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09.23.09

The U.N.'s New Low

Leading human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says Qaddafi’s U.N. rant was the exemplar of hypocrisy—and it’s a shame he had the General Assembly as his platform for vitriol.

Qaddafi’s rant at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday afternoon is arguably the lowest point in that organization’s history. At one level, it was black humor at its zenith: the world’s worst international terrorist and mass murderer urging the United Nations to investigate all the atrocities with which he is not connected. But it also prompts the thought of how far we have yet to go in the struggle for global justice, when the worst perpetrators can strut in triumph on the General Assembly stage.

One fine day, the world will work out a way of putting dictators like Qaddafi behind bars for a very long time.

We do indeed, as the Colonel said, have a right to live unmolested on this earth. The question of who killed Jack Kennedy and who bombed the plane of Dag Hammerschold are less clear than the many murders Qaddafi has personally ordered of his dissidents (he calls them “stray dogs”) and the passenger airplanes he has ordered to be blown up—PamAm 103 and UTA 772. His secret intelligence operatives have been convicted of these crimes, but everyone knows that they would not have happened without Qaddafi’s approval. His speech today was the exemplar of hypocrisy.

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This man has sponsored every major terrorist movement, from Baader Meinhof to Abu Nidal. His charity lavishly pays compensation to the families of Palestine suicide bombers. His speech condemned the United Nations for failure to support the work of the International Criminal Court but this work is thwarted by no-one more than Qaddafi himself who as president of the African Union is sheltering General Bashir, its latest indictee.

Qaddafi obviously thinks that the best form of defense is attack but his hostility to the Granada episode clearly betrays his own fear that he will himself be toppled. He accused the U.S. of assassinating President Bishop but of course Bishop was assassinated by the Marxist conspirators from whose vicious stupidity the American invasion saved the people of that island.

One fine day, the world will work out a way of putting dictators like Qaddafi behind bars for a very long time. A courageous district attorney in New York might still arrest him, as Noriega was arrested, for crimes like the Lockerbie bombing which would fall within American jurisdiction. His “immunity” might not in law prevail against charges of crimes against humanity. But that will be a distant future: the struggle for global justice goes on. It has managed to put Karadzic and Charles Taylor in the dock but it will be many years before it can feel the collar of the likes of Colonel Qaddafi, whose immunity depends not on his strength, but on the weakness of international law and those who have a duty to enforce it.

Geoffrey Robertson is a leading human rights lawyer and author of the Tyrannicide Brief (Anchor Books) and Crimes Against Humanity (The New Press).