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International Law

Curious Case Of Nirbhaya And International Court Of Justice

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On December 16th, 2012, a 23year old physiotherapy intern known as Nirbhaya was gang-raped and heinously murdered in a moving bus in Delhi, she died subsequently in a hospital in Singapore. The aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident witnessed widespread public outcry, which resulted in the amendments to various provisions of the Indian criminal law both substantive and procedural. Despite the radical reform in the criminal law jurisprudence, the convicts remain defiant and have recently moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a stay

On 16th March2020, the Supreme Court of India (SCI) rejected the plea of one of the convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case. The convicts were slated to be hanged on 20th March 2020, following which the convicts have written a letter to the ICJ seeking an urgent hearing to prevent “unlawful execution”. The letter reads as:

“I write to you to request your support and help, in whatever form, to prevent this barbaric and inhumane punishment from being inflicted upon convicts, the death penalty has no relevance in a progressive and modern International era. Inflicting it upon prisoners, who belong to the economically most vulnerable section of society will only serve to take out international forum several steps back.”

Notwithstanding this plea to the ICJ, the convicts were hanged on 20th March. This brief write-up intends to unravel the position of individuals in the ICJ and the progressive mechanism of individual complaint mechanism under international human rights law against the State.

Access to Individual under ICJ

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations(UN) that resolves disputes between States. The issue in the Nirbhaya case with regard to the ICJ is whether individuals can approach the ICJ claiming remedies against the State, the subject matter of which is purely domestic or in short does the ICJ have jurisdiction to entertain the claim made by the convicts. According to the former Supreme Court judge of India BN Srikrishna, the ICJ has no jurisdiction to order a stay; his point is the ICJ cannot act as a court of appeal, this is true because the jurisdiction of the ICJ is based on the consent between States and not individual, this is also reflected in Article 34 of the Statute of the ICJ (ICJ Statute). Further, the entire judicial process in the Nirbhaya case was proper, ie. hearing from the trial court to the Supreme Court; the convicts were provided several opportunities to file review and curative petitions. The larger question that needs to be addressed is the relationship between individuals in the ICJ. Firstly, over the years several judges and scholars of international law have argued for amending Article 34 of ICJ Statute to include individuals; moreover ,the Advisory Committee of Jurist, who drafted the PCIJ Statute ( Predecessor to the ICJ Statute) deliberated in detail the issue of locus standi; unfortunately, lack of support from majority saw the idea being dropped. Secondly, the famous dictums in the PCIJ and ICJ refer to the fact that injury to the individual constitutes an injury to the States, as asserted in the 2007 Diallo (preliminary Objection) diplomatic protection of the aliens extends to the protection of human rights; however, the extent and scope of these human rights are very much limited. Thirdly, according to Hersch Lauterpacht, the original purpose of the ICJ was to be a court of International Law, rather than a human rights court; thus individuals approaching the ICJ demanding Justice would require to circumvent the original intention of the drafters. Fourthly, post world war 1  witnessed the formulation several multilateral treaties to safeguard the rights of minorities, the PCIJ and ICJ through its advisory opinions had touched upon these treaties in the context of individual rights; however, the PCIJ and ICJ consistently refrained from invoking presumption against individuals rights and duties. Fifthly, the sole decision in the ICJ that has some proximity to the Nirbhaya case is the LaGrand case, in which the ICJ affirmed that individual might possess direct rights under treaties, however, in the La Grand case, the ICJ did not equate the right of consular access as human rights and thus adopting a strict state-centric interpretation. Moreover, the Judgement acknowledges the fact that the individuals approaching the ICJ could invoke rights through the national State.

Sixthly, in international law, the concept of state immunity has trumped human rights or individual rights, in the Arrest warrant case and the Jurisdictional immunities case the ICJ firmly establishes the fact that immunity overrides international crimes, although the backdrop of these cases significantly differs from Nirbhaya, the undisputed fact that remains is State is protected under the ambit of immunity. Taking all these factors into account, it was on the expected lines that the convicts in the Nirbhaya case would be unsuccessful in espousing their point of view in the ICJ via a letter; moreover, the jurisprudence of ICJ in terms of cases akin Nirbhaya are none; therefore the ICJ will continue its trend of ‘State-Only’ conception of international legal personality.

Individual Complaint Mechanism under International Human Rights Law

The Nirbhaya convicts rather than taking recourse to the ICJ could have sought remedies under individual complaint mechanism of Individual Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), however this would also be a futile exercise considering the fact that, India is not a signatory to the Optional Protocol of ICCPR.The ICCPR under Article 28 provides for the establishment of the Human Rights Committee (HRC) consisting of 18 members. The committee meets three times per year; the State party must submit a report to the HRC dealing with the implementation of the ICCPR’s provisions, after the initial report a State has to submit periodic reports, based on which the committee prepares its concluding observations. Further, the HRC is competent to entertain an individual complaint for alleged violation of an individual’s rights under ICCPR. The HRC also provides general comments to clarify the contents of ICCPR’S provisions. Assuming that India is a signatory to the optional protocol of ICCPR,TheNirbhaya convicts hypothetically speaking could have approached the HRC by taking recourse to Article 6(2) of ICCPR which reads:

“In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes by the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out according to a final judgement rendered by a competent court”.

Assuming that the convicts approached the HRC, literal interpretation of the above provision points out that, the crime of rape and murder falls under the ambit of ‘most serious crimes’, however, India does not have codified list of crimes which constitutes ‘most serious crimes’, it is upon the courts in India to determine the same on a case to case basis, in short, it is a matter of pure judicial discretion. The general comment no.36 on Article 6 of ICCPR on the right to life in paragraph 16 implicitly recognise that countries which have not abolished the death penalty, to lay out clear and stringent criteria for retaining capital punishment; moreover the HRC in August 2019 identified the list of issues before submission of the fourth periodic report of India, one of the issue being the elaboration on any comprehensive review of the relevant legislation to ensure that the death penalty may be imposed only for the most severe crime and indicate whether the imposition of the death penalty is mandatory for certain crimes. The legislature in India requires to framean enumerative list of ‘most serious crimes’, which fits the death penalty template, instead of passing the buck to the judiciary.  Despite the cacophony surrounding the Nirbhaya verdict, justice was meted out to the victim on 20th March with the hanging of the convicts.

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International Law

The UN reforms are required to make it functional

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Today, the world we live in has become more unpredictable, insecure, and exposed to more vulnerability. Geopolitics is changing rapidly, new problems are often emerging, while old issues remained unresolved. Humankind is under threats and challenges; some of them might be natural disasters, like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Valconos, Pandemic, etc. But most of the difficulties and problems are man-made, creation of some powerful countries, the result of over-ambitions, greed, expansionism, biases and jealousy. Big and more muscular countries are keeping eyes on the natural resources of small and weaker nations, etc.

In 1945, the United Nations was established to replace the League of Nations. Because the League of Nations was unable to solve most of the problems faced by the world, unable to resolve conflicts and wars, unable to protect human lives, unable to maintain justice and equality, the failure of achieving objects, the League of Nations was dissolved, and UN was established.

The UN was established with the following four objectives:

Maintaining worldwide peace and security

Developing relations among nations

Fostering cooperation between nations in order to solve economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian international problems

Providing a forum for bringing countries together to meet the UN’s purposes and goals

UN Charter was written by very professionals and experts in their own fields. The Charter is comprehensive and based on many considerations, satisfying almost the needs of nearly everyone at that time. Considering the disaster of the Second World war, the Charter was considered a most appropriate document to address practically all concerns.

The UN has been functioning since 1945 and ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary soon. At this moment, if we look at the performance of the UN, there are many things one can mention as achievements or in the UN’s credit. No doubt, in the early days of the Establishment of the UN, the objectives achieved were rated quite well. However, over time, the UN was politicized, and some of the countries, who were a major donor to UN contribution, were using the UN and its structures to achieve their political objectives. They were misusing the UN platform to coerce some other nations or using UN umbrella to achieve political of economic goals by harming other nations. On the other hand, geopolitics became so complicated and complex that the existing structure of the UN is unable to meet the challenges of the modern world.

Just, for example, Afghan is under war for the last four decades, people are being killed in routine matters, foreign intervention caused the loss of precious lives and economic disaster to people of Afghanistan. Iraq war, Libya War, Syria war, Yemen War, the situation in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Ukraine, somewhat more complicated conflict among the U.S., Iran, Israel, and the Persian Gulf, U.S.-North Korea tussle, and Kashmir, all are remained unresolved under the current structure of the UN.

Should we remain silent spectators and keep the status quo, and let the humankind suffer more? Should we justify ourselves as helpless and let the more powerful kills more human beings? Should we remain in isolation and keep our self busy with our own interests? Should we compromise with our conscious? Should we ignore our inner voice? Should we prove ourselves as innocent and not responsible such crimes committed by someone else?

Think and thing smartly, and consider yourself in the same situation and a victim, what we should be expecting from other nations, the international community, and the UN. We must do the same thing to meet the expectations of the victims.

The UN is unable to achieve its objectives with the current structure; the reforms are inevitable. We must strengthen the UN and transform the current dysfunctional UN to a more effective UN, which should satisfy the core issues of all nations. Africa is a major continent, and facing many challenges, but have no say in the UN; there is no single country from Africa in the Security Council of the UN as a permanent member having veto power. The Muslim world, having an estimated population of two billion, every fourth person in this world is a Muslim, there are 57 independent sovereign countries as member f the UN,m but no voice in the UN, no permanent member of UNSC, no veto power, who will protect their rights and who will look after their interests. Should they remain at the mercy of the current five permanent members of the UNSC?

Some countries are rebellious to the UN; some states are defaulter of the UN, and not implementing the resolutions passed by UNSC. Some countries have bypassed the UN and imposed war or sanctions on other nations. They must be held responsible for their acts, the UN should kick such countries out of the UN, and their membership may be suspended or cancelled.

It is time to introduce, comprehensive reforms in the UN, to address all issues faced by today’s modern, complex and rather complicated world. An appropriate representation of all nations, groups, ethnicity or religion should be ensured. The UN has a heavy responsibility, deserve more budgets, more powers and needed to be strengthened further.

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International Law

Coronavirus Shaping The Contours Of The Modern World

Nageen Ashraf

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Globalization vs. Protectionism:

Globalization means the movement of ideas, products, technology, and people across borders and different cultures. It is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. It has social, cultural, economic, political and legal aspects. Globalization has made the world a global village and talks about co-operation and interdependence. Protectionism, on the other hand, is the restriction of movement of goods and products across borders to protect the national industries and economy. The major goal of protectionism is to boost up national economy, but protectionist measures can also be applied for security purposes. So, we can say that protectionists are basically anti-globalists and prefer domestic strength as compared to foreign co-operation.

Protectionism and Covid-19

Globalization has made the world so interdependent and interconnected that any economic or political change in one state creates a domino effect and influence many other states. For the pandemic, most states were initially blaming China, but as it slowly healed and the pandemic caused more devastating impacts in the western states, more fingers are pointing towards globalization. Multiple narratives are building regarding globalization where protectionists finally got a chance to prove how right they were all along.

Globalization not only played a vital role in the spread of this epidemic, it also made the economic crisis go global by affecting the supply chains. An epidemic that affected a single city in Dec, 2019, grew to become a pandemic affecting almost every state in the world through movement of people and goods. States that adopted strict measures and restricted the movement of people, have relatively less cases of corona virus as compared to other states. The worst impacts of corona virus so far can be seen in USA where New York City was initially the epicenter.

New York City is definitely one of the most crowded cities in the world where daily, thousands of people move in and out for various purposes. This could be one of the reasons of such devastating impacts of corona in NYC because the free circulation of people and goods allowed the virus to spread exponentially. On the other hand, if we talk about African continent, where most states are under developed, and the movement of people in and out of the continent is very less as compared to Europe and Americas, reported cases of corona virus are very low. As of Sep 11, 2020, in the whole continent, the highest number of corona cases is in South Africa, with a count of642k as compared to USA’s count of 6.49m. This provides evidence that movement of people played a vital role in the spread of this virus and movement of people has increased a lot since the rise of globalization.

Critiques of globalization also argue that globalization is to be blamed for an epidemic that spread across borders and will soon plunge the whole world into recession. Interdependence because of globalization has made the world more vulnerable to such situations. For instance, China is one of the biggest markets in the world that exports antibiotics and telecommunications and remains an important part of most of the global supply chains. Half of the world’s surgical masks were made by China, even before pandemic. So, when the pandemic struck Wuhan, China, the supplies from China to the rest of the world affected many states that were dependent on China, and they ran out of important pharmaceutical inputs. Even the developed states like France ran out of medical masks and had to suffer because of lack of important medical equipment. This reveals the cost of such deeply interconnected global supply chains that create a domino effect.

Is Globalization ending?

Globalization has made the world a global village and undoubtedly facilitated the free movement of people, goods, ideas, cultures, information, and technology across borders. But on the other hand, it has also played a major role in the spread of diseases and has made states vulnerable to unexpected shocks. Globalists also believe that the medical or health consequences of corona would prove less destructive if states work together instead of working separately for the vaccine, as a competition. Adopting the nationalist or isolationist approach during the pandemic would crash the international economy and further increase the tensions. As the protectionists suggest, if we’d continue to protect only our national economies and keep on putting barriers on international trade, the national recession would soon turn into a global depression, as happened in 1930’s.Timely economic recovery is only possible through global cooperation.

 I think that the threat of Covid-19 has created an extraordinary situation. Originating from Asia, and then causing millions of deaths all around the globe, the blame on globalization is legitimate. Most of the states in the world rely on their tourism revenue that has been affected badly due to corona virus. For instance, Saudi Authorities decided to cancel Hajj because of growing pandemic, and the impact on KSA’s economy would be dramatic. Similarly, Japan is one of the states that depend highly on tourism revenue from Chinese tourists and travel restrictions have caused severe losses. We have also seen how the supply chains are affected just because one of the major producers (China) was badly hit by the virus. Globalization seems to have conquered the world so there is no way that it can be avoided completely. However, after the pandemic, there might be a little change in the world order regarding high interdependency. States that were mostly dependent on China for their important supplies might try to produce the supplies on their own and prioritize their domestic industries over foreign industries because of the consequences they had to bear during the pandemic. Similarly, travel bans will surely be removed but people might hesitate to cross borders and move freely because there will be awareness regarding the risks related to free movement. So, I think that the pandemic has highlighted some backlashes in globalization, but it doesn’t mean that globalization has failed. We can say that it is fragile, despite or even because of its benefits.

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International Law

Explaining the Durability of the Cold War System and its Sudden End

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Courtesy of the outcome of the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the US emerged as the two superpowers. Allies in the second world war, after the defeat of Germany, and the subsequent end of the war, the alliance between the USSR and the US was short lived, and soon found themselves competing with each other. Devastated and in tatters, Europe once again became the battle ground – this time between the two superpowers who viewed Europe as the focal point to global domination.

As a result of the rivalry, the world was divided into two superpower blocs: one the US led capitalist bloc comprising of the West European States, and the Soviet Union led communist bloc comprising of Eastern European nations. As Kenneth Waltz posited an order with a stable bipolarity. And so, the period from 1946 until the end of the Cold War marked an intense hostility between the two superpowers. Although, no direct confrontation occurred between the two great powers, the period was characterized by space, arms and ideological race but most importantly, the race for global domination. 

Development of the Cold War

Ideology

Ideologically, there was a divide between the Soviets and the Americans. The capitalist US and its allies, and the communist Soviet bloc,were involved in an ideological confrontation regarding post-war configuration of Europe and the world. Here, in the ideological battle, the USSR wanted to spread communism whereas the US foreign policy (which had changed from isolationism to interventionism) was centred around its containment. This ideological confrontation meant that the ideological divide endured.

Domestic Political Structure

In the Soviet Union, there existed the lack of separation of power and the Soviet Leader Stalin was unchecked with his exercise of power which meant he could pursue whatever policy he saw fit and other domestic variables had no roles in restraining him. On the contrary, unlike Stalin, American President faced a disgruntled and hostile Congress, and in order to appease the Republican dominated Congress, President Truman was forced to change his policy towards the Soviet Union. He brought the now famous and a piece of masterstroke – The Truman Doctrine – to contain Soviet expansionism all over the world. This further divided the US and the Soviet leaders.

Role of Decision Makers

On one hand, after the arrival of President Truman in the Oval Office, he was more open to aggressive policy recommendation from his policy-advisors. He put into effect several hostile policies targeting the USSR. Among others was the discontinuation of indemnification to the Soviet Union from Western part of Germany. Likewise, aid assistance to Greece and Turkey at a time of communist uprising also didn’t bode well with Moscow. On the other hand, Stalin played a monumental role of his own on the evolution of the Cold War. He considered Capitalism antithetical to his communist beliefs. Additionally, his actions showed he was just as willing to expand Soviet grip outside Eastern Europe – his support of communist uprising in Turkey and Greece as well as Soviet action in the Turkish Strait crisis is a testament to this. Not to mention, Stalin’s support of the North Korean regime to attack its southern neighbour South Korea. In sum, both the leaders in the US and Soviet Union contributed more or less equally to the development of Cold War.

Durability of the Cold War 

Neorealist interpretation

According to Kenneth Waltz, an anarchic international system is stable if no changes occur in the system’s configuration. He has contended that in a world of bipolarity, two superpowers do not rely on their allies for economic and for material firepower. In such a system, whenever there occurs any disproportionate equilibrium in the system, both powers balance each other by virtue of internal balancing by relying on their own economic and military capabilities. And so, by this logic, it can be argued that a bipolar configuration of the international system is stable. In a bipolar setting, prime example being the Cold War, there was a clear delineation of friends and enemies. In this regard, the US was a threat to the USSR and vice-versa. This explains why, in the due course of the Cold War, when China and France acted on their own conscience, it didn’t destabilize the Cold War system. Similarly, in bipolarity, when there is an apparent conflict or a war looming anywhere around the world, it becomes a matter of prime importance to both the parties because by virtue of realism, the international system is a zero-sum game with binary outcome: either gains or losses. And so, bipolar system is also characterized by prompt response to unforeseen events. In a system of bipolarity, superpowers devise strategy keeping in consideration their material capability and self-interests, therefore, chances of uncertain actions and miscalculations are minimal, giving rise to the stability of bipolar system. In sum, Waltz posits bipolar system as the most stable in international politics which explains the Cold War durability. (The theory of International Politics by Kenneth Waltz)

Nuclear Weapons

Mostly, realist scholars have maintained the position that nuclear weapons contributed to the durability of the Cold War. They argue that it was the nuclear capability on both sides that deterred them from any major confrontation. According to Robert Jervis, nuclear weapon changed the dynamics of warfare. Equipped with most advanced of military technology, nuclear weapons have precision striking capability second to none. He posits that because nuclear weapons have Mutually Assured Destruction, it almost certainly guarantees that all parties to a nuclear war would be destroyed. With these things under consideration, from Jervis’ perspective, nuclear weapons provided nuclear deterrence and thus superpower war was averted. Likewise, structural realists, Waltz and Mearsheimer have also argued that the proliferation of nuclear arsenal became an instrument in preserving the stability of the Cold War system and they contend that further proliferation of nuclear weapons would make the international system more stable.

Economy

According to John Mueller, the world had seen two destructive wars and states had experienced the economic impacts and costs associated, not to mention the loss of life and property inflicted by the wars. Aftermath the Second World War, Europe was completely devastated and their economic revival needed assistance from the US. He contends that states had learnt the bitter lesson and this realization that wars are unworthy changed states perception towards great power conflict and thus, the cold war became durable.

End of Cold War

In the latter stages of the Cold War, United States was economically, politically and militarily more in a better position than the Soviet Union. According to structural realists, Reagan administration’s decision to increase military budget put pressure on the USSR to be in the arms race. This increasingly pressurized Soviet Union’s already strained economy which had significant investment in their military budget. It could be said that at a time when the US were making leaps and bounds in technology and funnelling more money in techno-military research and development, Soviet economy headed towards downward spiral.

Liberal scholars have focused the end of the Cold War on the easing of heated tensions and hostility between the two superpowers. As a result, people’s movement to the USSR increased and in due course of time the liberal norms also spread among the domestic public in the Soviet Union. Likewise, dialogues and meetings saw landmark agreements towards control of arms race. prime example being the SALT I and SALT II agreements. Similarly, the US perception of USS under Gorbachev changed from hostile communist state to “normal social democratic great power”. In addition, from the perspective of individual leader, Gorbachev also played influential role, among others, he made several changes in the Soviet Foreign Policy stemming from progressive appointments in key positions in the ministry. His pursue of foreign policy slowly transformed Soviet image abroad. Agreement with Reagan on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) showed Gorbachev’s commitment to ending arms race.

Thus, on account, it can be argued that economic woes, lagging behind in the advancement of science and technology and arms race coupled with the spread of liberal norms and the progressive role by Gorbachev resulted in the end of the Cold War.

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