Civilian Killing? West Gets Away With Murder

Civilian Killing? West Gets Away With MurderCivilian Killing? West Gets Away With Murder

The United Nations continues to come under heavy fire for singling out mostly non-western states for human rights violations while ignoring the misdeeds of western nations or big powers.

As part of its annual ritual, the UN Third Committee, which deals with human rights issues, has religiously adopted country-specific resolutions every year, mostly critical of nations like Syria, Cuba and North Korea for their infractions.

But none of these resolutions has been adopted unanimously, rather, with an increasing number of abstentions, Thalif Deen wrote for IPS News.

Last November, the resolution criticizing Syria for human rights violations was adopted by a vote of 125 in favor with 13 against and 47 abstentions and the vote on North Korea was 111 in favor with 19 against and 55 abstentions.

Still, both the United Nations and its Human Rights Council have rarely, if ever, launched an investigation into civilian killings, including of women and children, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen by drone attacks or aerial bombings by the United States and its western allies.

“They literally get away with murder,” says one Asian diplomat, complaining about the double standards on human rights violations and war crimes.

Currently, the Geneva-based HRC has Commissions of Inquiry or Fact-Finding Missions related to four countries/regions: Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Sri Lanka and Gaza (on the civilian killings by Israel in the conflict back in July last year).

But most of these human rights violations, including political repression, torture or war crimes, are within the territorial borders of these countries.

 Need for Investigation

Dr. Gerald Horne, Moores Professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Houston, told IPS even the recent spate of police shootings in the US, of mostly unarmed African-Americans, merits a thorough investigation by the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is true that US allies will object. However, the US itself has established a precedent by its frequent call for investigations of the internal affairs of UN member states.”

Yet, he pointed out, “given the importance of the US to the global system of governance, it is important for this nation not to be exempt from that which it demands from others.”

In recent years, according to published reports, there has been a spate of racially motivated killings by the police or by law enforcement officials, including in Staten Island, New York, Ferguson, Missouri, Brooklyn, New York and in Chicago in the US state of Illinois.

Horne said: “Given that the US is a nuclear power on hair-trigger alert, it is quite disturbing to see an urban insurrection just miles from the White House in Baltimore, after yet another killing of an unarmed African-American man.”

 Threat to Global Peace

Arguably, it would not be unfair to suggest that this dire situation too represents a grave threat to international peace and security that the UN should ignore at its peril.

“I should add parenthetically, that historically, the US has required external intervention to resolve nagging internal issues; for example, it is now well-recognized that British abolitionists played a major role in forcing the collapse of slavery in the US in the 19th century.”

Today’s outrages in the US demand no less, declared Horne, who has authored more than 30 books, including the premier study of civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1960s, along with several publications on the slave trade.

The issue of political double standards has been vociferously highlighted by Sri Lanka: A country accused of civilian killings at the end of its decades long battle against separatists in its northern province in May 2009.

Addressing the UN’s Third Committee last year, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Palitha Kohona said current developments in the Human Rights Council suggest its credibility was gradually eroding as a result of its increasing politicization.

“A handful of countries had been selected for adverse attention by the council, while others in similar circumstances were ignored.”

Turning to the council’s resolution related to his country, he said the text had infringed on the fundamental principles of international law, which required that national mechanisms needed to be exhausted before resorting to international measures, and had challenged its sovereignty and independence.

 Unfortunate Complement

Asked about the rising civilian’s killings attributed to US drone attacks, Dr Horne said the legally questionable drone warfare of the US authorities is an unfortunate complement to the repetitive slayings of unarmed African-American men and boys (Tamir Rice in Cleveland had yet to reach his teen years before he was slain on videotape).

Surely, it establishes a dangerous precedent when a UN member state, the US, is allowed to slay its own citizens and then slay others abroad, while all the while complaining about the internal affairs of sovereign states worldwide, he argued.

Asked about double standards on human rights violations, Horne said assuredly, there is a double standard in international relations which is quite corrosive of international peace and security.

He said the ancestors of US authorities kidnapped Africans from the region stretching from Senegal to Angola, with a particular emphasis on the Congo River basin, then rounding the Cape to seize Africans in Madagascar, Mozambique and Zanzibar.

“This crime against humanity weakened all of these US member states and then, to exacerbate the original crime, the descendants of these captive Africans are now slain like wild boar in the woods.”

 Getting Away With It

Sadly, he noted, the international community has been quiet about this outrage which no doubt convinces the US authorities that if they can slay their “own” citizens with impunity, then certainly, they can act similarly abroad with drone warfare and get away with it.

This matter cries out for “humanitarian intervention” by the international community, he declared, in a challenge to the UN.

Addressing the opening session of the HRC last March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein criticized member states for “cherry-picking” human rights, advocating some and openly violating others, perhaps to suit their own national or political interests.

Despite ratifying the UN charter reaffirming their faith in fundamental human rights, there are some member states who, “with alarming regularity,” are disregarding and violating human rights, “sometimes to a shocking degree,” he said.

“They pick and choose between rights,” he said.