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Human Rights Cannot Be 'Notwithstanding . . .' Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by James17930, Canada Apr 25, 2006
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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April 25th was Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah). To commemorate the event, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) created a Green Ribbon campaign, and urged all federal and provincial MP's, MPP's and MLA's to wear a green ribbon in their respective legislatures as a method of promoting awareness of and action against the atrocities being committed in Darfur, Sudan.

The phrase 'Never Again' -- referring to the horrors of the Holocaust -- has been used repeatedly as a rallying cry for those who would try to prevent such events from repeating themselves; unfortunately, as the Green Ribbon campaign makes clear, the world community has been less than adequate in preventing or moving to stop genocidal-type events when they have again occurred:

Cambodia -- 1,650,000 dead.

Rwanda -- 800,000 dead.

Yugoslavian Civil Wars/Kosovo -- 197,000 dead.

Darfur (so far) -- 400,000 dead.

The most important question is, as always, why? Why is there such dithering and inaction in the world community when faced with crises of this nature? It's obviously not that people don't care, or want these things to happen; the problem has to do with who is, and should be, ultimately responsible for acting. Right now, according to international law, it is solely the responsibility of the affected country's government; unfortunately, as we can see from repeated examples over the last sixty years, that doesn't work.

It all basically comes down to one sentence -- Article II, Sec. VII of the United Nations Charter:

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter . . .

Now, this is important in the sense that it is supposed to prevent powerful countries from invading smaller ones on some weak or fabricated pretext, or interfering with domestic affairs -- although, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a direct contravention of this clause, not to mention repeated Syrian interference in Lebanon until last year, we can pretty much declare that this has already been made null-and-void. Where it has caused problems in the past, however, is in a situation like Rwanda where, although 800,000 people were slaughtered, since the conflict stayed within the geographical borders of the country, it was declared a matter of 'domestic jurisdiction,' and therefore not the UN's responsibility to get involved. That's simply unacceptable.

The UN is always accused of being irrelevant, or inadequate (most recently by U.S. President Bush as part of his excuse for attacking Iraq), and while that view can obviously be twisted to suit certain purposes, there is truth to it. If the UN wants to be the forum where countries come together to solve their disputes, it also has to able to solve the disputes of countries that don't have the power to do so themselves.

Last year, as part of the UN's 60th anniversary, Secretary General Kofi Annan put a call out to member nations, asking for suggestions on how the UN could reform to better suit the needs of the world. One of the ideas that the General Assembly eventually adopted is the tenant that the UN has a basic 'Responsibility to Protect,' anywhere at anytime, if people are in a situation where no one else can protect them. This was language that two Canadian Prime Ministers, first Jean Chretien, then Paul Martin, had been trying to get into the UN lexicon for quite some time. It is a back-door way of trying to circumvent Article II, Sec. VII, whereby it is hoped this accepted 'responsibility' would be seen to trump concerns of infringing upon domestic sovereignty if there was a compelling reason to do so, such as genocide.

Again, the stage has already been set for this. The U.S. invasion of Iraq has prompted many people to revisit the debate over this issue, however, the Iraq situation doesn't really apply because it was declared by the U.S. to be something more like 'pre-emptive self defence.' The real precedent was set in 1999 by Bill Clinton and NATO; realizing that they could not act within the UN structure to end the 'ethnic-cleansing' that was taking place in Kosovo (since it was contained within the borders of one country) they basically declared a NATO intervention on humanitarian grounds and bombed Serbia until Serb president Slobodan Milosevic was forced to surrender.

This is where the UN needs specific and defined supra-national powers -- in matters where military intervention is necessary for humanitarian purposes. There needs to be the creation of a standing UN peacekeeping force which can be deployed to places like Darfur to stop the slaughter without the government of that country whining that it's sovereignty is being breached (the Sudan, is, after all, a UN signatory, so the fact that they are currently in violation of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes their arguments pathetic and moot). This is not a new idea, of course, and even if this isn't the road taken, many commentators, most recently UK defence minister John Reid, agree that the structure of the UN is outdated and needs to be amended.

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A Nation's problem, Can be the Planet's Problem
Jerry | Nov 9th, 2006
The U.N interferrence in conflicts in most parts of the world is of paramount benefit to all individuals. First of all, let us call to mind the signatories to the U.N. Any country that is a signatory to the U.N charter, definitely in all its wills willingly supports the aims and objectives of the U.N and shall in all ramification agree or consent to the dictates and rulings of the U.N. So, if the U.N should be involved in some of Africa's warfare, then i see it as a welcome and positive development as prescribed by the U.N charter. Human beings are quite different in views, opinions and attitudes. One man's view or opinion can override that of others even if it is not in the right direction. The U.N as a whole is made of many countries, and each country has its own representative, with different problems robbing on their minds, to proffer different solutions for their individual problems. So, i believe in strong terms that the U.N rulings or dictates would benefit a reasonable majority of the populace of a waring nation. I cannot relate on the instances of the Middle East, the Rwanda Conflict nor the Darfur Crises. These are individual circumstances which calls for different interpretation of solutions proffered differently.

Amanda Lassoued | Nov 14th, 2006
I completely agree with James Campbell. Human rights cannot be notwithstanding. So many inicidences have happened yet nothing has been done to stop it. We have remembrance days but yet we contradict ourselves in the world saying we learn history to not repeat it but there is no example of this phrase actually not contradicting itself. Something must be done!

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