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EDITORIAL - Jamaica can't be complacent on UN vote

Published:Thursday | November 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

On Monday, the United Nations, with its General Assembly and Security Council voting simultaneously but separately, will make another attempt at what had been, up to yesterday, a tortuously deadlocked effort to fill a final vacant seat on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is also called the World Court.

Jamaica's Patrick Robinson was, until the withdrawal of Argentina's Susanna Ruiz Cerutti, one of the two candidates for the post. So, unopposed, Mr Robinson appears to be a shoo-in.

But there is no room for complacency. We, therefore, expect that, over the next four days, up to the time of the vote, Foreign Minister A.J. Nicholson and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and their aides will be busy engaging their counterparts around the world in maintaining support in the General Assembly and find the new ones necessary in the Security Council to take him across the threshold.

Indeed, it would be a shame if, because of our inaction, supporters of Ms Ruiz Cerutti register a protest vote against Mr Robinson and adopt an intransigence that, ultimately, makes his candidacy untenable.

Patrick Robinson's suitability for a seat on the ICJ, which arbitrates major global issues, is hardly in question. Having served as a deputy solicitor general in Jamaica and a commissioner of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, he was appointed a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1998 and became its president in 2008, until he retired from the post in 2011. He, among others, presided over the war-crimes trial of former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

His attempt to become the second Caribbean judge on the ICJ in its 70-year history, following Guyana's Mohamed Shahadbuddeen, who served from 1988 to 1997, has strong global support.

Five seats opened on the court for next year, for which there were nine candidates. Under the rules of the election, candidates have to win an absolute majority of votes in separate but simultaneous balloting in the 197-member General Assembly and 15-member Security Council. The process has these justices, for two of whom it represented re-election. Two other low-polling candidates previously withdrew, leaving Mr Robinson and Ms Ruiz Cerutti.

RULES DEMAND ANOTHER VOTE

But over two meetings and several rounds of balloting, Mr Robinson consistently passed the majority threshold in the General Assembly, where all member states have a vote. In the latest on November 6, he received 130 votes. But he has trailed in the Security Council, where Ms Ruiz Cerutti's last showing was nine votes, against Mr Robinson's six.

Although the Argentinian has now withdrawn and there is hardly time for a national committee from anywhere to nominate another candidate, the rules demand another vote in which Mr Robinson must secure majorities in the two bodies, meaning at least eight votes in the Security Council, of which Argentina is serving a two-year term as a non-permanent member.

By now, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher, who, like Prime Minister Simpson Miller, is female, should have heard from the Jamaica leader - and if it hasn't happened, it should - to enlist her endorsement of Jamaica's candidacy and to highlight the many areas in which both countries have common interests and for which she can count on Jamaica's support - political and moral. Dealing with the problems of debt and responding to intransigent judges are among them.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.