Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Has UNIFIL Forgotten What Its Mandate Is?

Last month, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti was interviewed on an i24NEWS program called The Rundown. At one point, starting at 3:33 and extending to 4:40, Tenenti described just what UNIFIL's mandate is:

So, according to Tenenti:

  • UNIFIL's job is limited to monitoring
  • UNIFIL has no mandate to disarm Hezbollah
  • UNIFIL is not allowed to search private property
video screengrab
UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti. Video screengrab

At first glance, Tenenti seems to be right.

In 2006, when UNIFIL took on its new mandate, the commander in charge of UNIFIL, Major-General Alain Pellegrini set the limits on UNIFIL's mandate:
Pellegrini made it clear, however, that UNIFIL's mission, even with the new rules of engagement, does not include disarming Hezbollah. "It's not my job," he said. UNIFIL's role, he said, is to assist the Lebanese army in guaranteeing state authority over all Lebanese territory.
That was on September 3.
Three weeks later, Pellegrini gave an exclusive interview to The Jerusalem Post:
In his first interview to an Israeli paper since the war in Lebanon, Pellegrini revealed that last week a Syrian weapons convoy on its way to Hizbullah was intercepted by the Lebanese army near the Lebanese-Syrian border. While the new rules of engagement set by the UN allowed the new UNIFIL force to open fire in order to implement resolution 1701, Pellegrini said he would not automatically order his troops to open fire on Hizbullah guerrillas if they were spotted on their way to the Blue Line to attack Israel. The job of the new multinational force, he said, was to assist the Lebanese army and not to disarm or engage Hizbullah or even to prevent its attacks.
Pellegrini's admission that UNIFIL is allowed to use force to implement Resolution 1701 contradicts Tenenti's claim that UNIFIL's role is just to monitor. That Pellegrini goes on to turn around and then claim that their role is to assist the Lebanese army and not to disarm, engage or prevent attacks is puzzling.

It also contradicts the text of Resolution 1701, which:
authorizes UNIFIL to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council, and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel, humanitarian workers and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Lebanon, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence;
Again, this assigns to UNIFIL more than just a monitoring role.

Now, what about a mandate to disarm Hezbollah?

Back to the text of Resolution 1701, which:
Requests the Secretary-General to develop, in liaison with relevant international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), including disarmament...
Who are the relevant "international actors" who are supposed to implement disarmament?

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appears not to have gotten the memo -
Annan angered Israeli officials when he told Channel 2 on Tuesday that "dismantling Hizbullah is not the direct mandate of the UN," which could only help Lebanon disarm the organization.
Resolution 1701 implies an orchestrated effort; the only proposal that Annan seems to have developed was to keep the UN as far away as possible. But if UNIFIL is supposed "to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind," how is it supposed to maintain that kind of control without having the authority to disarm Hezbollah at some level?

The last point Tenenti makes is that UNIFIL has no authority to search private property.

But according to the Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, that is not exactly accurate either:
In accordance with its mandate, UNIFIL does not proactively search for weapons in the south. UNIFIL cannot enter or search private property unless there is credible evidence of a violation of the resolution, including an imminent threat of hostile activity from that location. In situations in which specific information is received regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations, UNIFIL, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces, has remained determined to act with all means available within its mandate and capabilities.
Again, instead of maintaining just a monitoring mode, UNIFIL does have a mandate to search homes when there is evidence of violations. More than that, the text clearly states that when the illegal presence of weapons is detected, UNIFIL not only has the authority to search but also to act "with all means available" -- meaning that it can disarm.

There is, in fact, a documented case of UNIFIL doing a search of private homes in 2010, using sniffer dogs and resulting in villagers retaliating by grabbing the weapons of a UNIFIL patrol, throwing stones at them and blocking the road.

In this case, it was UNIFIL that was disarmed.

The bottom line is that clearly, the role of UNIFIL was not intended to be as passive as Tenenti claims, limited to monitoring.

  • UNIFIL is allowed to use force
  • The issue of disarming Hezbollah is a hot potato everyone is trying to avoid, but there is no clear indication that UNIFIL cannot disarm Hezbollah in specific circumstances "to prevent hostile activities"
  • UNIFIL is allowed to do searches when there is evidence of a violation
The fact that Hezbollah was able to dig multiple tunnels into Israel is just one more reminder of UNIFIL's failure to do its job.
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