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International Law

Legacy of the ICTY

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The International Court is the judicial body that brings to justice individuals accused of violation of the international law. The idea to create the court arose after the end of the World War II and it is based on the principle: all persons, including high-ranking state officials, accused of committing serious international crimes must be punished.

International criminal tribunals should not be considered in the same way as domestic or national courts. When people hear the words “court” and “law” – they immediately think it refers to national law, but they are wrong. There is distinction even between personnel that works in international and national courts, and much less in other characteristics.

The paper will put a special emphasis to the work of the ICTY, describing a number of positive as well as the negative sides of the Court.

The ICTY

The ICTY has been established at the proposal of the UN Secretary General on the basis of Resolution No. 827 of the UN Security Council of 25 May 1993. The territorial jurisdiction of the Court covers the territory of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (hereinafter: the former Yugoslavia), including its land surface, airspace and territorial waters, while the temporal jurisdiction includes the period from 1 January 1991, without indicating when the temporal jurisdiction ends. However, the UN Security Council ordered to the Court to end its work by 2010, by Resolution No. 1503 of 2003 and the Resolution No. 1534 of 2004. Due to the abovementioned reasons, the Court was supposed to put an end to all investigations and filing all indictments by 2004; to end all trials by 2008 and to end all appeal proceeding by 2010. However, the year is 2015 and the ICTY has not ended its work. According to some estimations given in December 2014, three out of four appeal proceedings are expected to be completed during 2015, while the judgment in the case of Ratko Mladic is expected to be rendered in March 2017 or event after this date. However, addressing the UN Security Council on 10 December 2014, President of the ICTY Theodor Meron assured that these forecasts do not mean closure of the ICTY in 2017.

The ICTY is an ad hoc court based in The Hague. The Court can prosecute only individuals and not organizations or governments. The court can impose life imprisonment as maximum penalty. As a result, the Court signed an agreement with a number of countries, in order to enable enforcement of the penalties on their territories.

Huge role of the ICTY’s Trial Chamber significantly determines work of the ICTY and it implies wide powers of arbitrators and initiative relating to probative evidence. The basic principles that the Court follows in its work are: justice, rapidity and equality of arms.

The aim of establishment of the ICTY is to bring to justice persons responsible for serious violations of the international humanitarian law during conflict in the area of the former Yugoslavia. However, “although it was obvious that many actions of the conflicting sides, people who fought within their ranks or who joined them, represent serious crimes under domestic law or the international humanitarian law (the former Yugoslavia ratified all the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols of 1977), almost none of the suspects for these crimes was charged and brought to the Court until 1993”.

All violations that are put under the jurisdiction of the ICTY and which represent violation of the international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia, are divided into:

  • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949;
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war;
  • Genocide;
  • Crimes against humanity.

The criminal defense of crime against humanity exists under the following conditions:

  • In case of an attack;
  • If the accused committed the crime as part of the attack;
  • If the attack was directed against any civilian population;
  • If the attack was widespread or systematic;
  • If the accused knows that his acts are part of a pattern of widespread or systematic crimes directed against a civilian population and if he knows that his act fit in the pattern.

Regardless of the rules that regulate work of the ICTY, its employees are faced with several challenges.

The first challenge certainly refers to a rule that an individual may be punished for grave breach of the Geneva Conventions under the Article 2 of the Statute, only if the crime for which he is charged, was committed against persons and property that are considered protected.

Another challenge is the Article 7, Paragraph 1 of the Statute, i.e. the Article 4 Paragraph 3 of the Statute. Namely, when the Court finds that the accused person had no genocidal intent, but he or she helped others to commit genocide, the question is which of these two provisions of the Statute of the Court should be applied. The first Article envisages responsibility for assisting in committing any criminal offense put under the jurisdiction of the Court, while the second Article envisages, inter alia, complicity in genocide. Furthermore, the Court has the jurisdiction to act in case of committing any of the criminal offenses listed in Article 5 of the Statute, but only if the crimes were committed in an armed conflict. Therefore, an armed conflict is a precondition for prosecution before the ICTY. At the same time, the only Article of the Statute that relates to penalties is the Article 24 that envisages the obligation of the Chamber when sentencing, to take into account gravity of the defense and individual circumstances of the perpetrator. However, the Article 2 of the Statute represents the biggest challenge and it envisages that every crime regulated by this Article, shall be committed in the context of the international armed conflict.

The first trial before the ICTY started on 7 May 1996 and the first verdict was rendered on 29 November 1996. So far, a total of 161 persons have been indicted. Proceedings against 147 persons ended, while proceedings against 14 persons are still ongoing.

Legacy of the ICTY

The region of the former Yugoslavia welcomed the establishment of the ICTY with great suspicion, complaining that incompetent body has established the Tribunal (the Security Council), and that the Court cannot be an impartial judicial body, since it has been established as a subsidiary body to the executive authority (the Security Council). However, author of this paper shares the standpoint of Dr. Vojin Dimitrijevic, who says that „in a sea of such attacks (…) legitimate and legal reviews of critics about the way The Tribunal has been established, the advisability of some of the provisions of its Statute, the quality of the rules of procedure and so on, are lost (…)“. The author also shares Dimitrijevic’ stance that work and existence of the ICTY should be seen as a “unique judicial experience in the actual application of the international humanitarian law, its written and unwritten rules and the very Statute of the first international criminal Tribunal that, despite of the fact that it has been formed on temporary basis as an ad hoc court, has acted so long and prosecuted so many persons on various posts for so many crimes that are considered international crimes”.

There is no doubt that there are positive and negative aspects of the international criminal proceedings led before all courts. Positive sides of the proceedings before the ICTY are certainly higher level of impartiality, easier ways to collect evidence, uniformity in the application of the international law and greater preventive effect of international trials. Namely, it is logical that people who are not involved in a concrete dispute, i.e. judges who are not related to armed conflicts will be more objective to decide about the dispute. National courts are almost always insufficiently objective, and these courts are not interested enough to lead proceedings against its own nationals who have committed crimes against foreign nationals. At the same time, the fact that this is a proceeding led before an international court, proceedings related to these and all other conflicts in the international community are set to be uniform, with the continuity in application of law and decision-making process.

Although a proceeding before the ICTY does not fully meet all demands which the right to fair trial puts before the Court, its practice gives hope that the proceedings will get closer to the standards of the fair trial. The procedure led before the ICTY is complex, but it was inevitable because it has been established quickly as a reaction to the situation on the ground (for example, the states harmonized their stances about formation of the International Criminal Court for years). Principles like the ones from the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (ratified by most of the states in the world) would certainly remain only a dead letter, if it was no courts like the ICTY. Namely, such courts defined an armed conflict, defined when an armed conflict begins etc.

One of the important specifics that refer to international crimes is the existence of a large number of victims. The procedural status of victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings for these crimes is a particular problem in international judiciary, because of direct or indirect risk of intimidation, reprisal or retaliation against the victims. For these reasons, rules of the ICTY include adequate provisions on protection of victims and witnesses in the proceedings. Per example, such provisions are stipulated in the rule that the main hearing will be held without the presence of the public; the rule about the protection of identity of the victims, and the rule on formation of Department for Victims and Witnesses, as the body in charge to provide support and advices to victims and witnesses and propose measure for their protection.

The ICTY has contributed to clarification of some basic concepts that are of huge importance for the international criminal law and the international humanitarian law. For example, the rule on the obligation to distinguish civilians from combatants was clarified in the judgment in the cases of Tadic, Martic, and Kupreskic, while the rule to distinguish civilian from military facilities was clarified in the judgment in cases of Kupresic, Kordic and Cerkez, judgment in cases of Kunarac and Furundzija defined torture, etc. For the first time in the history, an international court found that rape (although prohibited by humanitarian law) may constitute torture. This is also the first international court which included sexual violence as a crime against humanity in its Statute. Besides, the Court also gave huge contribution to the interpretation of serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.

According to the current President of the ICTY Theodor Meron, the ICTY has demonstrated to the world that, after half a century of impunity, it is possible to lead complex trials at the international level, in accordance with the highest international standards. The ICTY has developed an influential body of jurisprudence concerning a large number of procedural issues and issues related to evidence and thus, created conditions for establishment of new international and mixed criminal courts. The support to strengthening of national judicial systems relating to war crimes trials is certainly one of the most positive things in the heritage of the ICTY.

Many criticize the ICTY for the reason that all the accused have not been convicted especially the ones who are accused of the crime of genocide. However, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 stipulates very strict conditions for proving genocide. The Genocide is a crime that does not have to be committed during armed conflicts: the crime can be committed in peacetime, during a war, against civilians and against combatants, with or without committing widespread or systematic attack. Under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, “(… genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

As the aforementioned definition reads, it is a state of mind of the perpetrator of the crime of genocide that matters (that he committed the crime with intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group). Therefore, certain group and not individuals in the group should be the main objective and likewise, the destruction should be physical or biological nature, not cultural. Proving responsibility for the crime of genocide is harder than proving responsibility for any other international crime. Murders and other prohibited acts must be committed with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group (dolus specialis). If a prosecutor fails to prove that intention, it is considered a crime against humanity or a war crime – and the ICTY is not authorized to prosecute these crimes.

The latest criticisms directed against work of the ICTY are addressed to the President Theodor Meron, an experienced US (Israeli) lawyer and a judge. Many believe that he made terrible mistakes in individual trials which he chaired, especially in the cases of Gotovina and Markac, Stanisic and Simatovic and in a particularly interesting case from the legal point of few – case of Momcilo Perisic. The judgment in the case of Momcilo Perisic has established a new legal standard of command responsibility, providing amnesty to political leaders and military commanders in case of committing war crimes in the future period. Namely, the appeal judgment to Perisic has adopted the new specific direction criterion which has not existed in the international customary law. The question is whether court judgments discourage future threats against human civilization or the opposite? The UN Security Council has established the ICTY after some people endangered peace and security of the civilization and nowadays, some experts believe that the ICTY turned into its contradiction after Perisic’s acquittal, and its decisions jeopardize international peace, security and order.

When it comes to criticisms related to the impact of the Hague judgments to victims of the conflict, we must take into account that, when it comes to individual criminal responsibility, the ICTY is authorized to prosecute the crimes, but it has no option to adjudicate adequate compensation for victims of the crimes. Namely, primary role of the ICTY is retributive: the Court renders a judgment and defines whether someone is guilty for a certain crime or not, and orders an appropriate penalty for the crime. Of course, the ICTY also has a restorative function and it aims to ensure accountability, establish facts, bring justice for the victims and give them the right to speak, enhance the rule of law and pawing a way for reconciliation in the region. However, the ICTY is not established to be a mean for bringing complete justice to the victims and a mean to deal with the past.

Regardless of the aforementioned facts, the ICTY has taken away from us the ability to forget the past. The legacy of the ICTY is greater and more significant than occasional mistakes and judgments rendered without a legal explanation, while the Court will provide insight to future generations into judgments and facts about the atrocities.

Conclusion

The abovementioned text has led us to conclusion that, when it has established the ICTY, the international community has directly contributed to sanctioning of state policies and individuals responsible for initiation and conduct of armed conflicts at the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The paper also led us to conclusion that judgments rendered by the ICTY have clarified some theoretical parts of the international humanitarian law, international criminal law and the international human rights law.

Despite of many criticisms directed against the ICTY, the author of the paper believes that the ICTY has registered more positive than negative results. Unreasonably high expectations from work of the Court have been huge. At the end, when a conflict starts and when crimes happen, people say nowadays: “Send him to The Hague”, which was not the case a few years ago, when there was no court authorized to prosecute the perpetrators.

There is no doubt that existence of such a court is necessary and we could see it clearly in the case of Leipzig in 1921, when Germans were allowed to trial to themselves on their own. As a result, audience, judges, prosecutors greeted some people who were accused of crimes when they entered a courtroom, not to mention that all sanctions were minimal; two months, six months and four years of imprisonment. Therefore, author of the paper believes that foreign judges did not bring expertise in proceedings related to this territory, but impartiality.

Author of the paper considers the following facts as the greatest contributions of the ICTY:

  • The ICTY is a legal body that represents a basis for establishment of new judicial bodies;
  • The ICTY revealed limitations of trials;
  • The ICTY has left us legacy.

On the other hand, the fact that the ICTY has primarily focused on jurisprudence and its impact, without realizing how much it is important to reach out to the victims, is the main deficiency of this body.

International Law

Psychology of Political Power : Does Power Corrupt or is Magnetic to the Most Corruptible?

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Last week I attended a conference on ‘Political Power, Morality and Corruption’. A Socratic dialogue with fellow scholars led me back to one question that epistemologically haunts political theory and philosophy to date – Does power corrupt or is magnetic to the most corruptible? The cornerstone that this question posits on is antithetical to the idea of power duality as malefic or benefic. Instead, this problem statement is trying to explore and exact the fundamentals of political power. While the former part of the question is striving to deconstruct the soma of power itself, the latter construct of the question is focussing on the agency of an individual with political power.

Now, if you have read Frank Herbert’s Chapterhouse Dune, Missionaria Protectiva US science fiction novelist (1920 – 1986), he writes, “All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted”. Rather than saying absolute power corrupts absolutely, Herbert reveals a common metaphysical denominator: corruptibility,  that fundamentally connects all those with political power. However, his sematic interpretation gives birth to more questions than answers. Suppose we take Herbert’s argument in consideration and assume that the most corruptible are indeed attracted to power. In that case, the global political infrastructure as we know today, is then built on the building block of corruption by its very virtue. For example, the 4th edition of the Global Corruption Index (GCI 2021) covered 196 countries and territories, and provided a comprehensive overview of the state of corruption around the world based on 43 variables. This extensive data revealed that only 52 countries have a low corruption index, with Finland and Norway leading the way. On the other hand, the rest 144 countries are suffering from profane corruption. Using Herbert’s interpretation of power and corruption, should we conclude that political corruption which is about privatization of average citizen and the use of public sphere to promote private interests, is the foundational political infrastructure of these 144 countries? And if this assertion is true, does it mean that every government representative of these 144 countries are fundamentally corrupt? Herbert’s simplistic interpretation of the problem statement creates a moral conundrum of either this or that, rather than exploring the connection between the two variables – power and corruption.

Power does not corrupt. It amplifies and reveals a leader’s predispositioned traits.

For decades, social psychologists were convinced that power corrupts. One of the key demonstrations of this assertion was the classic Stanford Prison Simulation Experiment (Zimbardo, 1971), where volunteers were randomly assigned to play the role of prisoners or prison guards. As the day passed by, it was observed that the students who were given the role of prison guards became sadistic and exercised their power to subjugate prisoners by taking away their clothes and forcing them to sleep on concrete floors. This subduing was absolute barbaric and callous in nature. The results were shocking. However, the Stanford Prison Experiment failed to explore one crucial variable –  the behavioural and cognitive pattern of students who willingly participated and were recruited to be a part of ‘study of prison life’. So, Thomas Carnahan and Sam McFarland (2007) conducted an experiment on Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could Participant Self-Selection Have Led to the Cruelty?. They wanted to studywhat kind of people participate and are drawn to the likes of Stanford Prison Experiment. The research revealed that “ volunteers for the prison study scored significantly higher on measures of the abuse-related dispositions of aggressiveness, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and social dominance and lower on empathy and altruism, two qualities inversely related to aggressive abuse”.

What Carnahan and McFarland’s experiment revealed was that power doesn’t corrupt, but it is a phenomenon that is monopolized by the agency of an individual. Power amplifies and exposes cognitive and behavioral predispositions that already exists within you. It merely reveals your innate tendencies, but it does not corrupt. Let’s take another example of a democratic statesman who wants to introduce a new healthcare bill for his people, is unexpectedly confronted with an ethical conundrum – he can either strengthen his political power and wealth by collaborating with pharmaceutical giants and increase the prices of the medicines in concern (demand-supply chain) , or he can metamorphosize his proposed bill into reality and benefit his subjects. What will he do? Since he already has procured political power and is deliberating on actualizing his healthcare bill to empower people, power here has not corrupted him. In fact, the argument that power corrupts collapses because if power indeed corrupts, this democratic statesman would not have proposed a healthcare bill for the welfare of his people to begin with. However, if he decides to enact the bill in favor of pharmaceutical moguls to increase his wealth and political status quo, it would be due to his predispositioned behavioral and cognitive schema for corruptibility. How he responds to this ethical conundrum will mirror his political psyche. It has nothing to do with power being essentially corruptible. Power only amplifies and exposes a leader’s predispositioned traits. 

Friedrich Hayek makes a similar point in his chapter ‘Why the worst get on top’ in The Road to Serfdom (1943), where he highlights that individuals who rise to the top in the government are those who want to wield power and those who are most ruthless in using power. He writes, “Neither the government administration of a concentration camp nor the Ministry of Propaganda is suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet, positions like these create a totalitarian state. So, when a distinguished American economist concludes that the probability of people in power disliking the possession and exercise of power is low, is similar to falsely assuming that the probability of an extremely tender-hearted person to desire a position of an whipping-master in a slave plantation is high.”

Recently, psychologists have re-investigated this phenomenon and theorised that rather than being a corrupting influence, power amplifies leaders’ innate tendencies. For example, extensive research on ‘Leader corruption depends on power and testosterone’ by Bendahan, Zehnder, Pralong and Antonaki used incentivized experimental games to manipulate leaders in power. Here, leaders had complete freedom to decide monthly pay-outs for themselves and their followers. Now, leaders could have made a prosocial decision to benefit the public good. However, they chose to abuse their power by invoking antisocial decisions, which reduced the total pay-outs of their followers but boosted the leaders’ earnings with a high margin. The researchers write, “In Study 1 (N = 478), we found that both amount of followers and discretionary choices independently predicted leader corruption. Study 2 (N = 240) examined how power and individual differences (e.g., personality, hormones) affected leader corruption over time; power interacted with endogenous testosterone in predicting corruption, which was highest when the leader power and baseline testosterone were both high. Honesty predicted initial level of leader’s antisocial decisions; however, honesty did not shield leaders from the corruptive effect of power.” 

Concluding with Caligula – The Mad Roman Emperor!

After years of witnessing the most barbaric purges, treason laws, exiles, execution, and corruption of all time during Tiberius’s rule, Caligula (37 – 41 AD) was seen as a breath of fresh air when he took the throne. After going through despondent years of constant fear, Caligula’s initiation was perceived as a hope for a flourishing Roman republic. At first, Caligula lived up to the expectations of the roman people. He brought back many people exiled by Tiberius and ceremoniously burned the records of the infamous Treason Trails held by Sejanus under the order of Tiberius. This act was celebrated and made Caligula popular and well-liked among the Senate. He then took a step further and eliminated unpopular hefty taxes, initiated constructions of harbors that created massive employment opportunities for Roman citizens, and staged lavish events like chariot races, gladiator shows, and theatre plays to entertain his people. He was indeed a breath of fresh air after Tiberius. 

But, after seven months of his rule, things changed for the worst. Caligula started to use and abuse his political powers so dauntlessly that it pushed Rome into a dark age of political and economic instability. He went on a rampage of committing murder, adultery, and acts of debauchery. His eccentricities became more murderous, including restating the very Treason Trials that he had ended. Dressed in silk robes and covered in jewels, Caligula pretended he was a god. He made it mandatory for his senators to grovel and kiss his feet and seduced their wives at lavish dinner parties. He wanted his statue to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem, which at the point, would have been highly controversial in a region that was already prone to revolt against the Romans. Luckily, Herod Agrippa, who ruled Palestine then, convinced him not to do so. Additionally, since Caligula was spending vast amount of money on his lavish lifestyle, he emptied Rome’s treasury. To reverse this damage, he started blackmailing roman leaders and senates, and confiscated their properties and wealth. 

There is no denying that there was a method to Caligula’s political madness but power didn’t corrupt him. If it did, the first initial seven months of ruling Rome after Tiberius, Roman republic would not have experienced economic, political and culture growth. However, power certainly did amplify and expose his innate characteristics of corruptibility and debauchery. Caligula’s madness of abusing political power and tyrannical reign grew out of control. An assassination plot for structured against him and he was murdered after being stabbed over 30 times by a cabal of Praetorian guards in 41 A.D. This reminds me of what Robert Caro mentioned in his book The Passage of PowerThe Years of Lyndon Johnson(2012), “Power always reveals. When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. But, as soon as the man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary.” To conclude, it is not that the power corrupts or is magnetic to the most corruptible. The truth is – power only reveals who you truly are.

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International Law

Omicron and Vaccine Nationalism: How Rich Countries Have Contributed to Pandemic’s Longevity

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In a global pandemic, “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe”, – it is more of true with respect to the current globalized world system. It is said that crisis strikes the conscience and forces the ‘commonality of purpose’ on one another- and a major one in magnanimous scale. But the current Covid-19 crisis seems to have emerged in oddity with this very axiom, of course, due to self-serving, in WHO’s words- ‘self-defeating’ and ‘immoral’, approaches to dealing the pandemic by wealthy countries.

 A new and potentially more transmissible variant of Covid-19 virus, named Omicron by WHO, has been detected in South Africa. With scientists yet to be confirmed about new variant’s epicenter and its likely implication on human immune system, the emergence of Omicron has brought the long-warned case of ‘vaccine nationalism’– a phenomenon in which each nation prioritizes securing ample doses without considering impact on poor ones- to light.

Unheeded to the repeated warnings by scientists and pandemic specialists, many of the world’s richest countries had embarked on a vaccine-acquisition frenzy and hoarded jabs more than their requirements. Some countries have even gone to the extent that they had acquired up to four times what their population needed. Thereby, it has left majority of poor and developing countries, particularly those in global south, unvaccinated, with further risk of the virus being muted into more virulent variants, as in the case of Omicron.

A simple numerical data over vaccination rate across the world exposes the grotesques picture of pandemic recovery divide among the countries and immoral hoarding and hedging efforts on vaccine supplies by wealthy countries. As of now, whereas only 3% of people in low income countries have fully been vaccinated, the figure exceeds 60% in both high-income and upper-middle –income countries. In Africa, the most under-vaccinated and the epicenter of ominous Omicron, only some 7% of its 1.3 billion people are fully immunized.

Given the 9.1bn vaccines already manufactured and 12bn expected by the end of this year, the question is- why does vaccination effort remain so discriminatory and dividing across the regions? The answer, in most part, lies in the ‘pervasive economic inequity’ inherent in initial vaccine-acquisition process. With their enormous capacity to pay out, rich countries, even before pandemic took devastating hold, had pursued a ‘portfolio-approach’ in investing on vaccine development research by pharmaceutical companies- simultaneous investment on multiple ones. In exchange, those countries stroke bilateral deal with each drag company to secure enough prospective vaccine doses to inoculate their respective population several times over.

This absolutist vaccine-acquisition drive of wealthy nations had substantially thwarted the holistic approach taken up by World Health Organization(WHO) under the platform of COVAX, a vaccine sharing program. With the aim of reducing the delay in vaccine allocation to poor and developing countries, and thus ensuring vaccine equity, the multilateral platform didn’t get enough incentives from wealthy ones, since started its journey in April 2020. Both investment and acquisition by well-off countries, having bypassed the COVAX, kept them into the front of manufacturing line, thereby, contributed to the distributional injustice.

‘What starts wrong ends wrong’- initial absolutist approaches in vaccine acquisition started to be manifested in discriminatory distribution of vaccines. Thereby, an amazing scientific breakthrough, development of vaccine in record time, has been offset by awful political policy. In mid-2021, when one portion of world were almost on the track of carefree normalcy, people in bigger portion were struggling to breath. Today, problem is not in production of vaccines, as 2 billion doses of vaccines are being manufactured in every month, rather in the ‘unfairness of distribution’.

Early monopolistic exercise by G20 on acquisition and subsequent stockpile of vaccines has resulted in such galling situation that they have commandeered over 89% of vaccines already produced and over 71% of future deliveries. Consequently, the global inoculation drive, since started, is so unjust that for every vaccine delivered to the poorest countries, six times as many doses are being administered as third and booster vaccines in the richest countries. Adding further to the crisis being escalated, while more than 100 countries, for past one year, have desperately demanded emergency waiver on TRIPs related regulatory restriction on Technologies crucial to pandemic recovery, it has repeatedly been blocked by UK and EU.

Picture is not all-about gloomy with respect to vaccine collaboration but it is quite tiny to the scale of requirements. Rich countries could not deliver on the commitments they did to help poor countries immunize their population. For instance, WHO’s target of having 40% of global population vaccinated by end of this year, through COVAX, seems certainly to fall short largely due to the rich countries failing to deliver on their promise to use their surplus vaccines to immunize the under-vaccinated countries. Far from near, the G7 countries had drastically failed to deliver on their promises made on G7 summit in June. As of last week, USA has delivered only 25%, with further embarrassing arithmetic of EU only 19%, UK 11% and Canada just 5%.

Given the frightening predictions from WHO that another 5 million could be added to the already 5 million death tolls across the world, in the next year or more, it is high time starting a collective endeavor with herculean efforts to inoculate large swaths of unvaccinated people in un-protected areas. Keeping large portion out of vaccination will only make the pandemic endure with no time to end, as virus continues to persist through mutating in un-protected area into a more menacing variant. If so, then again someone else may say, after next the worst wave-We were forewarned- and yet here we are.             

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International Law

The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW): Wishful daydream or historic milestone?

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The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted in 2017, has entered into force on the 22nd of January of this year and the number of ratifying states continues to grow, with Mongolia being the latest to announce its accession. This positive trend is certainly welcomed with enthusiasm by the Civil Society campaigners and growing number of supporters of this treaty that represents a huge step forward for the global movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It would certainly be dishonest to ignore the fact that this new international legal instrument remains controversial, to say the least, for most of the members of the so-called nuclear deterrence community. As preparations are ongoing for the first Meeting of States Parties, scheduled to take place in Vienna on 22-24 March 2022, it is useful to address some of the main doubts and arguments against the treaty.

In this regard, the main criticism is that it makes no sense to support a treaty on nuclear weapons if those states that possess them have not joined nor any intention to join it.  

In order to address this claim, it may be useful to recall that in the case of the Mine Ban and the Cluster Munition treaties, its main promoters and supporters were also states that did not possess those weapons, and that those international instruments also received some harsh criticism for this reason. Despite of this, there is no doubt now that both of those treaties have become remarkable success stories, not only by achieving the goal of approaching universalization, but also by consolidating a general moral condemnation of those categories of weapons. Therefore, the argument that a treaty necessarily needs to be joined by the possessors of the weapons can easily be rebutted. Despite of the current position of the nuclear weapons states, each new ratification of the treaty is not meaningless: on the contrary, it provides the treaty more authority and contributes to the growing pressure on nuclear weapons states to adopt further steps towards nuclear disarmament.

The other major contribution of the TPNW is that it facilitates the process of delegitimisation of nuclear weapons, necessary to finally amend the well-established foundations of nuclear deterrence doctrines. The humanitarian principles that are underlying the treaty are totally incompatible with those doctrines, and therefore are having an impact on them by highlighting the inherent immorality and illegitimacy of nuclear weapons.   

Another argument for the case of ratification is that it provides states the opportunity to support the process of democratization of the global debate on nuclear weapons, as this new treaty has been the result of a very open discussion with active engagement of delegations from all geographic regions and, in particular, of representatives of Civil Society. This is not a minor aspect of this process, but a key element. Indeed, unlike in negotiations of previous international legal instruments, in this era of growing complexity and interlinkages, the main challenges faced by humankind are being addressed by a diverse group of citizens, from all walks of life and regions. Traditional diplomacy is certainly not enough, and in the case of the TPNW, the positive results would clearly not have been possible without the decisive boost provided by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was able to mobilize Civil Society and likeminded governments towards the goal of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty. 

While it would be naïve to expect the establishment of the nuclear weapons states to be convinced by the humanitarian narrative and in a foreseeable future to amend its defence and security policies base on nuclear deterrence, the TPNW and its focus on the security of the human being instead of the traditional notion of the security of the state, are already having an impact on the academic and public debates in those states.

The second argument used by its critics is that the TPNW weakens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  Actually, this is not only incorrect, the opposite is true. In fact, the TPNW can serve as an initiative to help implement article VI of the NPT, by which parties are committed to undertake to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. This is of vital importance as the treaty clearly attaches a key role to all parties, and not only to those states that possess nuclear weapons. This commitment has also been reflected in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the TPNW can be understood as a reflection of that obligation to contribute to nuclear disarmament by non-nuclear weapons states.

Another common point is that the nuclear weapons industry is too strong and well consolidated and that it would be naïve to pretend that this treaty could actually have an impact on investment decisions.

This pessimism has also been proven wrong. In fact, in 2021, more than one hundred financial institutions are reported to have decided to stop investing in companies related to nuclear weapons production. As a result, the nuclear weapons industry is experiencing a considerable reduction and the trend towards the exclusion of this sector from investment targets is growing steadily. This is not only the consequence from the legal obligations that emanate from the TPNW but a reflection of the devaluation of the public image associated to these industries. As this public image continues to deteriorate, it is likely that this trend will continue and that the moral condemnation of these weapons of mass destruction will be absorbed into the mainstream of society.

Another common misinterpretation is that the TPNW should be understood as an instrument that is only designed to be joined exclusively by non-nuclear weapons states.

In fact, even though the treaty was developed by non-nuclear weapons states, it has been drafted and negotiated with the goal of universal adherence, including, someday, those states that still include nuclear deterrence in their national security doctrines. In particular, the TPNW establishes a clear set of steps for nuclear weapons states in order to eliminate their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Specifically, within 60 days after the entry into force of the treaty for a state party that possesses nuclear weapons, that state must submit a plan for the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons to a competent international authority that has been specially designated by states parties. The treaty also includes a process to designate a competent international authority to verify the elimination of nuclear weapons by a state before acceding to the treaty, and a process for states parties that maintain nuclear weapons in their territories for the removal of these weapons and report this action to the United Nations Secretary General.

It is also noteworthy that this treaty obliges states parties to provide adequate assistance to victims affected by the use or by testing of nuclear weapons, and to take the necessary measures for environmental rehabilitation in areas contaminated under its control. This dimension of the treaty constitutes an important contribution both to the protection of human rights of victims and to the now inescapable obligation to protect the environment, which are aspects that are not covered by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This certainly does not affect the value and vital role of this key instrument of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime but complements it by addressing the fundamental issue of environmental reparation.

The main challenge now is now not only to achieve a wider universality of the TPNW, but to engage more stakeholders and create awareness on the urgency of bringing pressure on the nuclear weapons states to finally move toward nuclear disarmament. In this regard, Civil Society initiatives have been promoting engagement of members of grassroots, parliament, the media and city governments, particularly in nuclear weapons states, which has had impressive results, with hundreds of local governments expressing support for the treaty and generating discussion among the population. These initiatives serve the purpose of putting pressure on politicians and especially, to facilitate a discussion within democratic societies about the sustainability and risks involved in the possession and harboring of nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the TPNW has a long way to go and overcome many obstacles to achieve its objective, but in its first year of entry into force, it has already had an undeniable impact on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, despite the expected skeptics and efforts to ignore its existence stemming from the still powerful nuclear deterrence establishment. Most of its technical experts, academics and government officials honestly believe that nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee peace and stability to the world and therefore should continue as the foundation of international security doctrines. These well-established ideas have been based on the questionable assumption that the deployment of these weapons have avoided war and can guarantee permanent peace for all nations. This has served as a sort of dogmatic idea for many decades, but recent research results have shown that the risks involved are significantly higher and that the humanitarian consequences would be catastrophic for every citizen of the planet. The humanitarian impact paradigm, which underlies the process that has inspired the TPNW, has provoked a tectonic shift in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, which had been limited to the NPT review conferences with its often-frustrating results. Certainly, the persistence of the different approaches needs to be addressed in a more constructive discussion among the supporters of this treaty and the deterrence community.

Finally, the fact that the first meeting of states parties of the TPNW will take place in Vienna is very meaningful as Austria has been one of the leading nations in this process, particularly in drafting the Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which has been a decisive step towards the treaty that has already fulfilled that commitment. Despite of all the difficulties and the persistence of significant resistance, the active and committed participation of diplomats and Civil Society representatives, under the leadership of Austria, allow to envisage that this first meeting will help to strengthen the treaty and move forward in the long and burdensome road to the final objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

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