What is the Ostrich Protocol?
How the EU member states play ostrich when it comes to human rights violations inside EU?
The Treaty on the European Union, in its current format also known as the Lisbon Treaty, as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights claim to establish an area of freedom, security and justice, founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights. That sounds perfect. After centuries of inhuman treatment of people very often by their own governments, culminating in the tyrannies of communism and Nazism in the 20th century, EU citizens should be able to feel safe from brutal attacks and illegal operations of a violent state, if not ….If they are not refugees from another EU member state and they do not try to look for protection because they were subject in their own state to political persecution, inhuman treatment or even torture.
The Geneva Convention about status of and asylum for refugees, persons subject to political persecution, is one of the great international achievements in the field of human rights. The European Union as a successful project of peace, freedom and justice promises in Art.18 of its Charter that “the right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention..” But why is this guarantee denied when the asylum seeker comes from an EU country?
The EU Treaty consists not only of the main articles, but also of some so-called “protocols” which are “annexed” to the Treaty by the “high contracting parties”, i.e. the Member States. One of these Protocols is PROTOCOL (No 24) ON ASYLUM FOR NATIONALS OF MEMBER STATES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION which reads as follows:
“The high contracting parties,
WHEREAS, in accordance with Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union, the Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights,
WHEREAS pursuant to Article 6(3) of the Treaty on European Union, fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, constitute part of the Union’s law as general principles,
WHEREAS the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to ensure that in the interpretation and application of Article 6, paragraphs (1) and (3) of the Treaty on European Union the law is observed by the European Union,
WHEREAS pursuant to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union any European State, when applying to become a Member of the Union, must respect the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,
BEARING IN MIND that Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union establishes a mechanism for the suspension of certain rights in the event of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of those values,
RECALLING that each national of a Member State, as a citizen of the Union, enjoys a special status and protection which shall be guaranteed by the Member States in accordance with the provisions of Part Two of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,
BEARING IN MIND that the Treaties establish an area without internal frontiers and grant every citizen of the Union the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States,
WISHING to prevent the institution of asylum being resorted to for purposes alien to those for which it is intended,
WHEREAS this Protocol respects the finality and the objectives of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the status of refugees,
HAVE AGREED UPON the following provisions, which shall be annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:
Given the level of protection of fundamental rights and freedoms by the Member States of the European Union, Member States shall be regarded as constituting safe countries of origin in respect of each other for all legal and practical purposes in relation to asylum matters. Accordingly, any application for asylum made by a national of a Member State may be taken into consideration or declared admissible for processing by another Member State only in the following cases:
(a) if the Member State of which the applicant is a national proceeds after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, availing itself of the provisions of Article 15 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to take measures derogating in its territory from its obligations under that Convention;
(b) if the procedure referred to Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union has been initiated and until the Council, or, where appropriate, the European Council, takes a decision in respect thereof with regard to the Member State of which the applicant is a national;
(c) if the Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national or if the European Council has adopted a decision in accordance with Article 7(2) of that Treaty in respect of the Member State of which the applicant is a national;
(d) if a Member State should so decide unilaterally in respect of the application of a national of another Member State; in that case the Council shall be immediately informed; the application shall be dealt with on the basis of the presumption that it is manifestly unfounded without affecting in any way, whatever the cases may be, the decision-making power of the Member State.”
After very nice introducing words about “fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms constitute part of the Union’s law as general principles … and any European State, when applying to become a Member of the Union, must respect the values set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union,” the disgraceful truth comes at the end: whatever happened or could happen with the applicant in his country, “the application shall be dealt with on the basis of the presumption that it is manifestly unfounded”!
This Protocol (no 24) stands not only in contradiction to itself and the idea of the European Union and its fundamental documents, Treaty and Charter on Fundamental Rights, but is also a severe violation of international law. The Geneva Refugee Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights have to be respected by the European Union which should not be “a superstate where international laws which have protected individuals for decades are discarded.” It is the disgraceful “ostrich protocol no.24” which should be discarded immediately by the European Council.
We certainly don’t live in a perfect world. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Conventions against torture and inhuman treatment and other International binding covenants human rights violations, torture, illegal detentions, extrajudicial executions etc. are still part of the daily life of too many people. Millions of people are leaving their home country to escape from political persecution, police and military brutality and other unbelievable atrocities. To protect such people the international community set up already in 1951 the Geneva Refugee Convention, the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states, in particular to grant “asylum” to refugees. All member countries of the European Union are party to the Geneva Convention. In addition the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights states in its Art.18 that “the right to asylum shall be guaranteed with due respect for the rules of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 and the Protocol of 31 January 1967 relating to the status of refugees and in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community”. That looks like the Union is endorsing international obligations of its member states under the Geneva Convention.
Therefore anybody subject to political persecution, police brutality, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, illegal detention, unfair trial etc. should at least get asylum in an EU member country. Fortunately the description of the sad situation of millions of people does not apply to the European Union and its member states. And certainly everybody should desire that this situation does not even apply to a single individual within the European Union. But, is there a guarantee? Or is it just wishful thinking that there will be this guarantee? Could it be that “the high contracting parties” and there representatives, i.e. the heads of state and government of the EU member states base their decisions on wishful thinking? Most likely not, therefore we have to ask what else could be the reason for them to “play ostrich” and put, metaphorically speaking, their heads into the sand for not seeing the human rights violation by a partner state in the Union? Among people who know the background of the evolving of Protocol no.24 it is also called the “Aznar Protocol”. As clearly stated by an expert of UNHCR, Karen Landgren, protocol no. 24 (and its assumption that “Member States shall be regarded as constituting safe countries of origin in respect of each other for all legal and practical purposes in relation to asylum matters”) “is the product of a political deal, supported by Spain as the initiator and all those countries who needed the support of Spain in other EU matters”.
That Protocol (no 24) had a purely political purpose is also demonstrated by the fact that it refers to nationals of a member state as citizens of the EU. That means that the protocol and therefore the automatic rejection of an asylum request does not apply to non-nationals of an EU member state who seek asylum because of persecution in a member state, for example stateless persons with residence in the EU. What is the reason for discrimination of EU citizens by the European Union? As described by Karen Landgren, Protocol (no24) is not based on legal ground but on pure political decision.
If one believes that political persecution, police brutality, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, illegal detention, unfair trial could not happen on EU territory one should look to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and to the reports of Council of Europe’s Commission for the Prevention of Torture. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a report of MP Marieluise Beck, member of the German delegation to the Assembly, on “Threats to the Rule of Law in Council of Europe Member States” including also members of the European Union. The report, based on facts, realizes politically-motivated prosecutions of political opponents, journalists and civil society activists as well as cover-ups of crimes committed or instigated and organized by politicians! “Serious problems related to the rule of law exist in several member states”. Politically motivated prosecution happens according to the Beck-report and is certainly one of the main reasons to seek asylum. And those who uncover crimes committed or instigated and organized by politicians are obviously under danger in the country where this happens. As one cannot exclude that the same politicians who committed, instigated or organized the uncovered crimes have the power to issue an European warrant, the whistleblowers can be prosecuted on the basis of wrong or fabricated accusations throughout Europe easily and the European partner states are obliged to help, to help the perpetrators. But this is exactly what asylum if well founded should avoid. But currently asylum for an EU citizen is excluded by the Ostrich Protocol. Of course, there were legal remedies, such as appeal to the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights. But everybody knows very well that these remedies take time, long time. In the meantime the asylum applicant may be extradited to the country of his persecution with unknown consequences.
Among 28 EU member states it was only Belgium who rejected such a deal at the cost of politically persecuted citizens and declared that it will fulfill its obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 New York Protocol and will carry out an individual examination of any asylum request of a citizen of another EU member state! With this official declaration (no.56) Belgium indirectly confirmed that protocol no.24 is a violation of International law!
As a consequence the Council of the EU should discard Protocol (no 24) immediately. The European Commission, the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament are called upon to support this request. Of course, an application for asylum of an EU citizen will (hopefully) always be an extraordinary, special case. Therefore it may need a special procedure and also special consequences. Instead of forcing member states to ignore their international obligations asylum applications of EU citizens (and permanent residents) should be dealt with at EU level, e.g. by the Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs or even better by an independent body or committee and when they are well founded asylum should be granted for the whole EU territory. But in such cases the Commission should automatically open an investigation of the situation in the country the applicant is coming from in order to avoid similar cases for the future. Such a procedure would be appropriate for the “area of freedom, security and justice, founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and the respect for human rights”.
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf
William Shawcross, member of the board of the International Crisis Group, Shawcross, A Disgraceful EU Asylum Proposal, the New York Times, 14.06.1997, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/06/14/opinion/14iht-edshaw.t.html ,
The then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar wanted to hinder with all means that supporters of the terrorist group ETA could be granted asylum in another EU country. But the application of Protocol no.24 is in no way limited to suspects of terrorism!
Landgren, Deflecting international protection by treaty: bilateral and multilateral accords on extradition, readmission and the inadmissibility of asylum requests, UNHCR Working Paper Nr. 10, 1999, S. 12)
Undemocratic United Nations and Global Peace
War is not the solution to any problem rather war is a problem itself. Many countries believe in diplomacy and peaceful means of problem-solving and conflict resolution. But, unfortunately, many nations still seek solutions of problems and continuity of politics in wars.
If we look at any newspaper, we find too many armed conflicts going on around the globe. To name a few would include a catastrophic war between Russian Federation and Ukraine which has caused tens of thousands of casualties, with millions displaced. Decades-long civil wars and subsequent US-led NATO intervention and withdrawal has brought Afghanistan to the brink of famine and hunger. The whole Middle Eastern region is unstable and striving with civil wars for long. The Arab -Israel conflict and Kashmir Dispute have been there for more than seven decades.
Above-mentioned and many others examples of armed conflicts prove that there is no durable peace in the world. Here one thing that needs to be noted is that conflict is always inevitable among individuals, societies and nations, because the interests of individuals, societies and nations do not always converge. When there is divergence of interests, conflict arises.
What is needed to be done is the resolution of these conflicts. There are two ways to resolve conflicts: one is violent way (use of force) and the other is peaceful way (diplomacy and negotiations). More than seven decades ago, after World War 2, nations realized that war is not solution to any problem and they established United Nations Organization (UNO). Primary objective of UN was and is the maintenance of peace and security in the world.
But, if we look at history, it seems the UN has failed to achieve international peace and security. UN may have had role in preventing the outbreak of another world war, but it could not stop a series of conflicts from Korea, Vietnam to Afghanistan (during Cold War), and from Africa, Middle East to ongoing Russian-Ukraine conflict.
This is a question mark on the credibility of UN, that why the UN despite being guardian of international peace and security cannot stop wars.
UN has six principal organs and many Specialized Agencies and Funds for different tasks. Among them Security Council is the most powerful Organ and is mandated with enforcing international peace and security. UNSC uses two tools to enforce its decisions, one is applications of sanctions and the other is use of force (intervention).
However the concentration of power in the hands of five permanent states of Security Council, namely the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia have been problematic. These five countries use veto power whenever they perceive any resolution to be against their national interest or against the interests of their allies. Throughout the Cold War, US and USSR had paralyzed UN by vetoing resolutions. Same happened with any other conflict including when US drafted a resolution to stop the war in Ukraine.
So, it is crystal clear that if UN (specifically Security Council) is not reformed, UN can not achieve its primary goal i.e. maintenance of peace and security. UN members and experts have talked about reform in Security Council. Experts have also given suggestions and proposals to make UN more democratic and representative. One of those proposals is abandoning veto and doubling the size of SC members. This can make UN more democratic and representative to some extent. But this is not an easy job. Firstly, because P5 are reluctant to abandon this privileged position (veto power). Secondly, countries hoping for permanent membership are opposed by other countries. For example, many European countries object Germany’s membership. Pakistan objects to India’s membership.
Experts believe the solutions could be the democratization of UN system (particularly UNSC). This is done by involving General Assembly in the decision making regarding international peace and security. General Assembly is a symbol of democracy, representing almost all the states on the globe. Simple or two-third majority must be mandatory to make any decision regarding international peace and security. This could stop any powerful state to use UN as a tool for its own vested national interest , and the decision of majority will prevail. All the states, big and small, powerful and weak will have equal say in the UN. Otherwise the possibility of wars, violence, genocide and injustice will further increase.
United States thinks it’s ‘the exception to the rules of war’
The architects of those Nuremberg trials—representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and France fully expected that the new United Nations would establish a permanent court where war criminals who couldn’t be tried in their home countries might be brought to justice. In the end, it took more than half a century to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC). Only in 1998 did 60 nations adopt the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute. Today, 123 countries have signed.
Guess what superpower has never signed the ICC? Here are a few hints? – writes Rebecca Gordon in an article at “The Nation”:
Its 2021 military budget dwarfed that of the next nine countries combined and was 1.5 times the size of what the world’s other 144 countries with such budgets spent on defense that year.
Its president has just signed a $1.7 trillion spending bill for 2023, more than half of which is devoted to “defense” (and that, in turn, is only part of that country’s full national security budget).
It operates roughly 750 publicly acknowledged military bases in at least 80 countries.
In 2003, it began an aggressive, unprovoked (and disastrous) war by invading a country 6,900 miles away.
Yes! The United States is that Great Exception to the rules of war.
While, in 2000, during the waning days of his presidency, Bill Clinton did sign the Rome Statute, the Senate never ratified it. Then, in 2002, as the Bush administration was ramping up its Global War on Terror, including its disastrous occupation of Afghanistan and an illegal CIA global torture program, the United States simply withdrew its signature entirely. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (photo) then explained why this way:
“The ICC provisions claim the authority to detain and try American citizens — U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as current and future officials — even though the United States has not given its consent to be bound by the treaty. When the ICC treaty enters into force, U.S. citizens will be exposed to the risk of prosecution by a court that is unaccountable to the American people, and that has no obligation to respect the Constitutional rights of our citizens.”
The assumption built into Rumsfeld’s explanation was that there was something special — even exceptional — about US citizens. Unlike the rest of the world, we have “Constitutional rights,” which apparently include the right to commit war crimes with impunity.
Even if a citizen is convicted of such a crime in a US court, he or she has a good chance of receiving a presidential pardon. And were such a person to turn out to be one of the “current and future officials” Rumsfeld mentioned, his or her chance of being hauled into court would be about the same as mine of someday being appointed secretary of defense.
The United States is not a member of the ICC, but, as it happens, Afghanistan is. In 2018, the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, formally requested that a case be opened for war crimes committed in that country. ‘The New York Times’ reported that Bensouda’s “inquiry would mostly focus on large-scale crimes against civilians attributed to the Taliban and Afghan government forces.” However, it would also examine “alleged C.I.A. and American military abuse in detention centers in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and at sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania, putting the court directly at odds with the United States.”
Bensouda planned an evidence-gathering trip to the United States, but in April 2019, the Trump administration revoked her visa, preventing her from interviewing any witnesses here. It then followed up with financial sanctions on Bensouda and another ICC prosecutor, Phakiso Mochochoko.
So where do those potential Afghan cases stand today? A new prosecutor, Karim Khan, took over as 2021 ended. He announced that the investigation would indeed go forward, but that acts of the United States and allies like the United Kingdom would not be examined. He would instead focus on actions of the Taliban and the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State.
When it comes to potential war crimes, the United States remains the Great Exception. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were just a little less exceptional?
If, for instance, in this new year, we were to transfer some of those hundreds of billions of dollars Congress and the Biden administration have just committed to enriching corporate weapons makers, while propping up an ultimately unsustainable military apparatus, to the actual needs of Americans?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just a little of that money were put into a new child tax credit? – asks Rebecca Gordon.
Selective Standards: Fight Against Oppression or Just a Geopolitical Showdown for Global Supremacy?
The karma of destiny is perhaps the most patent representation of natural balance one could witness in a lifetime. The global divide between democracy and autocracy has been a mainstay of western diplomacy since the days of the Cold War. ‘Rule-based International Order’ has been the de facto foreign policy of subsequent western administrations – the United States, in particular. One would assume that the virtue of such an altruistic agenda would extend universally regardless of caste, creed, and ethnicity. But unfortunately, while nature could prove occasionally unfair, each successive American regime sets new records of cant and hypocrisy, as if trying to remind us of its duplicitous existence and deviant machinations.
The war in Ukraine was the grotesque highlight of the year 2022. But what notably garnered considerable spotlight was the western unity against Russian maneuvers. Placing crippling sanctions on the Kremlin – done. Cutting energy imports from Russia – mission accomplished. Military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine – $65 billion have already been appropriated to Kyiv, while an additional $47 billion got approved in a $1.7 trillion government funding bill signed by President Biden. What else? Oh, yes! Sanctions on Iran for supplying military drones to Russia, allegedly used in surveillance and targeted attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Russia got ejected from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), ridiculed in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and suspended from the Group of Eight (G8) in 2014 for annexing Crimea. All in the name of, and I quote the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “defense of the UN Charter and in resolute opposition to Russia’s devastating war of aggression against Ukraine and its people.” Well, is the defense of the UN Charter absolute or subject to the selective judgment of the United States? Is all aggression against any innocent civilians culpable, or just Russian predation against innocent denizens of Ukraine? The answer was pretty evident on (ironically) the last day of the year that would remain earmarked in history as the year of the notorious Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The UNGA voted on a resolution calling on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to opine on the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. Today, Israel colonizes swathes of Palestinian land beyond the borders established under the 1947 UN Partition Plan (contentious in itself to begin with). Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, this illegal occupation also includes Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank. The resolution passed 87 to 26 with 53 abstentions. Unsurprisingly, the typical states opposing the resolution were the United States and Britain – the flag-bearers of justice in the Russian war in Ukraine. The same standard-bearers of international law that applauded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for dragging Russia to the ICJ before Russian forces even fully penetrated the Ukrainian borders. It is another rueful example of a shameless display of hypocrisy on the geopolitical canvas. And it would’ve been tragicomical had it not been par for the course – a historical cliche!
Last month, two US lawmakers: namely House Reps. Steve Cohen and Joe Wilson, introduced a bipartisan congressional resolution calling on President Biden to boot Russia from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for its “flagrant violations” of the UN Charter, including its illegal naturalization of four Ukrainian oblasts and committing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. While the expulsion proceedings of a permanent member of the UNSC are both obscure and (frankly) unrealistic without Russian consent, this scenario is spectacularly ironic.
In November 1967, the members of the UNSC voted unanimously for Resolution 242: calling out Israel to withdraw from the annexed territories seized in the Six-Day War. Yet 55 years later, Israel not only continues to violate the resolution, it also proceeds to expand settlements on expropriated Palestinian land with impunity. In the last five decades, the Israeli regime has demolished over 28,000 Palestinian homes in the occupied territory; spawned more than 200 settlements and outposts. And between 600,000 and 750,000 Jewish settlers have been transferred to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The violence against Palestinians has never ceased.
According to the data from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a total of 424 children have been killed in Ukraine by Russian barbarity. Apartment blocks razed mercilessly; the electricity grid battered to the brink of collapse. The United States has termed it a ’systemic’ assault on humanity, and President Biden even called it a “genocide.” The same department (OHCHR) reported in May 2021 that the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed 242 Palestinian children. Was Israel punished for its war crimes? Far from it. President Biden recently congratulated the incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the architect of the 11-day war in 2021, on forming the government – terming him as his “friend for decades” while conspicuously ignoring concerns regarding the inclusion of far-right racist politicians in the new cabinet.
The US officials have always maintained a programmed PR narrative of “Israel’s right to defend itself.” From what, children? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Israeli aggression in Gaza displaced more than 74,000 Palestinians, including 7,000 children without a roof, scant food supplies, and virtually no access to medical assistance. The WHO also reported the decimation of 30 health facilities in Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes. Yet, annualized military aid to the tune of $3.8 billion continues to flow to Israel from the United States. What more to explain other than the absolute mockery of international law; the farce of diplomacy of human rights and equitable justice at the behest of the apparently puritanical United States of America.
History is riddled with numerous examples of American duplicity. The American acquiescence to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which eventually galvanized the Shiite Islamist group Hezbollah. The United States vetoed the UNSC resolution – one of its 53 vetoes time and again used to shield Israel from global denunciation – calling for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from southern Lebanon. An estimated 49,600 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians died during the occupation. And then there are glaring examples of American interventions. Its outright support to the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet Union and the subsequent provenance of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. How can one forget the devastating invasion of Iraq on the utterly bogus canard of Saddam Hussein wielding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Between 2003 and 2006, the US-led assault resulted in over 655,000 Iraqi civilian casualties, primarily due to the indiscriminate aerial bombardment by the US forces on Iraqi towns and cities. And the civil vacuum engendered in wake of the Iraq War served as a breeding ground for radical offshoots of Al-Qaeda – later accreting under the banner of the Islamic State (IS). How can a country such as America still enjoy a moral high ground when its historical scroll stands emblazoned with unilateral aggression, illegal intervention, and unabashed prevention of justice against its genocidal allies?
The war in Ukraine is a blood-strewn conflict but a rendition of complex realpolitik import and balance of regional power dynamics. Opposing Russian cruelty should not implicitly spell out support for American rhetoric. One could still stand with Ukrainians while denouncing its backers in the name of universal covenants of justice. All humans are entitled to the right to life, security, freedom, and dignity. These fundamental rights should not waver based on alliances – political, ideological, ethnic, or otherwise.
While the passage of this UNGA resolution is a promising sign of growing global consciousness, it won’t yield any significant, policy-altering outcomes. In 2004, the ICJ weighed on the issue of Israeli occupation and ruled that the wall in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem was illegal. In response, Israel termed The Hague ‘politically motivated’ and rejected the ruling. Similarly, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, speaking ahead of the vote, characterized this resolution as “a moral stain on the UN,” further arguing that “no international body can decide that the Jewish people are occupiers of their own homeland.” Russia makes an eerily similar argument about Ukraine; Russian President Vladimir Putin aspires to ‘Reunify the Soviet Motherland.’ Even China’s President Xi Jinping posits a parallel assertion regarding the ‘reunification’ of Taiwan with the Chinese motherland. The resemblance is uncanny. But while the US continues to support Ukraine to wrestle back lost territory from Russian troops; continues to arm Taiwan to defend against a potential amphibious invasion from China, plans are effectively underway to move the US embassy to Jerusalem – a tacit nod to Donald Trump’s aberrant recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – despite the city’s disputed status under the international law. I reckon the words of Ms. Tirana Hassan, the acting executive director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), in her introductory essay in the HRW World Report 2023 aptly bewail these double standards: “[In] a world in which power has shifted, it is no longer possible to rely on a small group of mostly Global North governments to defend human rights.
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