International law should be one size fits all, but it isn't. There are some states that are literally allowed to get away with murder, while others are treated according to the book.

This is because existing international bodies tasked with holding nations to account for war crimes and crimes against humanity are variously unwilling or unable to respect their own mandates. Instead, they perpetuate brazen double standards and discrimination.

The most recent nauseating example is the reaction of the United Nations to Israel's cry of foul relating to a UN probe of the Gaza conflict, which found that the Israeli military deliberately attacked a UN-run school, thus, displaying a "reckless disregard for the lives and safety of civilians".

This was just one of nine such incidents investigated involving death, injuries and damage within UN facilities and all but one were blamed on Israeli military actions. In summary, the report found Israel accountable for failing to protect UN structures and those civilians who took refuge within them. It also found no evidence that Hamas had targeted the Israel Defence Forces from UN premises and demanded a retraction from Israel to that effect.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government was up in arms even before details of the UN report were disclosed. A later Israeli Foreign Ministry statement read: "The state of Israel rejects the criticisms in the committee's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee. The committee has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organisation, and by doing so, has misled the world".

Israeli President Shimon Peres told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he should have taken his entourage to visit Auschwitz rather than Gaza, while Defence Minister Ehud Barak, laughably, claimed that Israel possesses the world's most moral army.

Israel was handed the coordinates of UN facilities prior to the conflict, and, in any event, all are clearly marked, so even without an enquiry, one would assume that not all could be construed as innocent mistakes.

Moreover, Israel has a history of targeting UN structures. On April 18, 1996, Israeli artillery hit a UN compound near Qana killing 106 Lebanese civilians and injuring 116.

More recently, during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, IDF forces hit a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon observer post, resulting in fatalities. The then UN secretary-general Kofi Annan expressed shock and distress over what he termed Israel's "apparently deliberate targeting". Annan insisted that the post "was long established and clearly marked" and stressed that prime minister Ehud Olmert had personally assured him that UN positions were safe.

Just as outraged was Ban Ki-moon, who, in January this year, gave a press conference in front of the still smouldering United Nations Food warehouse in Gaza. He said he had witnessed "heartbreaking scenes of destruction" and referred to the damage inflicted by Israel as "shocking and alarming".

Seemingly, though, he wasn't shocked and alarmed enough to take the report issued by his own investigative committee one step further. He has not only bowed to pressure from Israel and its US ally to dress-up the report in Israel's favour, he now wants the whole thing to go away. "I do not plan any further enquiries," he says, while blasting Hamas for its "continued and indiscriminate attacks".

I have no idea how such mealy-mouthed individuals manage to sleep at night let alone face their reflections in the mirror. Just 13 Israelis were killed during the Gaza conflict, most of them soldiers, while more than 1,400 Palestinians were robbed of their lives in Gaza; most of them civilians. Yet, the UN secretary-general is railing against Hamas while sending a bill to Israel in the sum of $10.4 million (Dh38.2 million).

There is a suggestion that Ban Ki-moon was influenced by a failed attempt by his predecessor Annan to investigate Israel's 2002 onslaught on the West Bank Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. Annan organised an investigative team to go to the area but when Israel said 'no way' that was the end of that.

The sad reality is that it doesn't matter a jot what the UN secretary-general thinks in the great scheme of things. When it comes to holding errant nations to account, he's a mere figurehead. The real problem with the UN is, of course, that it is ruled by a minority of veto-holding countries that will happily ignore international law in favour of their own strategic interests.

Similarly placed is the so-called International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which has thus far only issued arrest warrants for Africans. Israeli or American violators will never appear before it because neither country has ratified the Rome Treaty under which the Court was founded. Only the UN Security Council has a right to refer them but that won't happen because the US would brandish its veto.

In short, there is nothing united about the UN while the ICC certainly does not deserve its 'international' designation. In my opinion, both bodies should either be massively reorganised or demolished. In the meantime, they're nothing more than an ugly blot on the word 'justice'.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at Some comments may be considered for publication.

Your comments

I would say, that finally, someone had the courage to say and write what has been there but left spoken. Indeed, why can some countries do whatever they like in the name of unity when in fact they were the ones who caused it and blame it on others?
Posted: May 12, 2009, 14:02

True words. But we must have an alternative before we demolish what we have. Please bring us solutions along with the criticisms.
Posted: May 12, 2009, 13:25

In Indian ramayana it is said "Samradh ko nahin dos Gusain". That means "The powerful do not have any fault." What is required is to give up gun culture. A war or argument with Israel or the US at present cannot be won. Even if you have to resist something do it in non-voilent way. Give books of modern education in the hands of children. With the passage of time I believe things will improve as the muslim society becomes more learned. Power comes from knowledge.
Posted: May 12, 2009, 11:25

True words have never been spoken, until now. Great article.
Posted: May 12, 2009, 09:18