- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2003

Iraq staff pullback

Nearly two weeks after a truck bomb ripped through the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, the world organization is sending out mixed messages about its future in Iraq.

Publicly, it says it will continue its humanitarian work in Iraq, and has appointed a temporary replacement for Sergio Vieira de Mello, the senior diplomat who was monitoring the political process there and who was killed in the blast. U.N. agencies and programs have been active in Iraq for decades.

But over the weekend it also announced a cutback of non-Iraqi staff by more than 80 percent, because of lingering concerns about their safely. The chief of security in the field, Tun Myet, has been in Iraq for several days assessing the situation and mistakes that may have contributed to the deadliness of the Aug. 19 blast, which killed 23 persons and injured scores.

An Arusha prosecutor

The Security Council is expected to appoint Hassan Jallow of Gambia as new prosecutor for the Rwandan war crimes tribunal, possibly by the end of this week.

Judge Jallow, 52, has been serving as an appeals judge for the U.N.-endorsed war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone. He also has served as a justice on Gambia’s Supreme Court and as his country’s solicitor general. He also has worked in the Hague war-crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia.

His anticipated appointment was welcomed enthusiastically by the government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Kigali has long complained that the U.N. tribunal system inherently favors the one in the Netherlands hearing cases involving the former Yugoslavia.

The two international tribunals share a single chief prosecutor, although separate staffs are based at The Hague and in Arusha, Tanzania, to prepare the cases. With the expected appointment of a special prosecutor in Arusha, some advocates say, the Rwandan cases will move more quickly and professionally.

“This tribunal, the way it has been acting so far, is not about Rwanda, Rwandans and victims of the genocide,” Rwandan Attorney General Gerard Gahima said.

Complaints of neglect

After years of complaints about mismanagement, neglect, fraud and nepotism, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week recommended splitting the prosecutorial duties of the two U.N. tribunals and renewing the appointment of Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland to another four-year term as prosecutor for the Balkan tribunal.

The tribunals “can most efficiently and expeditiously meet their respective responsibilities if each has its own prosecutor,” stated the Security Council resolution, which also calls on the organization to wrap up the expensive trials by 2010.

The Rwanda tribunal, based in a resort town at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, has never garnered the respect or attention of the Hague-based effort. Hampered by a severe shortage of qualified local employees, office space, existing infrastructure and basic services, the tribunal often has seemed like an afterthought — a perception that vastly irritated the Rwandan government.

Nearly a decade after the 1994 genocide that claimed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, the U.N. tribunal for Rwanda has completed 15 cases and has 61 defendants awaiting or undergoing trials.

U.S. officials at the United Nations, who sponsored the draft, said splitting the prosecutor’s job would make both tribunals more efficient and effective.

Relocate headquarters?

Officers of the International Association of Lawyers proposed over the weekend that the U.N. headquarters be moved from New York City to a “more neutral” location, because the United States and Britain went to war against Iraq without a U.N. mandate.

The Paris-based group also proposed that the U.N. Charter be overhauled in an attempt to salvage the organization’s legitimacy. The first target: the veto wielded by the five permanent members of the Security Council.

Failure to reform the council could lead to a “total marginalization of this body in the fight for peace and international security in the 21st century,” Antoine Akl, a Lebanese lawyer and current president of the association, said in his address to the annual congress, held this year in Lisbon.

The group intends to submit its proposals to Mr. Annan.

Representing nearly 2 million lawyers from 110 countries, the association offered no immediate suggestion of a more suitable home for the world body.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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