International law on trial

24 januari 2024 | John Laughland

The Hague was the centre of the world in the second week of January,  when hearings were held at the International Court of Justice on South Africa’s application to the Court requesting provisional measures against Israel, which Pretoria accuses of committing genocide in Gaza.

Ever since the Peace Palace, built by the Scottish-American steel baron, Andrew Carnegie, in true Scottish baronial style, was opened in August 1913, the Courts whose seat has been in that building have been the idol of globalist fantasies about ending war through law.  This dream survived the colossal butchery of the First and Second World Wars without so much as a scratch and led, in 1945, to the creation of the current Court in what Carnegie called ‘the Temple of Peace’ – the peace of which he was the ‘apostle’.

For the first half century of its existence, the jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice was sovereignty-based and anti-interventionist.  As late as 1986, it rejected US claims that it had the right to wage a proxy war in Nicaragua in the name of human rights.  Unfortunately, because it is the supreme court of the United Nations, it has followed the globalist drift of that organisation which has distanced itself ever further from its own Charter, whose Article 2 proclaims the “sovereign equality” of all member states.  As we know now from over 30 years of New World Order, all states are equal but some states are more equal than others.

Thus, the ICJ was obliged to accept the ruling in 2001 that the Bosnian Serbs had committed genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995, because the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, an ultra vires creation of the UN Security Council, had ruled on the matter.  The ICJ thereby accepted the new globalist doctrine that supranational courts have the right to adjudicate what happens inside states, whereas the UN Charter suggests that they do not.

Leaving aside the fact that the ICJ’s ruling on Bosnia in 2007 was essentially a defeat for Bosnia, which had alleged that the Serbs had been committing genocide since 1992 – a charge the ICJ rejected, and of which it moreover said that Belgrade played no substantial role in the Bosnian civil war – the Israel case is slightly different because Gaza is Palestinian territory according to UN law.  Israel has therefore invaded it and this is an international conflict.  The ICJ has every right to adjudicate it, even under pre-1990 international law.

The more important point is that, since 2001, and especially since 2005 when the UN “World Summit” (170 heads of state) agreed that the UN’s Chapter 7 powers could be used if genocide was being perpetrated, genocide has become the jewel in the crown of Western-backed international law, both de iure and de facto.  This is the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” (“R2P”).  NATO attacked Libya in 2011, with UN Security Council approval, because civilians were allegedly being massacred by the regime.  NATO said it wanted to avoid another Srebrenica and the UN swallowed this lie and validated it by Resolution 1975.  This means that a formal political document, the World Summit of 2005, a Security Council resolution and the 1948 genocide convention – which is on the “prevention and punishment of genocide” - all say that the UN and other states can and should intervene if genocide is on the horizon or is being committed.

This puts the ICJ and international law generally – which, in my view, and in the view of Lord Salisbury, speaking in the British House of Lords in 1887, does not exist in the sense in which the term “law” is usually understood – on the horns of a fatal dilemma: fatal, that is, for itself.

If the ICJ does approve provisional measures against Israel, Israel will ignore them.  Benjamin Netanyahu has explicitly said so: “The Hague will not stop Israel from protecting itself from Hamas.”  In this case, the rules-based international system which the West has not only supported but built – R2P was a Western initiative, the Srebrenica ruling and the memory of Srebrenica are energetically cultivated to prevent the Bosnian Serbs from joining Serbia – will lie in tatters.  The West will have built up a concept to justify its own interventions, in Bosnia, in Libya and in Ukraine, only to find it not only morally turned against itself but also useless.  The jewel in the crown will turn out to be paste.

If the ICJ does not rule against Israel, then its own credibility will lie in tatters.  First, states will take such a ruling a hypocritical Western bias and the Court as a puppet.  Second, other states will regard it as a green light for similar military operations, as brutal as Israel’s.  Third, the chances of the collective West winning its case against Russia over Ukraine, where charges of genocide have also been brought, supported by 32 Western states, will be zero and the West’s legal Wunderwaffe against Russia will turn out to be a dud.

Fourth, and most importantly for international law, the ICJ’s own jurisprudence will be inconsistent.  While the ICJ put the bar high enough in Bosnia to reject the claim that the Serbs had been committing genocide since 1992, it accepted the claim that they had committed it at Srebrenica in a few days in the blazing heat of July 1995.  They obtained this ruling by reducing the definition of the “protected group” from “the Bosnian Muslims” (in general), Bosnia’s original claim, to “the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica”, and also on the basis of highly dubious evidence.  The genocidal plan allegedly emerged on the spur of the moment and the first defendant to be convicted of it was not even in Srebrenica at the time.  

By contrast, the prima facie evidence against Israel, whose leaders, from the president of Israel to the head of the IDF, have made genocidal statements, is far higher than against the Bosnian Serbs - and prima facie evidence is precisely what would justify provisional measures.  So if the Court does not rule in favour of such measures, the whole edifice of international law will come crashing down – just as in the first scenario.

As Tactitus said, inter arma silent leges.


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