The United Nations turns a blind eye to its founding principles, yet again
| The United Nations has become a largely irrelevant, if not positively destructive institution, and the just-released U.N. report on the atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, proves the point. After months of study, the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on Darfur this week issued its report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In typical U.N. double-speak, the commission found that the Sudanese government, run by radical Islamist Arabs in the North, is responsible for "crimes under international law" in the systematic rape and murder of tens of thousands of blacks who live in the southern part of the country. Yet the commission concluded that the government "has not pursued a policy of genocide."
If the organized killing of 70,000 black Sudanese in the name of Arabification of a majority black nation does not constitute genocide, what does? Arabs have methodically raped thousands of black women and displaced some 1.8 million blacks in an effort to dilute Sudan's black population or eliminate it altogether.
For all but 10 years since Sudan gained independence from Great Britain in 1956, Sudan has been involved in bloody civil wars that have killed over 2 million people and displaced 4 million. Radical Islamists, mostly drawn from the country's minority Arab population, have killed or driven out black animists and Christians in a series of genocidal campaigns. Yet, the U.N. — as it has in virtually every genocidal bloodbath that has occurred anywhere in the world since its founding in 1946 — remains stymied from intervening in any meaningful way.
The U.N. did nothing when the murderous Khmer Rouge began piling up more than a million corpses in the killing fields of Cambodia in the mid-1970s. The U.N. did nothing when Hutus slaughtered nearly a million Tutsis in Rwanda in barely 100 days in 1994. The U.N. sat idly by when Serbians began wiping out ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1998, a genocide that was interrupted only when NATO — under the leadership of the United States — intervened.
The United Nations was founded in the aftermath of World War II, just as the world was beginning to learn the full horrors of history's worst genocide, the Holocaust that consumed 6 million Jews and 3 million others in Europe. One of the U.N.'s first acts was to pass a Genocide Convention in 1948, which defined genocide "as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, [ethnic], racial, or religious group. . . ." But despite condemning genocide, the U.N. failed to enact mechanisms to stop genocide while it is occurring.
Given the politics of the U.N., in which countries often act in regional or interest-based voting blocks, censuring — much less stopping — genocidal activity becomes nearly impossible. Arab and Muslim nations constitute one of the largest and most powerful voting blocks within the U.N., and these countries are loath to criticize their co-ethnics and co-religionists, especially for crimes against non-Arabs or non-Muslims.
In November, the U.N. General Assembly rejected for the third time a resolution that would have condemned human rights violations in Sudan, with 91 of the 191 member nations voting against the resolution. Gerald Scott, a U.S. delegate to the General Assembly's committee on social, cultural and humanitarian affairs, said at the time that "three consecutive failures of member states of the United Nations to present a unified front against well-documented atrocities [represents] nothing less than the complete breakdown of the U.N.'s deliberative bodies related to human rights. If these bodies cannot speak with one voice on an issue as clear as Darfur, what can they do?"
Precisely. The U.N.'s response to the genocide in Darfur has been to claim it isn't taking place and for its African members to give Sudan a seat as their representative on the Human Rights Commission in 2004. But rather than acknowledge the U.N.'s hypocrisy, count on the largely left-leaning human rights organizations to react to this latest U.N. outrage by criticizing the United States. Already Human Rights Watch has condemned the U.S. for not being eager to turn over the prosecution of war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, a quasi-U.N. body whose jurisdiction the United States does not recognize. The problem is not the United States but the United Nations.
Editor's note: Linda Chavez served as U.S. expert to the United Nations' subcommission on human rights from 1992-1996