Voice

Is the UN's Golan Heights peacekeeping mission unraveling?

After the abduction of four peacekeepers by Syrian rebels, the foreign minister of the Philippines has recommended to the president that his country cease participation in the UN's Golan Heights mission. Via BBC:

The Philippines' foreign minister says he wants to pull its peacekeepers from the UN force in the Golan Heights after four were seized by Syrian rebels.

Albert del Rosario said the soldiers were being held as human shields and that peacekeepers' exposure was "beyond tolerable limits".

The UN peacekeepers patrol the line separating Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A total of 342 are Filipinos - about a third of the UN contingent.

This is not the first time a large contributor to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has raised the possibility of withdrawal. Last month, Austria, announced that it might remove its own large contingent if the security situation deterioriated further (Austria used that threat in part to pressure the European Union to maintain its arms embargo on Syria). In March, Syrian rebels detained and then released 21 UNDOF peacekeepers.

The Security Council authorized UNDOF in 1974 to maintain a ceasefire between Israeli and Syrian forces in the area. India is the other significant source of troops for the mission, which comprises about 1000 soldiers and several dozen civilians. According to the UN, the mission has suffered 43 fatalities in its nearly four decades of existence.

The Multilateralist

Kenya's blistering attack on the International Criminal Court

On Friday, Kenya's permanent representative to the United Nations submitted to the Security Council a wide-ranging attack on the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The letter, provided by a reader, escalates significantly the long-standing tension between Kenya and the court. Some choice excerpts:

The Kenya case that was taken up by the Prosecutor of the ICC at his own behest, is falling apart in the face of a lack of evidence, withdrawal of witnesses and incompetent prosecution.… We are of the reasoned opinion that what is currently ongoing at the instant is an affront to the domestic policy and internal affairs of our sovereign Republic of Kenya. This inalienable right is being undermined and manipulated using different actors from within and without the territory of Kenya. As in the past, civil society bodies are currently being used by external dark forces to espouse their own policies using the Rome Statute as a conduit and the ICC as the manifestation of its interference.

The letter goes on to urge Security Council members to recognize the dangers of the ICC investigation for peace and security:

[It] is important and necessary that members of the UN Security Council not see themselves as disinterested observers of the ICC legal process, but rather recognize the danger that it poses to international peace and security in Eastern Africa to say nothing of the further damage to the credibility of the ICC. 

The sometimes rambling missive pulls together a host of critiques of the ICC, including ones from the Indian government, John Bolton, and the Heritage Foundation.

There are a few conciliatory notes. The Kenyan ambassador denies any intent to actively interfere with the investigation or withdraw from the court:

This delegation wishes to reiterate that we are not in any way interfering with the conduct of the cases before the Court. To the contrary the Government of Kenya will continue cooperating with the Court and being a State Party to the Rome Statute [and] is cognizant of the obligations placed on it. 

But the overall thrust of the letter suggests that the Kenyatta government may be moving into more direct confrontation with the court. This is not the first time the Kenyan authorities have implored the Security Council to intervene. In early 2011, Kenyan diplomats made a major push to secure a deferral of the investigation. That effort failed, in large part because the key Western governments on the council had no interest. The question now will be whether the prospect of an ugly confrontation between the court and a democratically elected government has changed the political landscape. 

Update: A Kenyan newspaper is now reporting on the letter.