Identifying and prosecuting Trafficking in Human Beings (hereinafter, THB) is often very difficult because of the fear of the victims to testify in a criminal proceeding. Therefore, it is fundamental that there is cooperation among states, at all levels and with a holistic plan of action. However, we usually forget the major role that legal persons can play in combating THB, despite studies showing the importance of companies in this globalized crime. According to a report prepared by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability at Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative, 77 per cent of companies think that there is a credible reason to believe that modern slavery occurs in their supply chains. We cannot demonstrate the real data of the use of corporations to commit THB but it is clear that THB, by its very nature, it is often committed within company’s activities and there are companies that are most at risk, such as industries involving agriculture, migrant workers or seasonal product cycles. Therefore, trafficking is a liability for all companies and that liability could be in many countries not only moral, but also civil, administrative or even criminal. For this reason, companies should be aware of the responsibility that they have in the fight against THB and the serious consequences for them if their employers or their managers are involved in this type of crime. Apart from punishment, they would suffer a huge non-material damage as a result of the process.
BACKGROUNDS OF THE COMPANIES´ CRIMINAL LIABILITY
Pope Innocent IV established the Societas delinquere non-potest principle in order to prevent the papal excommunication of civil or business corporations, cities and legal entities for offences committed by one of its members. The principle was later consecrated in most of European systems of criminal laws. The notion of guilt has been considered as a concept of personal nature and therefore a company could not be criminal responsible for a crime until the 19 century, when the corporate criminal liability was set in the Common Law. The Netherlands became the first Civil Law country to introduce it into its criminal system in 1950, and nowadays most European countries have accepted that possibility. There exists a worldwide trend to corporate criminal liability.
We must take into account that we live in a globalized world, where corporations operate worldwide, which directly implies a high risk of being involved in cases of modern slavery or THB.
LEGAL INSTRUMENTS ESTABLISHING CORPORATE LIABILITY IN RELATION TO THB
There has traditionally been some reluctance to attribute to companies liability for crimes committed by their managers or even by their employers. However, corporate liability has been considered a fundamental instrument against organized crime as established in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Article 10 obliges each State Party to adopt and establish the liability of legal persons for participation in serious crimes involving an organized criminal group, including THB. The liability of legal persons may be criminal, civil or administrative; the main point is that it must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
In the same vein, both the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human beings of 16.5.2005 and the Directive 2011/36 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings require Member States to establish corporate liability. Specifically, according to articles 5 and 6 of the aforesaid Directive, all Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that legal persons can be held liable for THB committed for their benefit by any person, who has a leading position within the legal persons based on a power of representation of this legal person, an authority to take decisions on behalf of the legal person or an authority to exercise control within the legal person. Those measures shall ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, with criminal or non-criminal fines and penalties. Furthermore, it must be ensured that companies can be held liable for a lack of supervision or control, and what constitutes in my opinion the fundamental issue in order to use companies as mechanisms for fighting THB.
With regard to domestic legislations, I would like to make a brief reference to the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015 and the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010. Both instruments impose obligations on large corporations in order to avoid THB in their supply chains, what constitutes major progress with regard to the fight against THB for labour purposes. Therefore, it would be desirable, in my view, to expand that type of regulations to other countries.
According to Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 all companies with an annual turnover that exceeds £36m shall be required to make available a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year. That annual statement must address a full of organisational details such as the organisation structure, training about slavery, its policies in relation to slavery and human trafficking, the parts of its business and supply chains where there is a risk of THB and its due diligences processes.
With regard to the California Act, it requires retailers and manufacturers doing business in California (that have over $100 million in global revenue) to prominently disclose, on company websites, the extent to which, if any, the company engages in specific activities to detect and prevent forced labour and human trafficking in their supply chains—verification, auditing, certification, internal accountability, and training. Thus, companies should implement due diligence programs with effective internal controls, with identification of areas at risks and with implementation of specific policies in order to address those risks. Otherwise, they can be in many states criminal responsible for modern slavery or human trafficking and we can imagine the devastating effect that it could bring to them.
Despite those regulations, THB cases against corporations remain too low. It is a relatively recent issue, with several obstacles such as the extraterritorial application of corporate criminal liability, evidentiary issues and the problems derived from subcontracting with complex corporate structures.
MAIN COMPANIES AT RISK
As already mentioned, human trafficking is considered a form of transnational organized crime, which includes displacement of people from their own countries or regions. THB crimes are often committed in more than one country by organized criminal groups. However, smuggling of and trafficking in should be differentiated. According to professor Anis Bajrektarevic there are four differentiating elements: (i) an exploitation and usage of the trafficked person over a long period of time; (ii) inter-dependency that forms a strong (brothers-in-arms like) linkage, between trafficked victim and organized crime groupings; (iii) eligibility for further networking (recruitment for criminal purpose); (iv) very often trafficking itself is not a voluntary movement, but in the case of smuggled persons it always occurs voluntarily.
Therefore, it is usual that companies are used as means for THB, in the process of recruitment, transportation or exploitation.
According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Conventions against Translational Organized Crime Trafficking in persons “shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
Therefore, THB offences can be committed by different activities and each of them can involve a particular kind of company. For instance, while recruitment is usually committed on the Internet through false jobs postings, receipt of persons can be performed in hotels. Therefore, I am going to analyse which companies are most at risk stemming of the UN definition and differentiating between the various stages of the THB.
First stage: Recruitment
The initial stage of the THB process consists of the recruitment. It can be done by several means, and it depends on the purpose of the offence. However, there are usual forms of recruitment, both on THB for labour exploitation and in sexual exploitation.
Social networks play a fundamental role in the recruitment phase and for that reason it is extremely important to implement in those companies effective THB detections systems. It appears that 89% of 12-17 year-old love to chat on the Internet: clase-mates, chat rooms or webnets. These are prefect points for traffickers, who use false identities to lure potential victims to a meeting.
With regard also to the Internet, it is common to make use of false jobs advertisements placed on it. It seems to be difficult to detect that type of simulated jobs, but it is also possible to implement different channels for identifying presumed traffickers. The false contracts, and the patterns are always similar. The companies that operate on the Internet should be on the lookout for signs of THB.
Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that the identification on the Internet is very difficult. The anonymity and mass audience of online services increases both the discretion and profitability of the services but complicates the fight against the recruitment. For that reason, in my opinion the companies that operate on the Internet should increase the delivery of information to users in relation to the THB. Companies should expose the risk of being victim of THB and they should explain the traditional methods used by traffickers. Furthermore, companies should also provide users with direct contacts of the company specialized in the fight against THB, representing intermediaries between users and police authorities.
Finally, private employment agencies, as labour recruiters, have an important role in this first stage of THB. Therefore, the issue of labour recruitment and the responsibilities of governments and employers to protect workers from exploitation were at the centre of the 103 debate of the International Labour Conference, which led to the adoption of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, and the Forced Labour Recommendation 2013 (No.203). As specific provision, it is recommended the promotion of coordinated efforts by relevant government agencies, including efforts to regulate, license and monitor labour recruiters and employment agencies and eliminate the charging of recruitment fees to workers to prevent debt bondage and other forms of economic coercion.
In the same row, the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) call on governments, social partners, businesses, other international agencies, and all concerned stakeholders, to strengthen their efforts to address abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices in statement rendered in June of 2015 in which series of actions were requested:
1.Adopt and strengthen, criminal laws and other regulatory measures, to address the entire spectrum of fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices that may lead to trafficking in persons;
2.Raise awareness amongst recruiters, private employment agencies and employers in the private and public sectors on due diligence and best practices on how to eliminate abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices;
3.Enable cooperation among relevant government agencies, workers’ organisations, employers’ organisations and represent- actives of private employment agencies; promote strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors, and facilitate exchange of good practices within common migration routes;
4.Create complaint mechanisms and ensure that migrant workers who have experienced abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices or subsequent exploitation, gain access to justice and effective remedies, such as compensation;
5.Ensure the Right to Freedom of Association, maximise collective bargaining coverage and support trade unions in their efforts to organize workers, including migrant workers, to better protect them from exploitation during or resulting from the recruitment process.
6.Foster the transparent and participatory negotiation, conclusion and effective implementation of bilateral and regional agreements, rooted in international standards, as well as other specific mechanisms to ensure improved international coordination and cooperation and to close regulatory and enforcement gaps across common labour migration routes.
7.Ensure that national mechanisms to regulate the recruitment of migrant workers are integrated into labour migration policies and relevant bilateral and regional agreements, to ensure coherence between national laws and policies governing labour recruitment and the broader policies relating to employment, skills, and education.
8.Promote the ratification of relevant UN and ILO Conventions, in particular the recently adopted Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930; the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; the Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No 181); the Migration for Employment Convention, 1949 (No 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No 143) to ensure proper recognition and regulation of labour recruiters and employment agencies
Second Stage: Transition
According to the UN Protocol, it must be punished not only the recruitment, but also the transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons. One of the main characteristics of THB, and which distinguishes it from another forms of exploitation, is the transition stage. Victims are transported to the place of exploitation, either within the country or outside the country of origin of the victim, but in every case, apart from their families and friends, what makes them more vulnerable. Modern slavery requires that people are moved from one place to another and for that reason. It is important to adopt measures to prevent THB in all kind of transport firms, hotels and hosting’s companies.
Victims can be transported by land, sea and air. All shipping companies should be aware of the fights against THB. They can be responsible for human trafficking if they do not adopt any measure to avoid that the traffickers use their services to commit their criminal activities. Consequently, companies that depend on transport as part of their values chains, or that are supplying transportation services, must face the risk of being complicit in modern slavery. For instance, there have been several scandals of smuggling and THB using trucks among the world, with fatal endings in some cases. To deal with such situations, it was created the Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) with the mission to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and bus industries to combat human trafficking. Its main goals are to saturate trucking and related industries with TAT materials, partner with law enforcement and government agencies to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking and marshal the resources of their partners to combat THB. Similarly, the International Transport Worker’s Federation is trying to make people aware of the risk of low cost-holidays. Exploitation often happens at tourist destinations, hotels are anonymous and publicly accessible, making them likely venues for prostitution and crime. And even more anonymous would be new companies, which operate on online leasings or rentings short-term lodging such as apartments or homestays. However, tourism and hospitality stakeholders are often unaware of signs, contributing unknowingly to sex trafficking and the transportation of human beings, despite being likely to intervene not only in the second stage but also in the third phase of THB.
Third stage: Exploitation
Exploitation could be for several purposes but it shall include, according to the Palermo Protocol, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
This phase is what justifies the existence of THB and where the companies have more risk to be responsible for the crime. In contrast with the previous stages, where it is complicated to attribute criminal responsibility to the companies, at this stage, companies should have strong mechanisms of THB detection and specially, those companies that are most at risk.
According to a study elaborated by NGO Verité in 2016, eleven sectors were found to be the most likely to have a risk of human trafficking globally: agriculture, construction, electronics, fishing and aquaculture, forestry, healthcare, hospitality, housekeeping/facilities operation, mining and basic metal production and textile and apparel manufacturing. But there are also additional risk factors. Particular products, such as those that have seasonal cycles, certain business processes, for instance in long and complex supply chains, the use of certain vulnerable groups, such as women and children, and other operations in countries deemed as high risk. The study is mainly focused on the companies’ role attending to their supply chains. In the context of the sexual exploitation, we cannot forget the situation of bars, clubs, escort agencies and brothels, due to the fact that they constitute an important focal point for human trafficking. It is clear that in many occasions the owner of that kind of business would be responsible for trafficking. But in many other cases, it would be difficult to make them responsible for the scenario of a THB victim working in their establishments, especially when they are big commercial premises. And for that reason, it is fundamental to have the possibility to attribute to that business any kind of liability, whether civil, administrative or criminal. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the offence and the high risk of having workers which are victims of THB in such kind of an industry justifies, in my opinion, the attribution of criminal responsibility to that business or even to the owners, in cases of absolute lack of control.
Trafficking in human beings is a global problem and one of the world’s most abhorrent crimes. It must be fought by land, sea and air, and with use of all the instruments of the rule of law. The fight against this crime must involve several actors with a multifaceted response. Otherwise, we will not be able to eradicate this shameful crime.
It is crucial that small, medium and large companies are involved in the fights against human trafficking. The aim of the traffickers consists in earning money and to that end they often need corporations. Therefore, if we achieve the goal of preventing the utilization of companies to commit THB, we would be able to put traffickers in a difficult situation. Corporations are a fundamental element in the fight of all globalized crimes. We should emphasize that companies can and should play a vital role in preventing human trafficking.
At this point, there are already many companies that they are aware of the risks of being involved in a case of THB and take their responsibility for it. There are major initiatives in this area. For instance the aforementioned Truckers Against Human Trafficking or the European Alliance Bankers against Trafficking in Human Beings, which created a practical toolkit with “red-flag indicators”.
With the globalization of business, international compliance is a necessity. The global nature of companies with subsidiaries, affiliates, and vendors all over the world provide great opportunities but also great risks of being liable for the actions of their staff. However, there are many companies that are not conscious of the risks that they take if they do not implement effective measures against THB.
There is currently a worldwide trend to corporate criminal liability and it is only a matter of time we start prosecuting companies which are responsible for human trafficking. Judicial authorities, policy makers, press and civilian play an important role related to corporate liability. We should promote the awareness of companies of the necessity of the implementation of due diligence programs with effective internal controls, with identification of areas at risks and with implementation of specific policies in order to address those risks, and to avoid labour exploitation .
It is responsibility of all of us to combat THB with involvement of all the possible actors.
An early version of this text has been presented at the OSCE Conference (18 Alliance against Trafficking in Persons, Vienna 2018)
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Refugees In The Outbreak Of The Pandemic
The COVID-19 today is having an adverse impact on our lives although it has brought exceptional changes in climate and human behavior. The increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the 21st century explains the intensified global scenario. The refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen where most of them are internally displaced persons. Yet, they are humans with unique life experiences; they had dreams, children who are dwelling hopes of normal life, and a better tomorrow. The mothers are longing to return home, fathers yearning to work again, and an identity. Leaving behind their homes, being prosecuted from the country, and losing their loved ones; refugees had gone through the worst of time. Refugees are the worst sufferers in this 21st century. Around 80 million homeless people in the world most of them are from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. The Syrian crisis reported being the greatest refugee crisis in the world. The United Nations also estimated the women and children to be the worst sufferers.
The refugees were tormented by years of poverty, poor health, and lack of basic infrastructures like education, food, health care, sanitation, social security, and etc. Humanitarian organizations have stretched beyond their capacity to help millions of refugees over the years. The WHO and UN Refugee Agency have signed new agreements to provide health services and benefits to the displaced and vulnerable population around the world. Among the 79.5 million forcibly displaced individuals lacks access to clean water or soap. Despite social and economic setbacks due to the pandemic, health is still the paramount factor affecting the poor and homeless. During the COVID-19 situation around the world food, medicine or sanitary products and even clean water have become inaccessible for many refugees. Social distancing has become a major concern in the refugee camps.
The COVID -19 is severely affecting the education of the children in the refugee camps. In the refugee camps only 63% of refugees are enrolled in primary school and 24% in secondary education where most of the children are left out. The limit in pursuing education continues potentially in the refugee camps and its worsening due to the pandemic. There is a growing possibility of discrimination and xenophobia is affecting the process of socialization in their host country. Nevertheless, an unequal world with challenges to achieve education and skill training for self-development must be ceased.
In Yemen, more than 3 million people have been displaced and approximately 17 million require food. Yemen’s health facilities have either been destroyed or damaged in the conflict and with the unbridled transmission of COVID‑19 in Aden; Yemenis are living through the worst humanitarian crisis. Only a few health centers are operational in Yemen where the numbers of patients suffering from malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever, and injuries of war are very high.
In India almost 18,000 Rohingya refugees are taking shelter where thousands of them live in densely populated settlements in preposterous conditions; a third world country with the second-highest population in the world. India can hardly feed its population and especially it hosts a huge number of Refugees. Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees have access to certain rights as assisted by the government, while the Rohingyas are still struggling for it. But, in Bangladesh, the WHO is working with governments to secure the health of nearly one million Rohingya refugees against the multiple threats of the pandemic and including natural disasters in the upcoming monsoon season.
The COVID-19 is increasing the needs and vulnerabilities of the Refugees. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is concerned about the collateral effects of the pandemic among the Refugees. According to the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, due to the degrading socio-economic plight of the forcibly displaced people and poverty among them has made them a target to several traffickers that are immorally exploiting and profiteering from their culpability. The adolescent girls and children have become the victims of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, and organ removal, forced recruitment into armed groups, forced marriages, or forced begging. The COVID-19-related impacts on restricted movements, closures, or availability of proper help, support services are put to constrain. The pandemic has limited the opportunity for the refugees, particularly women to seek legal support for sexual and gender-based violence.
On the World Day against Trafficking, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNHCR proposed for support in the prevention of trafficking and response efforts globally. The Governments and humanitarian actors together must ensure and assist the victims of trafficking
mostly among the displaced people where they are in immediate need of protection. A major initiative was taken by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) to monitor the events and trend of COVID-19 among displaced populations in camps and non-camps settings for their safety.
Resources are available in scanty, refugee camps and settlements are becoming overcrowded and many are being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures during the winters. For those living in refugee camps or camp-like situations, they also face an increased risk of COVID-19. In refugee camps, it is difficult to practice public health measures like frequent hand washing or social distancing. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the host government to provide aid and essentials to the refugees living in their country. But in many cases, the host governments don’t have enough financial capability but can arrange testing services in certain regions, regardless of whether an individual is a national or a refugee. Secondly, even though high-income countries are currently most affected, they need to assist low- and middle-income countries because those countries don’t have the means to deal with COVID-19. The outbreak of the pandemic in populous and poor countries will put the rest of the world at continued risk.
It’s true of the fact that the world was not prepared for a pandemic and COVID-19 does not respect any boundaries. But, the governments should not use pandemic as an excuse for applying repressive policies. Efforts should be made spread information in every camp that have limited source to reliable information about COVID-19 and measures of protection.
Understanding the unlawfulness of the Law of Armed Conflict
The contravention of rules outlined in the Law of Armed Conflict has created an environment of exploitative exceptions in the understanding, and applicability of human rights and security in theatres of modern warfare. As these exceptions pave way for the proliferation of national might in the name of national security, and combatant safety, the human suffering for non-combatants also witnesses a proportionally massive upsurge. The changing (mis)understanding of these regulations calls for a review on the accountability and necessity of jus in bello, and its weakened importance under the ambit of the law of armed conflict, and the greater International Humanitarian Law.
More than often, man-made conflicts have been responsible for the decimation of life and property around the globe. Even though human casualty stands divided between conventional and non-conventional threats in a modern world, the protraction of man-made conflict is mainly responsible for loosening up tides after tides of bloodshed for physical or territorial gains. However, with the advent of the prospect of domestic/international accountability, and a fool-proof system of checks and balances, mankind’s warfare is held by tighter strings of transparency and justifiability, adorned by rules and regulations. Nonetheless, it is very important to analyse and understand if its techniques of armed conflicts and subsequent regulation are stringed by laws of conduct to create a policy of accountability and fairness equally amongst participating parties or are riddled with discriminatory practices, apropos to an obscure understanding of who is sacred and who is profane. Rather unsettling, the horrors of war have time and again been governed with a rather small yet informative account of jus in bello (justice in war) or the law which governs how warfare is conducted, centred in the Law of Armed Conflict.
Jus in bello falls within the ambit of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and as the semantics suggest, it indeed is purely humanitarian in its objective to limit human suffering in modern warfare through a strict set of pre-decided rules. Jus in bello is independent of the questions about the reason for war, or its basic rules, which in turn is explained by jus ad bellum(the law of waging war). Jus in bello, if we analyse through its literary content, consists of two parts. The first part explains principle determinants for a proper quantum of force required in armed warfare if limiting warfare is ever the case in humanitarian laws. The second part guides us through limitations and prohibitions in warfare if not complete cessation, which reminds of the old age tradition of centripetal discussions around international peace and security, albeit to no practical effect. In contrast to the humanitarian nature of the IHL, the first part of jus in bello aims to indulge the parties in conflict with a categorised, and diverse set of paradigms for use of violence. In a dubious exception, it can also encourage the parties to use toolkits of violence on adversaries, if it is justified with international/domestic military necessity, regardless of the means of interpretation, e.g. Turkey’s raid over Syria. Nonetheless, the rule of active distinction in IHL between combatants and non-combatants aims to impose limits on destruction and suffering in armed conflicts. However, the interpretation of the exceptional military necessity, proportionality, and distinction (MNPD) principles in IHL makes the death and injury of non-combatants casual, by emphasising on the miscued understanding that any unintentional attack with extreme unaccountability on non-combatants can, and will be classified as “collateral damage”. It ends up giving a sense of irresponsibility, justifiability, and immunity to the unprejudiced actions of the armed combatants since their actions are no longer a criminal or civil liability.
Fortunately, the second part of jus in bello adheres to the responsibilities in humanitarian law and imposes strict, absolute limits on certain instruments and modes of violence which can most certainly, if given a free hand, increase human casualty and suffering. These rules are extremely significant and cannot be exploited for potential military advantages. It is extremely altruistic to non-combatants. Nevertheless, a major limitation of the second part, as a general exception concerns the legality of warfare in the treatment and torture of prisoners of war by nation-states, regardless of the combatant and non-combatant status. One such example of that exploited limitation is the question on the authorization of torture, and indignation by US Personnel in the infamous Abu Ghraib prisons, which is backed by a textbook excuse that under US military commissions, information acquired through torture, generally inadmissible in domestic US civil/military courts will be considered as evidence for the sake of its internal security, and can ignore international laws and declarations. Fundamentally, even though this rule is in contrast with The Military Commission Act of 2006 section 6 (c)(1), the international organisations, honouring their commitment to the UN Charter Chapter 1, Article 2(7), limit their intervention in the matter. This is even though the US has ratified UNCAT Convention against Torture, and stands in clear violation of international decrees.
Moreover, the penumbra veiling the opacity of scores of military commissions, omissions and laws in this particular matter by different nation-states has threatened to unsettle various humanitarian provisions in jus in Bello, to evolve with the growing needs of armed conflict, primarily after the US’s war on terrorism. Major western nation-states like the UK and the US have called for a case by case approach into evidence gained from torture, taking a cue from Churchill’s “supreme emergency” dictum, henceforth, threatening to make torture a tool of plausible military necessity, which is unproportioned and discriminatory towards non-combatants.
Articulating the terminology change in IHL over due course of time, and an itemization of new crimes post-World War II, it is to be brought into notice the alarming plethora of provisions that have changed course in jus in bello. Regardless of the differentiation between combatants/prisoners of war, and non-combatants in Article 37(1) of Additional Protocol I and Article 44 of Protocol I of Geneva Convention, the lack of trust among state actors over doubtful logic and morality due to the inclusion of irregular fighters, non-state actors, and foreign fighters in modern warfare leads to unprecedented failure to comply with the second part prohibitions. This has resulted in the loss of a great majority of non-combatants in the conflicts of the 21st Century.
Furthermore, with the increasing reliance on tech-based warfare to minimise combatant casualty among state actors, WMDs have been the instrument of choice against the belligerent party. Unfortunately, the volatile firepower of such weapons, as well as its unprejudiced understanding between combatants, and civilians are judged under MNPD principles. Regardless of its clear military, and political danger over misuse, it is still accepted frivolously in the international community, and among state actors as a weapon of choice. The existence of nuclear weapons even after strengthened efforts towards non-proliferation, and its evolving doctrines of use among various nation-states, is an example of this effort to sham jus in bello, which is acting towards effective distinction in conflicts. The concept of the use of WMDs as a possible deterrent or a method of national self-defence is heavily prejudiced and debated in the international legal community, which openly admits that it cannot regulate the legality or illegality of such weapons by a nation-state in cases of self-defence, whatever the interpretation may be. Instead, they added this responsibility on MNPD principles, and un-verified claims of user assessment for self-defence, which technically does nothing to put a halt on the proliferation of WMD usage as an instrument of fear-mongering, e.g. the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In the end, the lack of political will, and international compliance, marred by selfish national interests have worked more to change the law of armed conflicts, rather than strictly implementing it. The increasing reliance on the first part of jus in bello threatens to omit the second part from IHL, resulting in warfare and conflicts in modern times without a leash to save civilians from the unavoidable line of fire. It is high time that the international community takes a stand to promote and propagate the relevance of IHL to preserve the purity of conventions in place years ago, without pressure from major nation-states. These conventions find their relevance even now until mankind in its very nature of gaining more power decides to uproot it once and for all.
How India’s Current Digital Strike Against China Is well-Protected Under article 14 Of Gats
As the military tensions between India and China were steadily increasing due to Chinese intrusion into India territory at the Galwan valley, India on 29th June, 2020 launched a digital strike against China to counter its unwarranted territorial aggression. In a press release as issued by the Indian government, it was stated that 59 applications were decided to block as such applications are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.
Certainly, the digital strike has been hailed by many countries that were aware of the rising accusations of Chinese surveillance on sensitive communications. China has often been blamed for the act of stealing foreign intellectual property for its military advancement. The Chinese government has been using these applications as a medium to institutionalize a system that legally and illegally acquires the foreign technology for its domestic advantage and strategic development.
Although, as this Indian geo-political move has much significance in the ongoing debate of protecting the sovereignty of India, China, on the other hand, has threatened to sue India at WTO dispute resolution forum for potentially violating the multilateral WTO agreements. China has termed this Indian app-banning move as an abuse to national security exception. It has stated that this move is ‘selective and discriminatory’ and against ‘fair and transparent procedure requirements’ thus, violating the trade-liberalizing agreements. However, India has squared-off all the Chinese claims by terming them frivolous because India’s WTO sovereignty and national security defence argument in this incident is much stronger and infallible.
Therefore, in this article, I would be discussing that how India’s recent measure is protected under the provisions of Article XIV (a), XIV (c) (2), and XIV Bis of GATS and thus how it raises a strong stance in favour of India that can rebut the baseless Chinese WTO threat.
Article xiv and xiv bis of the gats
GATS is a multilateral agreement that is established to provide rules for trade in services with a view to the expansion of such trade while ensuring transparency and progressive liberalization in order to promote the economic growth. Although this agreement desires to achieve a higher level of liberalization, it still recognizes the right of Member-state to regulate, and to introduce new regulation, on the supply of services within their territories to meet national policy objectives.
Article XIV is one such provision articulated in the agreement that provides the Member-state to accommodate other policy goals and choices made in accordance with domestic laws and societal values. This article expresses the scope of particular matters related to national importance including privacy and public order. Moreover, Article XIV bis is another such provision that accommodates security exceptions that provide the room for implementing those actions which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests.
India’s move of blocking applications is well-based on these provisions that provide the sovereign country like India to take all policy measures which protects the security of its state and thus, its recent measures are protected under these Articles.
Measure protected under Article XIV (A) of GATS
Article XIV (a) gives the liberty to the member-state for adopting or enforcing any measures that are necessary to protect public morals or to maintain public order. According to the Panel Report in dispute of United States –Gambling, public order has been defined as “the preservation of the fundamental interests of a society, as reflected in public policy and law.”
In the same WTO dispute, two-tier analysis of justifying the member-state measure under this specific provision has been provided. The panel states that member-state has to satisfy two elements that are firstly the measure must be one designed to “maintain public order”; and secondly the measure for which justification is claimed must be “necessary” to maintain public order.
In the present scenario, India’s measure to ban the 59 Chinese apps was necessary to maintain the public order. As India provides the primary market of digital space, there is a higher risk of exploitation of fundamental interests of the society and its citizens. According to the Ministry of Information Technology, many complaints were filed with them which summarily reports about misusing of these applications to steal and underhandedly transmitting users’ data in an illegal manner to data servers that are located outside the territory of India. Therefore, it was important for India to protect the fundamental interest and values of its citizens and thus, a necessity which is an objective standard has been evolved for India to take such WTO-consistent repressive measure which was reasonably available to protect the public order of its country after following the test of weighing and balancing a series of factors as determined by Appellate Body in WTO dispute of Korea-Beef.
Moreover, as this measure promotes the maintenance of public order, it was found by the appellate body in the dispute of US-Gambling that the member-state is not obliged to explore and exhaust all other reasonably available alternatives and there is no need for prior consultations with the counter-part before implementing such measure and thus, this measure is WTO-consistent and protected under Article XIV (a) of GATS.
Measure protected under Article XIV (C) (2) of GATS
This Article provides the liberty to the member-state like India to adopt or enforce such measure that is necessary to secure compliance with such laws and regulations that are not inconsistent with the provisions of GATS. Further, this provision provides a non-exhaustive list of those laws or regulations that are not inconsistent with WTO and clause (2)specifically provides a WTO-consistent provision that relates to “protection of the privacy of individuals in relation to the processing and dissemination of personal data and the protection.” In the WTO dispute of Mexico-Soft Drinks, the Appellate Body explained the meaning of law or regulations and held that such term is used to denote the rules including international agreements that form part of the domestic legal system of a WTO member-state.
Under this provision, it is necessary to show that the measure which is enforced was necessary and was further designed to secure compliance with the WTO-consistent law. Undeniably, the current measure which banned the Chinese apps was particularly designed to secure compliance with the Indian Constitution (WTO-consistent law) as well as other Indian legislations that accounts for protecting the privacy of its citizens as these apps were threatening and violating the privacy of its users. This measure is said to be securing the compliance as its design reveals that the certain measure protecting the right to privacy of its citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India in its landmark decision held that right to privacy including the aspect of information privacy is a facet of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and thus it is a fundamental right guaranteed to everyone. Therefore, when the Indian government was satisfied that there was a reasonable apprehension regarding the security of data and breach of privacy of its citizens due to operation of such certain apps, it became indispensably necessary for the Indian government to enforce such WTO-consistent measure to ban these applications to protect the privacy and sensitive data of its citizens from being harmed and intruded. Moreover, the Appellate Body in dispute of Dominican Republic-Import and Sale of Cigarettes held that the member-state has the whole right to determine for themselves the level of enforcement of their WTO-consistent law, thus this measure was necessarily implemented to secure compliance with the Constitutional principles of India and hence, this measure is protected under Article XIV (c) (2).
Measure protected under Article XIV BIS of GATS
This article provides for the security exceptions that allow the member-state to take any actions that are required to preserve the sovereignty and national security interests of its state in times of war or any emergency in international relations. The recent ban of these 59 apps was in regard to terminate their usage as it was reported that these apps were being engaged in activities which were prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India and have been acting hostile to national security and defence of India. Such threats to the pillars of democracy required emergency measures and therefore, India’s measure to disallow the usage of these applications was a result to ensure safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.
Moreover, this action of India cannot be seen in isolation and there is a need to appreciate the geo-political evidence revolving around India that aggravated the situation. There was a weather of emergency created in India due to the repeated aggression shown by the Chinese government at the Line of Actual Control. Even 20 Indian soldiers were martyred during the violent face-off with the Chinese counterpart. Such incident potentially raises a situation of emergency in international relations and that further allows India to take the defence of Article XIV Bis to eclipse its digital strike under the ambit of necessary and strategic action taken to protect the security and sovereignty of India.
For China, the doors of WTO are ajar to try its last fling to protect its shameful diplomacy of unfair practices; however, approaching to this organization will do more harm than good for China as the case of India is strong and firm. India’s current diplomatic measure is clearly WTO-consistent and squarely falls under the Security and General exceptions provided under GATS, therefore, there is no instance of trade violation. Instead of giving a baseless threat, China should try to mediate and consult the issue with the Indian government to protect the trade market that it used to enjoy before the ban. It should also try to introduce reformative measures that ensure accountability and transparency amongst the links between the Chinese government and the Chinese economic players. The world is now aware of the dirty economic strategies that China is implementing to build a Chinese century and this time, the world would rebut back with stronger measures just like India declared a digital war against China.
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