UN 'fails to meet standards on rights'

AMNESTY International has strongly criticised United Nations peace-keeping operations for failing to observe the UN's standards of human rights, and condemns the organisation's operation in Somalia for unlawful killings and detentions.

After profound soul- searching, the rights organisation, which has consultative status at the UN, has decided to publish its highly critical report and its demand that human rights are made 'an intrinsic part of all peace- keeping operations'.

In Angola and Somalia, the report says, the UN's neglect of human rights has been 'disastrous'. It deplores the loss of life in recent UN operations in Somalia. 'Some of the civilians killed by UN or US troops seem to have been the victims of the use of lethal force in breach of human rights and international humanitarian law obligations'.

Amnesty also accuses the UN of detaining many Somalis without charge or trial and without access to relatives or lawyers. The remaining eight UN detainees in Somalia were released last week on the orders of the Secretary- General but the UN has not satisfactorily explained under what law they were held and why they were denied internationally accepted human and legal rights.

In former Yugoslavia the report notes serious allegations against UN personnel, including rape and forced prostitution. In other operations, such as in Western Sahara, UN personnel have ignored human rights violations going on around them. The report urges that human rights monitors are dispatched with every peace-keeping operation.

Amnesty recognises that the number of peace-keeping operations has increased dramatically in the past few years, that some of them are 'peace-enforcing' rather than 'peace-keeping' and that there are difficult political decisions to make about the appropriate use of force.

But it says: 'The UN has so far failed to build essential measures for human rights promotion and protection consistently into its peace- keeping activities. It is time for the UN to develop a more coherent and comprehensive approach.'