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International Law

The Dynamic of Travel Restriction Amidst Pandemic Under International Law

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No one knows how 2020 will turn out. Many countries didn’t expect that there will be pandemic occurs in 2020. where it turns out that the world will facing new kind of virus which name of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The symptoms of the virus itself are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties and loss of smell and taste. COVID-19 spreads from person to person mainly through the respiratory route after an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes. A new infection occurs when virus-containing particles exhaled by an infected person, either respiratory droplets or aerosols, get into the mouth, nose, or eyes of other people who are in close contact with the infected person. During human-to-human transmission, an average 1000 infectious SARS-CoV-2 virions are thought to initiate a new infection.

Because of the ease which the virus is transmitted. Based on January 29th 2021, the Covid-19 Virus has transmitted as many 102,138,770 confirmed cases with total deaths of 2,203,127 and had recovered total of 73,988,074. Because of the imminent threat of the virus, many countries had already implemented the travel restriction in their countries such as United States of America where on 31 January 2020 implement prohibition from entering the U.S. within 14 days of being in China, soon many countries also follow this restriction. But how about the member of the ASEAN countries? To be specific how their policy regarding to handling this pandemic?

The Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were affected early in the 2020 outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Thailand identified the first case on 13 January 2020. ASEAN Member States (AMS) and institutions responded rapidly, putting numerous measures and restrictions in place well before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. when the World Health Organization (WHO) defined the new coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic, the virus has infected 23.3 million people and killed 741,000 across 210 countries. In Southeast Asia, in October 17 2020 ASEAN member countries have confirmed at least 869,515 cases and 21,076 deaths, although this figure is undoubtedly considerably higher due to the large number of unreported or undiagnosed cases, especially in developing countries with fragile medical systems. As of August 2020, Indonesia has the highest fatality ratio as a percentage of its population (4.56), while Singapore has the lowest death rate in the region (0.05) (ABVC 2020).

COVID-19 responses undertaken by individual member countries of ASEAN have been tremendously diverse and have ranged from strict lockdown conditions in the highly regulated city-state of Singapore to ‘business as usual’, especially in rural areas of developing countries with large informal economies such as Laos and Myanmar. Yet ASEAN member countries also have a long history of cross-border cooperation, forged through trade regionalization and economic integration. In the health sector, ASEAN cooperation has been infused into region-wide frameworks including the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APC), ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). Through these social-cultural pillars, ASEAN has developed a basic platform for health security cooperation since 1980, as shown, for instance, through ASEAN-level responses to prior pandemics including SARS, H1N1 and MERS-CoV3.

Many members of ASEAN countries had implemented travel restriction and it turns out to be positive for handling the spread of viruses, for example in Brunei Darussalam, Brunei has successfully contained the spread of Covid-19 and has begun opening travel corridors with other countries in Southeast Asia. Schools and places of worship have been open since July, while businesses and restaurants have reopened gradually. Brunei’s success can be attributed to its quick and drastic restrictions on travel, extensive testing, and strict quarantine rules. The small country may also have benefitted from only sharing borders with Malaysia, which until recently, contained the virus reasonably well.

Based upon that we can sees that there are some ASEAN countries that already implemented travel restriction, but how the international law sees it? Or is it contrary to the international law?

International Law Perspective

To be noted that, when the WHO declares the covid-19 as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) pursuant to article 12 of IHR and it will automatically invoke the International Health Regulation 2005 to be guidelines under international law regarding to handling pandemic. This IHR regulation are legally binding to all member of states which parties to the WHO.Moreover, the purpose of the IHR itself is to provide guidelines for handling pandemic and avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade. Clearly when a country imposing travel restriction against China during the outbreak of covid-19, many countries are violating the IHR, many countries will tend to stigmatise or discrimination to Chinese nationals or even Asian descent for indicating to having the viruses and that kind of action is also contravene to the article 3 of IHR.

The IHR article 3(4) gives state a wide discretion regarding how they implement their health policy to handling the pandemic but this right is not unlimited, their policy must in accordance with the charter of the united nations and the principles of international law and uphold the principle of IHR. The state has reacted in various way regarding to their policy, some comply with the IHR and some were not. Moreover, article 43 IHR also provides states to implemented additional measures for handling pandemic but this additional measure shall base on scientific evidence and shall not apply travel and trade restriction. Many travel restrictions of countries would likely fall under category of additional measures, also many of the travel restrictions being implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak are not supported by science or WHO. Even more troubling, is that at least two-thirds of these countries have not reported their additional health measures to WHO,which is a further violation of IHR Articles 43(3) and 43(5) and WHO states that they cause more harm than good.

Here is where the dilemma comes in. States when imposing the travel and trade restrictions during the pandemic are indeed violated the IHR but also to consider is that state also have right to implement their regulation as they see fit to them. State sovereignty play major part in it, sometimes travel and trade restriction are not that bad. As I mention for example in Brunei Darussalam. It turns out that imposing travel and trade restriction can confer good outcome regarding to flatten the curve of Covid-19 spreading. Moreover, Article 1 of the IHR states that the Recommendations constitute “non-binding advice”. So even if IHR is legally binding but the recommendations itself have no enforcement right to state to comply with it.

In the end there will eventually come the dilemma where the state insists on their state sovereignty for handling this pandemic, the diversity of policy of many states is sometimes contravene to the international law. But the point to be made here is that no matter how the diversity of many countries implementing their policies in order to handling this pandemic. What matters is what the outcome from that policies we can take benefit from. Because travel and trade restrictions that was made by many countries during the pandemic are also prove to be positive for manage this pandemic. The IHR 2005 have history of being amendment in the past so there is possibility in the future that IHR can consider to allow states imposing travel and trade restriction because in the end as cicero once said “salus populi suprema lex esto” which mean the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.

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International Law

Human Rights violation in Palestine: A serious concern

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Palestinians had long been victim of brutal Israeli assailant forces. The innocent Palestinians civilians and children are not only victim of discrimination but are maltreated, battered and are forced to displace from their ancestral land.  As a matter of fact these Israeli were the people who came to settle in Palestine under the Balfour declaration which announce the support for establishing national home for Jewish people in Palestine.  Hence according to Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics initially under the British mandate Israel occupied 6.2% land in Palestine but now they control 27,000 m3 land which accounts for 85% of historical Palestinian land. Recent 11 days destruction was another episode of human rights violations as in the violence nearly 243 people were killed in Gaza including more than 100 women and children. During this deadly conflict Israeli brutal forces even flounced the Al Aqsa masjid and even shelled worshippers resultantly several were wounded as tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades were used by callous Israeli police. Besides these coercive actions the Israel even launched air strikes causing demolition of residential buildings. According to BBC news even on 16 May Sunday the airstrike hit busy street in Gaza as result causing numbers of deaths and three buildings to collapse. In addition to all this viciousness the Israeli forces even demolished media buildings of Al Jazeera and Associated Press (AP) which also housed residential apartments and they were warned only an hour before air raids.

All this barbarity makes ones ponder where human rights are and where are human rights regimes? This makes one ponder if same insanity was being done otherwise or in any other region of world will still UN had been aphonic and voiceless. Is UN champion of peace and justice is playing its role and performing its responsibility faithfully? This makes us realize that these regimes and international organizations would not play their effective and just role and would not even grant basic human rights unless they themselves are strong and economically robust. This is high time that we should contemplate how as an individual, state and regional level Muslims should play their role before it too late as the Turkish president uttered “if Jerusalem falls today, Israel could run over Mecca, Medina, Istanbul and Islamabad.” The divided Muslim world should understand they will tumbledown and dilapidate if they do not join hands together.

OIC which is the second largest international organization after UN comprising of 57 states which only offer rhetorical statements without taking any pragmatic measures should work to eliminate its structural flaws. Efforts should be done in order to restructure OIC and strengthen its role if OIC wants to play an effective role in international arena, combat the oncoming challenges and secure its stance in front of international community. One of its inadequacies is that it possesses limited number of staff as compare to similar world organizations in international arena and even the qualifications of many members are below required standards. The OIC even lack the proper means to implement its resolutions as even though OIC has announce the economic boycott of Israel according to 1981 OIC resolution  even then certain states possess economic ties with Israel. Hence this discloses that even the Muslims states are not even on one page due to their personal motives. We have to make one thing clear in our mind we would not be able to counter the challenges posed by western world and resolve the deadly violent Palestine Israel conflict lest we stand together and put an end to personal political and economic interest.

Secondly we should we should cogitate what role we can play as an individual because little drops of water make the mighty ocean. One of the best ways to counter the Israel is that each and every individual in Pakistan should boycott the Israeli products because these products generate the revenue and capital for the Israel. We should keep one thing in mind there are dozens of Israeli products in Pakistan and these are manufactured in Pakistan which means that the Pakistani labor is employed in industries while manufacturing these items and if we boycott the products it means that our labor will get unemployed resultantly creating consequences for Pakistan economy. This means that we should generate long term solution if we want to play an effective role. We should create awareness in our industrialist that we should try to launch our own products as a result create an alternative for each and every foreign product which is being sold in Pakistan. Suppose if there is any carbonated drink they should try launch same product with their unique formula against that product but their should be no compromise on taste and quality because consumers will always go for better quality hence when we will have alternative for each and every manufactured product  we can shift then shift our labor to the company which is making Pakistani product and when that Pakistani product will be launch that means the generated profit will totally belong to Pakistan and as a result give boost to our economy.

Lastly each and every individual should raise their voice against the inhumane acts of Israeli forces in Palestine and this will be only possible by making effective use of social media platforms. As the platform like YouTube, twitter, Facebook act as megaphone and allow propagating message to large audience hence we should make this human right issue as a trend because Palestinian lives matter. We should create awareness in our people they should keep on writing via blog or article writing and speak on this issue in any practical way because making this issue as an international trend would be one of the ways to put pressure on international community because the airstrikes by assailant Israel Defence forces are even still being carried out after ceasefire.

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International Law

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century

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For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and  American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.

In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.

Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.

On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.

In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of  “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;

I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.[1]

As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.

For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;

For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.

Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.

The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.


[1] Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.

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International Law

Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it

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Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.

However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.

To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding. 

To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it.  Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”

Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.

Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.

Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.

Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.  

Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.

Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.

Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.

For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy.  This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not.  If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention.  This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts.  One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well. 

Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding.  Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.

Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.

A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.

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