Issue 7: Director-General of the World Health Organization asks senior management to resign; and a key issue to be resolved in the creation of the International Criminal Court

The new head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has reportedly asked all senior management to submit letters of resignation.

Analysis: Readers will recall that in our 3 June 1998 edition, we wistfully suggested that all UN employees be required to reapply for their jobs. According to well-placed individuals within the UN, Dr. Brundtland has done just that, asking for the resignation of all top management officials at the WHO, even before she officially assumes her post.

Clearing the decks makes good sense. This move allows Dr. Brundtland to staff her operation with people she feels meet the rigorous UN standards of “competence, efficiency, and integrity,” while also sending a no-nonsense message throughout the organization, a tone we hope will endure throughout Dr. Brundtland’s term.

As the Rome Conference on the establishment of an International Criminal Court (ICC) proceeds, countries have split on the role of the Security Council and the powers of a prosecutor.

Analysis: While we fully support the establishment of a permanent criminal court, key issues remain to be solved. Though a majority of governments support an independent prosecutor who could launch investigations without first requesting permission from the Security Council or Member States, several countries including the United States, Russia, and China are opposed. These countries insist the Security Council should determine which cases are referred for prosecution.

It might be instructive to look at existing treaty bodies, like the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to highlight some legitimate concerns. The “independent experts of high moral standing” comprising these bodies – furnished with a mandate to monitor the application of these conventions – are elected by states, and are supposed to be independent and non-political. Truth to say, though many experts are of high quality, too many others are insufficiently informed or are politically motivated. While an International Criminal Court is necessary, it can not be allowed to assume the worst aspects of present treaty bodies. For the ICC to function, prosecutors must be wholly independent (of state governments and other UN organs), and jurists of the highest quality.

UN Watch