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International Law in Relation to Nation States

Introduction

International law is the law that governs the relationships between bodies that are subjects of this law. These bodies include sovereign nations, international organizations like the United Nations and national freedom movements (Shaw 10). The history of international law dates back to middle Ages. However, in the wake of 20th century, and the events that took place around this time, formation of international law accelerated to be where it is today. For instance, the two World Wars coupled with the establishment of the League of Nations among other global organizations, contributed largely to fortification of the contemporary international law (Shaw 16). The United Nations is one of the most outstanding international organizations that have brought about the consolidation of many conventions that are helpful to the international community. Conventionally, existence of different states in the same place calls for maintenance of law and order to foster cordial relations between these community states. Genesis of international law lies in this simple fact.

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The greatest purpose of the international law is to supervise the deportment of different member states in a bid to uphold sound relations for the benefit of all. Any member state will do all that it can, to remain within the requirements of the international law. Disregard of these rules or acting contrary to the provisions of the international law, may attract disapproval from other member states. This disapproval can permanently spoil state’s reputation in the global arena. International law does not act to profane member states’ rights for individual states. On the contrary, this law seeks to protect the rights of individual member states, by including given rules concerning member states together with non-members provided there is a link with international community (Mifsud-Bonnici para. 1).

Classical international law sought to separate individuals from states. For instance, Rousseau viewed people to be very different things from states and posited that, states can become enemies but individuals in these states cannot be enemies (Mifsud-Bonnici para. 3). Nevertheless, the face of contemporary international law is gradually changing and this law now associates itself to people more than ever. This has seen the introduction of humanitarian law as a branch of international law to address predicaments of individuals not states. Moreover, the face of international law is continuously changing to address emerging demands due to changing times.

Structure of International Law

There are two forms of international law, that is, the classical and the contemporary international law. However, international law is meant to be the same. Nevertheless, as times change, this law also changes. These two forms of international law are based on the same principle: sovereignty (Held 160). Within this sovereignty, there are internal and external aspects that govern the international law. These are rules that govern international law. For instance, there are rules governing warfare and munitions. The involved authorities make these rules during conventions. For instance, in 1864, there was the Geneva Convention that sought to improve treatment of people injured in battles and resolve conflicts between states (Held 164). The other landmark achievement is the Hague Convention in 1899. Within international law, there are subclasses including environmental laws, child abuse laws and humanitarian laws among other components mainly found in domestic law.

However, the structure of the international law has changed gradually in the last fifty years moving from classical structure to liberal sovereignty structure. Under this structure, public power is delimited to the international arena whereby, no single entity whether political or governmental, can abolish this structure. This structure gives the international community the mandate to intervene in situations that are stipulated in international law, without the consent of the state involved (held 169).

Implementation of International Law

There are a number of ways, by which the international law can be implemented in different cases. According to Kojima, there is formal or informal implementation, coercive or voluntary implementation, collective or unilateral implementation, long-term or short-term implementation and national/international or regional implementation (para. 1). Any effective implementation of this law depends largely on the sovereignty of the involved states. Lopez posits that, sovereignty plays a central role in international law matters because without it, a state has no power to run her foreign affairs and this reduces this state to international object not subject (para. 1). Treaties have been used world allover to implement international laws. A treaty is a component falling under international law, whereby, the involved states or organizations enter into an agreement. According to The International Law of Treaties, there are two types of treaties: bilateral and multilateral. Bilateral is an agreement between two states while multilateral is an agreement between three or more states. In signing a treaty, there has to be free will and good faith among other requirements.

The other aspect of implementing international law is through agreement. If two states are locked in a feud, they can decide to enter into an agreement or an international body may intervene and give a ruling. According to Kelsen, the ruling of this international body is based on statements of facts that do not favor any side (368). The United Nations has been involved largely in implementing international law. For instance, World War II left Korea a divided state. There was the Communist portion comprising the northern half and the southern half that was occupied by Americans (Spark Notes para 6). The United Nations in collaboration with the United States of America intervened to end this division. After several failed efforts, the warring sides signed a peace treaty in 1953 (Spark Notes para. 6).

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Even though this treaty did not help to heal the divisions in Korea, the Korean War ended (Spark Notes para 7). This highlights involvement of the United Nations in implementing the international law. According to the Charter of United Nations, the purpose of the United Nations includes ensuring that there is peace and security internationally. This happens through taking measures that would prevent or eliminate factors that appear to be threat to security. The international law is implemented through suppression of elements that cause breach of peace in any given state. The United Nation seeks to bring cooperation in international arena by solving problems be it economical, social or political among others. Therefore, in the wake of conflicts, the United Nations move in to quell the differences and by so doing, it implements international law.

The other bodies involved in implementing international law are the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). These two bodies deal with making ruling on issues that pertain to international law. The ICJ falls under the UN Charter and it makes ruling concerning pertinent issues within the United Nations member states. The ICC on the other hand is a judicature set to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes. This body implements international law by giving a ruling concerning the aforementioned cases. However, it can only persecute individuals from member states. States like the United States of America, Russia, India and China have not become member states and this limits the powers of the ICC in implementing international law.

Signing a Treaty versus Initiating a Treaty

There is great difference between signing of treaty and initiating a treaty. Initialing a treaty implies that the signatory agrees with the provisions in the treaty but will not necessarily follow them. On the other hand, signing a treaty implies that the signatory has agreed with the provisions in the treaty and will abide by them (Geist para. 6). In initialing a treaty, the signatory has uses initials. However, in signing a treaty the signatory has to use the full names. For instance, in initialing, a treaty America may use USA but in signing a treaty, it has to use the United States of America (Nathan 98).

Why and When to Follow International Law

Every member state and even those who are not member states should follow the international law regardless of time and space. There is no specific time when international law should be followed and not followed at others. The international law, just like any other law, seeks to protect individuals from abuse of any form (Stoyles and Broomhall para. 3). Unfortunately, there have been incidences where double standards have been applied in implementing the international law. The International law has changed from pursuing its mandate of ensuring justice for all, and resorted to purporting power and class at the international arena. What else explains why most of the people taken to ICC in Hague are mainly Africans yet there has been rampant human rights violation all over the world. The closest international justice came in action in the west is when a special tribunal by the UN prosecuted Serbia’s Milosevic. Actually, the reason why this prosecution took place is that Serbia lost in the war (Rachman para. 3).this serves only to highlight the double standards applied in the international law.

Take for instance the war in Iraq involving the US troops. First, the UN Security Council did not authorize this invasion (Palmer para. 1). Therefore, based on the UN charter, this invasion is illegal under the confinements of the international law. Unfortunately, as war rages, no one seems to voice concern, not even the ICC or the UN Security Council itself. These are double standards. Last month, the ICC chief prosecutor, Moreno Ocampo was in Kenya as he prepares to haul the suspects of the 2007 post election violence to The Hague (ICC para.1). Before the post election violence started in Kenya, at around 29th December 2007, the US troops were still in Iraq. There have been different explanations as to why the US troops are still in Iraq. Supporters of this partial application of international law claim that, these troops are not in Iran as police officers. On the contrary, they are there as vigilant groups (Myers para. 4). This is a return to jungle law. This is not new within the US administration. In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia, again without approval of the UN Security Council.

Another good example when the international law has been violated is the detainment of prisoners in Guantanamo. The Bush administration argued that, these detainees could not benefit from constitutional rights because they were outside America (Raustiala para. 6). International justice is all about ensuring justice for all. The ICJ could have intervened but once again, it went silent. Location may affect constitutional rights, however, legal rights transcend geographical borders and that is why the UN Security Council is in place. The United States of America seems to assume that, the laws governing sovereignty have changed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In the face of these actions, it appears that justice does not follow international law. Iraq invasion may be of a good cause, but then the procedures used do not comply with international law standards.

There are cases that seem to be of good cause even without adhering to international law. For instance, if countries like Kenya, Sudan and South Africa among other neighbors of Rwanda intervened in 1994, probably millions of Tutsis would not have gone down the drain. It appears that overlooking the international law at sometimes may help to save a situation. Most probably, if the US did not deploy troops to Iraq, a replica of 9/11 would have happened by now. If Kenya, South Africa and Sudan among others intervened in 1994 Rwandan genocide, millions of Tutsis would be living today. It appears the laxity of implementation of international law before it is flouted contributes largely to its subsequent flouting. May be the US did not see any action against Iraq forthcoming so she moved to tame this insurgence before it got out of hand. Nevertheless, if a state becomes part of international community, then it has to adhere to the governing rules. If we do not uphold the very laws that we make, then it becomes useless to make them. There is no need to waste a lot of time and resources trying to make laws that will only exist in the books.

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Outcomes of Violating International Laws

As aforementioned, after America in collaboration with Britain invaded Iraq, violating international law prospects, no legal action was taken. The ICC and the ICJ are still watching. In 2006, due to mounting pressure from other countries, the ICC chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo gave all explanations regarding the war in Iraq. Ocampo indicated that, according to article thirteen contained in Rome Statute, he has to gather and analyze information to determine whether there is enough information to substantiate an investigation (The Hague para. 2). It appears that Moreno Ocampo is still gathering and analyzing reports to determine whether the international law was violated in Iraq, or may be those were mere allegations. It is saddening to watch as the body that is supposed to protect its subjects turn against them. Nothing has happened to America and Britain, and it appears that if any further violation of international law takes place, then no action will be taken.

No Country is above the Law

Despite all these violations of the international law, no country should be above the law. The UN Security Council has resolutions that all states should adhere and comply with, thereof. According to Charter of the United Nation chapter 14 article 92, the International Court of Justice is the principle judicial body of all member states of the United Nations (para. 6). This does not exempt the United States of America or Britain. This principle alone underpins the need of every member state to comply with this provision. Article 94 of the same chapter states that; all members should comply with the ruling of the ICJ regardless of the decision made. These provisions need to be followed. There is no need to come up with complex systems to implement this provision. Member states, including America, should show diplomacy and respect to sovereignty when dealing with foreign affairs.

International law applies to all people. There should not be partiality when dealing with individuals. We cannot pervert justice on basis of power and influence. There are basic principles that every country should follow in order to maintain and foster international law. For instance, there is the UN Security Council sanction concerning use of force. This approval sets the standards of using force so high that it almost eliminates use of force (Rachman para. 5). Secondly, the international law dictates the conduct of wars. This provision should not be flouted and countries like America, who feel to be above international law, should reconsider their actions.

Conclusion

International law is the law that governs the relationships between bodies that are subjects of this law. The presence of different communities or states, living together in a given area calls for the formation of international law that will protect all individuals. This law seeks to uphold justice for all people across the nations. There are several ways by which international law is implemented. This may be formally, informally, nationally or internationally among other dimensions of implementations. Involved parties may decide to sign treaties or enter into agreements depending on the intensity of the crisis (Mazrui 123). There are international bodies that are involved in implementing international law like the ICJ, the ICC or the United nations. The primary work of these bodies is to ensure that individuals get justice regardless of location. The international law, like any other law should pass judgment without partiality regardless of one’s status, power or influence.

Unfortunately, there are instances where international law has failed to ensure justice without favor. For instance, the ICC is supposed to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity or war crimes. To the dismay of many, this has not been the case. Most of the people, who have been tried and prosecuted in The Hague, are mainly from Africa. There are so many cases of crimes against humanity world allover, but the ICC does not seem to be concerned about them. For instance, presence of American troops in Iraq is illegal and it flouts provisions of the UN Security Council. Despite this flouting of the international law, no legal action has been taken against America and her adherents like Britain. This highlights incidences where states have chosen to against the rule of law to achieve personal gains.

The international law should be adhered to by every member state and no one is above this law including America. For justice to prevail there must be level grounds of administering the same. America and her likes should realize that, it is through respecting other people’s rights, that one’s rights can be respected. Fear and intimidation do not serve any justice, they only fuels adversity.

References

Geist, Michael. “Signing vs. ratifying.” 2007. Web.

Ginger, Fagan. “America’s Violations of International Law.” 2009. Web.

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Held, David. “The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed?” 2003. Web.

ICC. “ICC Prosecutor: Kenya Can Be an Example to the World.” 2009. Web.

Kelsen, Hans. “Principles of International Law.” 1953. Web.

Kojima, Chie. “Treaty Implementation in Modern International Law.” Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. 2008. Web.

Lopez, Karl. “Effective Implementation of International Law.” Law and politics. 2009. Web.

Mazrui, Ali. “Human Rights and the moving frontier of world culture,” in Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights. Unesco, Mayenne, France. 1986.

Mifsud-Bonnici, Aron. “The Aim of Public International Law.” 2009. Web.

Myers, Steven. “America’s Scorecard in Iraq.” The New York Times. 2009. Web.

Nathan, Manfred. “Empire Government: an Outline of the System Prevailing in the British Common Wealth of Nations.” 1928. Web.

Palmer, Alasdair. “Justice Doesn’t Always Follow International Law.” Daily Telegraph. 2008. Web.

Rachman, Gedion. “What Exactly Does International Law Mean?” 2009. Web.

Raustiala, Kal. “Does the Constitution Follow the Flag?” 2009. Web.

Shaw, Malcolm. “International Law.” 2008. Web.

Spark Notes. “The Korean War (1950-1953).” 2009. Web.

Stoyles, Jayne, and Broomhall, Bruce. “Canada Should Follow War-Crimes Trial With Others: No Time To Rest After The Sentencing Of Leader In Rwandan Genocide. The Gazette. 2009. Web.

The Hague. 2006. Web.

The International Law of Treaties. “The Sources Of International Law.” 2009. Web.

United Nations Charter. “Purposes and Principles.” Web.

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