An analysis of the ineffectiveness of the international law system

2023/03/26 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online—Opinion: On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, and for the first time in the history of the United Nations after the Second World War, the president of a country that has a permanent membership in the Security Council and the right to veto it, is facing a sentence and criminal detention in the international criminal system; This indicates a structural change in the international law system. Seyyed Nasrollah Ebrahimi—Associate Professor, College of Law and Political Sciences, University of Tehran

In November 2022, Amnesty International stated in a report that several Ukrainian citizens, including children, were transferred by Russian military forces to Russia or occupied areas in Ukraine. After submitting a petition to the second branch of the International Criminal Court on March 17, 2023, this branch issued a warrant for the arrest and detention of two Russian officials, Vladimir Putin and Maria Elova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. This action was considered a war crime and possibly a crime against humanity.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced that the illegal transfer of children from their place of residence to Russia is against the Fourth Geneva Convention and the actions of the Russian government are an act of aggression carried out by the Russian military forces against the territorial sovereignty of the Ukrainian government, as it is also considered a violation of the international humanitarian law or even a war crime according to the United Nations report.

The head of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, announced that considering that about 43 countries have officially referred the war situation in Ukraine and war crimes in it to the International Criminal Court, this action shows that these countries have formally accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. In contrast, the court has had jurisdiction over any crime committed by anyone in Ukraine, regardless of the offender’s nationality, since November 2013.

Of course, it seems that the court’s arrest warrant for Putin will not have any operational effect because the court cannot easily access the president of Russia now or in the future, and whether it is possible to implement the arrest of the convicted high-ranking political officials is related to the member states of the International Criminal Court and how they cooperate with the Court.

 

Non-membership of Russia in the court

In the international community, 123 countries are members of the International Criminal Court, and countries such as Iran, Russia, the US, China, and India are not members. Although Ukraine has signed it, it has not yet ratified it in its domestic system. However, it expressly accepted the court’s jurisdiction in two stages in 2014 and 2015.

In 2016, under political pressure caused by the annexation of Crimea and airstrikes in Syria, it withdrew its signature from the International Criminal Court. Russia also initially signed the statute of the court but never ratified it. Therefore, Russian international law experts believe that due to Russia’s non-acceptance of the court’s jurisdiction, the court has no authority to deal with the accusations of Putin and Mrs. Maria Aluvova-Belova.

Also, the International Criminal Court can deal with the international accusations of a high-ranking political official of a country when the accused appears at the court. After explaining the allegations, they can legally defend themselves. The big legal question is how the second branch of the court found preliminary entry into the accusation case while the accused persons were absent in the criminal hearing.

Because this case was set up unilaterally and purely with political motives, the accused persons are not aware of its merits and demerits. In practice, no explanation was obtained from the accused in the case; the case does not have the substantive legal basis of the court. And it does not benefit from legal validity.

However, regarding the guarantee of the execution of the issued sentence, the International Criminal Court has no power to arrest the accused in the international criminal case without the cooperation of the member states of the convention. Without a doubt, the Kremlin will never surrender Putin to the court for criminal proceedings, and the court has no law enforcement status. Therefore, the guarantee of the execution of Putin’s arrest warrant is either that Putin surrenders himself to the judicial authorities of the Court or that Putin travels to a member country of the Court. That country has the readiness and the power to arrest him and hand him over to the International Criminal Court.

International legal experts believe that although Putin’s arrest warrant does not have a criminal enforcement guarantee in Russia or non-member countries, it can indirectly hurt his global travels. In addition, the issuance of this verdict in international public opinion and even in the opinion of the Russian people can lead to a decrease in Putin’s domestic and international popularity and legitimacy and a weakening of his political and sovereign position at the domestic and global levels.

 

The new international legal world order

The issuance of Putin’s arrest warrant indicates a structural change in the international legal system. Without going into legal and substantive issues, this verdict shows that the unipolar management of the world and the sovereignty of the slogan One World One Order, with the global governance of the United States, which was the ruling slogan of the western world under US management after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has reached the end of its line and emerging powers with international hegemony, such as Russia, China, Iran, and India and other influential countries in the international community, will enter the field of legal coercion with a new structure of reading international law and will rule the multipolar system over global legal management. Undoubtedly, the issuance of such rulings by the International Criminal Court will not be left without severe legal challenges. The community of international lawyers will witness many ups and downs in reading such orders, their legal interpretation, and management in the international community.

The community of international lawyers, especially in developing and independent political, sovereign, and legal countries, generally believe that unilateralism in the global legal system on the one hand and double-standard, discriminatory and unequal behavior in international legal and criminal proceedings on the other hand, have destructive and irreparable effects on the international law justice.

Although the crimes subject to the proceedings of the International Criminal Court are all entitled to criminal prosecution and proceedings in international courts such as the International Criminal Court, international organizations such as the International Criminal Court should not be used as a tool, and double standards, discriminatory and unequal behaviors should not occur in legal and criminal proceedings. For example, what has happened in the international space in recent decades of international crimes and crimes that can be criminally prosecuted in international courts are not few, but unfortunately, the international community has seen very few cases of the formation of global issues and action to investigate and punish international criminals from the political authorities of countries, including;

The community of international lawyers will never forget that Saddam Hussein and the Baathist authorities of the Iraqi regime, who waged a bloody war against Iran for eight years in the Persian Gulf region, were never prosecuted and tried in any international court. No criminal sentences were issued against them.

The community of international lawyers will not forget that the high-ranking political and military officials of the United States and the countries of the strategic alliance with the United States have never been tried in any of the international organizations for imposing illegal and illegitimate wars on the oppressed countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and many other countries. No arrest warrant has been issued for them, and no appropriate punishment has been applied.

The international legal community will not forget that as a result of the unilateral economic sanctions imposed by powerful economic, political, and military countries such as the United States, countless patients have died in the hospitals of the sanctioned country due to the lack of medicine. Many babies were not born due to the lack of proper food, or they did not have proper natural growth after birth; Many young people and the workforce were forced to migrate to escape from poverty, misery, and destitution; and the basic infrastructure projects of the embargoed countries were never developed due to economic stagnation and inflation caused by the embargo. However, the legal or criminal cases of the perpetrators of the imposition of cruel economic sanctions have never been opened in international courts such as the International Criminal Court, and legal and criminal justice has never been applied to them.

The international community of lawyers will never forget that the authorities of the Zionist occupation regime in the massacre of the oppressed Palestinian people, especially the Palestinian children and women, the destruction of their places of residence, and the displacement of more than millions of Palestinians in the world, as well as the extensive military aggression and air attacks on neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Syria, have not been prosecuted and tried and punished in any of the organizations or international courts such as the International Criminal Court.

The community of international lawyers will never forget that the perpetrators of the US state terrorist attack on the Iranian general Martyr Soleimani and the head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis and their accompanying delegation outside the Baghdad airport, in any of the international courts, such as the International Court of Justice, they have not been criminally prosecuted. Their arrest warrants have not been issued, and appropriate punishments have not been applied to them.

The international legal community will not forget that in 2012 and 2016, they witnessed the Myanmar government and army violence against the Rohingya Muslims. With the beginning of the winter season, the living conditions for Myanmar Muslims became more difficult than before, and many of their houses were burned by the violence of the Myanmar government and army, and countless children, elderly, Muslim men, and women were killed. In 2017, about 400,000 displaced Rohingya Muslims and 12,000 orphaned children needed humanitarian assistance. But unfortunately, international organizations such as the International Criminal Court did not take any criminal action to deal with these cases and ordered the arrest of the Myanmar government and military officials.

And dozens of other international criminal cases throughout contemporary history, the perpetrators of which are high-ranking political officials of countries that committed murder and looting, war and bloodshed, and genocide of nations, have never been opened to international courts and convicted and punished for crimes and international crimes committed.

Distrust in the international legal system caused by the political behavior of countries; Applying the international double standard against incitement and state and organized terrorist acts; Impunity for the perpetrators of the spread of violence and foreign interventions and occupation; Failure to prosecute the administrators, supervisors and causes of many violent behaviors in the countries that herald human rights; Instrumental use of international organizations, especially international courts; The lack of a single approach to the defense of human rights on the one hand and the punishment of international criminals on the other hand; Bipolarization of the legal system “either with us” and “or against us”; The rule of media empires in aligning the opinions of the international community in forming legal cases and using the capacity of international courts; and other factors of global legal injustice, all indicate the ineffectiveness of the international legal system in the enforcement of rights and question the guarantee of international legal enforcement based on the principles of justice and fairness.

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