From decolonisation to recolonisation

Apr 10,2018 – JORDAN TIMES –

One of the basic principles of international law is non-interference. Accordingly, internal or domestic affairs of any independent state, whether or not a United Nations member, should not be the business of any other state.

In former times, when international relations were somehow orderly, it used to be offensive to intervene in other states’ affairs.

The UN charter bars any such intervention in both internal as well as external affairs.

A “Declaration of the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States” was passed by the UN General assembly on December 9, 1981.

The declaration clearly reaffirms “in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations that no state has the right to intervene directly or indirectly for any reason whatsoever in the internal or the external affairs of any other state”.

But with time, things have changed. The UN authority has steadily been declining as a result of the major powers’ hegemony in the international body, there is an absence of independent law enforcement mechanisms in the UN system and an accelerating inability of the UN to hold International law violators to account.

Only the resolutions of UN executive body, the 15-member Security Council, carry some weight.

Contrary to some expert legal interpretations of the UN Charter, the notion that the only binding Security Council resolutions are the ones taken under Chapter 7 has gained traction.

But since the five permanent members, who are privileged with the veto power, run the council business, the decision making procedure is primarily held by those powers. They decide which resolution to pass or block, and they also decide whether the desired resolutions should be taken under chapter 7 or otherwise.

Resolutions under chapter 7 are normally taken when the case in question implies threat to international peace and security. Chapter 7 also allows the use of force against the source of threat once other punitive measures have failed.

In the absence of any specific criteria for determining the nature of the threat, any violation can be deemed adequate for the influential Security Council members to invoke chapter 7 and sanction military intervention, however unjustified and regardless of the lack of any supporting evidence.

But what about humanitarian intervention? What if a ruthless dictator turns against his own people or some of them and subjects them to various methods of cruelty or persecution or even genocide?

Would the UN or other world powers hide behind the principle of non-intervention and let such atrocities proceed without any responsible and objective preventive action? Certainly not.

The problem is deliberate abuse. When a country or a regime is targeted, any sign of internal unrest no matter how minor, or of a purely local nature that could occur in any democracy, humanitarian intervention could be used as the excuse for all sorts of interventions, including major military aggression. This is dangerous and we have seen it happen in Libya and Syria, just two recent examples.

Fifteen years ago in Iraq, a different excuse was used. Iraq was targeted for having stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Not only that was proven to be completely false after the country was subjected to major international invasion, but the war planners knew well before hand that Iraq did not possess such weapons.

As a matter of fact, unjustified intervention for purely self-serving purposes is becoming more of the rule than the exception in international dealings. We see it happen all the time in our region.

It is not unusual that liberation movements, whether from foreign rule or from local dictatorships, receive external support, not necessarily direct military support. But that is often carefully measured to remain within reasonable and decently acceptable limits. It can be a form of pressure on the oppressor rather than outright confrontation.

In Libya and Syria open military intervention, or supporting armed groups, mainly terrorists, with weapons, training and money to fight the existing government has neither helped what started as genuine popular legitimate uprisings nor did it help the conspirators in achieving any of their undue objectives.

It is difficult to count the parties and the groups involved in the Syria war now. It is equally difficult to predict any outcome or to even imagine who the winners will be, if any, from the ongoing devastation and mess.

No one is condemning Israel’s fishing in the Syrian troubled waters. Israel fighter planes attack Syria at will violating Lebanese airspace regularly and openly. Yet, this is hardly considered an illegal aggression that demands UN condemnation, accountability and preventive action.

As a student in my early years, I used to believe that small states without big armies to defend themselves would be protected by the UN and the provisions of international law. This proved to be unreal. Power, beyond the perimeters of international law, remains the determining factor in international dealings. Rather than rely on the UN, powerless states seek protection from bigger powers, but at a price. The price could be their independence as well as their ability to run their own policies in accordance with their own interests. They may instead need to mind the interests and the desires of their protectors. Such states surrender their freedom for their survival.

There was a period of colonisation, when the advanced powers took control of those who were lagging behind. This was followed by decolonisation, when most world nations gained independence.

Apparently, we are at the doorstep of a new era of re-colonisation, whereby the few big powers are again taking hold of most of the others.


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