EGIC conference mulls future of international law after Ukraine war
ROME -- There is a perception today that international law is useless, argued a prominent Italian legal scholar and professor of international law in a presentation at the event “International Law After the War in Ukraine” organized on Wednesday by the Rome-based Euro-Gulf Information Centre. But in the future new institutions likely will arise in the world alongside networks of regional cooperation, that may more rapidly respond to new challenges, the legal wizard argued.
The EGIC is a think tank that based in Rome and Sweden that is “an initiative aimed to build social, political, strategic, cultural and economic bridges between the people of Europe and the Arabian Gulf” and this event gathered a diversity of personalities in this effort.
The discussion sought to look at current legal issues related to the war in Ukraine after its invasion by Russia, but the debate was set on the historical stage with the long shadow of the Second World War and the wars that raged centuries prior. Out of this tragedy arose the United Nations, founded in 1945, and the acceptance of international law by states through conventions, treaties and standards in the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence among nations.
The legal scholar affirmed that even if the application of international law was today blocked, the failure to punish international transgressions shouldn’t mean laws don’t need to exist. Comparison was made to crimes committed within states, where the application of justice is often subject to human failure. International law, it was argued, places faith in the power of existing legal institutions to carry out justice.
It was affirmed that law should be separated from politics, but that hardly seems possible where the application of international law is linked to international relations and power plays in the pursuit of interests by individual states, themselves the subjects of international law. Questions are often raised as to the motivations behind the selection of nations to be investigated by UN Human Rights Council-mandated Investigated Bodies, for example.
The legal scholar argued that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the many other wars in Africa and the Middle East are not akin to what has happened in Ukraine, which had a more democratic system.
This arguably raised the question as to whether only democracies could be invaded by a more powerful state, whereas states perceived to have authoritarian systems may be threatened with force and even invaded by another state with the justification of a humanitarian intervention to end human rights violations. Such interventions are controversial in international law, where legal opinions have argued that the authorization of the Security Council would be necessary.
The issue of state sovereignty and democratic participation by citizens in the law-governed international order was also raised during the event. Citizens from Ireland, for example, were the only European Union member state called to vote in a public referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon that governs the European Union.
This was to the contrary in Italy, where citizens may be called to vote in a referendum on a great diversity of issues with the noted exception of a law ratifying an international treaty. Such are the differences in how international law may be understood.
The diverse audience, many who came from the greater Middle East where the consequences to the disruption of supply chains with the war in Ukraine is being acutely felt, raised the question as to the right of global populations to food within international law. Rights to live in a healthy environment were similarly raised.
The blockage of the U.N. Security Council after the war in Ukraine is evidence of an international system with so many legal provisions that it is unable to flexibly deal with a rapidly changing multipolar world, concluded the legal scholar.
What is likely in the future, it was posited, is that new institutions will arise in the world alongside networks of regional cooperation that will more rapidlyrespond to these and new challenges. What systems they may employ, their framework in the context of shared histories, cultures, economies and societies, and how they will interact with the larger world are open questions that the future will decide.
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