Well, we now have some data on the half-life of integrity in the UN’s top office: Less than a week.
When the UN’s new secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, reported for work last Tuesday, he delivered a moment of sterling decency. Asked for his thoughts on the execution of Saddam Hussein, he did not start with a hypocritical Kofi-ism about the UN’s aversion to the death penalty. Instead, he began by making the vital point that Saddam had committed “heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities.” But by Saturday, Ban was settling neatly into the UN mindset, urging a stay of execution for two of Saddam’s high-ranking co-defendants, both sentenced to death by Iraq’s High Tribunal.
The UN press release delivering Ban’s new line cites the views of UN “human rights” commissioner, Louise Arbour, who has been scolding that international law “only allows the imposition of the death penalty as an exceptional measure within rigorous legal constraints.” Apparently, by UN lights, there was nothing exceptional about the terror, torture and mass murder inflicted for decades by Saddam’s regime.
But if Ban is now so eager to toe the Arbour line, how about making the most of it. Let’s start the clock on how long it takes before he uses his UN bully pulpit to demand stays of execution for people condemned to death by another UN member state — North Korea. There, with no due process whatsoever, it is government policy to execute people, in some cases in public, not for such atrocities as mass murder, but for such acts as trying to defect, or for such heroic deeds as trying to help others escape Kim Jong Il’s murderous totalitarian state. If the UN’s new Secretary-General Ban and the vocal Louise Arbour are really so concerned about the death penalty, then the fate of condemned Baathist killers in Iraq should be the least of it. When do we start hearing, loud and clear and often, from the UN’s top floor, calls from Ban and his aides for North Korea to stop executing people whose only offense was to seek freedom?