Meeting Kofi Annan

by Shirley Farlinger

Some Canadians had a chance to meet Secretary General Kofi Annan this winter when he visited Toronto to raise money for the United Nations Association in Canada. The posh dinner (tables cost $5,000) was attended by diplomats and dignitaries, and co-hosted by big corporations. Today the UNA Canada's budget is almost balanced.

Kofi Annan was born in 1938 in Ghana. His education (in economics and management) took place there, in Minnesota, in Geneva, and at MIT. He and wife, Nane, a lawyer and artist, have three children.

Fluent in English, French, and several African languages, Annan has served the United Nations for 30 years in administration, budget, finance, personnel, refugees, and peace-keeping. He has participated in such sensitive diplomatic negotiations as the return of 900 international staff and hostages from Iraq in 1990; the "oil for food" deal with Iraq; and the transition of the UNPROFOR force in the former Yugoslavia into the NATO-led Implementation Force. He helped to create the Situation Centre and the Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters, with a "Lessons Learned" peacekeeping unit. He has the pledge of 87,000 multinational personnel for stand-by peacekeepers.

Secretary General Annan's speech to the fund-raiser hit all the right notes: "Visiting Canada is like visiting family." "In 1956 Lester Pearson gave the world his vision of peacekeeping as we know it today." (Not quite). The audience appreciated his description of Pearson as "one of the best secretaries general the United Nations never had."

Israeli High Court Legalizes Torture

The Israeli High Court (IHC) has again ruled to allow General Security Service (GSS) interrogators to use torture methods against Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

On 12 January 1988 the IHC reviewed an appeal submitted on behalf of Abdel Rahman Ghunimat calling for an end to the use of torture upon him. Ghunimat, a Palestinian, is accused of being a member of the military wing of Hamas.

The Court, composed of nine judges, decided to allow GSS personnel to continue to use torture methods upon him. The decision, made by the bare minimum of five judges, sanctioned the continued use of al-shabeh (contorting the prisoner into painful positions), sleep deprivation, noise exposure, hooding, and the use of violent shaking.

Though the IHC decision is a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and human rights, the Israeli government has justified its use of torture on security grounds, citing that such practices are really preventive, and that information obtained after applying "moderate physical pressure" may actually save lives.

Vanunu Receives visitors

Having spent 12 years in solitary confinement for telling Israel's nuclear secrets, Mordechai Vanunu has experienced some changes. The Israeli officials have always claimed that it was necessary to isolate him to prevent his telling anyone about the Dimona nuclear reactor. However, his brother Asher says that he has become increasingly paranoid, and that "he believes everything in the world is a conspiracy against him."

Fredrik Heffermehl, who has been coordinating a campaign to seek Mordechai's release, says he has been transferred from solitary into a group cell. Although Vanunu's parents disowned him long ago, an American couple, Nick and Mary Eoloff, have actually adopted this 46-year-old man and have visited him at Ashkelon Prison, in the company of his brother Meir.

Mordechai will be eligible for parole on April 21, when he completes two-thirds of his 18-year sentence for treason. Some of his supporters claim that the Israelis have been negotiating with the United States on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence for spying for Israel. There is no possibility that Pollard can be released on humanitarian grounds so long as Vanunu is held in the conditions that he has endured until now.

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1998

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1998, page 31. Some rights reserved.

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