Recent Developments in International Law You Must Know- [2017-2018]
Military Air Strike on Syria-
At the start of April 2017 the United States in its action against the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons launched an air strike on a Syrian government airbase which was apparently being used by President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out chemical attacks.
The air strike on the Syrian airbasewas the first direct military action undertaken by the United States against Syria during the six-year civil war in the country. According to a statement made by the General Command of the Syrian Armed Forces, six people were killed in the air strike.
According to a statement made by US officials the initial reports indicate that the attack has seriously damaged the Syrian aircraft and the infrastructure and support equipment at Shayrat Airfield, which reduced the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.
Many international institutions and commentators have justified the air strike as retaliation against the use of chemical weapons and discouraging their future use.
Nuclear armament ban treaty-
Seven decades after the dropping of atom bombs on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA during the Second World War, it is estimated that the present strength of nuclear weapons in the world today is about 15,000.
In the midst of growing tensions on nuclear and missile testing in North Korea, the UN General Assembly in its response to the growing strength of nuclear weapons had framed the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Treaty on 7th July 2017.
According to US Secretary General Antonio Guterres the threat of a nuclear attack is at its top after the end of the cold war. He considers this treaty to be an important step towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. This new treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons has been signed by 120 Nation states till now.
According to the conditions laid in the treaty, the non-nuclear nations agreed not to seek nuclear weapons in exchange for a compromise between the five original nuclear powers, namely the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, to switch to peaceful nuclear technology for nuclear disarmament.
In early June 2017 a group of Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates issued statements for ending their ties with Qatar. Sanctions were imposed against Qatari citizens and Qatari organizations.
The action lead to the halting of all air, land and sea traffic. According to a statement made by the group of Arab Nations, the group justified its decision of cutting ties with Qatar because of its support for terrorist organizations; although no justifiable evidence was presented.
In a response made by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry towards the decision of the four Arab Nations, it was stated that “there is no legitimate reasoning” for actions taken by the four countries to sever the diplomatic relations. Further, this decision constituted a “violation of Qatar’s National sovereignty” and the Qatar government took the position of working in a manner that the sanctions imposed would not affect the citizens and residents of Qatar.
Bărbulescu v. Romania, Application No. 61496/08-
This decade is seeing a large number of concerns being raised about the Right to Privacy in the present technological advancements. Surveillance and workplace privacy are an issue which has been making a lot of people wary of the use of technology.
The European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber (Court having 17 judges)got the chance of putting things right in this case by reviewing the stand taken by the Chamber (Court having 7 judges).
The Court ruled on the legality of an employer’s action of monitoring an employee’s communication. It was held that even when it has been expressly told to the employees that work email or chat cannot be used for personal messages, the employees have a Right to Privacy.
It does not mean that the employer cannot monitor the communication; an employer can monitor the communication, provided he maintains the proportionality and the guidelines of the Grand Chamber.
Lungawe v. Vedanta (Parent Company to be liable for the acts of pollution committed by its Subsidiary Company)-
In this case, the UK Court of Appeal gave a very progressive judgment by holding a UK company guilty of having caused environmental pollution in the country of Zambia. Vedanta is a UK based company which carries out its operations in Zambia through a subsidiary. They had caused significant harm to the waterways in Zambia.
The court held that a fair trial could not be possible in Zambia and as such the company can be held responsible in UK irrespective of the fact that whether the local people’s claim could succeed on merits.
General Radko Mladić conviction-
During the year 1992-1996, the State of Yugoslav was embroiled in a major civil war. General Radko Mladic who was the Commander of the Bosinan Serb forces indulged in ethnic cleansing and genocide.
He was the most wanted fugitive for having committed gross human rights violations during the civil war. He was apprehended in the year 2011, and after that The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was created under the aegis of the United Nations to try the commander for his acts.
He was found guilty of having committed acts of genocide by trying to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and sentenced to life in prison
Historic Meet: President Donald Trump meets Kim Jong Un-
At a historic summit in Singapore held just a few months after exchanging insults and threatening each other with nuclear weapons, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the US President Donald Trump shook hands with each other.
It was the first meeting between a current US president and a North Korean leader. According to a statement by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, the two countries have “good relations”, as the North Korean leader has shown his acceptance of the complete denuclearization of his nuclear weapons.
The summit also concluded with a proclamation that the two Korean nations, which are technically at war for nearly 70 years, will sign a peace treaty. In return, US President had also agreed to “provide safety assurance” to North Korea.
Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Leak
The ongoing scam between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica has sparked a public outcry over the misuse of user data acquired via Facebook about what could potentially be the biggest setback to democracy in retrospect.
Whether directly or indirectly, data from Facebook users was disclosed to Cambridge Analytica and is also held responsible for setting up the 2016 US presidential election campaign, which resulted in Donald Trump’s victory.
The company was accused of brainwashing the individuals and altering the elections through social media advertising.
Palestine’s Knock on the Court
U.S. President Donald Trump has embarked on the path of the campaign to get the United States out of Iran’s nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump has reportedly called it a “one-sided agreement that should have never been made.” Trump has taken action against the advice of many of his advisers and the closest allies in the United States. Defense Secretary James Mattis was one of the firm’s officers who argued that, despite all the weaknesses of the agreement, it was better to stay in it.
Cuba Elections: An End of the Castro Era
The National Assembly of Cuba elected Miguel Díaz-Canel as its new President thus putting out Raul Castro from the regime after two five year terms. This has happened for the first time in Cuba after 59 years that someone from outside the Castro family has been elected as Cuba’s President.
Though this election has led to an end to the Castro era but in practicality the decisive game changer of Cuba will be Col Alejandro Castro the predecessor of Castro family who is the head of domestic and security intelligence.
In the year 2018, the national and international courts went on a spree to help conserve the environment and safeguard environmental and intergenerational rights. The International Court of Justice in the case of Costa Rica v. Nicaragua awarded compensation for environmental destruction for the first time and, shortly thereafter, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a significant advisory opinion on the right to a healthy environment, in the milieu of the protection of the Greater Caribbean.
At the national level, the Colombian Supreme Court in its landmark judgment granted legal status to the Amazon region and the Netherlands Court of Appeal, upheld a decision of the lower Court of first instance which had ordered the State to reduce and cut down its Greenhouse gas emissions.
A former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok (a deadly military-grade chemical weapon) in Britain. The British intelligence services, in collaboration with other intelligence services and experts have suspected two Russian individuals behind this.
British PM Theresa May described the attack as an illegal use of force by Russia on the British territory. A number of consequences stem from this qualification under international law, including an argument that, the United Kingdom and Russia were involved in an armed conflict.
Palestine’s Knock on the Court
With a political solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the Palestinians have resorted to an international adjudication to try to protect their rights and gain a diplomatic advantage. Palestine in April, 2018 lodged an interstate complaint against Israel at the United Nations Committee against Racial Discrimination.
The Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the situation of Palestine in the International Criminal Court. The Palestine then, in September, filed a lawsuit against the United States in the International Court of Justice.
On the basis of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, it was stated that the United States has breached its international obligations by moving their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Court’s first step while deciding on the matter would be to decide first that whether it has jurisdiction or not.
The dispute over Western Sahara and the European Union
The dispute between Morocco and Western Sahara is another territorial conflict that has received considerably less attention. After having a conflict of more than forty years and the fact that Morocco controls about two-thirds of its southern neighbor’s territory, there is no resolution in sight and this has become a bone of contention for the EU’s affairs with Morocco.
The European Court of Justice in February, 2018 ruled that the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco could not be applied to waters adjacent to Western Sahara, confirming its power to verify the conformity of international agreements concluded by the European Union with international law.
It appears that, for the Court, the principle of self-determination prevails over political and commercial considerations.
Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing
Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist from Saudi Arabia and was one of the biggest critic of the regime in Saudi. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances from the Saudi Embassy in Turkey after he went there for some work.
Since the incident took place on Turkish Soil but inside the Saudi Embassy, the Turkish authorities were having a hard time investigating the disappearance.
The Saudi Embassy at first denied having any role in the disappearance but after international pressure mounted on them, they claimed to have arrested the rouge intelligence officers of the Saudi Government and it was revealed that Khashoggi was killed by them.
The Saudi Government has denied any role behind the killing but it is has landed the Saudi regime under close scrutiny.