Theoretically, ceasefires can be classified into two broad categories, preliminary ceasefires — declared before a political agreement is reached, as a part of the peace process — and definitive ceasefires — declared with an intention to resolve the conflict (Sagård, 2019). This article shall deal with preliminary ceasefires as the call for a global ceasefire by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, adheres to a nature, similar to preliminary ceasefires.
The recent standoff at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) challenges the very idea expressed by Mr Guterres –– raising voices for peace, to silence the guns. Thus, the article makes an attempt to discuss different ceasefires that haven’t succeeded, and the politics behind the failure of such ceasefires. Additionally, the article also puts forth certain recommendations that can be adapted for enhanced effectivity of ceasefires in conflict scenarios.
Ceasefire Failures in the Contemporary Times
Failures to respect and follow a ceasefire has time and again been observed in different regions of conflict, be it due to State actors or non-State actors. The implementation of a ceasefire does not last for more than a week, let alone a 90-day ceasefire proposition that was put forward by a French-Tunisian resolution at the Security Council.
In the past decade, talking about failed ceasefire attempts, Syria is a case in point. For example, a ceasefire brokered by the Russian Federation and the United States in September 2016 did not last for a week, after it ended with a US airstrike that killed several Syrian government soldiers. Similar scenarios in Syria were seen, during the ceasefires brokered by Russia and Turkey as well, which ended with rebel offensives across Syria.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several regions have shown support to the UN’s call for a global ceasefire, like in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where several civil society organisations have requested a cessation of hostilities by warring groups in DRC, to prevent a massive spread of the virus in the country. Yet on the other hand, across different parts of the world, even this pandemic does not seem to be a bargaining chip for warring parties to obey and maintain agreed ceasefires. One such example is that of ceasefire violations in the Kashmir region, which in April alone — amidst COVID-19 lockdown — saw about 53 ceasefire violations.
Similar instances were seen even in Africa at the start of 2020, in Libya. A ceasefire brokered in Berlin, under the watchdog of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), collapsed within a span of eight days, after foreign shipments of arms supply resumed to combatants in Libya. The violation of the ceasefire also led to missiles being fired on the Mitiga International Airport at Tripoli.
Another scenario similar to that of Libya, during the pandemic has been observed in the Yemen conflict, wherein a ceasefire in place due to the coronavirus situation was violated by the Houthi rebels, 241 times in 48 hours — an accusation made by the Saudi led coalition.
These are just a few instances from different regions in the world which highlight the repeated violations of ceasefires, either by rebel factions or by nation States. Keeping such instances in mind, how do we really go about believing that ceasefires can expedite the peace process in a conflict situation?
Petty Politics: Reason Behind Ineffectiveness of Ceasefires
The recent US-China deadlock at the Security Council highlights the petty politics among State actors that drives the infectivity of ceasefires across the globe.The usage of “World Health Organisation” in the Council’s tabled resolution was the rationale in this situation.
Negotiation is understood to be a process wherein, divergent values are combined into an agreed decision (Zartman and Berman, 1982). An agreed conclusion was also reached upon between the United States and China when the explicit mention of the World Health Organisation was changed to an indirect reference as, “UN specialised health agencies”. But the very next morning, the US representative blocked their vote on the draft resolution citing an objection to the changed phrase. Thus, if States do not combine their different outlooks into an agreed conclusion how will they negotiate in good faith which shall lead to a lasting ceasefire?
Such politics between States, being a reason for the failure of ceasefires in a region of conflict is nothing new. Taking an example of the above mentioned failed ceasefire in Syria, BBC had reported during September 2016 that the US-led rebel factions increased their attacks, while the ceasefire was still in place so that the US could keep its influence on the ground intact, catering to their national interest. Such acts by the rebel factions, along with US led airstrikes on Syrian army positions in Deir al-Zour (also known as Deir ez-Zor) was clearly a political move by the United States to get a stronghold in Syria, using the ceasefire to its advantage.
Such illustrations of delaying ceasefires for political motives or taking advantage of existing ceasefires in conflict situations to appease one’s political interest will never create room for a ceasefire to last long enough, leading it to metamorphose into a peace agreement or truce.
Through above observations, the article has made an attempt to highlight that it is time the relevance of ceasefires in conflict situations is reassessed.A huge percentage of ceasefires convert into failed ceasefires, out of which 84 per cent of them lead to offensives. This puts into perspective that ceasefires cater to giving ground for more violence than establishing peace.
Simultaneously, it is also important to keep in mind that ceasefires do not have an accountability factor involved. In general, there is a lack of accountability from non-State actors for their actions taken in bad faith, in the sphere of international relations. But in the case of ceasefires, the accountability factor is missing even for State actors, when they act in bad faith. Thus, the violations of a ceasefire by any party involved in the conflict, does not lead to any form of retribution.
Having assessed different factors that showcase the ineffectiveness of ceasefires in contemporary times, it definitely raises questions regarding the success of this peace process. But at the same time there is a scope for ceasefires to be improved if the stakeholders are able to work out solutions to certain problematic questions.It is important to answer how can warring parties be held accountable in case they deal in bad faith or how can the bridge of mistrust among parties be minimised for a ceasefire to be successful? Until and unless answers to such questions are integrated into the negotiation of ceasefires and States compromise on their petty politics, the future of ceasefires being successful is bleak.
International Criminal Court and thousands of ignored complaints
The civil war in Donbass has been going on for more than seven years now. It broke out in 2014, following Kiev’s decision to launch a military operation against the local militia in Donbass, who did not accept the Maidan coup that had happened in February of that same year. More than 10,000 civilians were killed in the conflict.
Correspondents of the French newspaper L’Humanité Vadim Kamenka and Jean-Baptiste Malet, French historian Vincent Boulet, as well as a MEP and a member of the Spanish Communist Party Willie Meyer took part in the international conference “Topical Issues of Human Rights Violations in Donbass.”
Moderating the conference, organized by the Society of Friends of L’Humanité in Russia (the French leftist newspaper’s Russian office), was the head of the interregional public organization “For Democracy and Human Rights” Maxim Vilkov.
The conference was also attended by the deputy foreign minister of the Lugansk People’s Republic Anna Soroka, human rights activist Yelena Shishkina, director of the Society of Friends of L’Humanité Olesya Orlenko, and head of Donetsk National University’s department of political science Artyom Bobrovsky.
The participants discussed numerous cases of human rights violations by the Ukrainian security forces and paramilitary units in the course of the civil war in Donbass. The left-minded European participants paid special attention to the fact that none of the 6,000 complaints about the actions of Ukrainian security officials and nationalists had actually been taken up by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Small wonder too, since the atrocities committed in Donbass immediately bring to mind the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s when leftwing antifascists from across the world fought supporters of fascists and Nazis. Let’s not forget that even DW (foreign agent) admits that the share of neo-fascists in Kiev’s Azov regiment is very significant.
The participants called upon the ECHR to pay attention to the non-investigation of crimes committed in Donbass.
Human rights activists and public figures from Russia, France and the unrecognized republics of Donbass called on European international human rights organizations to pay attention to the failure to investigate crimes committed during the armed conflict in Ukraine. This is stated in the statement, which was sent to European international organizations after the conference.
The statement also calls attention to obstacles created to prevent citizens from filing applications to investigate crimes, as well as to attempts to ignore pertinent complaints from international bodies.
The latter, according to the authors of the statement, is especially important since “10,650 applications have so far been submitted to the ECHR concerning violations of citizens’ rights during the civil armed conflict in Ukraine. Of these, 8,000 come from Crimea and Donbass, including 7,000 from Donbass alone. Moreover, 6,000 are complaints made against Ukraine proper. However, during the past seven years, not a single complaint pertaining to the conflict in Donbass has been considered.”
Human rights activists called on the ECHR and the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to ensure that the crimes committed in Donbass are investigated in full compliance with the ECHR and ICC charter, as well as to bring pressure to bear on the political leadership of Ukraine to fulfill its obligations to protect the rights of its citizens.”
Crime of Ecocide: Greening the International Criminal Law
In June 2021, an Independent Expert Panel under the aegis of Stop Ecocide Foundation presented a newly-drafted definition for the crime of ‘ecocide.’ The Panel consisting of 12 international lawyers proposed that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be amended to include ecocide as the fifth international crime along with the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The inclusion of the crime of ecocide in the Statute will entitle ICC to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of causing grave harm to the environment.
The term ecocide comprises the Greek word ‘oikos,’ meaning house or environment, and ‘cide,’ meaning an act of killing. Premised upon the term ‘genocide,’ ecocide means the significant destruction of the natural environment by human actions. In 1970, it was first used by Arthur Galston, an American biologist, at the Conference on War and National Responsibility in Washington DC. The term was further quoted by the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in his opening speech at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm. Since then, multiple efforts were made to include ecocide within international law. Interestingly, it was adopted as an additional crime in the early drafts of the Rome Statute; however, later, it was dropped due to the lack of an adequate definition. If succeeded this time, it will be a significant victory for the environment since none of the existing international criminal laws secures it as an end-in-itself.
Definition of the crime of ecocide
The Panel has defined the crime of ecocide as, “For the purpose of this Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”
The definition comprises two thresholds that should be fulfilled to constitute a crime of ecocide. Firstly, there should exist a substantial likelihood that the ‘acts’ (including omissions) will cause severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment. In other words, along with the damages causing severe harm to the elements of the environment, such damages must have an impact on a wider geographical location or for an unreasonably longer duration.
It is appreciable that the Panel has widened the scope of the definition by incorporating spatial and temporal dimensions to its meaning. However, they have changed their position adopted in the previous legal instruments to employ a mix of conjunctive and disjunctive formulations in the definition. In addition to its severe nature, such harm could be either widespread or long-term to constitute a crime of ecocide. Thus, any severe and widespread activity, such as chopping down huge rainforests, could be attributed to ecocide. Similarly, any severe activity whose consequences prevail for a longer duration, for example, causing the extinction of a plant or animal species, could also amount to the crime of ecocide.
Instant reading of the first threshold indicates that the ecocide definition might include day-to-day human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damages. It raises a question – Whether humans are environmental criminals? Though, it might be true that most human actions, directly or indirectly, are continuously degrading the ecosystem around us. However, the definition of ecocide is primarily concerned with the large polluters whose irresponsible activities at a massive level are a threat to the environment. Thus, to narrow down the ambit of the definition and identify criminal activities precisely, the Panel added a second threshold, that is, the ‘acts’ causing damage to the environment must be unlawful or wanton.
It means, only when the actions are either prohibited under national or international laws or indicate a reckless disregard for excessive destruction of the environment in achieving social and economic benefits will they amount to the crime of ecocide. The second threshold hints towards an anthropocentric approach of the definition and protects a range of human activities deemed necessary, desirable, and legitimate for human welfare. To determine the lawfulness of the acts, the actions should be seen with their potential social and economic values. The ecocide definition relies upon the principle of sustainable development to balance environmental destruction with human development and prohibits all destructive activities that outweigh their social and economic benefits. It also means that the definition places a ‘limited’ environmental harm outside the scope of the definition, which cannot be avoided for achieving social welfare that includes housing developments or establishing transport links.
The proposed definition is more concerned with the massive instances of environmental damages. It does not consider small ‘necessary’ ecological harms caused by day-to-day human activities. However, it is equally essential these negligible-looking destructive contributions of humans, made in their individual capacity, should not go unnoticed. These small contributions combined with each other also significantly impact the environment in the form of climate change, biodiversity loss, and other hazards. Thus, the reckless human lifestyle is a significant issue and needs to be regulated through some international code of conduct, if not as ecocide.
Undoubtedly, the proposed ecocide definition is a remarkable effort that should be appreciated for multiple reasons. First of all, the release of this definition indicates that the time has come to start penalizing environmental offenders and create deterrence so that such destructive activities can be minimized. It establishes the responsibility and accountability of big corporate houses and political leaders whose regular investments are causing substantial harm to the environment. Moreover, this definition founds its bases upon many core principles and concepts of public international law, international environmental law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law. For instance, the principle of no transboundary harm, sustainable development, proportionality, and necessity are aptly referred to in the ecocide definition. Moreover, it also provides a sufficiently broad definition of the term ‘environment’ to primarily include any damage committed towards the earth, its biosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and outer space.
Though the ecocide definition is a significant development, it still has to go a long way to be included in the list of international crimes. For this purpose, any of the 123 member states to the Rome Statute can officially submit the definition to the UN Secretary-General. The proposal has to be accepted for further consideration by the majority of the members through voting. Further, the text will be subjected to debates and deliberations and must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the members. Moreover, the member states need to ratify or accept the proposed text. Only after one year of such ratification or acceptance ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over the crimes of ecocide committed afterward. This entire process can take many years or even decades to get completed. It is also possible that the structure of the current definition might change in due course of its acceptance.
Today, it is unclear that whether this definition will succeed in amending the Rome Statute or not, but what can be said with certainty is that this definition will play a crucial role in building awareness and discourse around ecocide among the governments, corporate houses, professionals, and masses across the globe. With the pressing needs of humans and prevailing threats to the environment, it is the right time that the actions of the offenders should be regulated through the prism of international criminal law.
Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Critical Analysis Concerning International Law
The contemporary refugee law is primarily a product of the 20th century following the Second World War and the subsequent post-war refugee crises. The 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Additional Protocol are the noteworthy legal regimes. Although the definition of Convention 1951 continues to be the dominant definition, the regional treaties on human rights have continuously amended the definition in retort to changing circumstances and crises. The gap in the convention of 1951 is that it does not extensively define how the state parties must decide if a person shall compile with the definition of the refugee. The main objective of the modern refugee regime is that; at national and regional level, the individuals that flee their country due to threat of persecution must be protected under all circumstances.
The Civil War in Syria has lead many Syrians flee their own homeland where millions have fled and many have been internally displaced. Many of these existing refugee groups, if not most, live in desperation implying that refugees’ assistance and protection needs be addressed in host countries. States bear moral and ethical obligation towards ensuring the safety and protection of the individuals fleeing Syria. Western countries have also undermined and jeopardized their international commitment of protecting refugees’ human rights. The Regional Response Plan 2014 of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a $4.2 billion aid program for Syria. The plan mainly focuses on the financial assistance of the countries hosting Syrian refugees; where this assistance is certainly important; it does not seem to be an approach more equitable to share responsibility for refugees. The refugee convention and legal framework under International Law may be helpful in dealing with swift management of ongoing Syrian crisis. The study recommends for a larger responsibility to preserve refugees’ human rights and provide long term solutions through international law regimes with proper implementation mechanism.
Under the International refugee law, Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Convention states that
“The term ‘refugee’ applies to any person who is outside the country of his nationality, owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is consequently unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
As it was in the context of European Refugees escaping persecution prior to January 1, 1951, the concept had geographical and chronological constraints. Article (1)2 of the 1967 Protocol on Refugee Status abolished those temporal and geographical constraints.
PRINCIPLE OF NON-REFOULMENT AND FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT UNDER THE 1951 CONVENTION
Non-Refoulement on the whole mean non-return: it is not doable for individuals or foreign nationals to be returned by the host State to the country or place where they could be tormented, tortured or treated inhumanly and degradingly, in addition; where their life, liberty and freedom is threatened. The non-refoulement principle is the fundamental pillar of international law on refugees. It is an inherent component of 1951 Convention as regarded as a Customary International Law applied on every State irrespective of their ratification of the convention.
Article 26 of the Convention of 1951 states that the host States shall allow refugees to choose and move freely where they have taken refuge. Article 28 states that they must be provided with legal documents that would permit them to move freely anywhere wound their country of residence. The Freedom of movement is very important particularly in countries that host huge influx of refugees and have confined them in a particular area or refugee camps and have posed restrictions on their basic rights. The 1951 Convention also protects much other refugee rights for example educational rights, right of employment, justice and property rights.
The rights however are protected under the 1951 Convention and other International Treaties on the rights of refugees and more broadly the Human Rights but the refuges in their host countries are denied of their these basic rights and are often regarded as a national security risks to the state.
Syria’s civil war has its origins in colonialism and the Iraqi War. The ethnic tensions and ongoing civil crisis date back to 2000 elections when Bashar Al Assad came in to power and the rising of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Pro-democracy uprisings erupted in 2011 in response to persecution that were occurring in the Assad’s regime; the uprisings turned into a civil war. Syria by 2012 was entirely engulfed in that civil war and many had died by the end of 2015 by their own government. ISIS was part of the rebel forces, which created an atmosphere of terror. Civilians were subjected to transgressions; public executions and amputations became rampant. Religious minorities were also under great threat. In August 2013, a chemical warfare inflicted on its own people; as a result millions of Syrians were forced to flee their homeland and take hostage in the neighboring countries. Majority of them around 90% fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon (neighboring countries) and around 10% made their way to Europe. While million fled the country, many thousands other are internally displaced and are still under great sufferings. According to a report of UN, approximately 70% of the Syrian population lacks basic necessities i.e., access to safe drinking water, extreme poverty and many children do not even go to school.
Despite their dire situation, Europe is hostile to Syrian refugees. They have put restrictions on their freedom of movement curtailing their rights granted by the international legal regimes and conventions. In Turkey, the refugees are often detained by the authorities and are forced to leave the country. The Turkish authorities had flagrantly violated international laws; refugees are regarded as a security risk. The ongoing conflict and instability in Syria have exacerbated the situation, forcing people to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries.
The existing literature includes number of records of International laws and the rights and obligations on refugees as well the host states but focus has been laid upon the crisis rather than the management of the crisis. In case of Syrian refugees, the existing literature highlights the historical context and ongoing situation of the crisis but has been unable to come to its solution with the help of International laws.
The 1951 Refugee Convention states that states should facilitate refugees’ naturalisation and assimilation to the greatest extent possible. States are obliged to provide legal documents to the refugees for the purpose of seeking asylum and obtaining the official status of refugees. The Refugee Convention seeks to require that the refugees must receive same public assistance as that of the nationals of the country and must be provided with financial assistance, property rights, and right of education and employment. Both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Additional Protocol are international treaties that mean they are binding on the signatories however the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers are considered to be a part of customary international law that is that the states that have not signed or ratified the conventions must also protect these rights of refugees. In the Syrian refugee crisis, many states have avoided their responsibilities and violated international laws relating to refugees by barring refugees from entering their respective territories and by claiming that the state has no jurisdiction over them by choosing the non-entrée approach keeping them apart of refugee law technically. However, in practice they do not meet the duties of the treaty.
To conclude, the essence of the research is that Burden Sharing is an as an intrinsic component of the refugee protection legal system framework and is critical and important in resolving the Syrian refugee crisis. Burden sharing is basically the distribution of responsibilities. In simple words it refers that specific arrangements must be made for the purpose of physical distribution of refugees. It is one of the main principles of International Refugee Regime. The documented origin of burden-sharing can be found in the preamble of the 1951 Convention. When addressing the Syrian refugee crisis in terms of international laws relating to refugees, it is pertinent to know that the existing legal frameworks in the countries hosting huge influx of the refugee crises do not incorporate many of the basic obligations of international law in relation to the rights and obligations of refugees, because none of these countries i.e., Turkey, Lebanon, or Jordan have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Additional Protocol. Syrian refugees have many rights that have been granted to them by the international conventions however, they are denied of their rights. This has made them vulnerable and entirely dependent on the financial aids and has increased illegal means of employment. The refugees are marginalized minorities who are facing troubles in integrating in the receiving countries.
Pakistani PM’s Interview with PBS News Hours on Afghanistan Issues
In an interview with PBS News Hour, host Judy Woodruff asked PM Imran Khan multiple questions about Pakistan’s point of...
Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics
The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive...
Criticism Highlights Russia’s Media Weakness in Africa
In her weekly media briefing July 23, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized United States support for educational programs, media...
Is your security compromised due to “Spy software” know how
Spy software is often referred to as spyware is a set of programs that gives access to user/ administrators to...
The other side of the Olympics
The world Olympic movement has always been based on the principles of equal and impartial attitude towards athletes – representatives...
Tunisia between Islamism and the ‘Delta variant’
On Sunday 25 July, on a day dedicated to celebrating the country’s independence, in a move that surprised observers and...
International Criminal Court and thousands of ignored complaints
The civil war in Donbass has been going on for more than seven years now. It broke out in 2014,...
Americas3 days ago
Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn
Intelligence3 days ago
China and Russia’s infiltration of the American Jewish and Israeli lobbies
East Asia2 days ago
Will US-China Tensions Trigger the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis?
Economy3 days ago
The Monetary Policy of Pakistan: SBP Maintains the Policy Rate
Central Asia2 days ago
Russia’s ‘Great Game’ in Central Asia Amid the US Withdrawal from Afghanistan
South Asia2 days ago
The Indo-US bonhomie: A challenge to China in the IOR
Middle East3 days ago
Politics by Other Means: A Case Study of the 1991 Gulf War
Travel & Leisure2 days ago
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City Reveals Five of the City’s Hidden Gems