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Anti-Personnel Landmines Still Mutilate Asia: Banning in the Global Politics of Human Rights

Dr. Nafees Ahmad

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In South and Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, North Korea; South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan have been confronting the curse of landmines. Afghanistan runs the oldest and largest demining programme in the world. Afghanistan remains one of the states with the highest level of contamination from landmines and explosive remnants of war. It has the highest number of casualties caused b ylandmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. 

Human rights are a desultory desire of universal utility, which is nurtured and navigated by the quality of justice system of a nation – state devoid of any political polemics, paradoxical pursuits, and gawky gobbledygook. The administration of criminal justice system gets activated if a person is inflicted with death in its various permutations by someone which is followed by an investigation to rummage and apprehend the culprit and is accordingly brought to justice in any civilized society committed to a desiderata of constitutionalism, rule of law, equality, fraternity, liberty, humanitarianism, social justice, transparency, accountability, good governance and human rights. But in the case of landmine explosions resulting in a mass human pogrom, the justice system is hamstrung. On the other hand, it becomes possible to prosecute the culprit and bring to book for a single act of criminality. But, unfortunately, persons who made people crippled and injured by landmines can never be brought to justice. There would never be an investigation. Even time would find it difficult to heal the whelming wounds and atrophic agonies sustained by victims. Permanent privation of limbs would never be substituted in a normal and natural way. The psychological trauma and diabolical effects received and experienced by the victims haunt them throughout their whole life, and they struggle for their existential survival. Nevertheless, they are not able to eke out an honorable existence in society and destined to drag on their parasitic identity. The magnitude of their suffering and severe disabilities is immeasurable by any yardstick in any form whatsoever developed by perennial human peregrination from avionics to genomics.

This excursus attempts sanities the issue of landmines and their excruciating effects on the human psyche and exhorts upon humanity to exscind its menacing presence for once and all so that posterity could be able to live in peace. The obviation of landmines must be the shibboleth in the 21st century based on a time frame. The international community must subscribe to pragmatism so for their eradication is concerned instead of making sibilatory overtures and resorting to minatory maneuvers with tectonic tendencies to perpetuate and justify their military necessity. Means of warfare must be devised on humanitarian premise while keeping in view broader possible transgressions of human rights during military engagements.

Landmine is a most dreaded, lethal and crippling device of modern warfare and devastates human limbs beyond any possible cue and care. It is the weapon of incendiary nature that once detonated would hurricane dirt particles, metal shards, plastic pebbles, and cordite fragments penetrate deep into the human body and resultant wounds necessitating further amputations. It is a weapon of mass destruction and does not discern between a horse do combat and civilians. It does not identify its targets. It is sardonic to aver that a landmine proceeds to swallow its target sat the pedestal egalitarianism. It does not discriminate between military personnel and or civilian. Consequently, the vast majority of its victims are innocent children and civilians. But the suffering does not bid a farewell here as the repercussions and ramifications of landmine explosion spread far beyond the victim who mules its scourge for rest his/her life.

Landmines are of various types with one commonality, i.e., destruction of genocidal dimensions. There are anti-personnel mines (designed to maim, kill and injure people), anti-vehicle mines (designed to destroy tanks and vehicles) and “smart” anti-personnel mines (mines which are capable of self-destruction or self-Deactivation). These mines are programmed in advance to explode automatically. However, the recent advancements in landmine technology have blurred the conventional dichotomy between anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines. Today, multi-purpose mines are being developed having diabolical and debilitating dimensions.

A landmine has been defined under Article 2, paras 1 and 2 of convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction, September 18, 1997, which is popularly known as Ottawa Treaty (hereinafter referred to as Ottawa Treaty) It defines a landmine as under:

 “(1) Anti-personnel mine means a mine designed to be exploded by the presence proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons. Mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person, that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped.”

 “(2) “Mines” means a munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle.”

It is axiomatic from the language of the definition that it is framedin general words, which make it comprehensive and inclusive.

There are some International Legal Institutions designed to achieve a landmine-free world through municipal legal jurisdictions. These international conventions envisaged various provisions and clauses by which state parties are made to adhere to it. There is United Nations Convention on the prohibition of Anti-personnel mines and on their destruction 1997, UN Convention of certain conventional weapons (CCW) with its Additional Protocols I,II,III,IV and amended Protocol II. This Additional Protocol concerns different aspects of means of warfare such as undetectable fragments, landmines, incendiary weapons, and blinding laser weapons respectively. There are only 72 countries that had acceded to the CCW so far.

On the other hand, the Ottawa Treaty was signed by 164 countries as of January 2018. However, 32 nation-states remain non-signatories including prominent powers such the US, Russia China and India, and these countries are also the producers and users of landmines. In South and Southeast Asia, countries like India, North Korea, South Korea, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, and Vietnam have not acceded to the Ottawa Treaty. Afghanistan and Bangladesh are the only two countries that have signed the Mine Ban Treaty on September 11, 2002, and May 07, 1998respectively in South Asia; however, 11 states have enacted national legislation. Therefore, II states have announced the destruction of stockpiles and no states so for published total clearance or demining of emplaced mines. There are around 25, 00,000 people globally disabled by landmines of which 600,000 were civilians including women and children who are either wood-hewers or drawers of water.

It is remarkably relevant to note that the initiative to have or ban treaty on landmines was taken by the government of Canada independent of any role of the United Nations. Earlier in 1990, the ICRC and some other non-governmental humanitarian organizations like national Red Cross societies, Red Crescent societies and International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) began dissemination of awareness of started documenting the higher incidence of landmines casualties of civilians. Consequently, on October 5, 1996, the conference adopted the Ottawa declaration which committed the participants to execute a plan of acting directed to the enhancement of resources and building-up an infrastructure to clear mines, assist victims and rehabilitating them.

Ultimately, the government of Canada invited all national governments to come to Ottawa in Canada in December 1997 to sign a treaty banning the production, stockpiling transfer and use of anti-personnel mines. It is known as the Ottawa Process resulted in a global ban on landmines. This treaty came into force on March 3, 1990. UN Secretary-General has been entrusted with the power to investigate, with prior consent of state parties to the convention, the possible misuse of the convention. The treaty envisages a comprehensive ban, reintegration of victims, their social rehabilitation, dissemination of information and mobilizing national and international public opinion. Although it is heart-wrenching that Ottawa Treaty received only 133 signature and 66 ratifications on March 1, 1999. Unfortunately, India, Pakistan, Russia, and China have not acceded to this important treaty intended to save humanity from 100 million mines in over 60 countries.

When military engagement and hostilities come to an end leading to a state of ceasefire and envisage usually, and the civilians resume routine life, the presence of landmines poses a threat of gravest nature as the cost of dismantling and obliterating them is colossal beyond the resources of the war-ravaged country. Moreover, as landmines do not identify its target, its presence does not make any difference between pre-state of war or post-war situations. It has the same devastating prowess unless pulverized which remains a distant dream, in some locations across the world. Consequently, in a post-war scenario in many countries, civilians become the victims of landmines despite having passed many years in peace and tranquility.

On the other hand, a country impregnated by the landmines cannot resume its economic activities on a healthy footing. Mines make direct bearing on transportation, roadways, waterways, agriculture, industrialization and reconstruction activities leading to unemployment, starvation, malnutrition, low birth rate, mendicancy, poverty and a sudden spurt in crime. Every twenty minutes a landmine maims or kills a person. It is challenging to engage in demining activities. Biting insect’s inaccessible terrain, impenetrable bamboo thickets, and thorn bushes – mine clearance everywhere in the world is a hot, sweaty business at the best of times. Because tripwires hidden in the undergrowth could trig explosions, the vegetation and verdancy have to be uncluttered by hand before mine detection can start. It is a tedious matter and can occupy two-thirds of a mine clearer’s working hours in a day. In the dry season, the land can be indestructible, and deminers must move forwards scrupulously, prodding with a prodder and digging with a small trowel. Only one in a thousand of the searches likely to be an explosive, but we cannot let our concentration slip for a moment. The majority of deminers who undertake this uphill asks are not experts but generally local persons who have gone through a training course of two or three weeks.

In South Asia, India, and Pakistan are two important countries which experienced the scourge of landmines warfare. India is confronted by the acts of non-state actors in insurgency infested Kashmir, and northeast region where mines were laid by the militants, Kargil aggression by Pakistan is a case in sight while retreating mercenaries and army regulars laid landmines. Recently institute of peace, Disarmament and environmental protection and global green peace organized a seminar on “Ban Anti-Personnel Landmines” in Srinagar highlighted the growing incidents of landmines use by the insurgents in the Kashmir.

In Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger has indigenously developed “Jonny Mine” considered to be the most competent in the world of explosive devices and using them devoid of any humanitarian norms of warfare. There is also a problem of detection of these mines. It has become very difficult mines of plastic and low content of metal. The Indian army has four types of mines. Two of them are anti-personnel, and two are anti-tank mines. M-14 and M-16 are two anti-personnel mines which are similar to M-14 of the U.S. having shallow metal content which is virtually undetectable and highly determined. Pakistan also has some mines and use them in the war of 1965 and recently in Kargil also.

Regional co-operation must form an essential and kernel part of any future legal regime for banning and demining in the South Asia region. SAARC countries have already acknowledgment the dangers and repercussions of landmines. Moreover, efforts are already on the anvil to arrive at a formidable legal regime. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal may become a party to the banning regime soon. India is already a party to 1980 U.N. Convention on certain conventional weapons (CCW) with its additional protocol. Although this convention does not entirely ban landmines even then no other south Asian country acceded to this convention.

India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have expressed identical views on not to use landmines in internal conflicts. Recently the government of India has agreed in principle to be a party to Ottawa Treaty by the end of 1999,but it still lacks a regional consensus on evolving a regional legal regime to deal with the menace of landmines. South and Southeast Asia must enhance its pro-disarmament position in the global politics of banning landmines. Everything, in war, is brutal, brazen and barbaric but the worst barbarity of war is that it compels men collectively to comment acts against which individually they would revolt with their whole existential being. Therefore, it is axiomatic that there is an urgent need to have a thin-tank of lawyers, jurists, defense experts, academicians, NGOs and policy institutions, etc. for evolving and shaping concrete and pragmatic mechanism for a vibrant, vital, legal regional protection regime about landmines. Moreover, Indian Human rights movement must be sensitive enough to incorporate and discourage the non-ethical and immoral use of mines. 

Ph. D., LL.M, Faculty of Legal Studies, South Asian University (SAARC)-New Delhi, Nafees Ahmad is an Indian national who holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in International Refugee Law and Human Rights. Author teaches and writes on International Forced Migrations, Climate Change Refugees & Human Displacement Refugee, Policy, Asylum, Durable Solutions and Extradition Issus. He conducted research on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Jammu & Kashmir and North-East Region in India and has worked with several research scholars from US, UK and India and consulted with several research institutions and NGO’s in the area of human displacement and forced migration. He has introduced a new Program called Comparative Constitutional Law of SAARC Nations for LLM along with International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and International Refugee Law & Forced Migration Studies. He has been serving since 2010 as Senior Visiting Faculty to World Learning (WL)-India under the India-Health and Human Rights Program organized by the World Learning, 1 Kipling Road, Brattleboro VT-05302, USA for Fall & Spring Semesters Batches of US Students by its School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad) in New Delhi-INDIA nafeestarana[at]gmail.com,drnafeesahmad[at]sau.ac.in

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International Law

“The Rights of the Nations, National and Ethnic Minorities for Self- Determination”

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The new article of the Charter of the UN “The rights of the nations, national and ethnic minorities for self-determination”, will allow, by vote of the population of regions of the countries under control of the UN, to gain independence for not gained independence nations at the level of the sovereign state, and for the gained independence nations at the level of autonomous regions – states, at the international organization UN.

As show events on time in the world, two options for achievement of level of the national self-determination are noted, in my opinion:

the first option – democratic and peace, by vote of the population with their compact accommodation in the concrete region of the country with participation of the UN, and

the second option – authoritative and aggressive that allows emergence in the states to separatism of nationalistically oriented citizens of the population with their compact accommodation in regions at the level of the open or hidden connivance of external interested countries to these regions.

So, in my opinion, the new article “The Rights of the nations, national and ethnic minorities on self-determination ” of the Charter of the UN has to consist of three parts for national self-determination of the population of the countries of the world:

the first part of article is for the nations, national and ethnic minorities which historically live compactly in certain regions of foreign sovereign states, without having at the same time national self-determination at the level of the sovereign state in the world and as a part of the UN;

the second part of article is for national and ethnic minorities which historically live compactly in regions of foreign sovereign states, but having at the same time in the world, outside not adjacent borders of the country of the accommodation, the nation sovereign state as a part of the UN and

the third part of article is for the nations which for centuries live compactly in historical lawful territories in adjacent borders of two-three sovereign states, but at the same time historically were the divided adjacent borders of the countries on two-three parts.

Development the new article of the Charter of the UN from legal side belongs to foreign affairs specialists-lawyers of the UN, which have to define fundamental sensible decisions about mention the rights on the basis of rules of international law. At the same time, lawyers of the UN, on the one hand, should not rely on the interests of conflicting parties in the region. On the other hand, lawyers also have to exclude in the new article of the Carter of the UN the geopolitical and geostrategic interests of major powers and countries in these regions and beyond their limits. Whether the UN as historically vital step of the international organization will go to it, it is already other party of a medal. As axiom, it is explained that new article in the Charter of the UN will remake territorially borders of all countries of the world without exception. And it, in turn, will exclude imperial manners of powers and countries of the world with emergence of world wars. And therefore, participation of all member countries of the UN in vote of the new article, but not members of the UNSC with their veto, as a rule, for this discussion is necessary.

In the first part of article – the UN develops all principles of creation of the new, but not repeating, national states with their democratic structures for the nations, nationals and ethnic minorities which are compactly living for centuries in the region on the historically lawful lands, but not having at the same time national self-determination at the level of the state in the world. At the same time peace process of emergence of the new national state has to take place step by step in the following ways on a basis:

1. universal ballot under control of the UN of all population living in this region of the country, but not separately taken its nation, for national self-determination at the level of the only state for this nation in borders of the historical territory of their accommodation;

2. build in the region of democratic structures and institutes with human rights and rule of the uniform Law, and

3. for the purpose of achievement of painless process of their exit of management of this sovereign state and not a rupture of the connection established them in market economy about the country to provide to regions time in 5-10 years for a smooth exit to the level of self-government of the sovereign state.

Kurds in Iraq, Tibetans in the Tibetan autonomous region of China, Basra in Spain, Chechens, Bashkirs, Tatars in Russia and others can be examples of the nations for this case. And what earlier, in the spirit of the times, there will be this democratically peace process, thereby, on the one hand, will win more those states in the territory of which there is this process at their close market interlacing.

On the other hand, will win all mankind with emergence on the world scene of the new, not repeating nation states with the rich national traditions, stories, culture, customs and religions. But the most important the fact that process of peaceful formation of the new states in regions of the countries will eliminate regional wars and the criminally centers on an international basis in territories of their accommodation. And it will exclude bloodshed of the people of these regions at emergence of the new state.

Striking examples told are emergence of 15 new states from former imperial the USSR and also the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the republics of the former Yugoslavia. However, they arose spontaneously, as led to a rupture of their market on the basis of their vertical structure. As result – full collapse of their economy with emergent of the new states.

Today some regions of the countries of the world also wish to gain independence at the level of the new national state in which basis either their rich economic budget, or religious motive lies.

Rich regions of such countries as Great Britain, the USA, Spain, Italy, Russia and other advanced countries can be examples. Regions of the countries of the Middle East and Africa can be examples of religious motive.

The second part of the article “The Rights of the Nations for Self-determination” of the Charter of the UN develops rules of uniform approach for national and ethnic minorities which at will of fate of historical events in the past live compactly in regions of others countries, however at the same time have no adjacent borders with their family in the world gained independence national states at the level of the UN.

For example, Jews, Chinese, Armenians, Mexicans and others in the USA; Armenians in France, in Russia, Azerbaijan and so on. In this case, for the purpose of maintaining territorial integrity of borders of the sovereign states fixed UN on which certain part of the territory these minorities compactly live the UN develops the principles of creation of self-government for them at the level of autonomies, as in Denmark, or the state, like in the USA, within territories of their compact accommodation. Besides, process happens according to universal ballot of the population of the region for further accommodation in the territory of this sovereign state which sheltered them and without revision of its borders. At the same time their equal constitutional rights with citizens of this state are created. But for cases of unwillingness of further accommodation in this territory on the basis of results of their vote, the UN is provided rules and conditions of their painless moving from these territories of foreign national states in the territory of the existing their nation states or other countries. It can occur due to monetary compensation to the leaving persons by sides of their states interested in destiny, according to the market of sale and a purchase of the earth and real estate. A striking example is eviction of Jews from the occupied Palestinian earth of Gaza on their home ground of the nation State of Israel with granting housing to them or at will departure to any country of the world.

Otherwise, a paradox of granting the states to these minorities of the rights, at existing in the world of their nation states, can the fact that only in one USA dozens of the states for Japanese, Latin Americans, Chinese, Jews and so on will arise will be. And Armenian ethnic minorities which are compactly living almost worldwide from hundred thousand to one million, for example in California in the USA, in France, in Russia, in Lebanon, in Turkey and in other countries, including also in Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan, and not having at the same time adjacent borders with their Armenia, will create as a result the largest state in the 21st century on ours to the Planet – the USA*, that is the United States Armenia is improbable. And it is a paradox on time for the three-million population of Armenia, given rise thanks to the October revolution of 1917 by Bolsheviks of Russia. Whereas the Palestinian nation cannot recreate blood of the people self-government at the level of the state since 1948 and is a source of a criminally problem not only in the Middle East, Africa, but already and around the world.

In the third part of the new article of the Charter of the UN, the rule for unity of the divided nation, two-three sovereign states living in adjacent borders on their historical home grounds is developed. In this case, the UN is necessary, on the basis of their universal ballot for association in the uniform nation, to develop ways and conditions of their peaceful painless association and merge of their territories of accommodation. 5-10 years for creation of the uniform nation state with democratic management with preservation of former economic are for this purpose allotted structures.

Examples of this association are already Vietnam, Yemen and there can be in the future reunification of Korea, Ireland, Azerbaijan, also Kosovo with Albania, as the uniform Albanian nation with adjacent borders, but taking into account interests and the rights of the Serbians who are compactly living there with Serbia. Other fresh example it is possible to bring association in the future of the Ossetia people Southern and Northern Ossetia into the uniform state Ossetia. In this case will win, on the one hand, the people uniting in the uniform nation, divided by adjacent borders because of historical events, and, on the other hand, and the states with accommodation of territorially divided nations.

In the absence of the new article the level of the international law from the UN, in my opinion, will be published in the Charter of the UN and the above-stated uniform approaches to these international problems as a paradox, the nations repeating for one and too dozens of the independent states.

And bloody long wars of people of the world, up to world, and existence of the criminally centers will be their investigation as shows time.

The author of article advises the authorities of the countries accepting numerous immigrants not to occupy them compactly on one nation, on the example of Chinese in the Siberian region of Russia that will bring in the future to their rights for repeated national self-government. As an example, Kosovo for Albanians in the presence of their Albania, and Nagorno-Karabakh of Azerbaijan for Armenians at Armenia.

Besides, compact accommodation of immigrants does not allow them on time to be integrated into life of society and into the culture of the hospitable country.

So, the mankind and the UN are faced by a dilemma: to be to the new article “About the Rights of the Nations for Self-determination” in the Charter of the UN for emergence peaceful manners of the new sovereign states, it is concrete for the nations which did not gain independence for today, at the level of disintegration of empires and countries, or to be to wars any level, up to nuclear world, for revival of ancient and modern empires with their colonial manners in the 21st century?

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International Law

Trump’s Golan Heights Declaration: The Message to Azerbaijan

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On March 21, 2019, United States President Trump tweeted, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!”

Regardless of one’s position within the spectrum of persuasions about whose sovereignty should be respected in the Golan Heights or the arguments used to justify its annexation to Israel, Trump’s declaration is unprecedented, post-WWII. Trump’s statement does not appear to be the official United States government policy yet. However, the die is cast. Trump has undermined the manifest inadmissibility of states acquiring territory by force. Lest we forget, the first Gulf war over the Iraqi attempt at annexing Kuwait by force.

Trump also dismisses United Nations Security Council Resolution 497, which states, “…the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which effectively annexed the Golan Heights, is “null and void and without international legal effect.” The same United Nations, with Resolution 181, mandating the partition of Palestine, recognized the State of Israeli. Rather than to expose yet another hypocritical move in international relations, what message is Israeli support for Trump’s unilateral declaration sending to conflicting sides in territorial conflicts? What about Indian-administered Kashmir? What about Azerbaijan’s territorial claim over the Armenian-administered region of Nagorno-Karabakh? Not a very good message for the interests of Azerbaijan.

A relative comparison of arguments used and issues raised concerning the Armenian-administered region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights is seen here. Of more importance to Azerbaijan is how Trump has just trampled on the concept of internationally recognized borders. Syria had recognized borders until violated by Trump; the same Trump who wants a border wall of his own from Texas to San Diego. Azerbaijan’s articulated basis upon which they demand that the Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh relinquish it’s sovereignty to them is their claim of territorial integrity. The Azerbaijan press is full of article quoting states that reiterate the concept of territorial integrity.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group was established to help negotiate a peaceful settlement, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, of the still-simmering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Its members include the United States, Russia, and France. Russia annexed Crimea, although with nearly no force, it acquired Georgian territory, and the United States president declared support for the inclusion of the Syrian Golan Heights into the State of Israel. From Baku’s viewpoint, the OSCE Minsk Group does not appear to represent neutral facilitators when two of its three members represent states that ignore both territorial integrity and selective United Nations resolutions. The OSCE’s Minsk Group is making itself less relevant to both Armenia or Azerbaijan.

Armenian negotiators could use Trump’s declaration to pull out of OSCE-sponsored negotiations and Armenia could directly annex the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, considering Nagorno-Karabakh “… is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of” [Armenia] “and Regional Stability!”. Azerbaijan would be outraged by such an Armenian move, but curiously official Baku appears rather silent about Trump’s Golan Heights declaration. Why?

Israel supports Azerbaijan’s public relations campaign against the Armenian lobbies and Armenian-administered Nagorno-Karabakh. This support is demonstrated in some of today’s Israeli and Jewish publications, and publicly stated during a September 2015 Israeli Knesset visit to Baku. Why would Israel even care about Azerbaijan? Israel buys half its crude oil from Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan has purchased on the order of $5B of advanced Israeli weapons over the past decade. This is a relationship of convenience and Azerbaijan has a border with Iran.

Will Turkey now annex northern Cyprus, which was also acquired by force? Turkish jets frequently buzz Greek islands also claimed by Ankara. If southwestern Syria is up for the taking, why not other parts. Since 1920 Turkey has eyed the northern Syrian landmass stretching from the Western Thrace to Mosul in Iraq. Conveniently, Turkey currently claims its soldiers are in northern Syria for security reasons.

There are consequences to what United States Presidents declare.

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International Law

Chagos Islands: Has the Sun Finally Set on the British Empire?

Punsara Amarasinghe

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Authors: Punsara Amarasinghe and Anastasia Glazova*

The fame of British Empire was once embellished around the corners of the world as the empire where sun never sets and its imperial majesty ruled the millions of lives regardless how they were brought under the colonial yoke. The end of two great wars saw eventually paved the path to dismantle British Empire yet the problems created by the colonial rule were unsolved and continued to undermine the decolonized states. The recent  advisory opinion given by International Court of Justice over the status of Chagos islands in Indian Ocean generates number of questions in the realm of international law regarding the drawbacks created in decolonization process and the duplicity of the concept if self-determination in international law. In the historic context Chagos islands always have been an integral part of Mauritius but however three years prior to granting independence to Mauritius Britain detached Chagos islands from Mauritius and created it a part of the territory known as British Indian Ocean Territory.

Between 1967 and 1973 the inhabitants lived in Chagos islands were forcibly removed and thus far they have been impeded by British law to enter the territory. The issue on the sovereignty of Chagos islands has lasted for decades as an unsolved riddle of colonialism whereas Mauritius always insisted the Chagos islands a part of their sovereignty despite British were reluctant to relinquish it, even the initial efforts made by Mauritius to bring the case before ICJ was not successful in the 80 decade. Nevertheless after envisaging a serious of attempts along with the assistance of African Union, 2017 United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution referring the issue to the advisory opinion of ICJ. The two fundamental questions General Assembly  put forward before were that whether the decolonization process of Mauritius was completed when it was granted independence in 1968 and secondly what are the consequences emerging from modern international law before the continues presence of Britain in Chagos islands.

The issue of decolonization seems to be the most interesting legal issue arising from the advisory opinion of ICJ due to the fact that court has viewed the decolonization of Mauritius was not complete as it was not in accordance of the right to self-determination of the Mauritius people.  Bringing the idea of self-determination into further evaluation becomes a pertinent issues as the very idea of self-determination always been a double edged sword. Especially in the post-colonial context dialog between West and newly independent states in Global South regarding understanding self-determination always have been different and the notion of self-determination appreciated by Third World was based on preserving their external integrity without getting subjected to any foreign force. As a matter of fact it was a quite understandable position as many of Third World countries had emerged from years of colonial domination and it paved the way for them to concern about external self-determination as their prime concern. However in examining court’s approach to assess the scope of right to self-determination in its advisory opinion was akin to the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples adopted by the UNGA Resolution 1514(XV) in 1960 (Resolution 1514). The Resolution 1514 declares that the ‘subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights…’, and all such peoples ‘have the right to self-determination’ whereby ‘they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development’.

The trivial question encountered in discussing the self-determination was whether it was a part of customary international law when the UK granted independence to Mauritius in 1968. However it is rather ironic that UK being the forefront colonizer in early 20thcentury had appeared for the right of self-determination of Sudanese people as their legal entitlement, in its effort to counter Egyptian claims on the Sudan in 1947. In its advisory opinion court seemed to have generally relied on the number of general assembly resolutions in deciding the scope of self-determination in international law. In fact the lethargic position adopted by Court without tracing the historical development of right to self-determination in opinojuris and state practice has diminished the magisterial jurisprudential value that many international law scholars expected to hear from this advisory opinion.  However court confined its opinion regarding right to self-determination of Mauritius people to UNGA Resolution 2625 (XXV) of 1970, on Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the UN Charter and court confirmed its status in customary international law.

The court’s opinion on the incompletion of Mauritius decolonization should be taken into account as a monumental position shared by ICJ on the grim realities of colonialism which keeps haunting in 21st century. ICJ came to a conclusion that separation of Chagos Islands from Mauritius before the independence was an act done by British colonial rule without the genuine consent of Mauritius people. It seems to indicate that Court may have implicitly hinted that it would have been lawful if the separation was conducted after assessing the consent of people through something like a referendum. Court’s opinion was concluded by stating “the United Kingdom’s continued administration of the Chagos Archipelago constitutes a wrongful act entailing the international responsibility of that State”. This was the culmination of ICJ advisory opinion which brought a great triumph for Mauritius and a great blow upon the United Kingdom.  In its concluding remarks Court invoked all UN member states have a responsibility to finalize the decolonization of Mauritius as right to self-determination stands as erga omnes obligation.

All in all the advisory opinion on Chagos islands brought some solace to the states eager to confront the colonial legacies and post-colonial burdens. As an example in its court proceedings Mauritius was heavily backed by African Union and India. One counsel appeared on behalf of African Union stated that “It is unthinkable that today, in the 21st century, there is a part of Africa that still remains subject to European colonial rule.” On the other hand the UK has been still adamant about their presence in Chagos island as they claimed that matter was resolved in 1982 in an agreement on compensation and also the UK has pointed out that right to self-determination was not applicable in international law till 1970’s , whereas the separation of Chagos island took place in 1968. The UK defense was rejected by majority of judges in ICJ and the only dissenting opinion was given by American judge Joan Donoghue and her contention was based on that this matter should not have been taken before ICJ as it stands as a bilateral dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom. It is evident that this advisory opinion has brought a severe pressure on the UK in the backdrop of ongoing Brexit hullaballoo. Even though the advisory opinions are not binding that it is hardly to assume the UK would completely disdain the opinion as it has already acknowledged that the manner of removing the inhabitants of Chagos islands was shameful. In that case the entire advisory opinion should be regarded as a significant victory for Chagossians and hall mark legacy in the international jurisprudence relating to concept of self-determination.

*Anasatasia Glazova is a PhD candidate in at Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia. She worked as state legal officer in Vologda prior joining HSE and her research areas include International Human Rights Law, Law of the Sea and International Maritime Law. She can be reached at:  angla.1892[at]mail.ru

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