Thursday, September 11, 2008

Human Rights Are Crumbling

Human Rights Are Crumbling

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The 1990s marked a significant advance in international justice. The May 1999 indictment of Serbian leader Milosevic was emblematic of the progress achieved in the fight against impunity. The attempt now afoot by certain Security Council members, including France and Great Britain, to torpedo an International Criminal Court trial even before it's launched could very well squander the benefits of the "moral decade."

By expressing his resolve to indict Sudanese Head of State Omar el-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity, the ICC president committed a quasi-foundational act. By threatening to straightaway undermine it, the great powers show that they're ready to instrumentalize the Criminal Court to promote their own political agenda. Peace in Darfur cannot all the same be had for no matter what price. The message conveyed is devastating. It casts doubt on these same powers' commitment to international justice. It weakens the International Criminal Court's future credibility and posits the question of its independence with respect to a Security Council deemed to be "without morals." This treacherous blow - should it be borne out - proves that the era of euphoric multilateralism is over. Confronted with the multipolar world's new threats, we witness the great return of national sovereignties, hostile to outside views. This reversal in trend has negative repercussions on the United Nations. With the weak leadership of its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, human rights will see their status as the UN's third pillar crumble and the Security Council satisfy itself with turning a deaf ear. It's worrying. For whether the destroyers of the cause like it or not, human rights are not just some appendage to good conscience. Respect for them is essential for durable post-conflict reconstruction.

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