With the emergence of regional and global powers, the call for increasing the permanent seats of the United Nation’s Security Council is becoming louder. On real grounds the UNSC is the only body of the United Nations which can take decisive actions and give out rulings on certain issues, especially the executive permanent members (Russia, China, United States, Britain and France). The permanent members have the power to Veto, which the permanent members have been known to use from time to time to stop the council’s decisions that are against their will. This veto power and the structure of UNSC is considered as discriminatory and controversial as the UN gives the status of equality to all the member states and UNSC is a question mark on that status.
Many feel that there is a need of reforms in the UNSC and that new permanent members should be added to the UNSC as they deserve to become the permanent members. According to the proponents of expansion and reforms of UNSC the current permanent members do not fairly represent the world order. Due to this, many states are seeking permanent membership of UNSC which will have a huge impact of the effectiveness of the UNSC in responding to threats to international security.
The UNSC is considered as the most powerful and influential body of the United Nations. It is mainly responsible for maintaining international peace and security according to the UN charter. It has the ability to make decisions that all UN members are bound to obey. This makes the UNSC an important body of the United Nations and gives it a powerful position in the world.
The UNSC is made up of 15 states; five permanent and ten non-permanent states. The permanent members remain unchanged as appointed in 1945 as chief custodians of World Order. The non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly of the United Nation for a two years term. Before 1965 there were only six non-permanent members of the UNSC but after restructuring the numbers increased from six to ten.
The UNSC has ideally a noteworthy scope of power and duties. To examine issues such as Armed Conflicts or Disputes which are a threat to international peace and security, the council meets throughout the year. It is authorized to take Military actions, order mandatory sanctions and call for cease fire, on behalf of the United Nations. Other roles and responsibilities of the UNSC include the appointment of Secretary General of the UN, the addition or removal of the members of the UN and electing the judges of the International Court of Justice.
Permanent Members and the “Power of Veto”
The UNSC “Power of Veto” means a negative vote by a permanent member on “substantive” draft resolution. Only the permanent members have the right to veto. The main purpose of establishing this system of Veto was to prevent and prohibit UN from taking actions against the founding members in the future.
The P5 have been accused many times for misusing the Veto power. The single negative vote of P5 carries the power to reject a resolution. The non-permanent members have a less important role in the UNSC as they do not have the power to veto. To pass a resolution nine votes are needed but if one of the P5 state votes against the resolution the other votes do not matter and the resolution is not passed.
The P5 states have used the veto power hundreds of times in order to serve their personal interests. From 1946-2016 the veto power has been used more than three hundred times. Russia tops the list by using veto 133 times. Most of the negative votes used by Russia were to serve the interests of its allies. For example, recently in the case of Syrian civil war Russian being a Syrian ally used the veto power 12 times to reject the resolutions related to sanctions and investigation of chemical weapons and referring Syria to International Criminal Court. The US comes second on the list by using veto 83 times from 1946-2016. Most of the negative votes by the US were on the resolutions related to Israel/Palestine conflict. China with 40 negative votes comes third on the list. Most of the negatives votes were against the resolution related to Taiwan issue, support of Russia, and on Burma Myanmar issue. The UK and France used 32 and 18 negative votes on the resolutions mostly related to Suez Canal and Rhodesian Crisis.
The Veto power system is unjust and un-democratic. It only serves the interests of the P5. The developing countries who are non-permanent members and non-veto holders have been longing for restructuring of UNSC and some of the new rising powers want permanent membership because they believe that they deserve to become a permanent member of UNSC.
Quest for Permanent membership of UNSC
The number of states has increased since the formation of the United Nations. The number of states increased from 51 to 118 until 1965. In this year the non-permanent seats of the UNSC were increased from six to ten; the permanent seats remained unchanged. Now as the number of states has increased to 192 the proponents of the restructuring of UNSC are demanding reforms in the UNSC and demands the enlargement of the permanent seats of the council.
The non-permanent seats are distributed on the basis of geography and the contributions made by the states or international peace and security. The representation of the permanent members of the UNSC is not proportional. The current structure of the UNSC is opposed by many states and they are asking for reforms.
Former Secretary General Annan proposed two models for the reforms in UNSC. The model A suggests to expand the number of UNSC seats to 24, including 3 new non-permanent seats and 6 new non-permanent seats with veto power. The new permanent members should be from Europe (1 seat), Americas (1 seats), Africa (2 seats), and Asia Pacific (2 seats). The model B also suggests the expansion of seats from 15 to 24 but does not include new permanent seats. It suggests the 4 year terms for 8 members. Africa, Asia pacific, Europe and Americas will each get 2 non-permanent seats with a 4 year term. Another additional non-permanent seat will also be created.
Another group asking for reforms is G4 (Group of four) which includes Japan, Germany, India and Brazil. The G4 states are aspiring for permanent seats in the UNSC. These 4 states are economically and politically very strong. If more seats are created in the UNSC these countries are most likely to become permanent members.
Japan contributes the second largest sum to the UN’s regular budget. Germany is the third largest contributor. India is the World’s largest democracy and 2nd largest population. It is also the world’s largest economy and third largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions. Brazil is the largest country in the Latin America with the largest population and economy. Russia UK and France support the G4 aspirations.
There is another group called “Uniting the Consensus”. This group includes Pakistan, Italy, Colombia and Canada. This group opposes the expansion of the permanent members of the organization. There are also other models suggested by other states and groups such as Regional model (Italian proposal), Panama proposal etc. the most discussed are the G4 states who are putting a lot of effort to get permanent membership.
How effective is the current UNSC:
The UNSC was formed in order to ensure international peace and security. It has been successful in achieving some of its goals but failed to achieve others. One of the Success of the United Nations Security Council is that after its formation the world has not seen another world War like the first and second World Wars. The credit for this success goes to all the member states that have contributed politically and economically to improve the organization. The peace keeping missions of the UNSC in Angola, Liberia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Haiti and several other states were successful. The efforts by Secretary General U Thant during the Cuban missile Crisis are also appreciated. He was responsible for the negotiations between US and USSR during Cuban missile crisis in 1962. His efforts helped to save the world from nuclear holocaust.
The success of the Security Council is on one side but there are some failures of the council which are criticized. The council was not able to avert interstate conflicts. It failed to stop the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Cambodian genocide of 1975-79, Somalian civil war of 1993, the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 and Sri Lankan Civil war. The council was powerless during the Cold war period and several substantive resolutions were rejected at that time. It has been almost three decades since the cold war ended but the power politics between the states specially the P5 states is still going on. The misuse of the Veto power by P5 to serve their own interests is a huge failure of the Council. Due to this Veto power the Security Council was and is unable to respond to several threats to the international security.
The debate on increasing the permanent members of the UNSC has been going on for quite some time and states like India, Japan, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia have had tried to become permanent members in the past. Although the current system of the UNSC is quiet objectionable on democratic grounds because states like Japan, Germany etc. who have grown out to be strong regional and global powers have been long bereaved of the luxury of sitting at the elders table (the Permanent members) in the UNSC. The UNSC’s current structure lacks proportionality as the P5 chose themselves. The restructuring of UNSC and increasing the number of permanent members can undoubtedly help bring about a balance of power in the region but unfortunately it can have some serious negative impacts in the effectiveness of UNSC in responding to threats to the international security. The widening of permanent membership of UNSC would definitely weaken its potential to respond to the threats to international security. First of all it is already very hard to get a unanimous decision from 5 members with different interests hence further increasing the number of permanent members with the power to veto will result in new members too abusing the power just like the current 5 permanent members for their benefit. In a system like this, with such diversified conflicts of interests any practical decision making will become almost impossible. Another issue is that the regional powers like Pakistan and Canada cannot afford to see their rivals handed a bigger gun. Especially inclusion of the G4 countries like India will face heavy resistance because of the fear of them abusing the power for their personal gains instead of working towards international peace and security. Strong resistance against this can lead to further instability in the already unbalanced international system.
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Ahmad, Abdullahi A., and A. S. Haroon. “(PDF) United Nations Security Council Permanent Seats and Oic Requests.” Research Gate. Last modified January 2015. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316545136_United_nations_security_council_permanent_seats_and_oic_requests.
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Guzzardi, Jose E., and Mark J. Mullenbach. “The Politics of Seeking a Permanent Seat on the United Nations Security Council: An Analysis of the Case of Japan.” University of Central Arkansas — UCA. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://uca.edu/politicalscience/files/2011/05/3_Guzzardi_and_Mullenbach.pdf.
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Upholding Dharma by Mob lynching?
Label any Muslim a cow smuggler, accuse him of carrying beef and then lynch in the name of protecting religion. These premeditated barbaric acts seem to have become the order of the day. According to “Hate Crime Watch”, around 90% of religious hate crimes have occurred after the change of Central government in India in 2014. Although Muslims are victims in 60% of incidents, people from all religious faiths have suffered hate crimes.
India’s constitution promises its citizens justice, liberty and equality, but the shattering of social life through mob violence triggers an inescapable sense of powerlessness among its citizens. After the 2015 gruesome Dadri lynching, Mohammad Azam was lynched in July 2018 by a mob in Karnataka after a series of WhatsApp messages had warned locals that child kidnappers were on the loose. The mob assumed that Azam, who worked for Google, and his friends were co-conspirators and lynched him. In 2019, Tabrej Ansari became the first victim of the gruesome hate crime in the second term of the current regime led by proponents of Hindutva. He was lynched by a mob that forced him to chant Hindu religious slogans. In June this year, three people were lynched on suspicion of cattle smuggling in Tripura.
It needs to be recalled that lynching was used to terrorize black community for generations in the United States; blacks were lynched on dubious and false criminal accusations but this was put to an end through NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People). In a similar fashion today, there is a growing perception that mob lynching happens with disturbing regularity in India to terrorize not only minorities but also dissenters in the name of religion and culture.
Violence against those who dissent is sought to be rationalized as nationalistic. The killings of Mohammad Akhlaq, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabolkar and Gauri Lankesh were masterminded by religious bigots masquerading as nationalists. In fact, the recent murder of George Floyd at the hand of a racially bigoted policeman in the United States, and custodial torture and death of a father-son duo in Tamil Nadu are hate crimes which are blots on the conscience of democratic societies.
Contemporary India has witnessed a surge in right-wing Hindu extremism, and crimes committed in the name of Love Jihad, beef eating, child kidnapping, cow slaughter and anti-Muslim fake news are aimed at normalizing this disturbing phenomenon. This right-wing propaganda usually spreads like a wildfire on the internet, particularly on the so-called Whatsapp University where it has become quite common to see pictures and videos of dead cows lying in a puddle of blood. It has been noticed that such videos and images on social media platforms are always of questionable veracity whose primary purpose is to incite fear, anger and violence. Very often, the text accompanying the videos appeals that everyone should spread it as much as possible in order for it to reach at the highest political executives. When this damaging and dangerous content is continuously circulated, the resulting fear in the minds of majority community gets converted into hatred toward the minority community.
These are nothing but politically motivated polarizing tactics and diatribes which only feed off pre-existing demeaning stereotypes of minorities. Technology has become an enabler of violence for various political and cultural reasons. There are many parties and stakeholders involved in these hate crimes but victims are only innocent people and invariably from vulnerable socio-economic groups. But the most shameful is the attitude of India’s politicians and police officials who justify these crimes, garland the lynchers, deny it ever happened or shrug off their responsibility by preferring to watch as mute spectators. Even delayed or muted condemnation of communal violence, by those in positions of power, only signal tolerance of such activity. Unfortunately, both the mob violence and the official response to it are symbolic of the Indian state’s rising incompetence in countering religious intolerance.
In recent years, the alarming idea that the ‘nation’ belongs only to the majoritarian community has made global strides as many countries like Poland, Hungary, Brazil and Turkey have come under its sway. Even many long-established democracies, including the United States, are feeling the pressure of this authoritarian tendency. The emergence of Hindu nationalist ideology in India, which is seen as replacing Indian civic nationalism, promotes the notion of a unique national culture grounded in Hindu cultural supremacy. The proponents of Hindu right-wing extremism are trying to radicalize their children and youth with ultra-conservative and fictional thoughts which often re-assert historical prejudices and ungrounded hatred toward Muslims.
One may be wrong, but cynical indifference shown by the middle class citizens tends to breed servitude and perpetuate complacency. When the victim of mob violence dies a death, shockingly there is no remorse from the crowd. Only the victim’s family remembers the event even as the societal silence is spine chilling. Actually, one should not ignore the performance aspect to mob lynching. Those indulging in mob lynching or public beatings ensure that their acts are recorded and then the potential circulation of such videos is targeted to send a strong message of the majoritarian men terrorizing minority men into humiliation and subjugation.
The dominant mainstream assumptions that cattle slaughter and beef trade directly concerns only Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis and Christians is also far from reality. Unfortunately, framing of the debates around bovine trade along communal lines has been sustained by provincial media which acts as an echo chamber to propagate Islamophobia. It has also been observed that the messages of hate get intensified after any terror attack, and instigate people to act against specific communities, primarily Muslims.
In July 2018, a landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court had condemned the incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism as ‘horrendous act of mobocracy’, asking the government to enact strict law to counter them. Nevertheless, in spite of comprehensive guidelines and anti-lynching laws in some states such as Rajasthan, Manipur and West Bengal, the mob violence continues unabated. In many states where the right-wings groups feel emboldened such as Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, there is widespread feeling that the enactment of stringent cattle preservation legislation has further exacerbated such crimes. Those who think that the lynch squad is a thing of the past are wrong.
Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) do not have specific provision dealing with the mob lynching because this was never seen as a crime in India. It is similar to terrorism for which we have the most stringent laws. But mob lynching causes more than just a death; it kills the spirit and substance of democracy. We are told that Hindus and Muslims share the same DNA in India. How can the cold-blooded lynching of one’s brethren make one a hero rather than a murderer? How can a policeman’s lynching and alleged cattle lifter’s lynching possess different form of bestiality? In fact, the time has come to brand mob lynching as ‘domestic terrorism’ and a serious threat to India’s internal security.
Does glory to Lord Rama be restored through unruly mob justice? Does the path to righteousness come through killing innocent people in the name of Cow? Does circulation of derogatory and hateful projection of Muslims bring glory to Hindus? Are those calling publicly for violence against Muslims and Christians are real friends of the Indian State and government? Is not hate crime the prelude to genocide? These uncomfortable questions shake the core of India’s multi-religious and pluralist democracy. India’s timeless civilization has unflinchingly celebrated the foundational principles of humanity such as non-violence, tolerance, peaceful-coexistence and ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which is one of the most important moral values engraved in the heart of every Indian. These eternal principles come under violent assault whenever a mob kills an innocent Indian.
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.
Correspondent of the French newspaper L’Humanité Vadim Kamenka, 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.
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