United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping:

After Hezbollah's kidnapping of a pair of Israeli soldiers spurred an Israeli counter-attack, many critics of Israel actions have suggested that the United Nations can serve as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah. To the contrary, the United Nations has a well-established record of collaboration with Hezbollah in the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been deployed since 1978, not long after Israel first entered Lebanon in pursuit of PLO terrorists. UNIFIL was created pursuant to Security Council Resolution 425, for the purpose of "confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area." Quite obviously UNFIL has utterly failed to achieve the Security Council's objectives, either before or after Israel's 2000 complete withdrawal from Lebanon. One reason is that UNIFIL does not interdict Hezbollah attacks on Israel. Instead, UNIFIL allows Hezbollah to set up positions next to UNFIL units, in effect using UNIFIL as human shields against Israeli counterstrikes. (Aluf Benn, Israel accuses UN of collaborating with Hezbollah," Haaretz, Sept. 11, 2005.)

UNIFIL's most notorious collaboration with terrorists involved the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli soldiers, and the subsequent cover-up.

On October 7, 2000, Hezbollah terrorists entered Israel, attacked three Israeli soldiers on Mount Dov, and abducted them Lebanon. The kidnapping was witnessed by several dozen UNIFIL soldiers who stood idle. One of the soldier witnesses described the kidnapping: the terrorists set of an explosive which stunned the Israeli soldiers. Clad in UN uniforms, the terrorists called out, "Come, come, we’ll help you."

The Israeli soldiers approached the men in UN uniforms. Then, a Hezbollah bomb detonated—-apparently prematurely. It wounded the disguised Hezbollah commander, and three Israeli soldiers.

Two other terrorists in U.N. uniforms dragged their Hezbollah commander and the three wounded soldiers into a getaway car.

According an Indian solider in UNIFIL who witnessed the kidnapping, "By this stage, there was a big commotion and dozens of UN soldiers from the Indian brigade came around." The witness stated that the brigade knew that the kidnappers in UN uniform were Hezbollah. One soldiers said that the brigade should arrest the Hezbollah, but the brigade did nothing.

According to the Indian soldier, the UNFIL brigade in the area "could have prevented the kidnapping."

"I’m very sorry about what happened, because we saw what happened," he said. Hezbollah "were wearing our uniforms and it was too bad we didn’t stop them."

It appears that at least four of the UNIFIL "peacekeepers," all from India, has received bribes from Hezbollah in order to assist the kidnapping by helping them get to the kidnapping spot and find the Israeli soldiers. Some of the bribery involved alcohol and Lebanese women.

The Indian brigade later had a bitter internal argument, as some members complained that the brigade had betrayed its peacekeeping mandate. An Indian government investigation sternly criticized the brigade's conduct.

There is evidence of far greater payments by Hezbollah to the UNIFIL Indian brigade, including hundreds of thousands of dollars for assistance in the kidnapping and cover-up.

The UN cover-up began almost immediately.

Lebanon's The Daily Star reported the story told by a former officer of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), which is part of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). ("UN 'destroyed' evidence after abduction of 3 Israeli troops," The Daily Star, July 20, 2001.)

A few hours after the kidnapping, UNTSO learned that two abandoned cars had been discovered. One was a white Nissan Pathfinder with fake UN insignia; it had hit an embankment because it was being driven so fast that the driver missed a turn. The other was a Range Rover; it was missing a tire rim, and was still running when it was discovered.

Rather than using the very-recently-abandoned vehicles as clues to rescue the kidnap victims, the UN initiated a cover-up. The next morning, eighteen hours after the kidnapping, a team of OGL and the Indian UNIFIL began removing the contents of the cars.

The Range Rover was soaked with blood. Among the contents of the vehicles may have been a cell phone belonging to the terrorists. The UNTSO officer confirmed that the cars contained "extremely sensitive" items which included "current and relevant information that could have been easily linked to the incident."

A UNIFIL peacekeeper videotaped the removal of the contents, and attempted to tow one of the cars. According to a much-later U.N. report, there were fifty items taken from the car, seven of them blood-stained. (Report of the fact-finding investigation relating to the abduction of three Israeli soldiers on 7 October 2000 and subsequent relevant events, Aug. 2, 2001.)

The end of the UNIFIL videotape featured armed Lebanese men confronting the UN forces, and taking the cars away from the UN. The UN personnel did not resist, because, they later claimed, the cars did not belong to the UN anyway.

The UNTSO officer told The Daily Star that the UN ordered its personnel to destroy all photographs and written reports about the incident.

The U.N. did not provide the Israelis with the automobile contents, or the videotape, both of which might have helped the Israelis rescue the kidnap victims. Instead, the seized contents of the cars were taken to a town in Lebanon, stored in a safe, and some were eventually returned to Hezbollah.

Israel found out about the videotape, and demanded that the UN let Israeli investigators see it. Kofi Annan and his Special Envoy denied that any videotape existed. It is not clear whether Annan was lying, or whether he was misled.

Nine months after the kidnapping, July 6, 2001, the UN admitted that is had the videotape. Annan ordered an internal UN Report, which was led by UN undersecretary-General Joseph Connor. (Connor was later implicated in the Oil-for-Food scam.) The report revealed that the UN had two additional videotapes—one of which contained still photographs from the kidnapping itself. The UN investigation declared that there was no evidence that the UNIFIL forces had been bribed, or that the UN had deliberately misled anyone.

Even after admitting the existence of the first videotape, Annan refused to allow Israel to view it. He claimed that letting Israel see evidence about the kidnapping would undermine the UN’s neutrality. Thus, Annan insisted on neutrality between innocent victims and terrorists who had used fake UN insignia and who had taken vehicles from UN staff a gunpoint.

The United States House of Representatives, on July 30, 2001, passed by a vote of 411-4 a resolution urging the UN to allow Israel to see the videotape. Annan relented, but only under the condition that the tape be edited so as to hide the faces of the Hezbollah perpetrators. He also agreed to give the Israelis some, but not all, of the items which the UN had seized from the getaway cars.

On January 29, 2004, the bodies of the murdered Israelis were returned to Israel by Hezbollah, as part of a prisoner exchange.

UPDATE: In response to one of the commenters, I've added the following analysis on two questions: 1. By what standard can the UN be considered an "accomplice" in the Hezbollah kidnapping? 2. Is anti-semitism the best explanation of UN behavior?

1. Regarding UN complicity in kidnapping, one can analogize from the rules that are used to decide whether a corporation is criminally culpable for the acts of its employees, or whether a government agency is liable under section 1983 for the acts of its employees. At the lowest level--the four bribed Indians--the trier of facts looks at the entity's efforts to prevent or punish the employee conduct in question, and whether the entity creates a culture in which the conduct is encouraged or tacitly tolerated.

For misconduct by higher-ranking employees, prosecutors and fact-finders tend to be more likely to conclude that misconduct is attributable to the entity. If you believe the UNTSO official who spoke to The Daily Star (not exactly a reflexively pro-Israel newspaper), or if you believe that reports of a vast bribery scheme are true, then you might well find culpability on the part of the UN.

But I think that my calling the UN an "accomplice" is supportable purely on the undisputed public facts about the UN's concealment and suppression of evidence — with some of the suppression being conducted at the direct order of the UN's chief executive. I believe the undisputed facts are sufficient to show, at the least, that the UN was an accessory-after-the-fact to the kidnappings.

Moreover, the activities of the UN's top staff in New York City, and of high-ranking UN officials in Lebanon, are also relevant evidence for whether there is UN corporate culture of tolerance for terrorism/kidnapping, which is relevant evidence for whether the misconduct of the Indian brigade can be attributed to the UN.

As some commenters have pointed out, there is a very long record of the UN being extremely lax towards crimes committed by its peacekeepers in many other places--for example, the rapes of women and girls in former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, West Africa, and the Congo. The global record suggests, again, a corporate culture of indifference (despite official statements to the contrary) towards employee on-the-job involvement in violent crime; the evidence of a global culture of indifference is more evidence which a fact-finder could use in concluding that crimes of the Indian brigade were attributable to the UN.

2. Anti-semitism. I don't think that anti-semitism is the root of the UN's problem with Israel. It's true, as some commentators have pointed out, that the UN is functionally anti-semitic; that is, the UN constantly condemns Israel far more often and more vehemently than it condemns other countries which (even if you believe the worst about Israel) violate human rights much more severely than Israel does. The Eye on the UN website provides copious documentation of the UN's functional anti-semitism.

Nevertheless, I think the UN's pervasive anti-Israelism, although anti-Semitic in practice, is not primarily motivated by hatred of Jews.

Hitler was genuinely committed to anti-Semitism. He harmed his own military interests by giving rail line priority to trains which were headed for the death camps, putting those trains ahead of military transport trains. Similarly, Hitler would have produced resources with which to fight the war if he had used Jews as slave labor (as many were used before extermination), rather than killing them en masse. Who else would harm their own self-interest in order to kill Jews. The answers include "the government of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the PLO." But only one of these has a UN delegation, and the UN had turned vehemently against Israel long before Iran's government was taken over by Islamonazis.

Way back in the 1950s, the Arab bloc at the UN had succeeded in perverting UNRWA so that UNRWA would perpetuate rather than solve the Palestinian refugee problem. The Arab dictators of the day may have personally despised Jews, but I think that the dictators were acting out of self-interest, not prejudice. They recognized that keeping the Arab-Israeli conflict festering was a good way to distract and divert the anger of their own nations' populations. In retrospect, we know that the strategy was only partially successful, since the fomentation of anti-Israel Jew hatred sometimes aroused local forces which the dictatorships were unable to control.

Arab government-incited anti-semitism had the advantage of building on historical prejudices against Jews. (It's true that, in the past, Arab Moslem regimes sometimes treated Jews better than did European Christians, but there was also a long record of atrocious abuse of Jews in the Arab world on which the post-WWII Arab dictatorships could build.)

But suppose that modern Israel had never been created, and that, after WWII, some other state for a stateless people had been born. Maybe sympathy for the Gypsies, who were also the victims of Nazi genocide, might have led to the creation of Gypsistan (or Romastan, according to the modern usage) in a part of Egypt. (The word "gypsy" comes from the "Egypt", based on the belief that the group originated there.) Or some other persecuted group might have established a homeland in the wastelands of Libya. In any case, I think that the establishment of a non-Arab state would likely have led to military confrontation, and if the attempt to exterminate that state by force had failed, then the Arab dictators would have found political advantage in fomenting hatred of that non-Arab state.

Although UNRWA was captured very shortly after it was born, the broader UN assault on Israel didn't get going until the 1960s; the assault peaked in the 1970s, and later receded slightly from its 1970s apex. The anti-Israel assault of the 1970s was merely one element in a successful Soviet strategy of aligning the new UN members, most of them former colonies of Europe, and most of them dictatorships, into an anti-Western bloc. Israel, having the misfortune of being located in the middle of a sea of dictatorships, was a natural target of this UN super-majority; but the same would have been true if Romastan were a pro-western democracy.

Today, the Islamic bloc at the UN continues to find local political advantage in anti-Israelism (as it would with anti-Romastanism), while the rest of the Third World finds it advantageous to go along. I don't think that the dictatorship of China, for example, cares one way or the other about Jews or Israel; but the Chinese dictatorship correctly discerns that voting with the Islamic bloc against Israel is a cost-free way to curry favor with Islamic states, and win their support on issues relevant to China.

Regarding Kofi Annan, and most of the rest of the UN's leading executives, I would say that, functionally, they are vicious anti-Semites, but that, in their hearts, they are not particularly prejudiced against Jews per se. Rather, their actions are explainable under the principles of organizational behavior. Annan is a career UN employee (the first one to become Secretary-General), and he has risen through the organization by shrewdly placating whoever needs to be placated. His anti-Israel actions are simply the result of his astute calculation of the balance of forces at the UN. If he could gain more power at the United Nations by denouncing Fiji or by defending Israel, he would do so.

So there is no anti-semitic conspiracy at the UN, in the sense of a conspiracy directed by people who are deeply motivated by hatred of Jews. Rather, the UN's criminal complicity in the kidnapping of Israelis, like the rest of the UN's anti-Israelism, is explainable as the logical result of a wide variety of UN actors behaving according to their self-interest.


Orin, in a post above, argues that, even though high-ranking United Nations officials destroyed and withheld evidence about the Hezbollah crime (for which the accomplices included four rank and file UN peacekeepers), the UN officials would not be guilty as accessories-after-the-fact, because they did not have the specific intent that is necessary for such liability.

If there actually were a prosecution, I don't know whether the law which would be applied would be Lebanese law, Israeli law, International Criminal Court law (if similar acts were perpetrated today), US law for the portion of the cover-up in the US (assuming the UN employees waived or lost their diplomatic immunity), or some other law. But for simplicity, let us look at a very straightforward example of how American juries are instructed to determine accessory guilt.

Here the Sixth Circuit Jury Instructions:

(1) _______ is not charged with actually committing the crime of _______. Instead, he is charged with helping someone else try to avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished for that crime. A person who does this is called an accessory after the fact.

(2) For you to find _______ guilty of being an accessory after the fact, the government must prove each and every one of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

(A) First, that the defendant knew someone else had already committed the crime of _______.

(B) Second, that the defendant then helped that person try to avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished.

(C) And third, that the defendant did so with the intent to help that person avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished.

(3) If you are convinced that the government has proved all of these elements, say so by returning a guilty verdict on this charge. If you have a reasonable doubt about any one of these elements, then you must find the defendant not guilty of this charge.

It would appear relatively easy for the prosecutor to prove elements (A) and (B) of the offense. As for (C), let us presume that a UN official testifies honestly during his trial (perhaps in exchange for leniency):

Q: Why did you destroy and conceal the evidence?

A: To avoid embarassment to the United Nations.

Q: Did you believe that it would be embarassing to the United Nations if the public found out that four UN peacekeepers were accomplices in the crime?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you worry that if the Hezbollah perpetrators were caught, they might reveal, or the prosecutors might more easily discover, that UN peacekeepers were accomplices?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you destroy and conceal evidence with the intent of helping the Hezbollah perpetrators and the UN perpetrators avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished?

A: Yes.

Q: Why?

A: Because achieving my intent of helping the perpetrators avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished was indispensible to my ultimate intent of avoiding embarassment to the United Nations. Isn't that obvious? I mean, once I formed my intent of avoiding embarassment to the United Nations, I necessarily intended to accomplish all the steps which were requisite to my ultimate intent. I certainly had the common sense to know that one of the steps which I must take would be helping the perpetrators avoid being arrested, prosecuted or punished.

Response to "United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping": For VC readers who don't follow comment threads, I thought I would post up front my response to David Kopel's post below arguing that "the United Nations has a well-established record of collaboration with Hezbollah in the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers." In my view, David's argument doesn't work.

  As I understand David's post, four Indian soldiers that were part of a UN peace-keeping force were bribed by Hezbollah; they helped Hezbollah get close to a kidnapping spot and find Israeli soldiers, and then the Hezbollah members kidnapped the Israeli soldiers and later killed them. Other UN forces watched the kidnapping happen and didn't try to stop it. The UN then tried to cover up what happened.

  This is really horrible stuff, obviously. It certainly helps show -- to those who need proof -- that if you're in a foxhole you probably don't want a UN soldier there with you. At the same time, I don't understand how it supports the claim that "the United Nations has a well-established record of collaboration with Hezbollah in the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers."

  First of all, collaboration and accomplice liability both imply and require intent to further the act, not merely conduct that furthers or fails to impede the act. Thus the claim would have to be that the United Nations didn't just help the kidnapping occur, or didn't just sit idly by while it happened, but it actually intended its actions to further the kidnapping. I don't know if there is evidence that the four Indian soldiers actually had that intent, or that anyone else associated with the UN had that intent, but none is provided in David's post.

  Second, to the extent that there was real collaboration between Hezbollah and the four Indian soldiers, I'm not sure how we jump from four Indian soldiers doing something to the entire United Nations doing it. I recognize that there are difficult questions involved in tagging an institution with the acts of its members. But I gather from David's post that the bribed soldiers were rogue soldiers who were not following orders, rather than loyal soldiers following orders. Surely we should be reluctant to ignore the difference. To use a provocative example, consider press reports involving individual acts by U.S. soldiers in Iraq including rapes, murders, and cover-ups of those crimes. Surely it would be unacceptable to go from those stories to the broad claim that "the United States had a well-established record of raping and killing women and children."

  To be clear, I'm not saying that the UN is the greatest, or that UN involvement is the (or an) answer to the current Middle East crisis. But I don't think it helps us to paint with the broadest possible brush.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Accomplices, Accessories, Mens Rea, and More:
  2. Response to "United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping":
  3. United Nations an Accomplice in Hezbollah Kidnapping:
Accomplices, Accessories, Mens Rea, and More:

I thought I'd briefly chime in on the legal dispute between Orin and David Kopel. I stress that I'm speaking here only of the legal dispute (as was Orin). The question is whether UN officials' (and by extension the UN's) actions would make them accomplices under U.S. law in a Hezbollah kidnapping, given the factual account that David set forth -- several UN peacekeepers take bribes from Hezbollah to assist in the kidnapping, and then top UN officials authorize the destruction or concealment evidence with the purpose of covering up the peacekeepers' misconduct (though not necessarily the purpose of helping Hezbollah). We're also all applying U.S. law, rather than, say, Lebanese or Indian or Israeli law, because the question is whether it's sensible to use the label "accomplice" to an overwhelmingly U.S. audience, and not whether particular people are likely to be convicted of particular offenses in the likely jurisdiction.

Here are my thoughts; I may be mistaken (unlike Orin, I've only taught crim law for a year, though I did study some of the mens rea / accomplice rules pretty closely for my Crime-Facilitating Speech article), and the matter is complex because some of the rules vary from American jurisdiction, but this is my sense of the matter.

1a. In most U.S. jurisdictions, to be guilty of aiding a crime under an "aiding and abetting" theory, also sometimes called an "accessory before the fact" theory, one (generally speaking) needs to help the criminal with the purpose that the crime be committed. Mere knowledge that one is helping bring about the crime, but in the absence of such purpose, isn't enough.

1b. But in a significant minority of U.S. jurisdiction, aiding and abetting liability can be satisfied even by a showing of help plus mere knowledge. E.g., People v. Spearman, 491 N.W.2d 606, 610 (Mich. Ct. App. 1992) ("To find a defendant guilty on an aiding and abetting theory, the people must show that (1) a crime was committed either by the defendant or by another, (2) the defendant performed acts or gave encouragement that aided or assisted in the commission of the crime, and (3) the defendant intended the commission of the crime or had knowledge that the principal intended its commission at the time he gave aid or encouragement"), overruled as to other matters, People v. Veling, 504 N.W.2d 456 (Mich. 1993); Ind. Code § 35-41-2-4 ("A person who knowingly or intentionally aids, induces, or causes another person to commit an offense commits that offense ...."). Some jurisdiction treat knowing-but-not-purposeful assistance as the separate crime of facilitation, but some (including those I just pointed to) treat is as ordinary aiding and abetting.

1c. There's also some authority -- though I'm not sure how widely it's followed -- for the proposition that the rule should be purpose (plus, of course, aid) for aiding merely "[v]enial crime[s]," but knowledge for "[h]einous crime[s]." People v. Lauria, 59 Cal. Rptr. 628, 633-35 (Ct. App. 1967).

2. OK, that's for standard aiding and abetting, for instance driving someone to a crime scene, acting as a lookout, and so on -- the sort of thing that the U.N. peacekeepers are accused of. But the U.N. high officials are being accused of covering up the crime after the fact. Here the question is whether they are "accessor[ies] after the fact," people who affirmatively help a felon escape capture after the crime is committed. Here the law generally requires only knowledge that the felony has been committed, though possibly plus the purpose of helping cover up the felony. The purpose to have helped in the felony in the first instance is unnecessary. Corpis Juris Secundum, Criminal Law § 140, states that "An accessory after the fact is one who, knowing a felony to have been committed receives, relieves, comforts, or assists the felon, or in any manner aids him to escape arrest or punishment." (There are problems with relying on legal encyclopedias as opposed to binding authorities such as cases or statutes, but here I think it's apt, because we're looking for the general view throughout the U.S. jurisdictions, so short of a 50-state survey the encyclopedia or a treatise is the best bet.) Similarly, the federal accessory-after-the-fact statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3, states that "Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact."

Therefore, under the facts set forth in David's post, the U.N. high officials' actions would likely make them accessories after the fact, because they knew that the peacekeepers (who were likely liable for at least some felony) had committed a crime, and were acting with the purpose of helping them evade capture. It does not matter whether the U.N. high officials had the purpose of advancing Hezbollah's goals; it's enough that they had the purpose of helping their subordinates evade capture.

3. So under the facts as described, the U.N. high officials would be accessories after the fact -- but would they be accomplices? The modern view seems to be "no," but not uncontroversially. Rollin M. Perkins & Ronald N. Boyce, Criminal Law 727 (3d ed. 1982), as cited in Black's Law Dictionary, reports, "There is some authority for using the word 'accomplice' to include all principals and all accessories, but the preferred usage is to include all principals and accessories before the fact, but to exclude accessories after the fact." The federal courts definitely take this latter view, though the contrary view survives at times, especially in casual use; see, e.g., U.S. v. Payner (1980) (Marshall, J., dissenting) (opining that allowing the admission of illegally gathered evidence would make a federal court "the accomplice of the Government lawbreaker, an accessory after the fact"); Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.495 (calling accessories after the fact "accomplice[s] after the fact"); United States v. Irwin, 149 F.3d 565, 571 (7th Cir. 1998) (same); People v. Dye, 427 N.W.2d 501, 512 (1988) (same); Purvis v. State, 208 Ga. App. 653, 654 (1993) (same); People v. Knapp, 441 N.E.2d 1057, 1067 n.1 (N.Y. 1982) (Jasen, J., dissenting) (same).

Thus, my tentative sense is: (1) It's probably better to describe people who act as the U.N. officials were alleged to have acted as "accessories" rather than "accomplices." There's a good deal of precedent, though, for using the term "accomplice"; and in any event, the two have similar enough connotation that in casual discussion little harm is done by substituting one for the other (though in careful legal discussion it might be clearer to follow what seems to be the dominant view and limit "accomplice" to accessories before the fact).

(2) A person or institution may be liable as an accessory after the fact (or, if you prefer, an accomplice after the fact) even if the person (or, for an institution, the institution's responsible actors) had no desire that the underlying crime be committed. Knowledge that they're helping the offenders escape, coupled with the purpose that the offenders escape (for instance, if the purpose is simply to cover up the offenders' crime so as to avoid embarrassment for the offenders' employers), suffices.

Please do let me know if I'm mistaken on any of these points.