People are social creatures and will form social organizations of various sizes to address concerns in society. Each social structures requires a mechanism for accountability. For example in a family, misbehavior by children must be addressed by their parents. If this cannot be done then the next higher social structure in the hierarchy must get involved, so if the child commits a crime involving a non-family member the local police or local justice system might get involved for the community. This accountability mechanism exists in many cases like a supervisor for a work group or a CEO overseeing managers. If a business commits a crime then the appropriate justice system must get involved based on the scope of the crime whether local, state, or federal.
At a national level the voters are supposed to keep their representatives in line or those politicians get voted out of office. If the election process is corrupt (e.g., special interests buy their representatives) or nonexistent (e.g., a dictatorship) then the leadership of this country cannot be held accountable for their misdeeds. Unfortunately humanity does not have a higher social structure for accountability beyond an elected national government.
After the terrible destruction of WWII, The United Nations entity was created in a rough but noble attempt to fill this void of no accountability in the international community. This is a loose association of nations so any attempt at enforcing accountability is difficult. Other alliances can interfere.
The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization. The UN Charter articulated a commitment to uphold human rights of citizens and outlined a broad set of principles relating to achieving ‘higher standards of living’, addressing ‘economic, social, health, and related problems,’ and ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.’ As a charter, it is a constituent treaty, and all members are bound by its articles. Furthermore, Article 103 of the Charter states that obligations to the United Nations prevail over all other treaty obligations.
There are several other notable international agreements seeking accountability among nations, some originating from the UN. In a number of UN documents is the reference to the 'international community.' Here is a reference to UN treaties.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court. The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force. The Rome Statute is a multilateral treaty which serves as the ICC's foundational and governing document. States which become party to the Rome Statute, for example by ratifying it, become member states of the ICC. Currently, there are 123 states which are party to the Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The Chemical Weapons Convention checks for the use of chemical weapons. Member nations agree to abide by its rules. The OPCW began in 1997 and has had limited success in its noble cause.
For example ISIS is a terrorist organization in Syria, funded by other countries, with the goal of regime change in Syria. ISIS (not a nation) was either provided or developed its own chemical weapons. ISIS appears to be the likely culprit for any chemical attacks in Syria or in Iraq (where Al Qaeda became ISIS).
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The Non-Proliferation Treaty is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The NPT began in 1970 and has had rather limited success in its noble cause. Not all nations signed on, with Israel a notable exception. Those countries that had nuclear weapons as of 01/01/1967 never completely disarmed. There are still many nuclear weapons in the world, with even more being developed.
United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention
In 2004, on the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, the Secretary-General launched an Action Plan to Prevent Genocide.
One of the tasks of the Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect is to promote a greater understanding of the causes and dynamics of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, of the measures that could be taken to prevent them, and of the responsibility of States and the international community in this regard.
It is widely recognized Israel is conducting genocide of the Palestinians but the UN has not stopped it.
UN Security Council
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new Members to the United Nations. And, together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.
The Security Council is composed of 15 Members:
five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country's interests are affected. Both Members and non-members of the United Nations, if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, may be invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council's discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.
Note: The UNSC permanent membership is tilted in favor of NATO (3 of 5) with US, UK, and France also members of NATO. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; a political and military alliance of countries from Europe and North America. The United Nations Charter should prevail over all other treaty obligations.
The UNSC is usually required for action by the UN. General Assembly Resolutions are generally non-binding on member states, but carry considerable political weight, and are legally binding towards the operations of the General Assembly. The General Assembly can also refer an issue to the Security Council to put in place a binding resolution.
All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377:
"Resolves that if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security."
Resolution 377 implies the General Assembly could take action against a UNSC permanent member guilty of war crimes. I have noted America is apparently guilty of several wars of aggression. See this site's page War Crimes.
Perhaps there is an available mechanism for accountability here for UNSC members, in Resolution 377. However as America is at the heart of a global financial and military empire that has bases in many of the General Assembly nations this will be difficult.
The United Nations charter and subsequent treaties and resolutions appear to provide the framework for the prosecution of war crimes. This has not happened.
America is widely known to have tortured prisoners at separate facilities. America has used white phosphorus in Syria and Iraq.
Israel has used white phosphorus in Gaza.
Saudi Arabia has used white phosphorus in Yemen.
It appears humanity still lacks an effective mechanism for international accountability. The UN was created for that function but fails in practice.
The rest is an addition on 04/23/2018:
Here are two examples of the inefficiency of the international criminal justice system
Julian Assange uses the web site wikileaks for whistle blowers to reveal to the public misdeeds (like via emails, videos, or documents) by government officials that could not be revealed any other way. Without this information the public cannot hold their government accountable. This can be a critical service to the international community. Unfortunately America wants to get Assange to America for prosecution and probably torture to dissuade other whistle blowers. Chelsea Manning was revealed to be a leaker and so she was mistreated for years (many in solitary confinement) before being released.
NATO rejected the order by the UN Committee on Arbitrary Detention to immediately release Assange from his arbitrary detention (here is the submission (in pdf) to the working group on Arbitrary Detention).
The international community has provided little help (other than Ecuador) to Assange as America has too much political power in the world. I cannot know if international pressure helped Manning's release.
Slobodan Milosevic was indicted for war crimes in 1999, based on unverified claims of war crimes from NATO. NATO supported the KLA in this apparent insurrection in NATO's attempt to overthrow the Serbian government. NATO unjustly vilified him, leading directly to the bombing of Serbia by NATO in 1999 (itself a war crime).
Milosevic died while in prison in 2006 while defending against his accusations. In 2016 he was exonerated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of the charges of war crimes as the evidence revealed he had been seeking a peaceful resolution. The NATO support for KLA resulted in much bloodshed in the region. The widespread bullying of him by the West was based on lies.
I find it so ironic (considering Milosevic) that in 2018 NATO is accusing Assad of using chemical weapons against Syrians, with no evidence for this charge, even though NATO has been supporting ISIS in an attempt to overthrow Assad in Syria (like KLA in Serbia); ISIS has chemical weapons while Syria already got rid of its CW stockpile. NATO even bombed Syria based on the unverified war crime charges (like Serbia in 1999); this bombing is a war crime.
On the international stage truth does not always prevail over power.
The UN framework relies on good intentions and cooperation by the international community. Neither exists in an effective extent.
created - April 22, 2018
last change - 04/23/2018
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