The last decade of the USSR has been engraved in the memories by the freedom marches in the republics. At the end of the 1980s, when many countries began to leave the USSR and establish their independence, the Armenia SSR government raised the issue of the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan SSR to Armenia SSR in 1988.
Background of the conflict
At the February 20, 1988 session of the NKAO (Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast) Soviet of People’s Deputies, members of the region’s Armenian community adopted a resolution to appeal to the Supreme Soviets of Azerbaijan SSR and Armenian SSR to annex NKAO to Armenian SSR. Followingly, on February 22, 1988, the Armenians opened fire on a peaceful demonstration staged by the Azerbaijanisnear the town of Asgaran,who protested against the decision of the Soviet of People’s Deputies of NKAO. This incident was the beginning of the conflict either in military level. On December 1, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Armenian SSR adopted an unprecedented resolution “On the unification of Armenian SSR and Nagorno-Karabakh”.On January 10, 1990, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet adopted a resolution “On the nonconformity with the USSR Constitution of the acts on Nagorno-Karabakh adopted by Armenian SSR Supreme Soviet on December 1, 1989, and January 9, 1990”. The resolution described as illegal Armenian SSR’s act on the unification of Armenian SSR and Nagorno-Karabakh without Azerbaijan SSR’s consent.
On August 30, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan declared the restoration of state independence. After announcingthe Constitutional Act “On the State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan adopted the Law ‘On the abolition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Republic of Azerbaijan”. As a result, Armenians began massacres and terrorist activities against Azerbaijanis.In the late 1991-early 1992, the conflict entered its military stage. Having exploited the collapse of the Soviet Union and political instability in Azerbaijan caused by the internal standoff, Armenia began military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh with external military support.
On September 24, 1991, the Armenian military, with the support of the 366th Regiment, attacked the villages of Imarat and Garvand in the Aghdara region, killing Azerbaijanis with special cruelty and expelling the people from their homes. The most considerable armed violence and genocide by Armenians against Azerbaijanis took place with the Khojaly events. In late 1991, Khojaly was blocked by Armenians. Armenians closed all roads, destroyed communication lines and cut off the power supply—the people living here communicated with other cities by helicopter telephones. However, in the same year, after the shooting down of the Mi-8 helicopter, the number of helicopters arriving here also decreased. All weapons were confiscated from the people, and the gendarmerie forces operating in Khojaly were disbanded. A few people had only a total of 50-60 weapons left. On the night of February 25-26, 1992, Armenian forces attacked Khojaly and, with the support of the 366th Russian Regiment, destroyed the city of Khojaly.
After that, the Azerbaijani-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalated, and Armenian forces occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions until 1994, killing Azerbaijanis and expelling them from their homes. At that time, Iran, which was trying to meditate, did not react severely to the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia. As a result, a ceasefire was reached only after Armenia occupied 20% of Azerbaijani territories.
International response to the conflict
The UN has adopted four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and its terms have not yet been fulfilled. In the recent debates, Nicol Pashinyan stated that the conflict is happening between the so-called Nagorno Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan. However, these four resolutions explain the real situation and declare that the dispute is not happening in Nagorno Karabakh; this is the international conflict caused by Armenia. Firstly, in all resolutions, Nagorno Karabakh is considered the territory of the Azerbaijan Republic. Secondly, all four resolutions start with the deterioration of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and then the escalation of armed conflict. The Security Council provides a good understanding of who is involved in the conflict by stressing the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders of all states in the region. Such texts are not written in the context of internal conflicts. Moreover, the Security Council emphasized that there is a threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and international borders of Azerbaijan.
The UNSC adopted resolution 822 on April 30, 1993, after the occupation of Kelbadjar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Firstly, the document states the following phrase:
“Noting with alarm the escalation in armed hostilities and in particular, the latest invasion of the Kelbadjar district of the Republic of Azerbaijan by local Armenian forces”.
“Local Armenians” phrase is indicated only in the resolution 822, apart from it, neither resolution states the term as an involved party of the conflict. However, this term does not clearly state the parties of the conflict. It is unknown which local Armenians invaded Kelbadjar district due to uncertainty. In this resolution, the UN clearly says that battle is not happening only between local Armenians living in Nagorno Karabakh and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Secondly, the resolution emphasizes the term “in particular, the latest invasion of the Kelbadjar district”, which means that there are many other districts occupied by the invasion forces and UN is concerned about the conflict by seeing it as a severe threat to security in the region, which was going on for a long time. The second phrase ultimately shows that other forces joined to the conflict:
“Demands the immediate cessation of all hostilities and hostile acts with a view to establishing a durable ceasefire, as well as immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from the Kelbadjar district and other recently occupied areas of Azerbaijan”.
The word “invasion” used in the first line is replaced by “occupation” and “occupying forces” in the second line. The meaning of the wording “occupation” in international law is obvious – occupation can only be the result of interstate conflict. With this phrase, the UN indirectly conveys the presence of Armenian forces in Kelbadjar and other occupied regions.
These phrases were reflected in subsequent resolutions as well. Thus, the Security Council has tried to show that the war in Nagorno-Karabakh is not a result of, in fact, an internal conflict. Indirectly, the Security Council attempted to deliver that the lands belonging to Azerbaijan are occupied by Armenia. These phrases can be clearly seen in the following resolutions:
“Noting with alarm the escalation in armed hostilities, in particular, the seizure or the district of Aghdam in the Azerbaijani Republic,
- Condemns the seizure of the district of Aghdam and of all other recently occupied areas of the Azerbaijani Republic;
“Calls for the immediate implementation of the reciprocal and urgent steps provided for in the CSCE Minsk Group’s “adjusted timetable”, including the withdrawal of forces from recently occupied territories and the removal of all obstacles to communications and transportation.”
“Noting with alarm the escalation in armed hostilities as a consequence of the violations of the ceasefire and excesses in the use of force in response to those violations, in particular, the occupation of the Zangelan district and thecity of Goradiz in the Azerbaijani Republic and the withdrawal of occupying forces from other recently occupied areas of the Azerbaijani Republic…”
It can be questioned that why the Security Council didn’t mention that the conflict happened between Armenia and Azerbaijan? What is the reason for not calling Armenia as an occupier? If the Security Council would recognize Armenia as an occupier, then new obligations would arise for the Security Council. In the meantime, Armenia had to be called as an aggressor and the resolutions adopted should have been demanded unconditionally. Due to several reasons, the Security Council did not do this but instead stressed who is responsible in this conflict.
For instance, in 1991, during the Yugoslavian War, the Security Council adopted a resolution by stating “Wars in Yugoslavia” and “parties in Yugoslavia” to deliver this matter to the community as an internal conflict. However, all four resolutions about Nagorno-Karabakh conflict don’t include any wording mentioned above. Besides, conflict was emphasized as a threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and international borders of Azerbaijan.
During the conflict, the OSCE Minsk Group was formed, and the parties were brought to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict. Russia, which has been involved in resolving the conflict, initially sought to bring Russian forces to the region as peacekeepers. However, in December 1994, at a summit of OSCE participating States in Budapest, Member States decided to bring OSCE peacekeeping forces to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. These forces could be composed of the military forces of neutral states.
In December 1996, at the summit of the OSCE Member States in Lisbon, all Member States, except Armenia, recognized the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in connection with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The signed documents concluded that Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had to be resolved within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Also, all proposals by the OSCE Minsk Group to solve the conflict first referred to the UN Security Council’s resolutions, then put forward their proposals for resolving the conflict. On the other hand, the OSCE Minsk Group prepared three plans to solve the conflict. However, the parties did not agree with these proposals due to several reasons. In November 2007, OSCE Minsk Group adopted final Madrid Document concerning resolving the conflict.
When analyzing the diplomatic processes in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is evident that Armenia does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as a separate state or institution. According to several documents, the conflict has acquired an international character and must be resolved within the framework of international law, and the borders of Azerbaijan. Despite all the accepted and approved international documents, the Armenian leadership wants Nagorno-Karabakh to be recognized as an independent entity because, in this way, it will be easier to control the territory in favor of Armenia. Moreover, the issue that was often raised at the meetings of the OSCE Minsk Group was related to the referendum, especially about self-determination. The deportation of Azerbaijanis living in Nagorno-Karabakh during the Soviet era had a serious impact on the ethnic composition of the population. Today, the Armenian diplomatic corps demands the status quo, taking into account only the ratio of 1988.However, this contradicts both international law and the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and as a result, the right to self-determination cannot be extended to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In addition, in 1996 Armenia did not recognize international borders of Azerbaijan. It creates a condition for Armenia to start any conflict in anywhere in the borders, as happened in 2020 July.
Today, not only the Nagorno-Karabakh region but surrounding territories also are extremely militarized. Clashes in the region are a serious threat to the security of the peoples who are living there closely. Armenians authorities’ non-compliance with international law also creates conditions for the proliferation of terrorist groups in the region. The settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under international law will ensure the security of the region and the effectiveness of economic and humanitarian assistance.
Considering the slowdown in peace talks in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group, the unfair treatment of the Western media on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, repeatedly nurturing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity with an unreasonable attitude by Armenia, makes the region more unstable and increases border clashes and as in the past, the region will not lead to multi-directional change.
Is Antarctica the new Eldorado? The sixth continent between claims and international law
December 1, 2019 marked the 60th anniversary of the signing in Washington of the Antarctic Treaty, the main legal instrument for managing practical activities and regulating interstate relations in the territory 60°parallel South.
On May 2, 1958, the U.S. State Department sent invitations to the governments of Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, the then South African Union and the USSR for the International Antarctic Conference. It was proposed to convene it in Washington in 1959. The group of participants at the Conference was limited to the countries that had carried out Antarctic projects as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) (July 1957-December 1958).
The Soviet Union supported the idea of convening a Conference. In a letter of reply, the Kremlin stressed that the outcome of the Conference should be the International Treaty on Antarctica with the following basic principles: peaceful use of Antarctica with a total ban on military activities in the region and freedom of scientific research and exchange of information between the Parties to the Treaty.
The Soviet government also proposed expanding the group of participants at the Conference to include all parties interested in the issue.
In those years, the international legal resolution of the Antarctic problem had become an urgent task. In the first half of the 20th century, territorial claims to Antarctica had been expressed by Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand and Norway.
In response to the Soviet proposal, the United States kept all the territorial claims of various countries on the agenda, but it undertook to freeze them. Russia, however, believed that third parties’ territorial claims had to be denied. At the same time, the position of both States coincided almost entirely insofar as the right to make territorial claims for the ownership of the entire continent could be retained only as pioneers.
The USSR relied on the findings of the expedition by Russian Admiral F.G.Th. von Bellingshausen and his compatriot Captain M.P. Lazarev on the sloops-of-war Vostok and Mirnyj in 1819-1821, while the United States relied on the explorations of N.B. Palmer’s expedition on the sloop Hero in 1820.
The Conference opened on October 15, 1959 in Washington DC. It was attended by delegations from twelve countries that had carried out studies as part of IGY’s programmes in Antarctica.
The Conference ended on December 1, 1959 with the signing of the Antarctic Treaty. This is the main international law instrument governing the planet’s Southern polar region.
The basic principles of the Treaty are the following: peaceful use of the region, as well as broad support for international cooperation and freedom of scientific research. Antarctica has been declared a nuclear-free zone. Previously announced territorial claims in Antarctica have been maintained but frozen and no new territorial claims are to be accepted. The principle of freedom to exchange information and the possibility to inspect the activities of the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have been proclaimed. The agreement is open to accession by any UN Member State and has no period of validity.
Over time, it has been proposed that the political and legal principles of the Treaty be further developed in the framework of regularly convened consultative meetings. Decisions at these meetings can only be taken by the Parties to the Treaty that have a permanent expedition station in Antarctica.
All decisions are taken exclusively by consensus, in the absence of reasoned objections. The first Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in the Australian capital, Canberra, from 10 to 24 July 1961.
Until 1994 (when the 18th Consultative Meeting was held in Kyoto), meetings were held every one or two years, but since the 19th Meeting held in Seoul in 1995 they have begun to be convened on a yearly basis. The most recent Meeting, the 42nd one, was held in Prague from 11 to 19 July 2019. The 43rdConsultative Meeting will be hosted in Paris on 14-24 June, 2021: the suspension of the Meeting that was to be held in Helsinki from 24 May to 5 June 2020 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The 17th Meeting was held in Venice, Italy, on November 11-20, 1992.
The main decisions of the Meetings until 1995 were called recommendations and since 1996 ATCM measures. They come into force following the ratification procedure by the Consultative Parties. A total of 198 recommendations and 194 measures have been adopted.
Over sixty years, the number of Parties to the Antarctic Treaty has increased from twelve founders in 1959 to 54 in 2019. These include 29 countries in Europe, nine in Asia, eight in South America, four in North and Central America, three in Oceania and one in Africa.
The number of Consultative Parties to the Treaty that have national expeditions in Antarctica keeps on growing: Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Chile, the People’s Republic of China, (South) Korea, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, India, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, Uruguay and the United States of America.
The remaining 25 Antarctic Treaty countries with Non-Consultative Party status are invited to attend relevant meetings, but are not included in the decision-making process.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the desire to join the Treaty was reinforced by the desire of many countries to develop Antarctica’s biological and mineral resources. Growing practical interest in Antarctica and its resources led to the need to adopt additional environmental documents.
During that period, recommendations for the protection of Antarctica’s nature were adopted almost every year at the Consultative Meetings. They served as starting material for the creation of three Conventions, which protect the natural environment: 1) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals; 2) the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources; and 3) the Convention for the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources.
Later, based on the recommendations and Conventions adopted, the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was drafted. It became an environmental part of the Treaty and was signed on October 4, 1991 for a period of 50 years at the Madrid Consultative Meeting – hence it is also called the Madrid Protocol.
According to the Protocol, Antarctica is declared a “natural reserve for peace and science” and should be preserved for future generations. After 1991, the new countries that adhered to the Treaty started to show interest in participating in large-scale international research projects on global climate change and environmental protection.
Considering the above, Antarctica can be described as a global scientific laboratory: there are about 77 stations on the continent, which have supplied their scientists from 29 countries. They explore the continent itself, the patterns of climate change on Earth and the space itself.
However, how did it happen that the territories of the sixth continent became the target of scientists from all over the world?
In 1908, Great Britain announced that Graham Land (the Antarctic peninsula south of Ushuaia) and several islands around Antarctica were under the authority of the Governor of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands (claimed by Argentina). The reason for this was that they were/are close to the archipelago.
Furthermore, Great Britain and the United States preferred not to acknowledge that Antarctica had been discovered by the Russian explorers Bellingshausen and Lazarev. According to their version, the discoverer of the continent was James Cook, who saw the impenetrable sea ice of Antarctica, but at the same time confidently insisted that there was no continent south of the Earth.
A dozen years later, the appetites of the British Empire grew and in 1917 it decided to seize a large sector of Antarctica between 20° and 80°meridian West as far as the South Pole. Six years later, Great Britain added to its ‘possessions’ the territory between 150°meridian East and 160°meridian West, discovered in 1841 by the explorer Capt. J.C. Ross, and assigned it to the administration of its New Zealand’s colony.
The British Dominion of Australia received a “plot of land” between 44° and 160° meridian East in 1933. In turn, France claimed its rights to the area between 136° and 142° meridian East in 1924: that area was discovered in 1840 and named Adélie Land by Capt. J. Dumont d’Urville. Great Britain did not mind, and the Australian sector was not disputed by France.
In 1939, Norway decided to have a piece of the Antarctic pie, declaring that the territory between 20° meridian West and 44° meridian East, namely Queen Maud Land, was its own. In 1940 and 1942, Chile and Argentina entered the dispute and the lands they chose not only partially overlapped, but also invaded Britain’s “Antarctic territories”.
Chile submitted a request for an area between 53° and 90° meridian West; Argentina, for an area between 25° and 74°meridian West. The situation began to heat up.
Furthermore, in 1939, Germany announced the creation of the German Antarctic Sector, namely New Swabia, while Japan also formalised its claims to a substantial area of Antarctic ice.
Again in 1939, for the first time the USSR expressed – as a premise and postulate – that Antarctica belonged to all mankind. After the end of World War II, all legal acts of the Third Reich were abandoned and Japan renounced all its overseas territorial claims under the San Francisco Peace Treaty. According to unofficial Japanese statements, however, the country claims its own technical equipment: according to its own version, the deposits lie so deep that no one except Japan possesses the technology to recover and develop them.
By the middle of the 20th century, disputes over Antarctica became particularly acute: three out of seven countries claiming the lands were unable to divide up the areas by mutual agreement. The situation caused considerable discontent among other States, and hampered scientific research. Hence it came time to implement that idea, the results of which have been outlined above.
In 1998, the Protocol on Environmental Protection was added to the Antarctic Treaty. In 1988, the Convention on the Management of Antarctic Mineral Resources had also be opened for signature, but it did not enter into force due to the refusal of the democratic Australian and French governments to sign it. That Convention, however, enshrined great respect for the environment, which laid the foundations for the Protocol on Environmental Protection. Article 7 of that Protocol prohibits any activity relating to mineral resources in Antarctica other than scientific activity. The duration of the Protocol is set at 50 years, i.e. until 2048.
Most likely, its period of validity will be extended, but we have to be prepared for any development of events. Earth’s resources are inevitably running out and it is much cheaper to extract oil and coal in Antarctica than in space. So an oxymoronically near distant dystopian future awaits us.
The Hathras Case, Caste Discrimination in India and International Law
Over six months ago in September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was brutally gang-raped by the “upper-caste” men in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, and a month later succumbed to her injuries in a hospital in Delhi. Despite insidious efforts of impunity by the state, the accused were arrested. However, the family including other Dalits in the village continue to experience the endemic of caste discrimination. The village remains divided along the caste lines with “lower-castes” living on the periphery struggling to fight against the pernicious system.
Caste discrimination and violence emanate from the orthodoxy of the Indian caste system that is held as sacrosanct. It refers to the classification of people into four groups or Varnas: the Brahmins on the top, which consists of priests and teachers, followed by the Kshtriyas or the warriors, the Vaishiyas or the merchants and the last group the Shudras considered as outcastes. Shudras traditionally referred to as ‘untouchables’, now collectively known as Dalitsare singularly positioned at the bottom of the caste hierarchy. They are marginalised on the pretext of maintaining status quo in the society and are forced to live under deplorable conditions with little or no access to health, education and sanitation. Their socio-economic vulnerability and lack of political voice increase their exposure to potentially violent situations while simultaneously reducing their ability to escape.
In the similar vein, the question that writ large is, how long would the scourge of the caste system traumatise the Dalit community that makeup16.2% of India’s total population. Being relegated to the bottom of the class, caste and gender hierarchies, they form a majority of the landless labours and manual scavengers and their vulnerability is appropriated by those in power. The reason why the Hathras Case allured a lot of controversies was that the state agencies played an essential role in shielding perpetrators and launching fake propaganda of victimisation. This reaffirmation of the upper-caste hegemony by the state violates the domestic law as well as India’s obligation under International law. Hence, it becomes imperative to understand the relationship between caste and racial discrimination against the backdrop of international law.
Hathras Case and Violation of International Law
Violence against Dalits especially women is used as a tool to inflict political lessons and crush dissents and labour movements for transgressing the caste hierarchies. The Hathras Case of Uttar Pradesh is one of such adversities that reveal a perilous side of the Indian social apparatus and the subsequent pattern of impunity. Despite the constitutional guarantee against any form of discrimination specified under the domestic law and the ratification of international covenants on racial discrimination, gender equality and human rights. Such incidents underscore India’s louche stand against discrimination both nationally as well as internationally.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) 1965 as substantiated by India, under its Article -1 states that discrimination based on descent falls under the ambit of ‘racial discrimination’. Hence, applies to matters of caste discrimination also. In the Case of Hathras, there was a serious breach of the convention on various grounds by the police and the government. For instance, the Police did not take cognisance of the rape for eight days after the incident despite the request of the family and was reluctant to help when the victim was taken to the police-station .The family was also exhorted by the district magistrate to change their statement. This misconduct goes against Article 5(a) and Article 5(b)of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which reads that victim should receive equal treatment before the organs administrating justice and must receive protection against violence respectively. Also, the lack of effective remedies provided by the state breaches Article 6 of the convention.
Further, the police allegedly cremated the victim without the involvement of her family members. It breached Article 2, para 2 of the CERD, which obligate state parties to take measures for prevention and enjoyment of human rights. The Government and police wrought an abhorrent pattern of impunity and State-sponsored Propaganda as they adamantly declined to accept if rape was actually committed simply based on the fact that the forensic report revealed the absence of semen in the body of the deceased. This was approbated despite the fact that forensic evidence can only be found up to 96 hours after the incident and that sample for the case was collected after eleven days. Thus, such impunity to the ‘upper caste’ men by the state organs seriously violates Article-2 and 4 of CERD that state shall not discriminate against the victim and condemn any sort of propaganda based on superiority of the caste respectively.
Such deleterious conduct by the state is not only in dissonance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination but also tramples upon various instruments of International Human Rights Law especially the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It also grossly violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Dalit Women stand at a point of intersectionality in the society, their subordination and violence unleashed upon them result from both sexual and caste discrimination. Hence, this ‘double jeopardy’ thesis exacerbates their plight.
These actions of the transgression of international law invite state responsibility as codified by the International Law Commission. The Commission elucidates that any such act is attributable to the state if it is committed by State organs, whether central or federal. The International Convention on All the Forms of Racial Discrimination also reflects on the application of domestic law. As Supreme Court of India has held in the case of Karmaa Dojree v. Union of India that the provisions of the Convention are of significance to protect fundamental human rights and must be read into constitutional guarantee against racial discrimination. Thus, what makes the Hathras Case, one of the most controversial cases is the grave violations of international responsibilities and demonstration of ‘upper-class hegemony’ by the state and its agencies.
Caste Discrimination as Racial Discrimination
A major point of contention while ruminating on caste discrimination as racial discrimination is, albeit in the language of international law caste discrimination is seen as the violation of the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, there is an absence of its legal recognition.
In 1996, India for the first time highlighted that the term ‘descent’ mentioned under Article 1(1) of the convention does not cover the domain of caste, thus, schedule castes and schedule tribes in India does not come under its purview. However, CERD in its Concluding Observations(2007) stated that the term ‘descent’ not only refers to ‘race’ but also include discrimination against members of community based on various forms of social stratification. The Human Rights Council in its report conducted by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (2009) considered caste discrimination as‘ discrimination based on work and descent’. Likewise, the report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues (2016) attempted to explicate caste discrimination and emphasised that ‘while many caste-affected groups may belong to the same larger ethnic, religious or linguistic community, they often share minority like characteristics, particularly their non-dominant and marginalised position and the historic use of the minority like framework to claim their rights.’ This informs us that international law categorically view caste discrimination as a segment of racial discrimination. However, India continues to deny the applicability of the term ‘descent’ as inclusive of caste. The lacuna in the recognition of ‘caste’ as a separate identity and India’s denial despite negation is often considered to have a detrimental impact on a significant population of the country.
Caste- based violence similar to the case of Hathras lead to gross breach of international law and yet less often attract state responsibility. This is due to the fragmented legal response and absence of explicit reference to caste discrimination in international law. It is asserted that a comprehensive legal response could help overcome these challenges, not to say that the application of international law would ensure complete protection against caste-based discrimination and violence. But, at least could provide for international solidarity and subsequently better solutions.
The Hathras case of Uttar Pradesh like other similar cases of violence against Dalit women unveils the perennial notion of caste discrimination and the abhorrent pattern of state impunity to the perpetrators. These acts of caste discrimination are strongly condemned under international law, to which India has often reflected on quite evasively. Notably, various international conventions enunciating international law refers to such discrimination as a violation of human rights, albeit have not specifically mentioned it and has continued to reaffirm that discrimination based on descent includes discrimination based on caste. Hence, Dalits face huge challenges at the international level to draw adequate attention to caste discrimination and consequently bear perpetual atrocities at the national level. Therefore, Dalits aspire for international solidarity to consider varying factors of discrimination and a comprehensive legal response to bring caste-based discrimination into international focus.
Intellectual Property on Covid-19 needs to be shared
The development of Covid-19 vaccine was supposed to be a global good which will be fairly distributed among the developed and the developing world. But the politicization and the increasing nationalization of the vaccine increased the vulnerability of the poor countries to the Covid-19 global pandemic. Everyday tens of millions of people are getting infected and tens of thousands of people died in the developing countries due to this deadly virus. Behind each death, there is a story of a loved one, shattered dream of a family and the increasing human insecurity of the members of the deceased. Against such a backdrop, vaccination to all is necessary to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ironically, Covid-19 vaccine has become a new frontier of diplomacy, and a new geo-political tool for some rich countries along with a profit-making tool for some capitalist pharmaceutical companies through the monopolization of the vaccine. All people need to be vaccinated to address the devastating impacts of the deadly virus. The recent example of India clearly shows the deadly outcomes of the Covid-19 virus. Bangladesh, which is one of the densely populated countries, can experience the same devastating outcome as India if all people are not vaccinated as early as possible. In fact, in a country like Bangladesh, where more than 165 million people live within 1, 47, 570 km area, maintaining social-distance becomes really a daunting task.
History suggests that mostly the people in the poor countries die when any pandemic emerges as those poor people have always been deprived of the vaccinations. In this context, the WHO Director-General notes that ‘40 years ago, a new virus emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life-saving medicines were developed, but more than a decade passed before the world’s poor got access to them. 12 years ago, a new virus emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life saving vaccines were developed, but by the time the world’s poor got access, the pandemic was over’.
The same history is going to be repeated in the case of Covid-19 vaccine. Ironically, rich countries, i.e. the US, UK, EU, Canada have bought more Covid-19 vaccines than they actually need which is making the availability of the vaccine for the poor countries impossible. For instance, the EU has ordered 1.6 billion doses for its adult population of roughly 375 million. According to the order, even after full vaccinations, there will be a surplus of around 525 million full vaccinations. The UK has ordered 219 million full vaccinations for its 54 million adults while Canada has ordered 188 million full vaccinations for its 32 million adults. It means that for UK, there will be a surplus of 165 million full vaccinations while for Canada there will be a surplus of 156 million full vaccinations. The United States did not export even a single dose of vaccine. In one hand, the rich countries are hoarding the vaccines while the poor countries are dying due to lack of vaccinations. On the other hand, the pharmaceutical companies and the Western vaccine producing countries are against the IP waiver of Covid-19 vaccine which is ironic as it is high time to ensure IP waiver of Covid-19 vaccine to save tens of marginalized, poor people in the developing world. Unfortunately, Bill Gates has said ‘no’ to vaccine production in the developing world. Gates preferred the monopoly of the vaccine which described him as a ‘vaccine monster’(Zaitchik, 2021). It is noted that ‘Gates has chosen to stand with the drug companies and their government patrons’ (Zaitchik, 2021). Dozens of developing countries including Bangladesh, India, South Africa are asking repeatedly for the patent waiver so that they can also produce the vaccine and save their population from the deadly pandemic.
In fact, Covid-19 vaccine developed as a global good to save the humanity from the deadly virus. Thus, the dedication and commitment of the scientists to develop the vaccine needs to be appreciated. But when that vaccine is monopolized for some pharmaceutical companies, there is nothing more ironic than that while people are dying in other parts of the world. What an unfair world it is!
In this critical time of Covid-19 global crisis, no one is safe until everyone is safe. Thus, instead of preserving Covid-19 vaccines, rich countries need to ensure vaccines to all in the world irrespective of nationality, colour, creed, or class. This treatable and preventable disease needs to be prevented which requires strong and definitely humanitarian global political leadership. Thus, IP waiver on Covid-19 vaccine, technological sharing and economic cooperation between the developed and developing world becomes necessary to address this pandemic collectively. As Dr Jeremy Farrar warns (April 28, 2021) that ‘If countries who can afford to share choose not to, this pandemic will drag on, resulting in more deaths, suffering and economic hardship. We’re in danger of creating a fragmented, unequal world of haves and have-nots, where it will be far harder to come together and address the shared challenges of this century’.
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