While the world's peoples look to the Covenants and Conventions of international law for some hope of protection against the excesses of power and corrupt governments the machinery of the human rights courts risks being pre-empted by Euro-American military agendas. Currently international law is not used to make peace possible or to protect those who are suffering. It is being applied for propaganda purposes by its NATO caretakers, to criminalize and punish rather than stop the slaughter and terminal damage to the environment which wars bring. Justice, once the hope of our world courts, increasingly becomes the domain of local resistance.
On the Misuse of International Law as Psy-war
by J.B. Gerald
Consider Myanmar. In 2023 there is relatively little interest in or propaganda about the charges of genocide against it: the criminality of its military junta presents additional risks for the arms markets of NATO countries; the attempt at securing a safe place for Western investment foundered when Nobelist Aung San Suu Kyi was unable to counter a nationalist attempt to expunge the Muslim Rohingya population. Under notable brutality of the military junta's takeover the bells of freedom were cracked and international law has offered little protection. Most investment enters through Singapore. Junta atrocities continue. Yet the widely recognized genocide against the Muslim Rohingya is thoroughly established, and extends to persecution of other minorities, the Karen, Kachin, Shan peoples and Myanmar's Christian community, small in number (8.2% largely protestant) and far from allies.
Between 300 and 500 houses in the village of Chan Thar were destroyed Dec, 14, 2022. The town's historic Assumption Catholic church was burned down January 15, 2023. The raids by the military junta on what was known as an historic Catholic village were part of continuing campaign which also destroyed two other Catholic villages in the Sagaing region. This area of "Bayingi" villages in the Mandalay archdiocese has roots in Portuguese settlers as far back as the fifteen hundreds. It's a Buddhist region and two Buddhist villages were burned as well in the junta's attempts to counter the local resistance made up of many factions. The resistance may be the only evidence that international law as we know it still exists in Myanmar.
Responsibility for a recent massacre of at least 22 unarmed civilians and monks at the Buddhist monastery in Shan State is denied by military officials. The bodies show signs of torture; the military is noted for its brutality and murder of civilians. Resistance spokespeople say they had no forces in the area which hosts government military outposts. Under pressure from resistance forces on the ground the military moves toward bombing village targets from the air. Since the military coup in 2021 the junta has murdered nearly 3000 and arrested nearly 18,000, including former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, sentenced to a 33 year prison term. Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar tells The Guardian that the junta is supplied with arms by Russia and China.
Background: close to a million Rohingya have been forced out of the country. Close to 600,000 remain under persecution. After another devastating fire at the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh March 5th (considered arson) the UN World Food Program rations were reduced. The UN considers 17.6 million Burmese in need of humanitarian assistance. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is empowered to investigate conditions of Rohingya in Bangladesh along the border with Myanmar. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is hearing the case brought by Gambia against Myanmar for genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine State. The UN's Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar is able to take information of war crimes. A genocide warning remains.. There are attempts to apply international law under domestic laws of universal jurisdiction in various countries. These include a new case by "Fortify Rights," an NGO in Thailand which is bringing charges under German law against junta generals and others for crimes of atrocity, and there are currently complaints in the courts of Argentina and Turkey alleging Myanmar's genocide. (1).
In Ukraine, instead of seeking peace or cease fire, or protection of civilians in the war zone, or as an after thought - bringing charges against Ukraine's militaries for shelling the civilians of Donetsk since 2014, the UN's human rights defenses are serving hawkish elements of the NATO agenda. Defining the enemy's criminality prepares an army or population to consider itself justified when about to commit a crime against its opponent. You'll remember Russia's objections to neo-Nazis prior to its entering Ukraine. As military casualties now reach a confirmed hundreds of thousands on both sides, "The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine," has released its report. The report alleges war crimes by Russia. Its reporting of war crimes by Ukraine is minimal. The Commission is under a mandate of the U.N. Human Rights Council. This mandate, couched in the language of Russian aggression against Ukraine, is: To investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses. Russia has claimed that its actions in Donbas and other areas of Ukraine hosting predominantly ethnic Russians, were/are to protect its ethnic group and its survival. The allegation of Russian "aggression" is properly a court decision, to be adjudicated rather than assigned by one side of two at war. Without that balance the U.N. Human Rights Council and its Commission are working within a partisan context. The Independent Commission concludes that Russia has committed aggression, as its mandate directs it to.
Two of the three Commission members are citizens of NATO countries: Erik Mřse of Norway, a former fellow at England's University of Essex, longtime Minister of Justice and Police, then a judge at UN and European human rights courts, then the Supreme Court of Norway, retired; then Jasminka Džumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina) with a career in human rights law, serving the UN, and the Human Rights Ombudsperson for her country. The third member is Pablo de Greiff of Colombia, who went to Yale, then Northwestern, taught at SUNY, Princeton, currently NYU Law School in New York, and has worked for / advised numerous human rights and U.N. mechanisms. This is not an impartial Commission, which should instead include African, Asian, Indigenous representatives, all who are noticeably absent. The search for an objective consensus would indicate a desire for peaceful resolution.
All information on war crimes in this area may be specifically propagated with an eye to war crimes trials and engineered as false flag operations. Media "news" in this area is highly politicized. International mechanisms of law are so deeply targeted, politically and economically pressured, selectively applied or ignored, that the U.N.'s ability to form international courts capable of objective application of law, covenants and conventions, is in question. (2)
While national leaders are rarely heroes, to confuse their personal flaws with their countries' policies, is simply a tool of propaganda. Crimes against humanitarian law are added to the vilification of Russian leaders, as though in preparation for another war. One remembers the attempts to charge Slobodan Miloševic with genocide (found innocent after his suspicious death in an ICC prison) and NATO's dismemberment of Yugoslavia and bombing of its infrastructure; one remembers the lies about weapons of mass destruction and ridicule of Saddam Hussein as Iraq was 'bombed into the stone age'; one remembers the destruction of Muammar Gaddafi and Libya. Psychological warfare mechanisms criminalizing the selected enemy, precede U.S. contemporary military actions and policies of acquisition.
With global headline news on March 17th the International Criminal Court announced arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Minister for Children's Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, for transferring children from Ukraine to Russia. Russia has openly moved children from areas in Ukraine under attack by Ukraine's military since 2014, to what it considers the safety of the Russian homeland, a policy contested by Ukraine and NATO and which leaves Russia vulnerable to charges of violating the Genocide Convention ("Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group"). Those who ignore Russia's attempt to save the children and simply seek to beat and punish the Russians have interpreted Russia's attempt to protect children as a crime (see Jan. 2). To note a Yale University / State Department February report, 6000 children are held in 43 camps within Russia; Ukraine claims the number to be over 16,000 children (NYTimes).
The arrest warrants were announced by Judge Piotr Hofmanski, an able Polish jurist now president of the ICC with the acknowledgement that the Court itself has no way to enforce its warrants, and that Russia doesn't subscribe to the ICC's jurisdiction but nevertheless. Poland is deeply involved in the military defense of Ukraine. The ICC Chief Prosecutor, Karim Ahmad Khan, responsible for the warrants is a NATO jurist, trained at King's College and Oxford in England, experienced in upholding international law by courts. Britain as well is deeply committed to the defense of Ukraine.
A difficulty of the Court's decision in this case is that the warrants and jurists represent one of two sides in a conflict, moving both sides closer to war.
Another difficulty is that misuse of legal mechanisms set up to protect the world's people from atrocities lessens the people's protections.
Amidst the rejoicing of the Ukraine and NATO governments at news of the ICC warrants, a note on Maria Lvova-Belova. She was previously sanctioned by Canada's Trudeau government which has threatened to turn her into a "global pariah" for removing children from Ukraine's war torn regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. As I understand, at 38, she is the birth mother of five with eighteen adopted children, and is married to an Orthodox priest. A former guitar teacher for children this current Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights (neither Canada, the U.S., nor the U.K. has one) adopted a child last November in Mariupol Ukraine, whose mother is said to have died from cancer. Maria Lvova-Belova says: "It’s great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country, that we don’t leave them in war zones, that we take them out, that we create good conditions for them, that we surround them with caring people." (3)
1..Partial sources: "More than two years on, impact of Myanmar military coup ‘devastating’," March 16, 2023, UN News; "Myanmar: Junta reduces historic Catholic village to ashes," Dec. 19, 2022, The Persecution of Christians; "Myanmar: Junta torches century-old Catholic church," Jan. 20, 2023, The Persecution of Christians; "Myanmar’s military junta intensifies persecution of Christians," Feb. 6, 2023, The Persecution of Christians; "Myanmar monastery attack kills 22 as conflicting accounts emerge of alleged massacre," Hannah Ritchie, Kocha Olarn, Heather Chen, Angus Watson,March 15, 2023, CNN; "Myanmar is a failing state, led by a junta fueled by Russian arms, says UN rights envoy," Rebecca Ratcliffe, March 15, 2023, The Guardian; "New universal jurisdiction case filed in Germany for crimes committed in Myanmar before and after the coup: On complementarity, effectiveness, and new hopes for old crimes," Andrea Maria Pelliconi, Francesca Sironi De Gregorio, March 7, 2023, EJIL: Talk!.
2..Partial sources: "Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine," United Nations Human Rights Council, current Mar. 16, 2023, [access:< https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/iicihr-ukraine/index >]' "War crimes, indiscriminate attacks on infrastructure, systematic and widespread torture show disregard for civilians, says UN Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine," Press Release, March 16, 2023, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.; "Report of the Independent International Commission of ,"Inquiry on Ukraine*," Advance Unedited Version, 15 March 2023, Original:English, A/HRC/52/62 , Human Rights Council; "Human Rights Expert Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine," current March 16. 2023, United Nations Human Rights Council.
3..Partial sources: "ICC issues Putin arrest warrant on Ukraine war crime allegations," Al Jazeera Staff, Mar. 17, 2023, Al Jazeera; "International Court to Open War Crimes Cases Against Russia, Officials Say," Marlise Simons, March 13, 2023, The New York Times; "Russia scoffs but Putin could stand trial for alleged war crimes, ICC chief prosecutor says," Caitlin Hu, March 17. 2023, CNN.
"On the Misuse of International Law as Psy-war"
by John Bart Gerald
First posted: nightslantern.ca, March 18, 2023
john bart gerald and julie maas, montreal
posted march 18, 2023
minor edits august 3, 2023