A weak law | By Aayla Areej


A weak law

ONE might wonder that how humans have evolved themselves to be the most organized creatures among all?

Is it because of the rules that they have set for themselves to be followed to deal with instances of inconvenience that may arise in certain situations?

Norms, rules, values, and general practices – these are the things that have always been an integral part of the human society which, with the passage of time, have translated themselves on broader level in the form of well-established laws. Humans have been following these rules from the very onset of their existence.

Initially, owing to the small size of their society, rules and laws were also limited in scope, but with the gradual expansion, society went from being tribal to states and then ultimately today’s complexly interconnected and well-integrated world, law also became of widened scope.

During this gradual evolution, humans had been observing some rules that were not written anywhere officially or formally but had consistently been followed by states out of good will.

Nobody knows their exact origin. These unwritten customary rules have become an important ground for the establishment of a set of rules which is presently known as the international law.

While on one side having an international law exhibits the magnificent organization of states and system where they are coexisting in a better way, at the same time, it is considered as a weak law by the scholars.

It is because of lack of any kind of sovereign authority over the states to enforce law properly having proper legal binding.

There is a perception that universal organizations like United Nations (UN) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) are the law enforcing agencies responsible for making states act accordingly but, in fact, they are not.

Though they do play crucial role in maintaining the law and order of the world, and their role in this regard cannot be denied, but they are just organizations created by states as entities not sovereign to their makers.

These are funded by the states for their functioning. Powerful states provide more funds which greatly shapes the decisions of these universal multilateral organizations.

In several cases, the interests of P5 states seem to be the driving force behind any decision, and the national interests of other states simply goes to the background.

NPT treaty and the attitude of powerful states is case on point where these powers had promised to disarm themselves, but it never got materialized.

However, there is no authority to mend this breach of provision of NPT. Among the other member states, those with stable economies and power are much more better off than those which are considered third world states whose stances don’t really matter in the decision making.

This asymmetry has also exhibited itself in case of Joint occupation of Iraq by US and UK. Forces of US and UK went to invade Iraq even before the attack was authorized by United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

The argument that the attack was authorized later by UNSC is a separate thing as the breach was done prior to any kind of decision which renders US and UK accountable, but no action was taken in this regard.

Such incidents may raise questions on the credibility of international organizations and in turn on international law.

So, what possible measures can be taken to make this weak law, a strong law where every state is equal in importance in its true sense. The answer to this question is a bit complex.

Considering the interest-driven nature of states in international arena, it seems a far cry to establish sovereign authority to monitor states’ behaviour in a fair way.

Or the existing institutions can be strengthened by holding the states accountable whether powerful or weak, for any kind of breach on their end.

The situation may improve, if not totally perfect.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.