Archive for the ‘Hans von Sponeck’ Category
Originally published in The New Statesman, London, 15 March 2017
28 March 2017
Three former UN insiders on the future of the world’s most ambitious organisation.
By Hans von Sponeck, Richard Falk – both TFF Associates – and Denis Halliday.
US President Donald Trump is ardently embracing a toxic form of messianic nationalism, while demeaning those who oppose him as corrupt, and dishonest enemies. His “America First” chant is creating severe international tension, promoting extremism – within and outside the US – and undermining the homeland security that he has so insistently pledged to enhance.
Trump seems determined to implement policies and practices that could signal the weakening of democracy, and possibly even herald the onset of fascism. His programme to deport undocumented immigrants and to exclude all visitors from six designated Muslim majority countries is illustrative of a regressive and Islamophobic outlook.
The groundswell of popular dissent is vibrant and worldwide, from Romania to South Korea, Gambia to Brazil, from the UK to the Ukraine.
Trump is dangerously exploiting the frustration of citizens with the political establishment, which is unprecedented in its depth and breadth. The umbilical cord that connects those governing with those governed is becoming dangerously stressed. The digital revolution is endowing governments with horrifying capabilities for oppression and control but it is also enhancing the ability of the citizenry to mount resistance and mobilize opposition forces.
UN charter law and power politics
As UN veterans, we recall and affirm the preamble to the UN Charter that reads “we the peoples” – not we the governments! The trust of people in their governments to work for social and economic progress and to prevent war has dramatically weakened, if not disappeared.
The prediction made by the Mexican delegate at the founding of the UN in 1945 that “we have created an institution which controls the mice but the tigers will roam around freely” seems truer today than at the moment of its utterance. The UN Security Council’s permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – indeed “roam around freely” lacking respect for international law or the authority of the UN, once more pursuing their respective nationalist agendas without any pretence of accountability. These countries are also the major consumers and exporters of military hardware, facilitating both militarism and “merchants of death”.
The international war supposedly being waged against political extremism and terrorism has predictably deteriorated into a series of horrific wildfires and slaughter. Wars that should never have happened, neither the overt ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria nor the partially covert ones in Yemen, Somalia, and a range of other countries in Africa and Asia have brought peace or stability, but a series of unspeakable ordeals of human suffering. Old struggles have been magnified while new ones have been created.
The US tiger, aged as it is, displays the most serious signs of political amnesia. Unilateralism and exceptionalism have just been reaffirmed as cornerstones Read the rest of this entry »
Freiburg, 1 October 2016
1. The global sky is full of dark clouds. There is reason, there must be reason, for concern. Humanity has to take time out to reflect. To-day is a good occasion to do so, especially since we have among us Haifa al Mansour and Solmaz Panahi who, together with her mother, has joined us on behalf of Jafar Panahi, her father.
The Kant Foundation is honouring two artists from the Middle East, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Iran. They have taken Immanuel Kant’s demand of yesteryear seriously and have shown the courage to use their minds with all the consequences that this has entailed. They have been swimming against the currents, they have built bridges and they have climbed mountains that try to separate people.
2. The community of nations has created an impressive body of law which is as densely woven as the most magnificent carpets one can find in the Middle East. Life in all its facets is well protected by such law – or so it seems! The UN Charter remains the supreme road map for human life with peace. It echoes what many thinkers and humanists throughout centuries have proclaimed. Can there be any disagreement that the usefulness of a map lies in its use?
3. Emotions? Feelings? – important as they are, must be in harmony with reason! The irrational rejection of Europe by Britain would not have happened if feelings and reason had been in balance! How much more evidence do we need to accept that humanity knows no borders?
4. Let me pause here for a moment and interject… Read the rest of this entry »
This petition will be delivered to the U.S. government, the International Criminal Court, the President of the UN General Assembly, the President of the Human Rights Council and the European Court of Justice.
Petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.
On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.
Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.
The US Senate report makes it clear that cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of captives by the CIA and its collaborators have been carried out on a continuous basis.
Such treatment can not be justified in any manner, even if the US Government reservations with which it signed the UN torture convention in 1994 were to be taken into account.
CIA personnel and others wilfully participated in following executive orders and directives thereby violating the UN torture convention and the Geneva Convention III. In this way they have committed serious crimes for which they must be held accountable. Read the rest of this entry »
Comments by Hans-C. von Sponeck
Former UN Assistant Secretary General, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq & TFF Associate
1. HoC/HoL have repeatedly held Iraq hearings as have British NGOs such as CASI (Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq) and Stop the War Coalition/UK. In Europe these are considered models for responsible public action.
2. My contribution at this hearing is not about the crimes of dictatorship or the details of Iraqi suffering. For both well researched data is available. The objective of my participation is to make two detailed observations about externally-driven Iraq politics during the period 1990-2014.
3. Today’s tragic Iraq reality can only be understood if the additive impact of the years before and the years following the US/UK Governments’ illegal invasion and occupation is fully taken into account. Read the rest of this entry »
By Hans von Sponeck
Iraq’s recent history includes two far reaching events, on the 2 August 1990 Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait and on 19 March 2003 the US/UK invasion into Iraq. Whether political leaders will draw lessons from these events will be, at best, questionable. Iraqis continue to be wronged. Danger to life and turmoil remain a cruel part of Iraq’s reality in early 2013. The collective suffering of a nation is visibly all pervasive. It can not be hidden.
The Iraqi puzzle of life confirms an endless number of tragedies
Ethnic tension and sectarianism have become a major element in Iraqi politics since the US/UK invasion of 2003, a polarization of inter-group relations Iraqis had not known before. This explains much of the existing hideous crime including murder, kidnapping, property destruction and, most noteworthy, the deteriorating relationships between Baghdad and the three northern Kurdish governorates.
Since the years of war, sanctions and occupation, Iraq’s once state-of-the-art medical system has all but collapsed. Malnutrition and diseases, almost forgotten in Iraq, such as respiratory infections; measles; typhoid fever and tuberculosis have re-emerged on a large scale. The planned destruction of water and sanitation facilities, especially in the 1991 war, and recurrent drug shortages, throughout the period of sanctions and after the 2003 invasion, promoted significantly ill-being, morbidity and mortality in the country (WHO). Read the rest of this entry »
2013 is the year that accountability and Justice for Iraq should be high on the agenda of the International Human Rights Community. Hans C. von Sponeck, member of the BRussells Tribunal, who resigned as Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq in 2000, wrote a moving apology letter to the Iraqi people in June 2003. We republish this letter again today.
By Hans von Sponeck
What we have done to you in the name of freedom and democracy has no parallel in history. We have trampled the truth concerning your suffering, we endeavoured to solicit allies through bribery and ruthlessly marginalized those who objected to our imperial intentions. Brute force became the substitute for the promise of 1945 “to save future generations from the scourge of war”. It was you who paid the price.
Will you ever forgive us?
The torture of dictatorship was terrible for you; we added the sword of sanctions. The curse of double punishment for something you had not done was the verdict against you. Two million of you died during those years, perhaps more. The figure does not really matter. None should have died because of us; everyone had the right to live, as we do, in peace. Let us not forget the many who are still alive may never live again, maimed and traumatized forever, reduced to empty human shells. We never really wanted to share with you the dream of freedom and democracy. All we were willing to pass on to you was naked hypocrisy. Read the rest of this entry »