Landmines and Double Standards

The U.N. fails miserably once again.

The Talmud relates, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” The International Campaign to Ban Landmines claims that more than 4,200 people of whom 42% are children have been falling victim to landmines annually in conflict zones across the globe. In fact, there are even landmines left over from the Second World War, which as of yet have not been cleared. 

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross,

Mines are now proliferating so fast that there are perhaps as many as 110 million of them spread in 64 countries worldwide, and it is estimated that 2 to 5 million more mines are being laid each year. Scattered like deadly seeds, they kill and maim between 1.000 and 2.000 people per month, most of them innocent civilians.

The failure of the international community to take action on this issue is killing people across the globe and is a major impediment to world peace.  

Nowhere is the international community’s blatant hypocrisy on this issue more noticeable than in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated not too long ago,

Mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, continue to kill or injure thousands of people every year – many of whom are children. In Afghanistan, in the last seven months, 301 children were either killed or injured by explosive remnants of war and landmines. The real figure is thought to be much higher.  In Ukraine, the legacy of a single month of war – in the form of unexploded ordnance, landmines, and cluster munitions – will take decades to tackle, threatening lives long after the guns fall silent.

Guterres praised the fact that more than 160 countries have signed the treaty banning landmines usage, but said more work must be done to rid the world of landmines.      

But in Armenia verses Azerbaijan, the International Court of Justice ruled that “Azerbaijan’s request for Armenia to stop laying land mines and to hand over maps of mines fell outside the scope of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).” They ruled this way, even though these landmines were planted specifically to slaughter Azerbaijanis and bar the reconstruction of Karabakh. More than 220 Azerbaijanis have been killed or injured by landmines since the Second Karabakh War ended, Armenia to date refuses to hand over all of the land mine maps and out of the ones that they did hand over, only 25% were usable. 

Emil Hasanov, deputy chairman of the public council under ANAMA, Azerbaijan’s Mine Action Agency, stated in a recent interview that this ruling was absurd, as the International Court of Justice ruled in both Nicaragua and Yugoslavia that the international community held the local governments there liable for human rights violations due to the fact that they had “efficient control” and thus were responsible for what happened there. He argued that the International Court of Justice should have a strong ruling on Armenia intentionally planting landmines to kill off Azerbaijanis and refusing to hand over land maps, as it is applicable to CERD. According to him, based on such a ruling, “Hezbollah can say we are sitting in South Lebanon and are not responsible for what happens in Israel, even though they are liable for it is under their control.”    

Rahman Hajiyev, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Karabakh Revival Fund, added following this that,

So far, none of the international institutions have expressed any support for reconstruction activities or landmine clearance being carried out in Karabakh. Azerbaijan counts only on its own capabilities and resources.

In a recent round table discussion at the Begin Center titled “Landmines in the Liberated Territories of Azerbaijan: the biggest obstacle to peace in the South Caucasus,” prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar, who is a board member at the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, asked rhetorically,

How come the biggest organization that is the umbrella of many organizations fails to bring peace, although it was designed to bring peace?  The UN was built after the Second World War, replacing the League of Nations, which functioned between World War I and World War II.  The UN was created to prevent wars, which the League of Nations failed to do.   The UN was established when the atrocities of the Second World War were still fresh.  People could still smell the odors of the war.  They sought to prevent wars from that time onwards.  But today, we can see that the UN failed in preventing wars.

According to him,

The UN throughout the years shaped many documents, treaties and conventions, which were supposed to prevent war.  The Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Convention against Terrorism, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Convention against Genocide, the Convention on Child Protection, the Statute of the Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which has to do with the security of the world, and more.

Nevertheless, Dr. Kedar noted that despite all of these wonderful conventions existing, the UN failed to prevent war:

We can see it with Russia and Syria, with Russia flattening the city of Aleppo. We can see it with what happened with China, which takes over islands in the South China Sea. The US was involved in many wars, such as Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, etc. There are also local wars, like Azerbaijan and Armenia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Israel’s many wars, etc. Then there was genocides like Rwanda, Darfur, Yugoslavia, and all of the atrocities there.   Every other year, we hear of some war somewhere in the world, even though the UN was supposed to prevent war.  The UN failed to prevent these wars.   The world is inflicted with wars and bloodshed, and the UN is incompetent to prevent these wars. 

Kedar blames this reality on the fact that,

the UN Security Council is in charge of security, not the UN General Assembly. Here is the problem. Each and every one of the five permanent UN Security Council members has a veto. If Russia, China, US, France and Great Britain are involved in a war, the UN is paralyzed because this superpower has a veto. Russia prevents any advancement with the UN regarding Ukraine. The US used it whenever people did not like what they were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and France as well. Whenever a superpower is involved in a war, the UN is paralyzed. This is one of the most dangerous things.

Another major reason why Dr. Kedar believes the UN has failed is because,

members of the UN Security Council are involved in politics related to economic issues. For example, Europe sides with Iran on the sanctions as they got investments in Iran and they remember what happened to their 30-billion-dollar investment in Iraq following the regime change in Baghdad.  The Americans told them: ‘You invested in Saddam.  Take your money from Saddam.’ He was in a hole at that time. So, Europe does not want to lose their investments in Iran and this influences their policy, which endangers the security of the world given the empire the Iranians have created in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Gaza. And now, imagine what will happen once they get nuclear weapons. This is under the protection of Europe, which encourages Iran to go forward with their plan. This is a sad situation. An organization that was designed to bring peace to the world actually betrayed its mission. This organization has failed almost totally.  

Rachel Avraham is the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy and the editor of the Economic Peace Center, which was established by former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.” 


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