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Government

The Resolution of the UN-Swiss Paradox

The Resolution of the UN-Swiss Paradox

Switzerland and four other states (Costa Rica, Jordan, Liechtenstein and Singapore) called on 28 March 2012 for reform of the UN Security Council. Through an official draft resolution, they made proposals for a more democratic, efficient and transparent mode of operation, namely by making UN Security Council meetings public, and by including conflict-affected and peacekeeping states in decision-making processes. Furthermore, they demanded a restriction of the veto rights of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

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Security History Foreign policy

Nuclear Disarmament: Switzerland’s Policy Turn

Federal Councillor D. Burkhalter (last row, left) at the Seoul Nuclear Summit, Image: IAEA/flickr

Switzerland risked a jumping in at the deep end on Tuesday. Deviating from the agenda, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter confronted participants at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit with his call for nuclear disarmament.

Burkhalter emphasized that if the risk of nuclear terrorism was to be minimized – the official aim of the summit – it was necessary “to do everything possible to reduce the sources of such an act”, namely to cut down the number of nuclear warheads and weapons capable material.

Switzerland’s foreign minister has a point. Even though the New START treaty marks a step towards the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, there are still far too many warheads around.

For years, Swiss diplomats have tried to keep the debate on nuclear disarmament running and have pushed projects and international initiatives. Switzerland leads by example: it has ratified all multilateral disarmament agreements open to it and plays an active part in the work of multilateral bodies related to arms control and disarmament.

However, the country has not always advocated nuclear disarmament. In fact, until the 1960s, Switzerland followed quite the opposite course with its nuclear weapons program. Only after the Cold War it fully embraced a multilateralist approach to disarmament. All this became apparent during a lecture on Swiss security policy, held on 22 March 2012 at the University of Zurich.

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Government

Libya’s Struggle with Federalism

Libyans rally against federalism. Image: magharebia/flickr

Opponents and supporters of federalism clashed with knives, guns and rocks in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday 16 March. The violence erupted after hundreds of people demonstrated in favor a political project aimed at dividing Libya into three autonomous regions.

That demonstration was one of several rallies that started after a conference of tribal and political leaders in Benghazi. The conference unilaterally declared Cyrenaica (Berqa in Arabic) an autonomous polity, polarizing public opinion and prompting fears that the country might split up. These developments seem to intensify the struggle for the future of Libyan governance.

Under these conditions, does federalism have a future?

Categories
Human Rights

‘Comfort Women’ Haunt Japan-Korea Relations

Former ‘comfort women’ protesting in Seoul. Image: bittermelon/flickr

While long denying having subjected Korean women to forced prostitution during Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, in 1992 the Japanese government officially recognized its involvement in the ‘comfort women’ issue and apologized for having committed war crimes. Since then, every Japanese prime minister has further reaffirmed and expressed Japan’s official apologies to South Korea.

The issue remains however far from being resolved and continues to damage Japanese relations with the Republic of South Korea and other countries in the region. The dispute became more visible in December 2011 when the South Korean government established a monument for ‘comfort women’ directly adjacent to the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.  In addition, South Korea now uses the question time of the Human Rights Council meeting as a venue to force Japan to provide answers to this painful chapter of the two countries’ shared history. In what follows, we will further explore the issue and place the ‘comfort women’ within the broader context of ongoing tensions between Japan and South Korea.

Categories
Security Justice

Prosecutors Wanted!

Image: spaceninja/flickr

A ship built in Japan, owned by a brass-plate company in Malta, controlled by an Italian, chartered by the French, skippered by a Norwegian, crewed by Indians, registered in Panama, etc. etc. is attacked while transiting an international waterway in Indonesian territory. So – if the pirates ever get arrested – who exactly is in charge of prosecuting them?

Some legal scholars recommend that captured pirates should be prosecuted in the region where they are arrested. Unfortunately, countries that lack the capacity to secure their waters often also have limited resources for prosecution. If more than one country is interested in prosecuting the arrested pirates, it is not immediately clear which country’s judiciary system should be applied. The international legal framework remains vague and sometimes even contradictory. And it starts with the definition, around which there is no consensus: The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines piracy as 1) an act of violence 2) conducted on the high seas 3) against another vessel 4) and for private gain; while the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) defines it as 1) intentionally seizing or damaging a ship or 2) attempting to seize or damage a ship.