What Good is the United Nations, International Law and its Courts?

16th March 2016 / Editors Picks, Global
What is the point of the United Nations when members do as they please and break so-called 'international law' with impunity

International law is defined as follows:

“The body of law that governs the legal relations between or among states or nations. To qualify as a subject under the traditional definition of international law, a state had to be sovereign: It needed a territory, a population, a government, and the ability to engage in diplomatic or foreign relations. States within the United States, provinces, and cantons were not considered subjects of international law, because they lacked the legal authority to engage in foreign relations. In addition, individuals did not fall within the definition of subjects that enjoyed rights and obligations under international law.
A more contemporary definition expands the traditional notions of international law to confer rights and obligations on intergovernmental international organizations and even on individuals. The United Nations, for example, is an international organization that has the capacity to engage in treaty relations governed by and binding under international law with states and other international organizations. Individual responsibility under international law is particularly significant in the context of prosecuting war criminals and the development of international Human Rights.”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established in 1945 as the successor to the Permanent International Court of Justice (PICJ), which was created in 1920 under the supervision of the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations). The PICJ ceased to function during World War II and was officially dissolved in 1946. The ICJ is a permanent international court located in the Hague, Netherlands, and it is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It consists of 15 judges, each from a different state. The judges are elected by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council and must receive an absolute majority from both in order to take office.

There has been widespread criticism against ‘international law’ due to its clear inconsistency. States may vary greatly in their opinions and interpretations of issues regarding international law but this should not cloud the judgement of those elected to adjudicate over such matters. However, the UN has found it almost impossible to find enough consistency among states to draw an international rule of law in practice. In addition, the process of establishing any rules of international law is lengthy and impeded by today’s conveniently fast-changing world.

For instance – On 11 December 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was opened for signature. On July 1st 1949 the first state to sign and adopt the convention was Ethiopia. The treaty came into force in 1951 and closed for signature on 12 January 1951. Since then, states that did not sign the treaty can now only agree to it.

As of November 2015, 147 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty, most recently Tajikistan on 3 November 2015.

Since then recorded and recognised acts of genocide have littered the following decades. From the ‘stolen generation’ of Aboriginal children in Australia, Guatemala 1981–1983, the India Sikh Genocide of 1984, Burundi 1972 and 1993, East Timor, Democratic Republic of Congo and many others too long to list (see a more comprehensive list HERE).

Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Srebrenica massacre is a good example.

In July 1995 Serbian forces killed more than 8,000 Bosniaks or Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian War. The killing was perpetrated by units of the Army of Republika Srpska. The Secretary-General of the United Nations described the mass murder as the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

In 2001 the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivered its first conviction for the crime of genocide against General Krstić (on appeal he was found not guilty of genocide but guilty of aiding and abetting genocide). In February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) returned a judgement in the Bosnian Genocide Case. It upheld the findings by the ICTY that genocide had been committed in and around Srebrenica but did not find that genocide had been committed on the wider territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.

In another case On 23 December 2005, a Dutch court ruled in a case brought against Frans van Anraat for supplying certain banned chemicals to Iraq. The court came to the conclusion that subsequent attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq. Because van Anraat supplied the chemicals before 16 March 1988, the date of the Halabja poison gas attack he was guilty of a war crime but not guilty of complicity in genocide.

These two cases clearly demonstrate that the United Nations and the judicial efforts of the International Court of Justice can agree and convict in cases of genocide – but only when it suits them.

Sanctions against Iraq in 1990 prior to the US/UK led war in 2003 had devastating effects on its population and was imposed intentionally. The sanctions were a near-total financial and trade embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council via United Nations Security Council Resolution 661They began August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and it stayed in force until ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ commenced.

Items banned from Iraq under this rationale included a vast number of items needed for everyday life.

Undisputed figures show that 1.7 million Iraqi civilians died due to the West’s brutal sanctions regime, 576,000 were known to be children. These figures even come from a UN study.

“Politicians in the UK knew what they were doing and the immense toll it was taking on innocent civilians, yet stood back from this act of genocide and effectively censored the intelligence from the British people”

The serving British Prime Ministers of the time was Conservative John Major and Labour’s Tony Blair.

Among items banned by the UN sanctions were chemicals and equipment essential for Iraq’s national water treatment system. A secret US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) document discovered by Professor Thomas Nagy of the School of Business at George Washington University, revealed it was “an early blueprint for genocide against the people of Iraq”.

In his paper for the Association of Genocide Scholars at the University of Manitoba, Professor Nagi explained that the DIA document revealed “minute details of a fully workable method to ‘fully degrade the water treatment system’ of an entire nation” over a period of a decade.

This means that in Iraq alone, the US/UK led war from 1991 to 2003 killed 1.9 million Iraqis; then from 2003 onwards around 1 million: totalling just under 3 million Iraqis dead over two decades. So much for the United Nations whose primary role is to “work to maintain international peace and security.”

No country or any members of the UN have openly stated that an act of genocide was deliberately perpetrated upon the population of this country that years later lies in total ruin. The UN have clearly been selective.

As global research reported last November:

 “The objective of the victorious powers of World War II in creating the UN system was to make sure they would continue to control post-war international relations” with religious groups stating it was “a mere camouflage for the continuation of imperialistic policies and the exercise of arbitrary power for the domination of other nations.”

It seems odd then, that as the “United Nations Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and that under its charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions,” as a select few seem to do as they please with impunity.

One does not have to look far on the geopolitical map to find how much the United Nations has failed in its duties to keep world peace. In addition, it has failed to contain advancing international terrorism as a result of America’s so-called ‘war on terror’, nuclear proliferation, the rise of human trafficking and slavery, the fall-out from the Cold War, a mass refugee crisis that is destabilising the European Union and atrocities such as Darfur and Rwanda, the latter of which, saw close to one million Rwandans killed in a genocide, amounting to twenty percent of the population, all whilst the UN watched and did nothing.

Although the UN imposed sanctions in Iraq killed many more, Rwanda was one of the worst atrocities the world has witnessed as the UN conducted a shocking series of abandonments by its peacekeeping forces of innocent civilians who were subsequently slaughtered.

And to emphasise the point of abandonment, an investigation by the UN’s International Criminal Court in The Hague into the status of the occupied Palestinian territories found that war crimes had been committed when Israel attacked Gaza last summer. It reported that 6,000 airstrikes, 14,500 tank shells and 45,000 artillery shells unleashed between July 7 and Aug. 26 by Israel was somehow matched by the “immense distress and disruption to the lives of Israeli civilians”. It did however call upon member states to take action to stop the bloodshed. Not a single member state has taken any significant action to stop what most normal people would consider Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people as it continues to go about the daily business of its killing spree. Even descendants of the holocaust condemn what they see as a genocide whilst the UN and its courts stand by writing reports and enforcing nothing.

The UN is investigating Britain over its appalling treatment of the disabled, casually dismissed by the PM a year in advance of its findings. Nor has the UN stopped Britain’s accelerated delivery of weapons systems into Israel given their obvious end use. Britain’s defiance of the UN over the treatment of Julian Assange was described as “setting a dangerous precedent” but was simply dismissed by the Defence Secretary as “ridiculous.” David Cameron actually stated he would bomb Syria without a UN mandate clearly defining the organisation as nothing of consequence. The UK also put together a list of some of the most repressive regimes in the world, then invited some of them to London to buy weapons, defying United Nations requests to reject arms sales to these same countries.

So what use is the UN and so-called international law when policing and enforcement is selective, discriminatory and non-binding even though it is supposed to be none of those?

Graham Vanbergen – truepublica.org.uk


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