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Tehran International Law Conference Proceedings

Tehran Conference on International Law, sponsored by Iran Center for Thought and Speech, took place on Sunday June 24, 2007. The purpose of the conference was to discuss three proposals for reforms at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. The conference was paneled by a number of well-known Iranian scholars and university professors of international law and graduate law students from various universities.

The object of the conference was to discuss and finalize the wordings of three proposals made by Mr. Kourosh Zaim to the United Nations and to the International Criminal Court in form of letters to the UN Secretary General and the president of the ICC over the past two years:

1. Proposal for reform of the membership rules and voting rights of the General Assembly (November 2005).

2. Proposal for reform of the membership and voting rights of Human Rights Council (December 2006).

3. Proposal for an amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court concerning crimes against humanity (June 2007).

The conference, which began at 5:00 pm, was divided into three segments, each dealing with one of the proposals on the agenda. (The full texts of the original letters of proposals are attached to this report.)

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First, the proposal on reform of membership rules of the UNSC (Attachment No. 1) was discussed. The conference approved Sections 1 and 2, but upon Dr. Mohammad Sharif's proposal the wording of Section 3was changed from "representation of each member" to "permanent representation of each member" not to mistaken with the annual heads of states presence. It was also proposed by Dr. Shahram Zarneshan to state that Article 2 of the UN Charter must also be modified accordingly. The final text of the proposal was approved as follows:

PROPOSAL 1: Reform of the Representation Rules of UN Members

Whereas, the United Nations is a world organization representing the "nations" of the world and not the "governments", we propose that the rules governing the permanent representatives of member countries in the United Nations be changed such that the member countries are obliged to elect their representatives to the UN through free general election. In our opinion, the representation of a nation in the UN must be considered the "most important" national duty; the rule change will accomplish just that in due course.

Therefore, we propose the sections 3 and 4 below to be added to existing 2 sections of Article 9 of the UN Charter:

Sec. 1 (existing): General Assembly shall consist of all members of the United Nations.

Sec. 2 (existing): Each member shall have not more than five representatives in the General Assembly.

Sec. 3 (proposed): The permanent representatives to the General assembly shall be elected through free popular elections in each member country.

Sec. 4 (proposed): The elections of UN representatives shall be conducted according to the rules and guidelines of the UN. UN reserves the right to supervise or observe elections of the General Assembly representatives.

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In the second segment of the conference, the reform proposal for membership rules and voting rights of the Human Rights Council (Attachment No. 2) was discussed. The general view of the international law scholars in the panel was that the Human Rights Council with the present membership is not effective and not in line with the current trend of globalization, advancement of democracy and human rights and closeness of world community. Therefore, Mr. Kourosh Zaim's reform proposal to the UN is a necessity, the panel concluded.

There were a number of corrective and complementary proposals from the floor which were discussed and some approved to be included in Zaim's original proposal. A change was proposed by Dr. Zarneshan and Dr. Davoud Hermidas Bavand to replace the word "signed" in Clause 1 of Proposal I to "ratified the International Bill of Human Rights including its convents and protocols".

Dr. Bavand further proposed that Part III of the original proposal be deleted, since the nature of UNSC responsibilities are quite different from those of HRC. The deletion was approved by the panel.

Dr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah proposed that since the responsibilities of the HRC are extremely important in the life of people, the representatives of the UN members in the HRC must also be elected by popular vote in their respective countries. Dr. Nazeri proposed that this requirement be added to Zaim's original proposal. The requirement was approved to replace the deleted Part III. The final text of the original proposal was approved as follows:

PROPOSAL 2: Reform of the Membership Rules of the Human Rights Council

While we all agree that the current Human Rights Council with current rules of membership is not much different from the former Human Rights Commission, a reform true to the meaning and the mission of the HRC is in order. Thus, we propose the following reforms in form of a rule change for the make-up of the HRC membership be considered for enactment:

Part I:

While the geographic membership quota system can remain as is, no member country shall be admitted into the Human Rights Council unless:

1. Has ratified the International Bill of Human Rights including its convents and protocols.

2. Has included the International Bill of Human Rights including all its convents and protocols in its national Constitution.

3. The UN Human Rights watch or a similar observation instrument has reported substantial compliance of the Human Rights.

Instituting such a regulation for membership in the Human Rights Council might leave a great number of seats empty. So, be it. The countries will know that seats are available to them once they pass the test of compliance.

Part II:

The voting right in the General Assembly of any UN member declared in substantial violation of human rights shall be suspended until such time as a decided effort toward improving same has been reported.

Part III:

The representatives of member countries in the HRC shall be elected by popular vote in their respective countries. The UN reserves the right to supervise or observe such elections.

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In the third segment of the conference, Mr. Zaim's proposal for addition of certain clauses to Articles 5 and 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was discussed. These amendments will make deliberate destruction of historical and cultural heritage a crime against humanity. Dr. Sharif reminded that while Geneva Conventions of 1949 and 1977 have stressed the importance of the protection of cultural heritage, no preventive nor punitive measures have been prescribed. Mr. Aref reminded that Geneva Conventions fail to address protection of cultural heritage in peace time. Dr. Bavand, while declaring that Zaim's proposal is a unique innovation, proposed that UNESCO must also be made responsible. Finally, Zaim's proposal in its entirety was unanimously approved by the panel. The final text of the proposal stayed as is:

PROPOSAL 3: Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Article 5. Crimes within jurisdiction of the Court

Add: (e) Destruction of cultural heritage

Article 7. Crimes against humanity

Add: (L) Willful destruction of world cultural heritage

Add: (j) The purpose of paragraph L: "Willful destruction of world cultural heritage" means planned and willful destruction of historical structures, artifacts, sites or artwork considered cultural heritage and registered with UNSESCO as world heritage and/or a course of conduct involving systematic or multiple commission of acts leading to destruction of national historical and cultural heritage.

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In the final segment of the conference, a proposal by Ms. Shokooh Mirzadegi, founder of Pasargad Heritage Foundation, Denver, USA, was read and discussed. The proposal, meant to be added to UNESCO constitution, was as follows:

"It is necessary that before any decision concerning each country's governmental reports concerning the state of its cultural heritage, the reports, assessments and warnings of the country's independent cultural heritage professionals and scholars be also considered, and that people's will be studied before any decision is made."

Nearly all law scholars present asserted that making UNESCO more responsible is more time efficient. Thus the conference asked of Mr. Kourosh Zaim to prepare an appropriate text of a proposal for reform of UNESCO, which to include Ms. Mirzadegi, Dr. Bavand, Dr. Dadkhah and Dr. Nazeri's ideas. The UNESCO Reform Proposal, when ready, to be presented to the named contributors for comments before submitted to the UNESCO.

The conference adjourned at 8:30 pm.

Attachment No. 1

Letter to the UN Secretary Generals, Mr. Kofi Anan and Mr. Ban Ki-moon

Subject:  Proposal for Reform of the General Assembly Representation

Your Excellency,

The United Nations is meant to be a world government and, technically, an authoritative body much more powerful than the member countries. This, however, has not been the case, and the existing administrative structure of the UN does not allow for an independent and powerful world government.  

The UN does not possess the strength it is expected to have, and not because there is any flaw in the idea of the UN, but in how its membership and representation is defined. Although this world body is the "United Nations" by definition, it is the "United Governments" by rule and practice. The strength of the UN is dependent on how strong and when and for what purpose the more powerful or favored member governments allow it to be. The UN should eventually be the final and independent authority serving the interests of the people of the world. However, because it is represented by the governments rather than the nations, it does not always enjoy the support of the peoples of the member countries. This may not be as serious of a case for countries where leaders are chosen through free elections, but, in the countries ruled by despots or in which free elections are rarely experienced, is of grave concern. The UN has, as a result, been a brokerage house for governments, a great number of which have not been and still are not true representatives of their peoples.

The flaw I see is in the way the "nations" are represented in the General Assembly. The representatives currently are all government appointees and bureaucrats, not true representatives of their respective peoples. As the result, the General Assembly is not a true representation of the united "nations".

Furthermore, if we, as the citizens of a united world, wish to look forward to a central federal government of the world, we must develop the instruments by which this dream can come true.

What I am about to propose is a major reform in the rules of the General Assembly representation, which is in line with my thinking of the future for the UN. I propose reform of the rules to require all member nations to elect their representatives to the General Assembly in free popular elections, much like presidents and parliamentarians are elected. The job of a nation's representation in the United Nations must be an extremely important responsibility and, as I see it, will someday become the "most important" responsibility in any country.

Therefore, I propose that the Article 9 of Chapter IV of the Charter be amended by adding section 3 and 4 as follows:

1. General Assembly shall consist of all the Members of the United Nations.

2. Each Member shall have not more than five representatives in the General Assembly.

3. The representation of each Member in the General Assembly shall be headed by one elected by popular vote of in the respective member nation. The elected representative holds the right to vote in the General Assembly.

4. The election of the UN representatives shall be conducted according to the rules and guidelines of the UN. UN reserves the right to supervise or observe elections of the General Assembly representatives.

The above proposed amendment will make UN business a very serious business and the UN a very powerful people-oriented world body.

Respectfully submitted,

Kourosh Zaim

 

Attachment No. 2

Letter to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon

Subject:       Proposal for Reform of the Human Rights Council Membership

Your Excellency,

When criticism on the make-up and effectiveness of the former Commission on Human Rights lead to reform, the expectation was re-formation of this essential world body into an effective and authoritative entity the people of the world could depend on for protection of their basic rights. However, the most significant change instituted was merely an administrative status change from an independent Commission to a subsidiary Council. No qualitative change was affected.

It was hoped that the much publicized reform would at least bar the states with gross violations of human rights from sitting in the "Human Rights Council". A member government that does not respect human rights in its own country, and some not even true representatives of their nations, must not be allowed to sit at a council which is to guarantee human rights of all people. The current system is more hypocrisy than democracy. Many of the current HRC members are belligerent violators of even the most basic of human rights in their own countries.

While we all agree that the current Human Rights Council with current rules of membership is not much different than the old Human Rights Commission, a reform true to the meaning and the mission of the HRC is in order. I propose the following reforms in the make-up of the HRC membership be considered by the United Nations management for study:

Proposal I:

While the geographic membership quota system can remain as is, no member country shall be admitted into the Council unless:

1. Has signed the International Bill of Human Rights.

2. Has included the International Bill of Human Rights in its Constitution.

3. The UN's Human Rights watch or a similar observation instrument has reported substantial compliance of the Bill of Human Rights.

Instituting such a regulation for membership in the Human Rights Council might leave a great number of seats empty. So, be it. The countries will know that seats are available to them once they pass the test of compliance.

Proposal II:

The voting right in the General Assembly of any UN member declared in substantial violation of human rights should be suspended until such time as a decided effort toward improving same has been reported.

Proposal III:

No UN member in substantial violation of human rights may be allowed membership in the Security Council. After all, the responsibility of the Security Council is to provide security for the people of the member states through peace and justice, and not just security for governments.

Respectfully submitted,

Kourosh Zam

Attachment No. 3

Letter to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the President of the International Criminal Court

Subject:  Proposal to Amend Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Gentlemen,

One of the most significant steps the international community has taken toward a civilized world community was the Rome Statute, entered into force in 2002, and the creation of the International Criminal Court.

The statute deals with organized brutality of man against man and crimes of aggression which have been so rampant over the span of human history. The Statute was a giant step by the human society toward legal enforcement against violations of human rights where the life and physical being of human beings are concerned.

Enforcements against criminals who ruled Yugoslavia, Rwanda and even Iraq showed that insanity stemmed from dictatorial powers is no longer tolerated by the international community and that no ruthless dictator ruling by force and fear will ever be safe again even at home.

We are now ready to take another step forward toward cleaning up the world from the rule of ruthless rootless radicals who not only destroy people who oppose their illusive ideological human society, but engage in systematic destruction of civilized man's cultural heritage which gives him identity and self-esteem and those that represent milestones in human civilization.

Thus, I propose the following amendments be made to PART 2 of the Rome Statute in order to enable the Court to prosecute those who willfully destroy world historical and cultural heritage. Examples of such crimes are the destruction of the statue of Buda and numerous historical artifacts by the Taliban in Afghanistan; and the ongoing destruction of Pasargad historical site in Iran and the tomb of Cyrus the Great, a world cultural heritage.

PROPOSAL:

Article 5. Crimes within jurisdiction of the Court

Add: (e) Destruction of cultural heritage

Article 7. Crimes against humanity

Add: (L) Willful destruction of world cultural heritage

Add: (j) The purpose of paragraph L: "Willful destruction of world cultural heritage" means planned and willful destruction of historical structures, artifacts, sites or artwork considered cultural heritage and registered with UNSESCO as world heritage and/or a course of conduct involving systematic or multiple commission of acts leading to destruction of national historical and cultural heritage.

I hope that this proposal is given due attention, since I believe that while breath and blood provide physical life and must be protected, cultural heritage provides human society with identity, spirit and the feeling of achievement without which society loses its soul.

Respectfully submitted,

Kourosh Zaim

 

Iran Center for Thought and Speech

Research for Shaping the Future Iran

 Mail: P. O. Box 14335-538, Tehran, Iran;

Email: andishe.sokhan@gmail.com