The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General is supposed to promote UN ideals (UN Homepage, “The role of the Secretary General”). Those ideals focus on the dignity and worth of the human person--and on international peace and security (UN Charter, Preamble). To promote these ideals, the UN Charter empowers the Secretary-General to bring to the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten international peace and security (“The role of the Secretary-General, ibid).
This is why UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon is concerned about the current Gaza-Israel war. It has resulted in humanitarian violations, and it threatens international peace and security.
The UN Secretary-General is also supposed to uphold the values and moral authority of the United Nations (ibid). Part of those UN values includes establishing rules of war so as to protect civilians during times of conflict. Part of his moral authority includes enforcing humanitarian law to make certain that those who violate non-combatant humanitarian rights are punished (Betrand Ramcharan, “The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law; Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research”, Occasional paper series, Harvard University, Spring 2005, Number 3).
However, in the current Gaza-Israel war, the UN Secretary-General abandons his values. He stains his moral authority. He overturns well-established International Code in order to demonize Israel and elevate the moral status of a war criminal (Hamas).
There is no excuse for such a perversion of justice.
The Fourth Geneva Convention is, essentially, the foundation for International Humanitarian Code that affects conflict. It is clear: in any conflict, civilians are to be protected. This is an absolute: there are no exceptions. Violate this rule and you become liable.
In fact, the reason the Fourth Geneva Convention was created in the first place (after World War Two) was to address an issue which previous Geneva Conventions had not adequately addressed: protecting civilians (“Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949”, Treaties and states parties to such treaties, ICRC, the ICRC Homepage).
From the Convention and its supplements, two points that affect the Gaza-Israel war are very clear. First, civilians are to be protected during a conflict. Second—and far more important--when the Party which controls those civilians violates the rights of those civilians, it is held responsible for death and injury to those civilians—not someone else.
In the Gaza-Israel war, the UN should hold Hamas responsible for deaths and injuries to its civilian population because Hamas violates that population’s Humanitarian rights. But the UN Secretary-General won’t do that. Instead, he ignores International Code. He slams Israel for those deaths.
That is a perversion of International law. It is a perversion of the moral authority of the UN.
Civilians in Gaza die. Hamas controls those civilians. As the Party in this conflict which controls Gazan civilians, Hamas has certain legal obligations. First, it must protect all civilians, including its own. This means that it cannot engage in combat from its own civilian neighbourhoods. It cannot fire rockets into Israel’s civilian neighbourhoods.
Hamas violates these prohibitions. It fails to respect the dignity and worth of humans. Consequently, it commits humanitarian rights violations. It commits war crimes. It is responsible for the consequences of its actions.
Hamas also uses its own population as human shields. This, too, is a war crime. This crime has been amply documented. The proof of Hamas’ use of its own civilians as human shields comes directly from Hamas. Hamas officials have praised its use of human shields in an interview on its Al Aqsa TV, in printed Hamas statements, and in statements made to reporters by Hamas officials.
Hamas should be condemned for these humanitarian violations. It is not. Israel is condemned—for Hamas’s violations. That is, Israel has been viciously condemned for deaths and injuries to Gazan civilians that have resulted from Hamas’ using those civilians as human shields.
But when human shields die, International Code does not blame the bombs that killed them. International Code is very clear on this point (see Article 51(7) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, and Article 8(2)(b)(xxiii) of the 1998 International Criminal Code). International Code holds responsible the Party in the conflict that controls those human shields. That Party is Hamas.
Nevertheless, the UN has blamed Israel’s bombs for those deaths and injuries. It has not blamed Hamas. It has not condemned Hamas ‘in the strongest terms’. It blames Israel for Hamas’ crimes.
Condemning Israel for Gazan civilian deaths caused by Hamas rights violations is a perversion of justice. When International law mandates that the Party responsible for using human shields is not the Party attacking military targets (Israel), the UN should defend Israel’s right to defend itself. When International law mandates that the Party responsible for the death of human shields is the Party that controls those ‘shields’ (Hamas), the UN should isolate Hamas and condemn it.
The UN does not do that.
The UN Secretary-General demeans his moral authority by leading the charge against Israel. He perverts Humanitarian law to demonize Israel.