Friday, March 26, 1999

Security Council was
weakened by attack

Bullet The issue: NATO attack on Yugolsavia did not have Security Council approval
Bullet Our view: United Nations is weakened by NATO defiance.

THE NATO assault on Yugoslavia is a blow to the authority of the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council has passed no resolution authorizing the use of force against Yugoslavia. In fact, two permanent members -- Russia and possibly China -- would have vetoed such a proposal. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the Security Council "should be involved in any decision to resort to force" -- an implicit protest against the NATO action.

The U.N. charter permits the use of force in self-defense if a country is attacked from the outside, but the Kosovo case is internal to Yugoslavia.

The charter recognizes regional organizations such as NATO but permits their use of force only if the United Nations specifically authorizes it. The charter explicitly orders member states to refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity of any state.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has repeatedly cast the strikes as a violation of his country's sovereignty. Russian President Boris Yeltsin called the strikes "outright aggression." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the military action "has no justification, legal, political or moral."

By virtually ignoring the Security Council on this issue, Washington and its NATO allies are saying that they will decide for themselves when armed intervention is warranted. During the Cold War, the Security Council was paralyzed by the conflict between the Soviet Union and its Western members. That situation was supposed to end with the Cold War, but here it is again.

The fact is that perceptions of national interest sometimes override the need for collective security, even in this post-Cold War era. The assumption of unity on the Security Council has never been fulfilled.

Scholars say there is no legal justification for the Yugoslavia attack in any diplomatic charter, international law or Security Council resolution. At best the Clinton administration must rely on an unwritten principle that allows "humanitarian intervention" to protect people threatened by their own government.

There is of course a stronger reason than the prevention of atrocities: the danger that the conflict could spread and further destabilize the Balkans and perhaps a larger region.

But the Security Council as presently constituted won't endorse this intervention, so NATO is taking the matter into its own hands.

That should deepen the rift in the United Nations and make it less likely that Washington will turn to the Security Council in future crises.


Ruling on Pinochet

Bullet The issue: Whether the former Chilean dictator can be extradited to Spain for trial for human-rights abuses.
Bullet Our view: The ruling could set a precedent for prosecution of other dictators.

BRITAIN'S top court has established an important precedent in deciding that the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was lawful and that he can be extradited to Spain for trial on charges of human rights abuses. The dismissal of the bulk of charges against him should not deter authorities from seeking justice for the few that remain.

The general must remain under police guard while Spain seeks his extradition, a battle that could last months or even years.

Amnesty International called the ruling a milestone for international human-rights law because it means government officials will not be able to claim immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity. Atrocities that have occurred during recent years in the former Yugoslavia could eventually result in prosecutions.

One concern is that prosecutions in foreign countries could destroy delicate compromises that have brought peace to such countries as Chile and South Africa following the end of oppressive governments.

Pinochet was arrested in October on a Spanish extradition warrant while obtaining medical treatment in Britain. He was charged with torture and murders during his 1973-1990 rule.

However, the seven-man panel of British Law Lords decided he was not answerable for charges of abuses before 1988, the year Britain incorporated into law the United Nations convention on torture. Before that year, torture commited outside Britain was not a crime under British law.

Most of Pinochet's alleged crimes are said to have occurred in 1973-74, following the overthrow of President Salvador Allende, who was killed in the coup.

However, various conspiracies to hunt down and kill leftists are alleged to have extended from 1973 to 1990.

The only isolated human-rights abuse alleged was the torture of a 17-year-old girl who died following electric shocks administered by Chilean police in 1989.

The effective dismissal of charges stemming from pre-1988 abuses was a setback for the prosecution but should not cause it to drop the case against Pinochet. He would not be the first perpetrator of numerous crimes to be prosecuted for relatively few of them, or even a single offense.

Aside from the alleged conspiracies, the torture and killing of a single girl is by itself a heinous crime that should be prosecuted.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

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Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

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