while India fought terrorism exported by Pakistan it did not neglect development work at home.

“We created IITs, IIMs, AIIMS while Pakistan created LeT, Haqqanis, JeM, Hizbul Mujahideen,” she said, referring to Pakistan-based terror groups.

Sushma Swaraj asked the UN not to see terrorism with “self-defeating and indeed meaningless nuance”.

(IANS)