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This change promises a return to common sense at Turtle Bay, and will likely drive Kofi Annan fans up the nearest wall. Newly-inducted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon defended Iraq's imposition of the death penalty as a question of sovereignty and reminded protestors around the world about the nature of the man whose death they lament:
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said Tuesday that Iraq and other countries have the right to impose the death penalty, adding that the world should never forget Saddam Hussein's "heinous crimes."
Ban's first public reaction to Hussein's execution signaled a sharp break from his predecessor, Kofi Annan, an ardent death-penalty critic who opposed U.N. participation in the Iraqi war crimes tribunal that sentenced Hussein to die. Human rights advocates expressed concern that Ban's comments lend credibility to what they see as a flawed trial of the former Iraqi leader, and complained that he could set back efforts to abolish the death penalty.
The remarks suggest that the former South Korean foreign minister, who began a five- year term on Monday, would defer to the United Nations' 192 member states on some of the day's most controversial and unsettled issues. Nearly 70 countries, including the United States and South Korea, retain the death penalty.
"Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities against the Iraqi people," Ban said in his first news conference as secretary general. "The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide."
I'm no fan of the death penalty, but I am a proponent of national sovereignty over governance through the UN. This statement from Ban suggests that he has the same outlook, and it should serve as a reversal of thought among Turtle Bay power elites. For too long, the UN bureaucracy and leadership have taken for granted the notion that the UN represents some sort of supergovernment rather than a diplomatic venue, and Annan was among the worst at using his position to meddle in sovereign affairs of member states.
Iraq has a representative government elected by its people. If they want to abolish the death penalty, then they will elect representatives who will do so. Right now it appears to be popular among Iraqis, but that may well change after Saddam's execution. I don't think anyone believes it was handled properly, and the sectarian triumphalism apparent at the execution may well give some momentum to President Talabani's opposition to capital punishment in Iraq.
Annan would have taken the opportunity to scold the Iraqis and to tell them how to run their country. Ban quite appropriately has decided that internal Iraqi political decisions, freely chosen by their elected representatives, has no bearing on the UN or its mission. If we're lucky, this will presage a period of modesty from the United Nations that, given its own track record of corruption and incompetence, is long overdue.
UPDATE: Corrected use of surname, which is Ban and not Moon. Thanks to Jim L for the note.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» http://www.smalltownveteran.net/bills_bites/2007/01/post.html from Bill's Bites
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