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At the UN, Richard Goldstone Presses Enforcement on Joseph Kony, Reflecting Back on Karadzic

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN

UNITED NATIONS, October 12 -- "Justice is not a faucet you can turn on and off," Justice Richard Goldstone told a sparsely-attended press conference at the UN on Thursday. In light of Justice Goldstone having presided over the UN's tribunals for both Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, Inner City Press asked him to weigh in on calls to grant Joseph Kony and the leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army amnesty from the International Criminal Court's indictments for war crimes in Uganda.

            Justice Goldstone directs a response to Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni. "Mr. Museveni switches it on and has the investigation launched. Then when it doesn't suit him, in his view, he wants to turn it off. It can't work that way," Justice Goldstone said. "If you want to have a system of international criminal justice, there is no room for giving amnesties to the worse perpetrators." Video on UNTV, Minute 23:06 to 29:46.

            Justice Goldstone's five-minute answer to Inner City Press' question included his story that if Radovan Karadzic had not been indicted in 1995, there would not have been peace in the Balkans. "If Karadzic had not been indicted, he... would have gone to Dayton. Then the Bosnia and Herzegovina leaders would not have been there. This was two months after Srebrenica. I had it first hand from the leaders of Bosnia they would not have gone into the same room as Karadzic."

Remembering Srebrenica

            While in that story the pressing the indictment -- even though Karadzic, like Ratco Mladic, has still not been apprehended -- resulted in peace, Justice Goldstone Thursday said that is not the test. "I don't know, and nobody else does, if peace treaty in Uganda will last," he said. "Whether it will or it won't shouldn't be the determining factor if there will be justice... Whatever the cost I believe it is worth having no impunity for war criminals."

            Justice Goldstone concluded with a challenge to the Lord's Resistance Army, or really to the Museveni government and its supporters. "There is an escape and it is an important one. The Security Council can request year old suspensions. That' s a political decision. If the Ugandan leaders believe that they need time to negotiate a peace agreement, let them make the case to the Security Council." We'll see.

          Time did not for now allow a question to Justice Goldstone about his service on the Independent Inquiry Committee into United Nations Iraq Oil-for-Food Program, including on whether the reforms and transparency promised during that process have in fact been carried out. Release of some financial disclosure forms, increased -- that is, some -- access to the Office of Internal Oversight Services, these are questions that remain open.

           Launched at the UN on Thursday was the 360-page "Human Rights Learning - a People's Report," coordinated by Shulamith Koenig. Ms. Koenig spoke of the human right to such basics as water and medicine, while her collaborator Walther Lichem, a former Austrian Ambassador to Chile and Canada, spoke of cities in Chile where the subway stops and public squares are all named for wars and not for human rights. "One day," he said. Indeed.

            Also at the UN on Thursday, Inner City Press asked Kofi Annan's spokesman if the UN's Higher Commission for Human Rights Louise Arbour is going to look into and act on the final article about torture in Chechnya written by Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya just before she was assassinated last week. Inner City Press also asked for a response to charges that Russia has sent to Lebanon soldiers accused of war crimes and other abuses in Chechnya. The spokesman responded that the UN expects soldiers at act appropriately, but that it is up to governments to guarantee that their soldiers act appropriately.  Suuuure... Later on Thursday, the spokesman's office suggested to Inner City Press that the only way to get an answer would be through the Lebanese or Russian mission to the UN. Again, suuure....

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