All posts by Helen Taylor

War criminals: the UN and its failings

November 2017 can be remembered as the month that saw the life sentencing of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić. This is welcome news: Mladić is responsible for the death of over 7000 Bosnian Muslims[1] and a non-guilty verdict would have been catastrophic for the integrity of international law. Mladić’s sentencing, however, does little to deter from the reality that international law (or rather its agents) is not doing enough to bring war criminals to justice. Accordingly, the article aims to serve as a reminder of some of the current atrocities going legally unpunished, the point being that we need to see a renewed will for justice amongst the international community.

ISIS

The UN itself has recognised that ISIS has committed and is continuing to commit genocide against the Yazidis in Iraq[2]. Despite this overt recognition, the perpetrators have faced no legal accountability; in the words of Amal Clooney, UN action on this issue has been “passive”.[3] Clooney has suggested some measures that the UN could take in response to ISIS’ violence. For instance, she has urged for the UN Security Council or the UN Security General to set up an investigation into ISIS’ crimes or for the Security Council to refer the group to the International Criminal Court[4]. The UN has taken some of these recommendations on board. This said, ISIS has been firmly established in Iraq since 2014. Is it really good enough that it was only this September that the Security Council asked the Secretary General to create an independent investigative team to support Iraq’s efforts to hold ISIS accountable for its actions?[5]

Syria

The on-going Syrian Civil War has seen brutally on all sides. Although Assad denies the using chemical weapons against his own people, multiple reputable bodies (for example French Intelligence agencies[6]) attribute the chemical attacks to his regime. The UN response to the regime’s brutalities has been disappointing; this is largely due to Russia and China’s persistent efforts to block sanctioning on the Assad regime. Indeed just recently Russia exercised its Security Council veto to shut down UN inspectors in Syria who had been gathering evidence of chemical weapons use. This is a clear demonstration of the obstructiveness of state interest.

Admittedly, the position in international law regarding immunities does not allow for Assad, in his current role as President, to be brought to trial at The Hague. Nevertheless, even if his immunity protection was taken away the past record of the International Criminal Court does not give us confidence that justice would be served. It is doubtful that we will ever see Robert Mugabe, recently ousted from the presidency of Zimbabwe and thus no longer having personal immunity, stand trial in The Hague. It therefore appears that nowadays, unfortunately the default assumption is that war criminals will walk free.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42080090

[2] https://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57304#.WhsyVs64m1s

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk9vz4xDiCw

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk9vz4xDiCw

[5] https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12998.doc.htm

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/syria-assad-forces-carried-out-sarin-attack-says-french-intelligence

THE PARADISE PAPERS AND THE ROYALS

This month has seen two damning headline stories for the Royal family. The first story concerned the Queen’s offshore investment, as revealed in the Paradise Papers, and the second detailed Prince Charles’ lobbying on political interests. In light of these recent revelations, this article makes the case for the abolishment of the Monarchy. The argument is separated into three points: the principled point, the political point and the economic point.

The principled point

The principled point against the Monarchy is the most compelling: it is out of line with progressive and liberal values to retain an unelected Head of State, appointed by virtue of birth status. Additionally, the excessive wealth of the Royals is – at its mildest – distasteful. Should we really accept a state of affairs where the Queen is preaching about austerity in the House of Commons, whilst draped in an excess of jewels? Is it fair that whilst there are cuts for the public sector, the Royal family get a pay rise of millions of pounds?[1]

Moreover, issue can be taken with the idea that the Crown should be retained as it is “traditional” and represents the country. Firstly, it is no argument to retain something because it is “traditional”, without further exploring the merits of this tradition. Secondly, on the point about the symbolic significance of the Royals, we should think deeper about what the Crown represents. The Royal honours take the titles of, for instance, “Officer of the Order of the British Empire” or “Commander of the Order of the British Empire”. Britain’s history of colonialism oversaw atrocities such as massacring and the establishment of concentration camps; the country’s honours system should not be harking back to the Empire.

The political point

Regarding the constitutional role of the Monarch, it is often said that the Queen’s “political neutrality” undermines any fear of the Crown being involved in the political process. However, it is untrue to say that the Crown has no influence on the legislative process. The recent headlines, as already referred to, demonstrate the point. At the beginning of November it was reported that Prince Charles campaigned to alter climate-change agreements in a way that would benefit a Bermuda company in which his estate had invested[2]. The claim of the Royals’ political neutrality is thus hard to maintain.

The economic point

Finally, supporters of the Royal family argue that the Monarchy is economically beneficial for the country because of the tourism that it brings in. However, such supporters presuppose that all of this tourism would be lost if the Monarchy was abolished. This is difficult to believe – indeed, last year around 7.4 million people[3] visited Le Louvre (where the French monarchy used to reside) and this site continues to be one of the most famous in the world.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/27/queens-income-rises-to-82m-to-cover-cost-of-buckingham-palace-works

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41901175

[3] http://presse.louvre.fr/7-3-million-visitors-to-the-louvre-in-2016/