- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

American gets post

Career diplomat Wendy Chamberlain, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, has been named to the No. 2 spot at the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Her appointment was announced Friday by her new boss, Ruud Lubbers, in a message to the agency’s 5,000 staffers around the world.

Mrs. Chamberlain, 55, served in Islamabad during the U.S.-led war to oust the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan and was a primary U.S. contact for the Musharaff government.

Her previous diplomatic postings included Morocco, Laos, Malaysia and the former Zaire. Mrs. Chamberlain, a native of Bethesda, has worked for the government for 27 years, including an assignment to the National Security Council’s counterterrorism department in the early 1990s.

“Her current position in USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development] as the assistant administrator in the bureau for Asia and the Near East provides her with the relevant political and management experience for this post,” Mr. Lubbers wrote.

Colombia law faulted

The U.N. human rights office criticized Friday the new antiterrorism powers given to Colombia’s military, calling them incompatible with international law.

The measures — including arrests without warrants, phone tapping and collecting evidence in war zones — were approved by the Colombian congress on Wednesday to give the U.S.-backed security forces more ways to hunt down rebels fighting a four-decade guerrilla war.

“The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Colombia notes again that any measure taken to counteract violence and terrorism must respect human rights and hopes that the Colombian authorities will honor their international commitments regarding the protection and guarantee of those rights,” a statement from the U.N. office said.

Among the most controversial measures is the one granting the armed forces authority to conduct investigations and collect evidence in war zones — a responsibility reserved, until now, for civilian prosecutors.

The Colombian armed forces, which last month underwent a major shake-up in President Alvaro Uribe’s campaign for more decisive battlefield results, have a history of collaborating with right-wing death squads.

The new laws still must be approved by the Colombian high court, which previously has shown a willingness to oppose Mr. Uribe.

Human rights groups, including the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, say they have documented instances of military officers tampering with evidence about battles or mass killings by death squads.

The Colombian military, which has received billions of dollars in military aid from the United States in recent years, maintains that tougher laws are needed to win a war that claims thousands of lives every year.

But the United Nations said in its statement that Colombia “already has constitutional and legal provisions” to fight the war.

Afghan pullout eyed

The coming weeks will prove important in determining whether the United Nations will stay in Afghanistan or be forced out by continued attacks against clearly marked U.N. personnel.

On Friday, the organization’s top official in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, called for more foreign troops to stabilize the still-tumultuous country.

“Countries that are committed to supporting Afghanistan cannot kid themselves and cannot go on expecting us to work in unacceptable security conditions,” Mr. Brahimi said.

“They seem to think that our presence is important here. Well, if they do, they have got to make sure that the conditions for us to be here are there,” he said. “If not, we will go away.”

Eleven aid workers have been killed recently in the southern and eastern regions, which are far removed — geographically and politically — from Kabul’s central government.

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

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