Will the International Criminal Court be used as a political weapon against Israel? Should it?
In 2001, when trying to convince Americans to buy into the ICC, Human Rights Watch promised one thing; now it actively lobbies for the opposite.
Today, Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth criticized a New York Times editorial that he says “ignores key effect of Palestine observer state: possibility of joining [the] ICC and deterring both sides’ war crimes.”
This is hardly the first time that Human Rights Watch has justified and supported the Palestinian attempt to use the International Criminal Court in The Hague to pursue politically motivated cases against Israel:
- On September 16, 2009, miraculously within less than 24 hours after Judge Richard Goldstone released his notorious U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes (which he retracted some 18 months later), Human Rights Watch published a detailed press release that “supported the fact-finding mission’s call for the Security Council to refer the Gaza conflict to the ICC”; argued that the ICC was “the obvious international tribunal for war crimes committed during the Gaza conflict”; and documented all of the possible ways that Israeli political and military leaders could be hauled before the ICC, including “if the ICC prosecutor acts positively on a declaration by the Palestinian National Authority requesting the court’s authority over crimes committed in Gaza.”
- While HRW was sometimes cagey on expressing outright support for the formal ICC request submitted by the PA (or rather the PNA, the Palestinian National Authority, as per HRW) there was no mistaking where they stood: “Human Rights Watch called on the ICC prosecutor to make a prompt legal determination on the Palestinian National Authority request, consistent with the ICC’s mandate to end impunity.” Hard to see how that last bit (emphasis added) could be read as anything but outright support.
- In a September 2010 speech to the UN Human Rights Council, HRW called on the 47-nation body to “urge the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to determine in a prompt manner whether he believes the court has jurisdiction over the Gaza conflict. Such a determination will clarify the avenues of international justice available.” Again, HRW made it clear how they wanted the jurisdiction question to be decided: “the parties to varying degrees have thus far not shown a willingness to conduct investigations up to international standards, so international prosecutions may be required.” Indeed, peace talks “in no way lessen the need for accountability. On the contrary, justice for serious violations should be part of the discussion.”
What is so interesting about all of this is that back in 2001, when Americans were debating whether or not to join and support the ICC, Ken Roth’s Human Rights Watch published “Myths and Facts About the International Criminal Court,” and assured the public that the ICC would never “be used to pursue politically motivated cases against Israel.” This concern was nothing but a “myth,” said Human Rights Watch.
And one of the reasons it wouldn’t happen was because of these “Facts”: “Future actions on Israeli or Palestinian territory will be covered only if the ICC treaty is ratified by Israel or by a broadly recognized Palestinian state.”
And as HRW’s Tom Malinowski assured us all in a Washington Post op-ed, “That will not happen until after a peace agreement, in which case the likelihood of Israeli military action against Palestinians greatly diminishes.”
Fast forward 11 years. HRW’s Ken Roth is now lobbying for the Palestinian bid to become a U.N. state and ICC member before a peace agreement — and indeed while the PA (or PNA, per HRW) has refused to even sit at the negotiating table with Israel. What happened to their “that will not happen” promise?
Ken Roth Flip-Flop: HRW Promised ICC Wouldn’t Target Israel, Yet Now Lobbies for It at View from GenevaNovember 6, 2012
Muslim nations voted against the measure: denouncing discrimination against homosexuals and women… yes indeed. This is what the United Nations puts on a pedestal for human rights. Muslim control of the issues.
Note that the Council decision to launch a new study of discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity was opposed by all Islamic states. What is the incentive to respect those that Mohammad did not respect if they can merely give feminist money to elite American colleges like Columbia University? Let me say it again …Public relations for third world dictators want feminism not G-d. They want to promote their tyranny to the ladies who they hurt.(JPost) On Friday at 6 p.m. the Obama administration promise to fix the disreputable UN Human Rights Council by becoming a member died a predictable death at the UN General Assembly. Knowing they were headed for certain defeat, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, Esther Brimmer, spoke to a Washington institute on Wednesday touting the President’s “reform” accomplishments from inside the UN’s top human rights body. And her whitewash was supplemented at the end of the week by a barrage of statements and press releases from the State Department. None of it passes House Speaker John Boehner’s “straight-face test” for Obama’s foreign policy.
While the GA was nailing the coffin shut on council reform in New York, the council itself was wrapping up its latest session in Geneva with its usual systematic efforts to demonize the State of Israel. Though Brimmer’s speech included a disingenuous declaration that US membership in the council was especially beneficial for Israel, Friday’s events will solidify the growing perception of the president’s dangerous disinterest in Israel’s welfare.
The council was the “reformed” version of the UN Human Rights Commission, which once flaunted a Libyan chair. The Bush administration and its UN ambassador John Bolton opposed this 2006 “reform” on the grounds that the changes were superficial and there were no membership criteria for election to what was, after all, the UN’s top human rights body. The European Union, however, was bought off by including a five-year review plan. That review ended Friday with the adoption of a GA resolution that kicked any further reconsideration down the road “10-15 years.”
From the day it began, the council has proved to be even worse than its predecessor. Sitting in judgment on human rights violations worldwide are such luminaries as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. Member Libya had no difficulty being elected, and its suspension didn’t occur until March of this year, when the numbers of dead finally proved too embarrassing. But throwing women in jail for driving, outlawing freedom of religion, rendering homosexuality a capital offense and periodically cutting off heads haven’t made a dent in Saudi membership.
ON THE contrary, the most recent council election, which took place on May 20 at the GA, looked like this. Just before the vote, candidate Kuwait gave each state’s representative in the Assembly Hall a little box decorated with its flag and containing four delightful fresh dates. Austria gave delegates a package of cookies with a pretty bow marked “taste of Austria.”
Costa Rica distributed a colorful red wooden toy cart. India handed out “high elevation darjeeling tea,” and Romania gave out a very nice large calendar. Along with Burkina Faso, where most of the female population has undergone female genital mutilation – aka torture – they were all duly elected.
With their actual human rights credentials off the table, council members adopted a fixed agenda of only a few items to govern their proceedings. One item is devoted to Israel alone and one to all other 191 UN member states. The Human Rights Commission spent 40 years adopting country-specific criticisms, a third of which condemned Israel. Fifty percent of the “reformed” council’s country-specific resolutions and decisions are devoted to Israel-bashing. There have been 12 special sessions in the last five years, and half of them have been on Israel alone. There has been only one “urgent debate” on a country – Israel. There have been more human rights reports commissioned on Israel than on any other state. And only one country is not allowed even to attend the lobbying and information-sharing regional meetings associated with the council sessions – Israel – while “Palestine” is invited to all of them.
Rather than discredit a body that calls itself a human rights authority but reeks of discrimination, and is tasked with promoting tolerance but provides a global platform for hate-mongering, Obama decided to give it American credibility and taxpayer dollars. His No. 1 excuse was the promise to reform it from the inside.
Here’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Ambassador Susan Rice on March 31, 2009, explaining the reason to join: “The Council… is scheduled to undergo a formal review of its structure and procedures in 2011, which will offer a significant opportunity for Council reform.”
US Ambassador to the Council Eileen Donahoe, in a September 13, 2010, New York Times editorial, called the review “a serious self-reflection exercise” and claimed that “if we do not sit at the table with others and do the work necessary to influence the process, US values and priorities will not be reflected in the outcome.”
Even as late as March 25 of this year, a poker-faced administration spokesperson said: “The United States… looks forward to working with UN member states as the HRC review process continues in New York. There is still room to… ensure greater scrutiny of the human rights records of candidates for election to this body.”
ON FRIDAY, those promises were shown to be utterly fraudulent. Every major recommendation that American negotiators made over a process spanning many months, including instituting membership criteria and changing the discriminatory anti-Israel agenda, was rejected. Only four states voted in the GA against the outcome of the non-reform reform: Israel, the United States, Canada and Palau.
Gloating over the total defeat of the Obama plan were Syria (speaking for the Arab group), Russia (speaking for a revealing “cross-regional group” comprising Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Syria, Venezuela, Vietnam and Yemen), Tajikistan (speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)), Iran and Egypt. Syria called the president’s bluff this way: “Warmest thanks… Our efforts were crowned by arriving at the document before us today… The main objective of our work was… not reform because the Council was already a reform of the Commission.”
Islamic states have reason to be pleased. The council majority is held by a combination of two regional groups – African and Asian – and OIC members are the majority on both of these groups, thus giving them the balance of power.
The consequences of this political landscape were reinforced by Friday’s events at the council session in Geneva. The council wrapped up its latest session by adopting one more resolution on Israel – this time about the eight Turkish extremists killed a year ago trying to ram a legal blockade of terrorist-run Gaza. There was no resolution on Syria – further condemnation by the council was put off until next session, three months away. And nothing from the council on Yemen, on account of insufficient data. Of the eight votes in total held at this session, the US was on the losing side for six of them.
According to the Obama administration, however, the current US approach to the UN is supposedly good for Israel. In Brimmer’s words, the council has “improved as the result of direct US engagement. If we cede ground, if our engagement in the UN system is restricted – these bodies likely would be dominated by our adversaries. A scenario… not good for the United States and certainly not for Israel.”
The Obama line about knowing what is in Israel’s best interests is beginning to wear very thin. The council’s vote on the flotilla resolution was 36 for, eight abstentions and one against – the United States. US membership has made no difference to the outcomes on Israel. But it has given those outcomes a credibility that they don’t deserve.
After Friday’s GA vote, Obama diplomat John Sammis labeled the council’s “effectiveness and legitimacy” as “compromised,” called its agenda “unfair and unbalanced,” and said its membership policy “discredits, dishonors and diminishes” the body. Talk is cheap. The decent thing for the US to do after finally coming to such a conclusion would be to announce its departure or at least allow its term to expire next year.
But Obama has done nothing of the kind. Ensuring the American team had no bargaining power, the administration declared in March – three months before the end of negotiations and a whopping 18 months in advance of the next election – that the US would run for a second term.
Not coincidentally, on Friday the administration decided to circulate a list of the council’s accomplishments at the last session. In addition to itemizing mere statements from groups of countries on issues that the council itself refused to handle, they pointed to the Council decision to launch a new study of discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
For Obama, progress on other human rights issues takes priority over the unequal treatment of Israel and Jewish self-determination. It’s an old trick, playing minority groups off against one another. But at the end of the day there is no escaping the fact that in the name of human rights, the administration has trashed the fundamental norm of human rights protection – equality. And genuine human rights advocates ought to know only too well how exemption clauses on human dignity are bound to turn out. via eye-on-the-world.blogspot.com
He has a letter in the NYTimes today, trying to damage-control the Goldstone recantation:
To the Editor:
The significance of Richard Goldstone’s Op-Ed article in The Washington Post is being overblown. As the judge who led an investigation into the Gaza conflict, he stands by most of his report.
Mr. Goldstone’s shift focuses on his allegation that Israel had an apparent policy to target civilians. He says that because of information now available, he no longer concludes that civilians were intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.
Human Rights Watch’s investigation in Gaza found some cases of apparently deliberate killing of civilians by Israeli soldiers, such as the killing of 11 civilians holding white flags, but no evidence that these resulted from a policy to target civilians.
However, Mr. Goldstone has not repudiated his panel’s findings that Israel committed numerous serious violations of the laws of war. Israeli forces, according to the Goldstone report, indiscriminately used heavy artillery and white phosphorous in densely populated areas and deliberately destroyed civilian buildings and infrastructure without a lawful military reason. That conduct was so widespread and systematic that it must have reflected policy.
As for investigations, Israel looks good only by comparison with Hamas, which has done nothing at all to investigate its war crimes. Israel has indicted four soldiers and convicted three. Only one has served jail time (7 1/2 months), for stealing a credit card.
Israel has yet to investigate the policies behind the indiscriminate attacks that caused so much civilian harm.
Human Rights Watch
New York, April 3, 2011
a) in writing “As the judge…”, Roth seeks to imply this was an actual judicial inquiry rather than an investigative one.
b) in writing “apparently deliberate killing” he seeks to offset Goldstone who insists Israel had no intentional policy. Israel never claimed there could have been such cases of local lack of discipline, and actually investigated claims of such. He is comparing apples and pears. He also adds “apparent” to cover his tuches.
c) those ‘findings’ are disputed by Israel and the proof is not based in all cases on reliable sources.
Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth, perhaps sensing that the cash cow of anti-Israel hatred may dry up as the result of Richard Goldstone’s recent retraction of allegations that Israel targeted civilians during the Gaza War, penned a feverish reply at CiF (Gaza: the stain remains on Israel’s war record, April 5.) to help sustain his group’s narrative of Israeli villainy.
Guardian readers, clearly relieved that their nearly week-long nightmare of doubt over Israeli sin following Goldstone’s mea culpa is over, took to the streets below the line en mass to express their emotion.
Let the hate begin:
Hamas is actually more moral than Israel. Their rocket attacks represents legitimate resistance.
Israel is a criminal and insane nation which kills and enslaves innocent Palestinians, and who bases their national legitimacy on an “ancient fairy tale”.
Israel guilty of murdering Palestinian children
Characterizing Hamas as anti-Semitic represents Israeli paranoia. (Bonus: Comical semantic argument that Israeli Jews are the real anti-Semites)
Reader hopes Hamas won’t be negatively influenced by Zionist villainy and stoop to Israeli level of cruelty
Israel is marching towards Armaggedon
Israel is “slowly starving” Palestinians, and is guilty of the worst crimes against humanity in the world
Israelis are immutably and irredeemably racist
Hamas is not a terrorist group, just a “rag-tag” bunch of poorly equipped hooligans
Israel should apologize to their Arab neighbors for their murderous behavior over the last 50 years
Israel shoots anything that moves, including donkeys and “ancient grandmothers”
It seems that Goldstone’s retraction represented merely his collapse under “Zionist pressure”
Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, talks on the phone at his office in Ramallah last March. A grant given to Al Haq has raised ire at Rights & Democracy. (Nasser Shiyoukhi/Associated Press)
From The Daily Beast:
A Palestinian whom Israel’s Supreme Court has described as a “Jekyll and Hyde” of international terrorism has been appointed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to its advisory board that oversees the sensitive reporting on Arab-Israeli affairs.
The man at the center of the dispute, Shawan Jabarin, runs the human rights organization Al Haq in Ramallah on the occupied West Bank. In 1985 he belonged to a Birzeit University student group associated with the PFLP, indicted as a terror group, by 30 countries including the U.S., the European Union, and Canada. He was convicted of recruiting members for terrorist training outside Israel and served nine months of a 24-month jail sentence.
Calls over several days to [HRW’s Sarah Leah] Whiston were not returned. In a telephone conversation, [HRW’s Ken] Roth at first said it was “not true” that Jabarin had been a member of PFLP, then added: “And if he had been, it’s ancient history.” He would not discuss the Supreme Court judgments. In an email, Roth defended the appointment saying Jabarin had had no association with the PFLP or any other political organization since joining the staff of Al Haq in 1987.
In fact, Jabarin was arrested by Israel in 1994 for heading the PFLP – while he was already working for Al Haq.
And in 2003, Israel allowed Jabarin to travel to Jordan – and Jordan refused to let him in because of his terror record.
Al Haq is hardly an unbiased “human rights” organization either. It engages in “lawfare” against Israel. One of the papers on its website justifies terrorism as legal:
[R]esistance against occupation and its arbitrary practices is legitimate under international law, and these acts are considered a part of the Palestinian people‘s resistance and struggle against occupation in order to achieve their right to liberation and independence, the occupation forces call it “terrorism”…
So not only is HRW trying to appoint a terrorist who has been shown to be a credible current threat by Israel’s Supreme Court, but they are using his service to a “human rights” organization that supports terror as their main proof that he is not a terrorist!
No wonder that HRW’s founder, Robert Bernstein, said, “I am of course shocked but even more saddened that an organization dedicated to the rule of law seems to be deliberately undermining it.”