Tag Archive | "United Nations"

Critical Analysis: What does territory annexation and secession look like in the modern world?

Russia’s recent annexation of Ukraine raises an interesting question: What is required for legal territory annexation or secession under international law?


The UN has declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegal under international law and the Ukrainian Constitution. Image: Allvoices.com

It is illegal under international law to annex territory by coercion or force, but the possibility remains that one country can annex the territory of another through “legal” means. Russia’s actions in annexing Crimea have been declared illegal by the United Nations. In its resolution, the UN General assembly noted that the annexation was not only against international law, but contravened the Ukrainian constitution. This implies that Russia may annex Crimea if Ukraine, as a nation, agrees to let Crimea go.

The illegality of Russia’s actions in Ukraine have led the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions against Russia. It remains to be seen whether these actions will have any effect on the Crimean situation.  Russia has responded to these sanctions by saying it has the right to respond “tit for tat.” Russian troops poised on the border with Ukraine are seen as indications that Russia intends to annex the rest of the country, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union, while Ukraine is in the midst of political crisis. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stressed that no decision about Ukraine’s future can be made without the involvement of Kiev, which has also declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea to be illegal.

Exactly who has a say as to what territory belongs to which country is an interesting question. The Ukrainian government based in Kiev is clearly loath to permit Russia to take over Crimea.  However, Russia did not annex Crimea by force or arms. Instead, a referendum was held and a majority of Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This referendum is controversial, and the presence of Russian troops in Crimea at the time do not aid its validity.

If armed forces had not been involved, would the Crimea referendum be viewed differently?  Later this year a referendum will be held in Scotland to determine whether Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom or depart from that union to become an independent country. As the debate heats up about the effects of an independent Scotland, many in England have voiced the opinion that Scotland’s independence should not be decided by the Scottish alone.  Although the referendum has the blessing of the U.K. Parliament and Prime Minister David Cameron, many English residents are concerned because they have not been given the chance to voice their own opinion on Scottish independence at the polls.

Is it essential to the legality of territory secession or annexation to have all countries agree to the new border?  Or is it simply enough that no force or coercion is used in the annexation of territory?  As is clear from the Crimea referendum, military presence casts doubt on the legality of a vote.  The international community has also expressed great concern about the lack of Ukraine’s involvement in the referendum. Scotland’s referendum may be a guiding example of peaceful secession and independence under international law, but this remains to be seen.

Laura Wood is Senior Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Kim Jong-un

North Korea Undeterred by U.N. Sanctions

On April 15, 2013, North Korea celebrated the 101st birthday of its founding leader, Kim Il Sung.   The day was filled with flowers to honor both its founder and current leader, Kim Jong Un; however, North Korea did not take a reprieve from threatening South Korea and the United Nations.  From Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, the KCNA reported that “[o]ur retaliatory action will start without any notice from now.”   Pyongyang’s comments were directed at South Korea’s protest to the celebrations.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong Un, Flexing His Muscles

This is the latest in a long line of threats North Korea has directed at the United Nations and its member countries.  Just a few days ago, Pyongyang threatened that “Japan is always in the cross-hairs of our revolutionary army and if Japan makes a slightest move, the spark of war will touch Japan first.”  North Korea warned that Tokyo would be the first city targeted for a nuclear strike.

While North Korea continues to threaten the United Nations, member countries Japan and the United States remain positive that a peaceful resolution can be reached through talks.  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the regime in North Korea to stop its nuclear program and hold talks with the United States and Japan.  In response, the KCNA cited North Korea’s military leaders, stating, “If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologize for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts.”   Although North Korea’s media continues to insult and disregard the United Nations, many believe that talks are still a possibility and a resolution can be reached.

However, this has not prevented South Korea and the United Nations from readying for a possible North Korean attack.  South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea was closely monitoring North Korea’s moves and was ready for any attack.  The North’s threat is “regrettable,” Kim told reporters. “We will thoroughly and resolutely punish North Korea if it launches any provocation for whatever reason.”  Japan, too, launched fighters to protect its capital from the threat issued by Pyongyang.

Regardless, the current United Nations strategy against North Korea continues to have little impact.  Threats and sanctions issued by the United Nations have been met with open hostility by North Korea, resulting in its third nuclear test and continued military preparations by Pyongyang.  Many initially hoped that new sanctions would “bite, and bite hard” against North Korea, but the sanctions continue to have little effect.  Some are beginning to believe that the reality of the situation appears to be different. Chang Yong-seok, at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, believes “The ultimatum is just North Korea’s way of saying that it’s not willing or ready to talk with the South. North Korea apparently wants to keep the cross-border relations tense for some time to come.”

While the United Nations and its member countries continue to wish for a peaceful resolution with North Korea, it appears that peace may be a long way off.

Brad Bossenbroek is a third year law student at the Sturm College of Law, an editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and a Publishing Editor for The View From Above.

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Critical Analysis: Proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty

The “Knotted Gun” sculpture, by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward, on display at the Visitors’ Plaza at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Amnesty.org)

The “Knotted Gun” sculpture, by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward, on display at the Visitors’ Plaza at U.N. headquarters in New York. (Amnesty.org)

Governmental leaders began meeting the week of March 18, 2013, to once again discuss the possibility of a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (Arms Treaty) that would regulate the $60 billion global arms trade.  The desire to create regulations governing the global trade of conventional arms arose in 2006.  The General Assembly of the United Nations began negotiating such a treaty in July 2012 at a U.N. conference held in New York. In December of 2012, the General Assembly voted to continue negotiations on an Arms Treaty.

If passed, the treaty would require all signatory countries to create national regulations to control the trade of conventional arms and the conduct of arms brokers.  Provisions in the current draft of the Arms Treaty do not control domestic use of weapons in each signatory country “except when the trade of conventional weapons would violate arms embargoes or promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.”  The Arms Treaty, as proposed, calls on each country to determine whether an exported weapon would be used to violate international human rights, humanitarian laws, or be used for corrupt practices including terrorism or organized crime.

The proposed Arms Treaty follows a number of horrific human rights violations and crimes in countries all over the world.  As Amnesty International Secretary General, Salil Shetty, explained, “Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka are just a few recent examples where the world bore witness to the horrific human cost of a reckless global arms trade steeped in secrecy.”  However, there is hope as some 108 countries show their support for the Arms Treaty.  Mexico even made a joint statement saying, “the overwhelming majority of (U.N.) Member States agree with us on the necessity and the urgency of adopting a strong Arms Trade Treaty. Our voice must be heard.”

Amnesty International urges that a treaty will only be passed if the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom—sign on to the Arms Treaty.  The human rights group fears that because the five countries account for more than 60 percent of the global conventional weapons trade, their economic interests in an unregulated global arms market are too high.  Furthermore, the United States serves as the largest arms manufacturer in the world, and pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association fear potential Second Amendment violations that could result from an international arms treaty.  In addition, pro-gun groups in the United States question the effect such a treaty will have on ammunition, a provision missing from the current draft of the Arms Treaty.  But as Salil Shetty opined, “they have this historic opportunity to save lives – they need to seize it and stop arms from fueling atrocities.”

The United States and other U.N. Security Council members have an opportunity to make great strides for international human rights the Arms Treaty would serve as a sigh of relief for many governmental activists who have been lobbying for international arms regulations for decades.  As Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s Head of Arms Control and Human Rights, explained, “around the world, people are now watching this process hoping their political leaders will not fail them – survivors of armed violence and their communities are crying out for a strong Arms Trade Treaty with clear, universal rules for human rights protection at its core.”

Stacy Harper is a 2L at Denver University Law School and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Climate Change: Is There Hope for an International Response?

Nearly 200 world nations launched a new round of talks in Doha to review commitments to cutting climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. (Global Post)

Was Hurricane Sandy the result of global warming?  Many scientists are reluctant to directly attribute this and other recent superstorms to global warming.  However, it is very likely effects from climate change are influencing the severity of these storms.  With the scientific world approaching a consensus that human activity is contributing to climate change, pressure is mounting on the international community to respond.

Delegates, nongovernmental organizations, and environmentalists from over 200 countries are currently converging at the United Nations climate-change summit in Qatar to debate the issue.  The underlying goal of the conference, ending on December 7, is to slow global warming, specifically to “pave the way toward a world treaty, to be signed in 2015, aimed at slowing global emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution enough to keep the planet’s temperature from rising by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”  Scientists fear a sustained increase above two degrees Celsius will lead to a chain reaction of extreme events, such as rapid sea level rise, widespread flooding, extreme weather, and food shortages.

However, skepticism surrounds the summit.  For one, ongoing global temperature increase is feared to be all but certain.  A recent study funded by the National Science Foundation concluded that “[d]espite efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and a greater increase in sea level are inevitable during this century.”  Also, the summit’s goal of extending the 1997 Kyoto Protocol appears to be losing ground.  The treaty, which expires at the end of 2012, is the only legally binding U.N. pact addressing global warming.  It calls on wealthier governments to limit carbon emissions through restrictions on their businesses and citizens.  However, the U.S. declined to ratify the original treaty, and now others – including Russia, Canada, and Japan – are unlikely to sign the extension.

While the effect of the U.N. summit is currently in doubt, it should be noted that many individual countries are taking domestic action to reduce their contribution to climate change.  For instance, Mexico adopted a national law to reduce carbon emissions by thirty percent from “business-as-usual levels” by 2020, and fifty percent from the 2000 levels by 2050; South Korea approved a mandatory carbon trading program affecting some of its biggest polluters; and the European Union recently put into effect a program to reduce carbon pollution from aviation.  As for the United States, fuel efficiency standards were sharply improved under the Obama administration, and the President has expressed plans to adopt a more proactive approach to global warming during his second term.

However, climate change is a global issue requiring an international response.  Unfortunately the U.N. summit in Qatar appears unlikely to produce immediate results. The only hope is that it will lay a foundation for future cooperation and resolutions.

Frank Lawson is a 4LE and Board Member on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


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Critical Analysis: United Nations Vote on Palestinian Statehood

This calls for a celebration!

On November 29, 2012, the U.N. General Assembly voted on Palestine’s bid to elevate its status within the U.N.  The resolution was to elevate Palestine’s status from a non-member observer entity to a non-member observer state, which is the same category as Vatican City.  The vote was not a close one.  The 193-member body voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to elevate Palestine’s member status.  The nine states against the upgrade were the U.S., Israel, Canada, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, Marshall Islands, and Czech Republic.

On November 29, 1947, the U.N. recognized Israel and Palestine as two separate states, but then the tables were turned.  At that time, Palestine rejected the partition plan, while Israel supported the plan.  Decades of fighting and tension followed.  The 2012 vote recognizes the Palestinian state as the lands in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.  This territory is far less than what the Palestinians were offered in 1947.  The significance of the date, 65 years to the day since the 1947 plan was rejected, is not lost on the Palestinians.  Mossi Raz, a former Israeli lawmaker and veteran activist said, “The choice of date is not accidental.  It’s aimed at correcting a historical mistake.  Sixty-five years ago, the United Nations decided to establish a Jewish state and an Arab state . . . but it never happened.  Today we are completing a historic decision with the establishment of Palestine.”

Though the U.N. vote is not likely to change the harsh realities of the people of Palestine, the Palestinians say the vote is more than symbolic despite their lack of the traditional trappings of statehood.  Palestinians hope the status change and global recognition will provide new leverage in their dealings with Israel.  The Palestinians could also now gain access to agencies and international bodies of the U.N.  Of primary importance is the International Criminal Court, which would enable Palestine to go after Israel for alleged war crimes.

This potential access to the International Criminal Court is a concern for not only Americans but also a particular worry to American ally, Israel.  There is a fear that the Palestinians may instigate an investigation into the practices of the Israeli occupied territory; the practices are widely viewed as international law violations.  American ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, was dismissive of the entire vote.  She said, “And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.”  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote “unfortunate and counterproductive” because it places “further obstacles in the path to peace” between Palestine and Israel.  Clinton said that the U.S. believes that only direct negotiations between the two parties will lead to the peace they both deserve, two states for two people.

The U.S. has been a staunch ally of Israel for many years.  In 2011 after UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, accepted Palestine as a member, the U.S. Congress cut off all financing to the organization.  Some argue that the U.S. must continue to be an unwavering ally to Israel because it is the last bastion of democracy in the Middle East and they have been proven a strong military ally.  Others argue that it is not in the U.S.’s favor to continue to support Israel.  The continual favoritism of Israel in peace negotiations with other Middle Eastern countries exacerbates the threat from Islamic Fundamentalist.  The U.S. gives Israel billions of dollars in aid, primarily in military hardware.  Other reasons, such as hypocrisy regarding human rights and oil interests, are also considered in reducing support of Israel.  For now, the U.S. remains a supporter of Israel amidst the global recognition of a Palestinian state.

Sarah Emery is a second year law student and the Business Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Emerging LGBT Rights Across the United Nations

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (UN News Centre)

On October 2nd, Ukrainian lawmakers passed a law that would imprison a person for up to five years for positively representing homosexuality.  Human rights groups condemned the law as Soviet era oppression, which considered homosexuality a crime. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke out against the law, stating that the legislation was clearly discriminatory and counter to fundamental human rights.

In the same week, Serbia banned a LGBT parade due to “security” reasons. This is the second year in a row that Serbia cancelled the parade. Serbia cancelled both in response to a 2010 parade that ended in violence. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights encouraged Serbia to confront prejudice instead of giving into it. The Commissioner highlighted that this was a step back for Serbia’s human rights protection that had made progress in recent years.

The United States is also wrangling over the rights of the LGBT community. Recently the Second Circuit became the second appellate court to rule that DoMA is unconstitutional. The general feeling is that DoMA will end up before the Supreme Court sooner rather than later. If DoMA is upheld, the Court would be denying same sex couples the legal rights of marriage.

All across the world, countries are struggling to ensure the rights of the LGBT community. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has not been shy in speaking out against these discriminatory laws. It will be interesting to see over the coming months if the High Commissioner will take on the United States if the US Supreme Court upholds DoMA, or if the Commissioner will reserve condemnation for less developed democracies. 

 Wesley Fry is a 3L and Managing Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The Role of the United States in Syria

A mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

The Syrian crisis is a hot topic in the U.S. Presidential election.  Republican candidate Mitt Romney has criticized President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria and suggested that the United States should take a tougher stance on ensuring rebels receive the assistance they need.  So far, the Obama administration has limited its assistance to “non-lethal support,” such as providing communications equipment.  Amidst growing fears that the Syrian government’s crackdown on rebels may spark a regional war between Syria and Turkey, questions are rife in the U.S. political sector as to what role the United States should take in this conflict.

On Wednesday, October 3, the Syrian government shelled Akcakale, a Turkish town on the border of Syria and Turkey, resulting in five deaths.  The victims were all civilian women and children.  Turkey retaliated for two consecutive days, shelling a Syrian military position, and authorizing its troops to move beyond its borders.  The U.N. Security Council condemned Syria for the attack, and urged both countries to exercise restraint.  The Council President, Gert Rosenthal, the ambassador from Guatemala, stated “the members of the council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”  The relationship between Turkey and Syria began deteriorating when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began cracking down on Syrian protestors, which sparked an 18-month civil war between the government and rebels fighting to oust the Syrian President.  Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations stated that Syria does not seek to fight with Turkey, however, the ambassador called on Turkey to cease allowing armed Syrian rebels to cross the border, as well as to cease allowing media coverage for opposition groups operating from Turkey.

Syria has not confirmed whether the incident in Turkey was a mistake or intentional, but one possible motive behind the shootings is that rebels have allegedly been using Turkey as a safe haven to regroup and rearm.  The rebels are “severely outmatched” and are improvising weaponry, such as taking guns off of Syrian tanks that they have commandeered and mounting them on civilian automobiles.  The increase in improvised weapons is an indication that, without outside assistance, the rebels may be unable to maintain adequate weapons and ammunition.

The Syrian government, on the other hand, has continued to receive arms shipments from Russia, despite calls to from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others in the international community to stop the shipments.  However, the Russian state-controlled arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, stated, “No one can ever accuse Russia of violating the rules of armaments trade set by the international community.”  The dealer further stated that while it continues to supply Syria with mobile gun and missile air defense systems, the contract was signed “long ago,” and the armaments that it supplies to Syria are defensive arms, not attack weapons.

Additionally, Syria continues to receive small arms, infantry weapons, and personnel from Iran, using Iraqi airspace.  In a televised interview between al-Assad and Iran’s intelligence chief, Saeed Jalili, Jalili stated that the situation in Syria “is not an internal issue but a conflict between the axis of resistance on one hand and regional and global enemies of this axis on the other.”  During the same interview, al-Assad stated that it was “unacceptable” that some countries were “supporting terrorism” by arming the rebels in Syria.

If the United States does take a tougher stance on Syria and ensures that the rebels are armed, the implications could be far-reaching.  Iran could interpret U.S. assistance in arming the rebels as U.S. assistance in backing terrorism in Syria, thereby inviting terrorism in return.  Additionally, the possibility still exists that the United States, in arming Syrian rebels, may be arming those who may be terrorists in the future, as happened in Afghanistan.  Given the candidates’ differing stances, the result of upcoming U.S. Presidential election may alter the fate of Syria and the region.

Lisa Browning is a 2LE at the University of Denver School of Law and a Staff Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 

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An Interesting Role Reversal in the United Nations

Private Security Guards for Hire
(Int’l Bodyguard Service)

There are several forces that deserve credit for the recently reported worldwide decline in pirate attacks – including international naval patrols, industry best practices, and the monsoon season – but no single force has done more to repel pirates that the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP). With no successful pirate attacks on PCASP-protected vessels reported to date, the use of these private armed guards is sure to continue, if not increase.

Yet as the use of PCASP at sea has proliferated, the international community has failed to keep pace with the trend and ensure that the industry is held accountable for its actions.

Even some in the industry admit that there is much room for improvement. John Dalby, CEO of Marine Risk Management, Ltd., identifies two basic types of maritime security firms. He characterizes the first as the “Reputables,” consisting of well-trained professionals operating in accordance with national and international law.

The other group, which Dalby calls the “So-calleds,” are characterized as being “ill-disciplined,” “poorly trained,” and having “little or no maritime experience.”  If his description of these troublesome firms is accurate, the moniker he chose is dubious.  These companies are more than merely “so-called” companies; they are actual companies actually patrolling the Indian Ocean.

As for the industry as a whole, Dalby’s feelings are best expressed in the title of his commentary: “The Shambles That Is Maritime Security In 2012.”

The sheer existence of Dalby’s piece sheds a great deal of light on the state of PCASP regulation at sea – a world where private security companies actually want to be regulated, but the international community seems either unable or unwilling to abide.

This role reversal, in which the would-be regulated entity welcomes guidance and the would-be regulator resists, is playing out in the United Nations International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) treatment of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoC).

Signatories of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers

ICoC is a mostly private regulatory structure consisting of a set of aspirational principles coupled with an external oversight mechanism, the latter still in the drafting phase and expected in early 2013.

At the heart of ICoC is the notion that norms must be externally enforced and that failure to adhere to agreed-upon norms must be met with some sort of coercive punishment. To that end, the Draft Charter for the external oversight mechanism provides for independent auditing of operations, third party grievance mechanisms, and the possibility of suspension or expulsion from the organization in the case of non-compliance.

Although ICoC was initially created with terrestrial firms in mind, there has been encouraging and impressive uptake from the maritime security sector. Of the 464 signatory companies to ICoC, 285 of them identify as maritime security companies. This almost certainly represents the vast majority of all firms providing private security in the maritime environment.

According to these maritime security firms, ICoC is highly and directly relevant to the provision of maritime security services.

The International Maritime Organization of the United Nations begs to differ. In IMO MSC.1 Circular 1443 published earlier this year, that organization characterized ICoC as “not directly relevant to the situation of piracy and armed robbery in the maritime domain.”  In support of this assertion, the IMO states that ICoC is mere self-regulation and that it was written “only for land-based security companies.”

This first justification is disingenuous and the second is plainly false.

While it is true that no government will assert legislative jurisdiction under ICoC, to call the scheme self-regulation is to give it short shrift.  For starters, the initiative was initially conceived by the Swiss government and has the imprimatur of several states, NGOs and industry. Moreover, as already explained, the ICoC contains an external governance mechanism consisting of independent auditors, third party grievance mechanisms, and measurable standards.

The term “self-regulation” evokes images of lip service to the international community coupled with little change in corporate action. Any fair reading of ICoC and the governing mechanism suggests that this is not likely to be the result of ICoC’s ultimate implementation.

More glaringly, the notion that ICoC was developed “only for land-based security companies” is demonstrably false. The preamble of ICoC says that after developing measurable standards and an external enforcement mechanism, the organization would “consider the development of additional principles and standards for…the provision of maritime security services.” In fact, the Draft Charter specifically provides for the provision of maritime security standards in its description of the Board’s responsibilities.

In short, ICoC was drafted with maritime security in mind, it provides for maritime standards in its governing mechanism, and 61.4% of ICoC’s signatory companies provide maritime services. It boggles the mind to think that, in light of these facts, the IMO could conclude that ICoC was written to the exclusion of maritime security companies.

Criticizing the United Nations in this way feels strange. It is strikingly dissonant to see an organization so frequently criticized (at least in the U.S.) for international regulatory overreach openly reject what appears to be an extremely promising  step toward a workable regulatory framework for PCASP operating in a legal vacuum.

What accounts for this role reversal? Why does the United Nations seem to be standing in the way of an industry that seems genuinely committed to cleaning up its act? I am afraid that looking into this episode has left me with more questions than answers.

Jon Bellish is a Project Officer at the Oceans Beyond Piracy project outside Denver, Colorado (though all of his views are his own). He has experience in United States piracy trials and just got on Twitter.

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Critical Analysis: UN Peacekeepers Under Attack in Darfur

UN Peacekeepers in Darfur

A United Nations peacekeeper serving in Sudan’s besieged Darfur region was killed, and another injured, in an attack on Sunday. The Bangladeshi peacekeeper, who was a member of Bangladesh’s Formed Police Unit, was fatally shot when an unidentified gang surrounded and fired at the staff in Nyala, the state capital of South Darfur, at the mission’s policing center in a camp for internally displaced persons.

The armed gang surrounded the community and began shooting around 3:15 a.m. The men fled the scene after the police unit began to return fire. A representative for the joint African Union-United Nations Mission (UNAMID)called the attacks cowardly and deplorable, and stressed that the act constituted a war crime under international law. The Sudanese government has been called on to make a serious effort to apprehend the culprits and provide justice for the soldier’s death.

Darfur has been plagued with violence for nearly a decade. International aid workers and UNAMID personnel have been the targets of frequent attacks and kidnappings in recent years. Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s defense minister for over 40 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the region. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is also wanted for similar crimes in connection with the conflict. Earlier this year, the UNAMID reported a drop in civilian casualties in Darfur between 2010 and 2011, but admitted that there has recently been an increase in criminal activity.

The UNAMID is responsible for protecting civilians, promoting an inclusive peace process, and helping ensure safe delivery of humanitarian assistance throughout Darfur. Members of the joint mission have been the targets of several deadly attacks and 38 peacekeepers have been killed as a result of the hostility. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has extended the mandate of the UNAMID peacekeeping force in Darfur for one more year. Personnel serving with the mission will be reconfigured to focus on the areas with the highest security threats. As a result, it will include over 16,000 military personnel, 2,000 police personnel, and 17 formed police units of up to 140 personnel each. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon supported the mandate, stating that the new force will be better equipped and more readily available to address emerging threats.

Rebels in Darfur took up arms in 2003, accusing President al-Bashier’s government of neglecting the region. The conflict has led to illness and starvation in the region which has contributed to as many as 300,000 deaths and about 2.7 million people being forced to leave their homes.

Aiden Kramer is a third year law student at DU and the Executive Editor of The View From Above.

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Sources: The Jakarta Post, The New York Times, al Jazeera, BBC

News Post: Famine and Fighting in Somalia

Sources: The Jakarta Post, The New York Times, al Jazeera, BBC

Sources: The Jakarta Post, The New York Times, al Jazeera, BBC

A report released by the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on September 2nd provides a bleak outlook for Somalians facing famine and disease. According to the Somalia Food Security Nutritional Analysis Unit, all regions in the southern area of the country may soon face famine as the situation continues to worsen.

The UN report comes nearly two months after Antonio Guterres, head of the UN refugee agency, described the problems as the “worst humanitarian disaster in the world.” Mr. Guterres appealed for world support to alleviate the suffering of people in the region after visiting the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which was home to more than 380,000 displaced refugees as of July, with thousands more showing up each week. Thousands more are crossing the border into Ethiopia each day, many having walked for several days. The UN estimates that up to 50% of children arriving at the camps are malnourished.

The famine is largely the result of the worst drought in Somalia in sixty years, with conditions further exacerbated by violence and political strife within the country. Relief efforts by the Somali government, the UN, and other aid groups have been complicated, and sometimes made impossible, by civil war within the nation and restricted access to some of the hardest hit areas. The al-Shabab militia, an armed Somali Islamist rebel organization with ties to al-Qaeda, has forced out many western aid organizations and blocked routes of displaced travelers seeking relief in the capital city, Mogadishu. “It is safe to say that many people are going to die as a result of little or no access [for aid groups],” says Eric James of the American Refugee Committee.

Over 12 million people throughout the Horn of Africa are affected by the drought and in need of assistance.

The leader of al-Shabab has announced, however, that the organization will continue to launch attacks on government troops and foreign peacekeepers and continue to constrain movement of those seeking to flee areas under the group’s control. Al-Shabab has also ignored pleas from Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali to stop engaging in conflicts with regional clans in central Somalia, where a recent clash resulted in at least thirty deaths with another 100 injured.

Further complicating relief efforts by Western organizations looking to help in the area is the US government’s classification of al-Shabab as a terrorist group in 2008. Such a classification makes it a crime to provide material assistance to the group, which aid officials claim has a chilling effect on relief organizations who are fearful of legal trouble resulting from aid money finding its way into al-Shabab hands.

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