UN in disarray: Travesty of int’l law?

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Syed Qamar A Rizvi
THE excruciating silence shown by the United Nations Security Council regarding the gross human rights violations committed in Gaza, Kashmir and Myanmar—reflects nothing but a politicised-cum- polarized UNSC’s role in the global affairs. The Muslim world feels highly alienated and compartmentalised by this discriminatory attitude of the UNSC. The international human rights organisations court expressed grave concerns about the waning status of international human rights law. New Haven School of Harvard Law leaders Myres McDougal and W Michael Reisman argued that international law is itself a “world constitutive process of authoritative decision,” not merely a set of rules, whose goal is a world public order of human dignity, designed to serve particular ends and values by establishing regimes of effective control’’. But unfortunately, international rule of law remains inapplicable because of unjust policies fostered by Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, India’s Narendra Modi, and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
2017 marks ten years of Israeli siege of Gaza. Since 2007, the 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip have existed under a regime of land, sea and air closure, known as the Siege, or Blockade, of Gaza. This siege has kept Gaza on the brink of a humanitarian disaster for the past ten years, a policy described by an Israeli official as being to “put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” There is a broad consensus— amongst human rights organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as UN offices such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — that this siege is illegal. UNOCHA called it “collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law’’. Inexorably, India has been committing ruthless HR violations in IHK. Clearly, international human rights law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of life under any circumstances. The government of India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 6 of ICCPR expressly prohibits derogation from the right to life. Thus, even during time of emergency, “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
The ICCPR also prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Articles 4 and 7 of the ICCPR explicitly ban torture, even in times of national emergency or when the security of the state is threatened. The Indian army, Special Task Force, Border Security Force, and state-sponsored paramilitary groups and village defence committees—the principal government forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir—have systematically violated these fundamental norms of international human rights law.
The brewing violence against the Rohingyas by Myanmar’s military and armed civilians has caused global resentment. Human rights groups have registered grave allegations against Aung San Suu Kyi’s transition government, particularly the condoning human rights violations against not only the Rohingyas but other ethnic minorities—living in different vicinities of Kachin and Shan states belonging to country’s north. According to a UN’s report, approximately 73,000 Rohingya fled the violence in Myanmar in the last two weeks.
This sudden upsurge is being examined as retaliation for attacks on police posts and a military base by the Arkan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which is a Rakhine-based militant group. India’s decision to deport the Rohingyas living in India undermines the established norms of international law. India is signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Refugee. The Rohingyas are largely living in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Rajasthan. Since 2016, Rohingya refugees in Jammu have been targeted by right-wing Hindu groups who have been calling for their eviction from the state, with some groups even threatening attacks if the government rejected their call.
In December 2016, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a group with links to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), demanded the eviction of Rohingya from Jammu, calling them a threat to security. “Without the willingness or capacity to evaluate refugee claims, the Indian government should put an end to any plans to deport the Rohingya, and instead register them so that they can get an education and health care and find work,” Ganguly Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director said. On Monday, the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra ad Al Hussian accused Myanmar of waging a systematic attack on Myanmar Muslims and warned that ethnic cleansing seemed to be under way.
The crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar government are by no means less than the Serbs’ crimes perpetrated against the Bosnian Muslims. The Myanmar government’s crimes with regards to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims hold sufficient warrants to refer this case before The Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC). The OIC at its recently held moot in Astana on Sunday condemned Myanmar for ‘systematic brutal acts’ against its Rohingya Muslims asking it to accept international monitors.
And yet, there seems no point of inflection where the global law regains its leverage. The act utilitarianism of political powers of the UNSC is declining the writ of international law. A Western indifference to these transgressions against humanity, certainly puts the future of mankind under great threat. The Global Geneva’s contributing editor Charles Norchi writes that Trump’s actions have brought the international legal system to the tipping point with regards to the United Nations, the use of force, international trade, human rights, refugees and the environment.
— The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.
Email:rizvipeaceresearcher@gmail.com