Thursday, April 3, 2014

No place for war criminals at the UN Security Council

Second only to his obsession with threatening Catalonia, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo keeps campaigning in favor of Spain's bid to join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2015-2016. This has taken him to Addis Abeba, where the African Union held a summit on 27-29 January. A vote is expected to take place in October, a few weeks before Catalonia's 11/9 referendum, an interesting coincidence.

A question any democracy should ask herself is whether the UN Security Council is the right place for a country whose belief in democracy and the international rule of law is, to put it mildly, rather feeble. The facts speak for themselves, faced with the Catalan referendum, instead of democratically campaigning to convince voters to remain in Spain (which conquered Catalonia in 1714), Madrid is threatening them with a coup. The bullet against the ballot. As undemocratic as it goes. It reminds one of a friend of the Spanish ruling party's founders, who faced with an impending referendum chose to invade. Indeed, it was a referendum which prompted the Anschluss, and in a similar way the appeal to the ballot box seems to be prompting Spain's darkest instinct to surface.

How little credibility then for Madrid's attempt to join the UN Security Council. Why was the UN created? To preserve peace and security, to defend human rights, to promote the rule of law. The UN was not set up to provide cover for regimes to shoot civilians in order to prevent them from exercising a basic human right: the right to vote. Furthermore, isn't the UN founded on the principle of self-determination, already laid down in the Atlantic Charter? How come a country with a military-drafted constitution which says that the armed forces are tasked with keeping its unity is daring to try to join the UN Security Council? Unfortunately this is not the first time. Already in 1982 democracies had a taste of what a Spanish presence at the Security Council meant. When General Galtieri and his Junta invaded the Falklands, Madrid refused to side with the democracies and condemn the invasion. A few weeks later, when Argentine terrorists flew to Spain to strike at the Royal Navy in Gibraltar, Spanish authorities refused to hand them over to London. Maybe Madrid was still angry at the Iron Lady for daring to publicly condemn the 1981 coup while it was still not clear whether the rebels would prevail. We are not talking about the past, unfortunately the Spanish regime keeps harassing Gibraltar, for daring to refuse to join Spain in successive referenda, and it has even agreed to transfer Mirage to Buenos Aires.

Is this the kind of country that deserves to go back to the UN Security Council? A country that when there has refused to vote against aggression, backing a murderous regime? A country that threatens those she conquered three centuries ago for daring to go to the polls to decide whether to regain their freedom? A country that harasses territories democratically refusing to join her? The answer is clearly not.

Spain cannot, in all justice, be elected to the UN Security Council. Not until she becomes a true democracy. Not until she learns to respect the ballot box. Not until she votes against, not for, aggression. Until then, democracies will be well advised to choose a fellow land where liberty rules.



Alex Calvo is an expert on Asian security and defence

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