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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

Undemocratic United Nations and Global Peace

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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.

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International Law

United States thinks it’s ‘the exception to the rules of war’

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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.

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International Law

Selective Standards: Fight Against Oppression or Just a Geopolitical Showdown for Global Supremacy?

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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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