Goodwill Glitterati pile it on for Darfur — Angelina Jolie is in Chad, bordering Sudan in the Sudan, and writes a piece for the Washington Post

Do you believe Angelina Jolie wrote this? It’s simply not credible. One can only imagine how many UN people have drafted this, vetted it, passed it up and down the line, suggesting changes, urging greater caution. Anyway, Angeline Jolie is in Chad, on the border of Sudan; Mia Farrow was in Central African Republic in December, and at UNHQ/NY yesterday, all for Darfur. Angelinais acting here as a cheerleader for the International Criminal Court, and her piece is entitled: “Justice for Darfur”: “BAHAI, Chad — ‘Here, at this refugee camp on the border of Sudan, nothing separates us from Darfur but a small stretch of desert and a line on a map. All the same, it’s a line I can’t cross. As a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I have traveled into Darfur before, and I had hoped to return. But the UNHCR has told me that this camp, Oure Cassoni, is as close as I can get. Sticking to this side of the Sudanese border is supposed to keep me safe. By every measure — killings, rapes, the burning and looting of villages — the violence in Darfur has increased since my last visit, in 2004. The death toll has passed 200,000; in four years of fighting, Janjaweed militia members have driven 2.5 million people from their homes, including the 26,000 refugees crowded into Oure Cassoni. Attacks on aid workers are rising, another reason I was told to stay out of Darfur. By drawing attention to their heroic work — their efforts to keep refugees alive, to keep camps like this one from being consumed by chaos and fear — I would put them at greater risk. I’ve seen how aid workers and nongovernmental organizations make a difference to people struggling for survival. I can see on workers’ faces the toll their efforts have taken. Sitting among them, I’m amazed by their bravery and resilience. But humanitarian relief alone will never be enough. Until the killers and their sponsors are prosecuted and punished, violence will continue on a massive scale. Ending it may well require military action. But accountability can also come from international tribunals, measuring the perpetrators against international standards of justice. Accountability is a powerful force. It has the potential to change behavior — to check aggression by those who are used to acting with impunity. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has said that genocide is not a crime of passion; it is a calculated offense. He’s right. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killers’ calculus will change. On Monday I asked a group of refugees about their needs. Better tents, said one; better access to medical facilities, said another. Then a teenage boy raised his hand and said, with powerful simplicity, “Nous voulons une épreuve.” We want a trial. He is why I am encouraged by the ICC’s announcement yesterday that it will prosecute a former Sudanese minister of state and a Janjaweed leader on charges of crimes against humanity. Some critics of the ICC have said indictments could make the situation worse. The threat of prosecution gives the accused a reason to keep fighting, they argue. Sudanese officials have echoed this argument, saying that the ICC’s involvement, and the implication of their own eventual prosecution, is why they have refused to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.
It is not clear, though, why we should take Khartoum at its word. And the notion that the threat of ICC indictments has somehow exacerbated the problem doesn’t make sense, given the history of the conflict. Khartoum’s claims aside, would we in America ever accept the logic that we shouldn’t prosecute murderers because the threat of prosecution might provoke them to continue killing?
When I was in Chad in June 2004, refugees told me about systematic attacks on their villages. It was estimated then that more than 1,000 people were dying each week. In October 2004 I visited West Darfur, where I heard horrific stories, including accounts of gang-rapes of mothers and their children. By that time, the UNHCR estimated, 1.6 million people had been displaced in the three provinces of Darfur and 200,000 others had fled to Chad. It wasn’t until June 2005 that the ICC began to investigate. By then the campaign of violence was well underway. As the prosecutions unfold, I hope the international community will intervene, right away, to protect the people of Darfur and prevent further violence. The refugees don’t need more resolutions or statements of concern. They need follow-through on past promises of action. There has been a groundswell of public support for action. People may disagree on how to intervene — airstrikes, sending troops, sanctions, divestment — but we all should agree that the slaughter must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice.
In my five years with UNHCR, I have visited more than 20 refugee camps in Sierra Leone, Congo, Kosovo and elsewhere. I have met families uprooted by conflict and lobbied governments to help them. Years later, I have found myself at the same camps, hearing the same stories and seeing the same lack of clean water, medicine, security and hope. It has become clear to me that there will be no enduring peace without justice. History shows that there will be another Darfur, another exodus, in a vicious cycle of bloodshed and retribution. But an international court finally exists. It will be as strong as the support we give it. This might be the moment we stop the cycle of violence and end our tolerance for crimes against humanity. What the worst people in the world fear most is justice. That’s what we should deliver.’ The writer is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.”

South Africa is President of the UN Security Council in March

And, on the first day of the month, Thursday 1 March, the Security Council President for March, Ambassador Dumisani S. Kumalo of South Africa, will brief journalists on the Council’s Programme of Work for the month, a UN spokesperson announced at the Daily Noon Briefing at UNHQ/NY.

Also on Thursday, Eric Laroche, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, will speak to journalists at the Noon Briefing.

While later today (Wednesday), there will be a press briefing at 11:30 a.m. (New York time) by Joel Boutroue, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, on the humanitarian situation in Haiti.

And UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will be the guest at the noon briefing today (Wednesday).

SG BAN did meet with families of two Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon

Yes, the very same UN SG BAN who met last week in Vienna with former UN SG Kurt Waldheim, (who fell into disgrace when it was revealed that he had lied about his service to the NAZI war machine before and during the Second World War), met yesterday with the families of two Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hizbullah sparked last summer’s Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Neither meeting was announced, until a journalist posed a question.

This was the exchange in yesterday’s regular Noon Briefing at UNHQ/NY:
“Question: Two quick… can you confirm whether the Secretary-General’s meeting with the families of abducted Israeli soldiers – I didn’t see that on his schedule today. I was wondering why it wasn’t listed if it was indeed taking place. And the other thing is, does the UN have a comment or plan to do anything about the head of the UN’s intellectual property bureau who is accused in this UN audit of apparently using a false birthday to make him nine years older when he applied to join, then backdating, and using a younger age in a bid to gain retirement benefits? And will that audit be released?
Spokesperson: Yes. Your first question — yes, I can confirm that the Secretary-General is meeting with the families of the prisoners. Second question concerning the WIPO, we have talked about this before. You can have additional information in my office on this, but this is being followed very closely.”

The Associated Press’ energetic Edith Lederer reported later that:
UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met relatives of two Israeli soldiers seized by Hezbollah militants at the start of last year’s Lebanon war on Tuesday and promised he will keep working hard to seek their release. Ban told the wife and parents of Ehud Goldwasser and the brother of Eldad Regev that he has been working with a secret ‘facilitator’ [press reports suggest that this person is German] chosen by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, to help win the soldiers’ release, U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. ‘The U.N. strongly hopes for their release’, she said. Goldwasser’s wife and Regev’s brother spoke with reporters and appealed to Hezbollah to provide information about their condition after almost eight months without a single word. ‘For us, the family, this is the worst time in our lives’, Karnit Goldwasser said. ‘We know that they got injured, but we don’t know if a doctor got to see them’. Hezbollah has not released any details on the condition of the soldiers or provided any sign they are still alive since they seized the pair in a July 12 cross-border raid that sparked the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Regev’s brother, Benny, said Ban didn’t provide any new information about their condition but told the families he is committed to keep working on the problem ‘and try to solve it as soon as he can’. Goldwasser’s wife called on Hezbollah to allow the Red Cross to visit the soldiers. ‘I think if the other side will be able to allow the Red Cross to go visit them, this will be, I think, the start of the end of this conflict’, she said.”

A report by Israel News Network adds that “The families hope to convince Ki-moon and other officials to pressure the Lebanese government to return their loved ones. They are also working to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas over half a year ago. At the very least, the families are hoping that the UN can help them to receive a sign of life from the hostages.”

Agence France Presse reported after the meeting: “Speaking to reporters after meeting with the secretary general at UN headquarters in New York, Karnit Goldwasser, the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, and Benny Reguev, brother of Eldad Reguev, recalled that UN Resolution 1701, which put an end to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in July and August, had called for the unconditional release of the hostages. Hezbollah’s capture of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Reguev on July 12 in Israeli territory sparked a devastating Israeli offensive in Lebanon, which ended on August 14 after the adoption of Resolution 1701. ‘Israel has fulfilled everything in the resolution and we asked him (Ban Ki-moon) to help Lebanon to fulfill their part in the resolution’, said Karnit Goldwasser. ‘We came on a humanitarian basis to ask for a sign of life, a sign that Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Reguev are OK, because it’s been almost eight months that they are in Lebanon and we didn’t have any kind of information’ regarding them. she said.
She said that Ban had promised to do all he could to obtain the full implementation of Resolution 1701. In January, the families of the captured soldiers wrote a letter to French President Jacques Chirac, who chaired an international aid conference on Lebanon, asking his help in seeking the soldiers’ release. Karnit Goldwasser also said the families had met with Pope Benedict XVI last week, and the Roman Catholic leader had promised to help.”

When, some five or six years ago, Hizbullah forces wearing UN Peacekeeping uniforms seized other Israeli soldiers, at the disputed Shebaa Farms area, UN officials were v-e-r-y slow to show the families any cooperation then. The families did not meet then-UN SG Kofi Annan, to recollection.

Lebanese politicos ask to meet UN SG BAN

A UN spokesperson announced in the middle of Monday’s daily Noon Briefing at UNHQ/NY that: “[N]news just in, at 1:30 on Friday, the Mission of Lebanon has asked for a press conference for Marwan Hamadeh, Minister of Telecommunications, and Walid Jumblatt, Member of the Lebanese Parliament”

There was a question from a journalist:
“Question: Speaking of Mr. Jumblatt and Marwan Hamadeh, did they ask to meet with Mr. Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: I don’t know yet. The request for the press conference just came right before I came here and I haven’t checked with the Secretary-General’s office yet whether they have an appointment with him.
[The Spokeswoman later added that Jumblatt and Hamadeh had indeed asked to meet with the Secretary-General but that so far there was no confirmation on whether such a meeting had been formally scheduled.]”

Shashi Tharoor is NOT leaving his post until 1 April

Journalists got this information in an exchange with a UN spokesperson at the regular UN Noon Briefing on Monday:
“Question: Shashi Tharoor is scheduled to speak on 1 March at Duke University and it identifies him still as Under-Secretary-General of Information. When does the new head of DPI start?
Spokesperson: I can check the exact date for you but I know Mr. Tharoor is here for at least the end of March.
[The Spokesperson later added that the new Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information will take up his duties on 2 April.]” This exchange can be viewed online

The Times of India recently had a flattering (if not fawning) little piece on Tharoor’s departure:
“One of India’s most accomplished writer-diplomats has ended a three-decade career with the United Nations, seemingly with a future that holds untold promise. Shashi Tharoor, who joined the UN system when he was just 22, bowed out this week after the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon accepted several resignations from the previous dispensation, including that of Tharoor. Tharoor, who was Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information during Kofi Annan’s term, had contested an election to succeed him, a run-off that pitted him against the South Korean Ban and several other contenders. Once he ended an honourable second best in that race, there was little chance that the Indian diplomat-writer would remain in the UN system despite his long service and vast experience. The announcement about the resignations and new appointments was made by fellow Indian Vijay Nambiar, another distinguished diplomat who recently retired from the Indian Foreign Service to become the new Secretary General’s Chef de Cabinet, which would make him the highest ranking official of Indian origin in the UN. Tharoor’s job will be going to Kiyotaka Akasaka, a Japanese diplomat who was the deputy-director of the OECD…Ban himself has spoken fondly of India, which was his first posting as a South Korean diplomat. His daughter Ban Hyun-hee is married to an Indian, Siddarth Chatterjee, and they both work in the Kenya office of the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF. Last month, Ban became the first UN Secretary General to make a full financial disclosure, revealing that he and his wife have assets valued at $1.2 million to $2.5 million, including an apartment and a plot of residential land in Seoul. Ban also disclosed that he made less than $100,000 in salary as South Korea’s foreign minister last year. As UN Secretary General, Ban will earn $403,958 a year and live for free in a lavish Manhattan residence for his five-year term. Tharoor meantime has said he is weighing his options and his future plans are unclear as yet. An acclaimed writer, a full-time literary career awaits him with certainty, besides diplomatic, academic and political possibilities in India.” This article can be read in full here.

Mia Farrow did NOT address the UN Security Council — she spoke to journalists instead…

Well, at least someone realized that having Mia Farrow address the UN Security Council
on Darfur, via Chad and Central African Republic, would not have been very serious.

Farrow or her PR person told reporters, when she was in the Central African Republic,
that she would be addressing the UN SC on 27 February.

No actors or actresses have ever addressed the UN SC, as far as can be recalled…

A UN spokesperson told journalists, however, that: “The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on Chad and the Central African Republic, as well as other matters. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi is briefing Council members on the Secretary-General’s recent report on those two countries, which we flagged to you last Friday.”

A UN Press Release on Farrow’s press conference states that: “Having just returned from a two-week trip to Chad and the Central African Republic, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow described the population there as ‘extremely traumatized’, ‘utterly neglected’ and in dire need of humanitarian assistance, during a press conference at Headquarters this afternoon. She recounted how, during a several day trip to Paoua, a village in the north-western part of the Central African Republic where UNICEF was setting up an office, she saw ‘burnt village after burnt village after burnt village’. She described how the convoy stopped and, after 15 minutes, people started emerging until some ‘300 souls came out of the bush like spectres, just caked in dust, emaciated, remnants of clothes or no clothing at all’. She said they described how they had no blankets, their children were dying, and they were too terrified to return to rebuild their villages. She said that, at that moment, a car passed by, the only one she would see during the entire trip to Paoua. ‘You could hear pounding of feet on the hard clay ground as 300 people vanished, vanished into the bush in sheer terror’, she said. By contrast, eastern Chad was ‘ominously quiet’, she continued, especially compared to her trip there in November when she went on her own after UNICEF had deemed the conditions too dangerous. At that time, some 60 villages had been burned, and there were tremendous numbers of wounded or displaced persons. The tiny medical centre was overflowing with wounded, including three men lying side-by-side, their eyes gouged out by the Janjaweed. On her latest trip, she said people were living makeshift camps, where water and food were in short supply. Furthermore, the rainy season was coming on and people were unable to plant crops. Aid workers were struggling to meet the needs of a ‘fragile and increasingly abandoned population’, she said. With scaled-down staff and with access diminished because of security reasons, people were in a ‘deplorable situation’. Asked why non-governmental organizations had been absent from the region for more than a year, she called that situation ‘incomprehensible’, given the enormity of the humanitarian situation and the fact that it had scarcely been addressed. ‘It’s been called the ‘forgotten crisis’, but that implies that it was once remembered,’ she said. ‘I don’t know that it has been in the consciousness of the international community’ … She called for an international peacekeeping force along the Central African Republic’s borders with both Chad and the Sudan. Otherwise, she said, ‘you’re going to see two collapsed States, two failed States, which will serve no one …This is a seminal moment for all of us as human beings’, she said, noting that Darfur had been called “ Rwanda in slow motion’. She added: ‘It’s very sad when we have to ask the Government of the Sudan, perpetrators of these atrocities, ‘May we come in and stop you please?’ And then we do an immense international hand-wringing for years to say ‘well, it’s just regrettable and we just can’t find any of the right sticks and carrots’.”

Why did the U.S. ignore Iran’s 2003 offer for talks? Why is it pushing for tougher sanctions now?

Here are extended excerpts from a radio interview with a former Congressional aide who says he knew in 2003 about the offer made from Tehran, through the diplomatic channel of the Swiss Goverment, to the U.S. administration:


Amy Goodman: Trita Parsi joins me now from Washington, D.C. He is president of the National Iranian American Council, the largest Iran American organization in the United States. His forthcoming book is called Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States. Welcome to Democracy Now!

Trita Parsi: Thank you for having me, Amy.

Amy Goodman: Explain exactly what this memo, this proposal was, coming from Iran, and how you say it made its way to the highest levels of the US government.

Trita Parsi: Well, this is back in May 2003. The United States had just defeated Saddam in less than three weeks, and I think there were a lot of feelings inside Iran that they needed to present some sort of a negotiation deal with the United States. But what they presented was quite similar to many things that they had communicated verbally to the United States over the last couple of years. Basically, they said the United States has a couple of aims, Iran has a couple of aims, and there is a process to be able to proceed with the negotiations.

And what the Iranians agreed to discuss as a framework of the negotiations was how to disarm the Hezbollah, how to end support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, how to open up the nuclear program, how to help the United States stabilize Iraq, and, in short, that the government there would not along sectarian lines, and also how to sign onto the Beirut Declaration, which is basically a former recognition of the two-state solution. These are far-reaching compromises that Iran potentially would have agreed to in the negotiations, but the Bush administration, as you reported, decided simply not to respond to the proposal.

Amy Goodman: Can you explain how it made its way from Iran to the US government?

Trita Parsi: The United States, back in 1991, established the Swiss embassy in Iran as a go-between between the United States and Iran. The US needed a channel of communication, a reliable channel of communication between the two countries just to ensure that the war in Iraq back in 1991 would not cause any misunderstandings between Iran and the United States that could be dangerous. That channel was then afterwards in existence, and the Swiss ambassador to Iran is a person that usually visits the US every six months and gives a report to the United States to State Department, sometimes to Congress, about what the situation in Iran is, mindful of the fact that the US itself does not have any diplomats in Iran. So this channel has been used on numerous occasions by the United States and by Iran to be able to send messages to each other.

And this time around, the Iranians gave a proposal to the Swiss ambassador that he then sent to the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern, who faxed it onto the State Department, but the Swiss ambassador also made a personal visit to Washington, D.C. to brief the State Department about the proposal, and he also made sure that he met with Congressman Ney, who has been a longtime advocate for negotiations and dialogue between the United States and Iran, and he handed him the proposal, as well.

Amy Goodman: Now, the Swiss ambassador was Tim Guldimann?

Trita Parsi: Correct.

Amy Goodman: And he then got this proposal to the man you worked for, Congressmember Ney?

Trita Parsi: Exactly. I was an advisor to Bob Ney at the time. And Tim met with Bob and handed over the proposal to him. And Bob afterwards sent it to be hand-delivered to the White House to Karl Rove, and Karl Rove called back within two hours, and they had a brief discussion about the proposal.

Amy Goodman: And what did Karl Rove say?

Trita Parsi: Well, he basically said that it was an intriguing proposal. He first wanted to know if it authentic, and the congressman assured him that it was, according to what the Swiss ambassador had said. And we have to remember, the Swiss ambassador would not be handing over proposals to the United States unless they were authentic. The Swiss ambassador’s work has been requested by the US, not by the Iranians. So he is basically fulfilling a mission that has been given to him by the United States.

Amy Goodman: We are talking to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, largest Iranian American group in the United States, author of the forthcoming book, Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States, saying that the Bush administration, Karl Rove, received a memo in 2003 that Iranian leaders backed comprehensive negotiations with the United States. Now, Trita Parsi, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, was questioned about this document several weeks ago on Capitol Hill. She said she didn’t recall seeing it when she was National Security Advisor. “I just don’t remember ever seeing any such thing,” she said. Your response?

Trita Parsi: Well, I think part of the reason why the Secretary of State currently is using the terminology of saying that she doesn’t recall seeing it may be because the Bush administration senses that it may be forced to negotiate with Iran down the road, particularly if this surge policy is a failure, which a lot of people predict that it will be. And as a result, they don’t want the negotiations, the potential future negotiations, with Iran to be compared to what they could have achieved with Iran back in 2003, because clearly the United States is in a much weaker position today than it was back then. And I think it would look bad for the administration to come to a deal with Iran now that would be substantially worse than the deal they could have achieved back in 2003. And I think they want to avoid that type of a comparison.

Amy Goodman: Can you talk about this proposal that came to the US? You have Karl Rove who knew, the very close relationship between – well, it was Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice who went with President Bush to South Korea, just them together. Do you have any awareness or knowledge of President Bush knowing about this?

Trita Parsi: Well, according to many people that I have interviewed in the Bush administration, they did have a discussion about this at the highest level in the Bush administration, and basically the hard line of the Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld basically ensured that they would not proceed with the negotiations. In fact, they actually reprimanded the Swiss ambassador for having delivered it.

And the argument by the hardliners, the hawks in the Washington – in the White House at the time was basically that Iran is weak and it’s giving this proposal precisely because of the fact that it is fearful of the United States and that the US can achieve more by taking on the Iranian regime and just removing it than by negotiating. So we had this situation in which, back then, because of America’s strength, the Bush administration argued that it could not negotiate.

And we have the opposite situation right now. Now, the Bush administration is saying that because it’s weak, it cannot negotiate. But if you can’t negotiate when you’re strong, because you’re strong, and you can’t negotiate when you’re weak, because you’re weak, that basically means that you’re not interested in negotiations at all.

Amy Goodman: I wanted to read you a clip by Gareth Porter, “Rove Said to Have Received 2003 Iranian Proposal.” And it says that “the identification of Rove as a recipient of the secret Iranian proposal throws new light on the question of who in the Bush administration was aware of the Iranian proposal at the time. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in Congressional testimony [last week] that she had seen the Iranian offer in 2003 and even chastised former State Department, National Security Council and [Central Intelligence Agency] official Flynt Leverett for having failed to bring it to her attention at the time.

“At a Capital Hill conference on U.S.-Iran relations Wednesday, sponsored by the New America Foundation and [your organization, Trita Parsi] NIAC, Leverett responded to Rice’s criticism by saying it was ‘unthinkable that it would not have been brought to her attention’ and [demanding] an apology from her.”

Trita Parsi: Well, I would agree that it is absolutely unthinkable that a proposal of this importance would not have reached the Secretary of State or at the time the National Security Advisor, particularly mindful of the fact that Flynt Leverett, who was at the NSC at the time, did see it – his wife Hillary Mann, who was also at the NSC, did see it – who had a discussion with Colin Powell about it, according to his testimony at our conference two weeks ago. So I find it highly unlikely that they did not see it. I frankly believe that it’s beyond unlikely that they didn’t see.

But, again, I think it’s partly because of the fact that they’re fearful that if there are going to be any negotiations down the road, not negotiations that they themselves choose to have, but they’re basically forced to have, that they don’t want the result of those negotiations to be compared to what they could have achieved back in 2003.

Amy Goodman: What has Ney said about this – I mean, now disgraced, involved with the Abramoff scandal, in jail – what are his comments?

Trita Parsi: Well, I can’t speak for him, but I think there may be some indications from him in which he will come out with his side of the story, as well.

But let me say one thing about the impact that this has had on the Iranians, because I was in Iran back in 2004, doing interviews for my book, which has a lot of details about this proposal. And what was really interesting is that when the Iranians put this on the table and they were basically offering significant policy modifications in the hope that this would be able to open up a new chapter in the relationship with the United States, when the United States, when the Bush administration did not even respond to it, that left Tehran with the impression that the US does not necessarily have problems with Iranian policies. What the US’s problem lies is with Iran’s power. So if you can’t give any concessions to the Bush administration that would be able to change the nature of this relationship, then why give concessions to begin with? And that is part of the reason why Iran’s position has strengthened and hardened so much over the last couple of years. It’s mainly because of the failure of the Iranian government to be able to reach an understanding with the United States by offering concessions. So now they’re trying to do the same by playing it very, very tough.

Amy Goodman: Trita Parsi, why come out with these documents right now? This is years later. This is, what, some three, four years later.

Trita Parsi: Well, I was holding this document for quite some time. I did not come out with it until I saw that Flynt Leverett had, because Flynt was in the White House at the time, and I was basically someone who was an advisor to a congressman and I happened to see it. Part of the reason why I decided to come out, speak about it and also provide a document to a lot of journalists was because I was very fearful last year that the Bush administration was getting very close to military conflict with Iran and that the talk in town was that the Iranians are not interested in a deal, that the Iranians would never negotiate, a lot of these false assumptions about Iran that I felt was just helping hawks being able to bring this situation closer to closer to war. And I wanted to make sure that people knew that there have been substantial negotiation proposals, negotiation proposals that could be pursued once more in order to be able to find a peaceful solution to what is taking place between the United States and Iran. And I did so, mindful of the fact that there seems to be a lot of people in the White House that have the military option as their first option, not as their last option.

Amy Goodman: Trita Parsi, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and is author of the forthcoming book, Treacherous Triangle: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States.”
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International Criminal Court Prosecutor sends Darfur evidence to Trial Chamber

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which is based in the Hague, announced earlier today that, after a 20-month investigation, he has sent evidence to judges in a Pre-Trial Chamber, asking for the issuance of summonses against two named individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for some of the most serious crimes committed in Darfur since 1 July 2002 (the date the ICC started to work).

The judges must now review the evidence submitted and decide how to proceed.

The Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, wrote in his application to the Pre-Trial Court there are reasonable grounds to believe that “Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Minister of State for the Interior of the Government of the Sudan, and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (better-known in West Darfur as Ali Kushayb), a Militia/Janjaweed1 leader, bear criminal responsibility in relation to 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, including persecution, torture, murder and rape committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004“.

The application says that the term ‘Militia/Janjaweed’ refers to “those forces that were mobilised, armed and funded by the Government of the Sudan to fight in the counterinsurgency in Darfur”.

The investigation involved the collection of statements and evidence during 70 missions conducted in 17 countries — including five trips to Sudan.

The application explains that “The crimes alleged in the Application were perpetrated in the context of a noninternational armed conflict in the Darfur region between the Government of the Sudan and rebel armed forces, including the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), from about August 2002. Both rebel groups mainly recruit from the Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit tribes. The conflict involved rebel attacks on Sudanese Government installations in Darfur and the counterinsurgency campaign by the Sudanese Government against the rebels. The turning point in the counterinsurgency strategy occurred after the attack against the Al Fashir airport in April 2003 with unprecedented losses for the Government. Shortly after, the recruitment of Militia/Janjaweed greatly increased, ultimately into the tens of thousands. A characteristic of the armed conflict in Darfur is that the majority of civilian deaths in the region have been caused during attacks on towns and villages in Darfur carried out by the Militia/Janjaweed either singly or together with Sudanese Armed Forces. The vast majority of attacks carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces and/or Militia/Janjaweed in Darfur were directed at areas inhabited by mainly Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes. The Sudanese Armed Forces and Militia/Janjaweed did not target any rebel presence within these particular villages. Rather, they attacked these villages based on the rationale that the tens of thousands of civilian residents in and near these villages were supporters of the rebel forces. This strategy became the justification for the mass murder, summary execution, and mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participants in any armed conflict. Application of the strategy also called for, and achieved, the forced displacement of entire villages and communities.”

The ICC has a duty to protect witnesses.

Reuters is reporting that Human Rights Watch would like to see bigger fish snared in the Prosecutor’s net: ” ‘The figures identified are important ones. It is an important first step that could contribute to ending impunity for crimes in Darfur. But we want to see more’, said Geraldine Mattioli of Human Rights Watch. ‘The prosecutor should go high up in the echelons of power and in the military’.”

In the same story, Reuters writes that *ICC prosecutors said security committees in Darfur made up of representatives of the Sudanese army, police and intelligence agencies reported to Haroun, especially on matters relating to the staffing, funding and arming of the Janjaweed. ‘Haroun knowingly contributed to the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, torture, inhumane acts, pillaging and the forcible transfer of civilian populations’, prosecutors said in the filing. The prosecutors said Ali Kushayb, a colonel in the Wadi Salih locality of west Darfur, ordered the Janjaweed to victimize civilians and commit mass rape, killings, torture, pillaging and looting. They said Khartoum had a legal responsibility to cooperate to make sure the two suspects appear at the court. ‘It will be primarily the responsibility of the territorial state, the Sudan, upon the chamber’s decision, either to take steps to arrest the persons … or to serve the summons’, they said. Haroun’s office said he was in Jordan this week for medical treatment but it was unclear if he was still in that country on Tuesday. Sudan’s justice minister said Ali Kushayb had been in Sudanese custody since November on suspicion of violating Sudanese laws and was under investigation for actions in Darfur. Sudanese media reported on Monday Khartoum would put several people on trial , including military personnel and paramilitary troops, for suspected involvement in attacks in Darfur. The ICC is only supposed to prosecute when national courts are unwilling or unable to act, but rights groups say Khartoum’s own investigations in Darfur have been largely for show. The prosecution said they had taken into account investigations launched by Sudanese authorities into Darfur, including into Ali Kushayb, but said their case was still admissible because it encompassed more extensive allegations.”

Agence France Presse is reporting from Khartoum that ” ‘The Sudanese judiciary has the capacity and the will to prosecute those who have committed crimes in Darfur’, Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardi said when asked to react to the ICC’s naming of the war crimes suspects. Mardi already on Monday rejected the ICC’s authority, saying ‘this court has no jurisdiction when it comes to trying Sudanese’. On Tuesday, Mardi said Kosheib was detained late last year but stressed that Haroun — a former minister in charge of Darfur — had been interrogated by the authorities and cleared of any suspicions over alleged crimes…’Ahmed Haroun was interrogated by the judiciary, but there was no evidence against him, and so no charges were pressed,’ Mardi said. Haroun is a senior figure in the Sudanese regime — which stands accused of genocide by the United States — and is considered close to President Omar al-Bashir…’Ali Kosheib has been detained since November 28, 2006, he was interrogated and charges were pressed against him for crimes against human rights’, the minister said, adding that the suspect was still in custody. Mardi nevertheless rejected Moreno-Campo’s allegations that Kosheib was a key Janjaweed leader. ‘He belongs to a regular force, the Popular Defence Forces, whose creation is backed by legislation’, the minister said at a press conference convened in Khartoum minutes after the ICC prosecutor’s announcement.”;

And, AP is reporting: “We are not concerned with, nor do we accept, what the International Criminal Court prosecutor has opted for,” Sudanese Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardi told The Associated Press…After reviewing the prosecutor’s evidence, judges can issue arrest warrants or summonses to the suspects to appear in The Hague. If they are charged, tried and convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment at the court, which does not have the death penalty. However, the court has no police force and relies on other countries to carry out arrests. Sudan, however, has not signed the Rome Statute creating the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction.”

Since Sudan has not signed the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court can decide it does not have jurisdiction. The U.S. is another state that has not recognized the ICC. So, is this move by the Prosecutor today really aimed at increasing the pressure of international public opinion on the government of Sudan? The Prosecutor addressed the UN Security Council last December, stating that he was preparing this move.

BAN says: It’s Iran’s Turn to Make a Move

The Associated Press is reporting that “Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix criticized the U.S. precondition on Monday as ‘humiliating’ for Iran. ‘This is in a way like telling a child, first you will behave and thereafter you will be given your rewards’, Blix said at a conference on international security in New York.”

This item was included in an article written from Tehran today by AP’s Ali Akbar Dareini, who reported that “Iran’s foreign minister reiterated Tuesday that his country would never again suspend uranium enrichment, a move United States says is essential for Washington-Tehran negotiations. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was speaking a day after the U.S., the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany considered measures that could include further sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend enrichment. ‘Demands that Iran halt enrichment are illegal and illegitimate and based on an incorrect political strategy. This (suspension) will never materialize’, the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mottaki as telling a conference in the capital Tehran. Mottaki added, however, that Iran is prepared to negotiate about its nuclear program ‘without any preconditions’. Iran suspended enrichment activities in 2003 to encourage negotiations with Britain, France and Germany but resumed the process in January 2006 when it concluded that the talks were leading nowhere. The Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Iran in December over Tehran’s refusal to suspend enrichment and gave it a 60-day grace period to stop. That deadline expired last Wednesday.”;

Meanwhile, UN SG BAN KI-MOON has given an interview which is now published online by Germany’s Spiegel magazine, in which he said: “It’s Iran’s Turn to Make a Move“.

Apparently, Iran has.

In any case, here are some excerptes of what BAN said to Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Secretary-General, the dispute on the Iranian nuclear program is coming to a head. What can the United Nations do to prevent a military escalation of the conflict?

Ban: In December, the UN Security Council set serious conditions for Tehran and imposed initial sanctions. Now it’s extremely important that the Iranian government fully meet the obligations formulated in the resolution. There is still political leeway for solving the conflict through negotiations. Therefore the talks must not lose momentum. The EU, led by Germany, plays an important role in this. And even if the dialogue has currently reached something of a dead end, I trust the Iranian leadership will use the leeway.

SPIEGEL: Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surprisingly signalled he would like to discuss suspending uranium enrichment. Do you think the offer is a credible one?

Ban: He simultaneously linked the proposal to the condition that all Western nuclear nations also cease their enrichment programs. I don’t know what he aims to achieve. For now, it is Iran’s turn to make a move, instead of imposing its own new conditions.

SPIEGEL: You’ve been in office for eight weeks. You’ve already taken a clear stance on the nuclear conflict with North Korea, but you’ve held back on Iran. What is the difference between the two countries?

Ban: North Korea has seriously committed itself to negotiations, and its agreement in January with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States is a major step forward. We’ve left the stage of lofty declarations behind and agreed on binding practical steps. North Korea has clearly committed to eventually dismantling all nuclear facilities and programs. In return, economic support, especially energy and oil, was promised as well as security guarantees and the prospect of normalized diplomatic relations with the Unites States and Japan. So far, things look very different in the case of Iran. And the consequences for peace, security and stability in the entire region are much more threatening.

SPIEGEL: In contrast to Iran, Washington showed a willingness to negotiate with North Korea.

Ban: It’s important to maintain a dialogue with Iran. Now the European Union has to take the lead politically and move the negotiations forward. But it’s not the case that the United States rejects or refuses talks. The Americans have practically always been present at the negotiating table.

SPIEGEL: At the Munich Security Conference, Iran’s lead negotiator Ali Larijani introduced the notion of limiting enrichment to uranium not suitable for nuclear weapons. Can that be seen as a compromise?

Ban: The freedom of a country to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes does not come without conditions. Among those conditions are a credible commitment to peaceful usage, compliance with international agreements and the verifiability of all technical details by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran must first allow inspectors into the country and open all nuclear facilities and programs to inspection before the international community will be convinced of its peaceful intentions.
Interview conducted by Manfred Ertel and Gerhard Spörl,1518,468673,00.html

The NY Sun is reporting today that “[T]he [U.S.] Treasury Department is readying a new blacklist of companies and banks to be barred from American financial markets for their role in assisting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. One Western diplomat who requested anonymity, said proposals started being shared between the Treasury Department and American allies last week, when a February 21 deadline for Iran to end uranium enrichment passed. The diplomat said the Bush administration is seeking to expand the list of individuals and companies attached to U.N. Security Council resolution 1737, the sanctions passed unanimously on December 23. If the five permanent Security Council members … will not go along with this measure, America will be prepared to draw up the new blacklist on its own, the source said”.

Sudan – International Criminal Court investigation details to be made public today – More questions about Genocide?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) — also based in the Hague — is preparing to reveal a list of names of persons of persons investigated for grave crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region. The Chief Prosecutor is to give a news conference in a few hours’ time.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting has published an analytical article on its website:
ICC Set to Open New Darfur Chapter: Prosecutors about to present evidence relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity in western Sudan“.

The article, written by Katy Glassborow and Jan Coebergh in The Hague, and Stacy Sullivan in Washington reports that: “Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on February 27 will present evidence to pre-trial judges implicating named individuals in the Darfur crisis, which he hopes will prompt judges to release warrants of arrest.
In a statement released last week, Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence relates to war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region of Sudan. The key question is whether evidence will lead to tough genocide charges against high-ranking officials from the Government of Sudan (GoS), or the janjaweed militia, or will involve lesser charges against rebel leaders. So far, human rights groups have felt disappointed that those charged by the ICC in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have not been held accountable for the gravest crimes possible…The February 27th evidence will be a substantial step for Moreno-Ocampo and for the fledgling ICC, established in 2002, which has yet to host a full trial at its courtrooms in the The Hague, the diplomatic heart of The Netherlands [and also the seat of the International Court of Justice, established by the UN Charter, and the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which was set up by the UN Security Council]…At the Aspen Institute’s International Justice conference in Washington on February 23, lead ICC prosecutor on Darfur, Andrew Cayley, said, “This investigation was more challenging than any of the 15 cases I worked on at the ICTY”…Darfur was referred to the ICC by the Security Council without the approval of the Sudanese, causing displeasure in Khartoum…As Khartoum continues to downplay the gravity of the Darfur situation in terms of lives lost, and maintains its ability to prosecute war crimes suspects, the ICC faces a stalemate. Legally, prosecutors can only divest a county of its right to conduct trials locally, by proving that the country in question is ‘unwilling or unable’ – as phrased in its founding statute – to conduct trials adequately. Prosecutors have been forced to sit and wait, monitoring who is being tried at the SCCED [Sudan’s Court] and on what charges, before they can say that Khartoum is unwilling and unable to deal with this situation itself. Prosecutors have not been in a position to do so – until now. In Washington, Cayley confirmed that the names the prosecutor will announce on February 27 are not any of those accused by the SCCED. Aware that if prosecutors name individuals being tried by the SCCED they would publicly deem the Sudanese trials as inadequate, Cayley added that he didn’t believe ‘there is any overlap’ between those the ICC wants to indict are those the SCCED is investigating.”

Some useful background can also be found on the activist blog “Sudan: The Passion of the Present“. One posting on that blog contains a compilation that starts with an excerpt from an article by Reuters’ Aziz El-Kaissouni: “Sudan said [that] the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over its nationals, and [that] the government would not allow any of its citizens, including rebels, to be tried outside Sudan, local media said on Monday. Sudanese media also reported that Khartoum would put a number of people on trial next week, including military personnel and paramilitary troops, for alleged involvement in attacks in Darfur in Sudan’s west. But the scope of the planned trial was not immediately clear. The comments came a day before the ICC’s chief prosecutor’s office was due to name the first war crimes suspects for Darfur, where experts say about 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million [have been] driven from their homes since conflict flared in 2003. Khartoum says [that] only about 9,000 people have died…The ICC’s chief prosecutor said in December [that] his investigators had found evidence of rape, torture, murder and sexual violence in Darfur. Tuesday’s list is keenly awaited to see if it includes government figures as well as rebels. United Nations and African Union observers blame pro-government militia, known as Janjaweed, for the worst atrocities. But the ICC is under pressure to charge figures from all sides of the conflict.”

Then this compilation moves on to:
“SUDANESE TRIAL — Sudanese newspapers said [that] Sudan’s trial to start next week would include a number of suspects accused of violence in west Darfur in 2003. The suspects, whose names were not given, were being charged with murder, kidnapping and arson.
Several Sudanese newspapers said [that] the trial was not linked to the imminent announcement by the ICC. A Justice Ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir also reiterated on Monday his rejection of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for the deployment of some 22,500 U.N. peacekeepers and police to take over from African Union forces in Darfur. Bashir, speaking in Addis Ababa, said [that] the plan would put Sudan ‘under international trusteeship of the United Nations’…Some analysts say [that] Khartoum has resisted pressure to authorise a deployment U.N. peacekeepers to support a 7,000-strong African Union mission in Darfur because it fears U.N. soldiers might be used to arrest ICC suspects. The ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, started work in 2002. The court is now supported by 104 nations, although still not by Russia, China and the United States, which fiercely opposed the creation of the ICC, fearing [that] it would be used for politically motivated prosecutions of its citizens. In March 2005, the U.N. Security Council asked the ICC to launch an investigation into the violence in Darfur, which the United States has called genocide, a charge [that] Khartoum denies. The Darfur case was seen as a turning point for the court, as Washington refrained from blocking the Security Council referral.”