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Ten Swiss Years in UN Spin HRC & Sanctions Reforms, Going Big in Small Five

By Matthew Russell Lee, Review

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- Switzerland joined the UN ten years ago, and its UN Mission website presents it as an unmitigated success. But closer examination finds that some of its claimed impacted, on and of the UN, are more ambiguous than presented.

  Switzerland makes much of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. But just this month, Sudan's candidacy for the HRC while its president has been indicted for genocide by the ICC has drawn fire. Word has been, for Sudan to drop out, it will get a quiet commitment for lighter treatment by the HRC.

  Last week on August 30, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq about the efficacy of any challenge to the Secretariat to Sudan's candidacy:

Inner City Press: there's a letter that was sent to Patricia O’Brien about Sudan’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council. It’s been publicly announced; I don’t know if the UN has received it. And also, does the Secretariat have any role in ruling on the eligibility of countries to run in elections for the Human Rights Council?

Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq: Well, certainly, Member States can request our expertise, our legal expertise, on points of order if they choose to do so. In this case, though, the question of membership in the Human Rights Council is up to the Member States, as it properly is, and we will leave it in their hands how to handle this issue.

  Now, amid claims by some it vindicates the HRC, Sudan is backing out. But in exchange for what? Sudan's National Congress Party's secretary of organizations Adil Awad on September 2 said he now expects Sudan to be relieved of monitoring by a special rapporteur...

 On the positive side, Switzerland's (increasingly leadership, and lonely) role in the so-called Small Five for reform of the Security Council's working methods stands out.

  Their draft resolution was withdrawn, but Ambassador Seger seems committed to press forward, bringing a legal approach too rare in the UN. Seger insists, correctly, on more participation in the Security Council as head of a Peacebuilding Commission configuration. Seger's predecessor Peter Maurer now heads the ICRC and is headed to Syia.

 On the other hand it was unfortunate that Nicolas Michel, while serving at the UN's top lawyer, also accepted Swiss payments for his housing, in violation of the UN charter and rules, as exposed by Inner City Press.

  And Joseph Deiss, while he was PGA, was only halting in disclosing who paid for his housing and travel. For a PGA, it is legal to take from one's country. But Deiss appeared to deny it, when Inner City Press first raised it.

   The ombudsperson of the Al Qaeda Sanctions committee was something of a good reform. But recently, for example, the reform proved illusory. A person removed from the Al Qaeda list, businessman Jim'ale, was then just put on the Somalia / Eritrea sanctions list.

  Switzerland is in the position to critique and even reform these things. We'll be watching.

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