If Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon has his way, former Bush Administration officials Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld will soon be standing trial in Spain for war crimes related torture of Guantanomo Bay detainees.
If Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories, has his way, Israeli generals such as Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other Israeli political and military leaders, will soon be brought before the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges for the actions of the IDF in Gaza in January, 2009.
The effects of these indictments are to render it next to impossible for many of these leaders to travel overseas or to step foot on foreign soil. This was clearly demonstrated when former U.S Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was forced to leave France in January, 2007 when a French human rights group sought to charge him with war crimes in Iraq.
These claims draw their inspiration from the unparalleled respect rendered to international human rights law which gives almost any judge in any country, the jurisdiction to order the indictment of individuals who have violated what she or he believes be a breach of the law.
The rebuttal to the spurious claims mentioned above have been dealt with ably by Feith and Ashkenazi in their own editorials while being absolutely rejected by many international jurists.
What remains, however, is the troubling intrusion of this relatively new and amorphous body of law into domestic legal systems and the radical assault on the sovereignty of nations.
As the 65th anniversary of the Dumbarton Oaks conference grows near(October,1944) it might pay, then, to recall how wildly out of control the global governance movement has grown since its inception.
Dumbarton Oaks, the Washington D.C. conference where Franklin Delano Roosevelt convened a meeting of the Western allies to kick start the United Nations, remains a monument of reverence for global governance enthusiasts. After all, it was the first time that all the major nation states of the world ( including the United States itself which had elected not to join the earlier League of Nations) agreed to establish a supranational body that would adjudicate international disputes and establish international bodies to oversee matters of global concern.
The idea itself was not new.
It was first mooted in Thomas More’s Utopia in the 16th century and brandished with equal enthusiasm by the polymath and futurist H.G. Wells in the 20th. Wells foresaw a centralized world government which would cover criminal law, prisons, registration of births and deaths, and the right to direct people to work in whatever part of the world it determined best. Everyone would have identity documents bearing their thumb-print; the official language would be English and primary alleigence would be to a world government. ” It is the system of nationalist individualism and uncoordinated enterprise,” he stated in The New World Order(1940),” that is the world’s disease, and it is the whole system that has to go. It has to be reconditioned down to its foundations or replaced. It cannot hope to “muddle through” amiably, wastefully and dangerously, a second time.”
Curiously enough it is “nationalist individualism,” – the very concept of the nation state and its right to regulate its own affairs and enforce its own laws, which is widely under assault today.
These attacks are being led by unelected and undemocratic supranational organizations such as the United Nations, radical activist human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and activist judges such as Baltazar Garzon. For the global governance enthusiasts, the very idea of a nation state is anathema and they are taking full advantage of the opportunities to enforce laws that many democracies have unknowingly embraced through treaties within their own legal systems.
An example of this is the Geneva Convention. The Convention, promulgated in the Hague in 1953, was ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1954 became part of American law, a law that the United States justice system is obliged to enforce if violations are proven. It is under Article 3 that the matter of Guantanomo Bay detainees has been referred to the International Criminal Court,seeking the indictment of members of the Bush Administration as war criminals.
That article proscribes ” outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment” of captured belligerents.
The Convention allows for domestic courts to take action where it finds possible violations but says nothing about supranational bodies adjudicating such matters. The great innovation of international human rights law is its claim that where a domestic justice system has remained silent, another jurisdiction has both the right and duty to bring indictments that would effectuate justice.
This notion has no basis in customary international law and is proven by the fact that such a recently established international judicial body as the International Criminal Court is restricted in its ability to hear cases and has not until now, though founded in 1998, actually delivered a full ruling.
What is happening, of course, is that politics – and namely radical politics, which is anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Semitic, is being given an effective weapon to subvert the actions of democratic nations who might be at war or might be fighting for their own survival. What is certain is that global governance is insidiously worming its way into our legal systems and into the very fabric of our political dialogue.
We should not pretend that this movement will end with mere attacks on the activities of the Bush Administration or the Israeli military.
What if, as Feith argues, a European judge doesn’t like like the legal analyses prepared by U.S. officials on border security with Mexico? Would European judges feel similarly empowered to make determinations that contend that the United States is taking positions contrary to international law? Is Israel to refrain from defending itself from merciless rocket fire on its citizenry because a human rights activist in Malmo believes its methods to be unethical? Under these circumstances the very exigencies of defense are taken out of the hands of the governments charged with defending their citizens and placed in the hands of outside observers.
Across the whole spectrum of human affairs, from climate change to national security, from health issues to parent-child relations, global governance advocates are similarly seeking to intrude their way into our lives, making use of loopholes in international treaties to impose their own values on our society. An example can even be found in business. A number of NGOs, disappointed that transnational businesses are not taking the time to address practical human rights standards, are promoting a system of human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) that can be implemented on a piecemeal basis within targeted industries. Because they require company officials to “identify, understand and manage corporate impacts in the field of human rights,” these standards are regarded as having the potential to have a serious influence on the way companies do (or do not do) business and therefore a possible impediment to the flow of international commerce.
Well then, somewhere H.G. Wells must be smiling. At the height of the London Blitz, when the future of Western civilization itself was in doubt, he felt perfectly at ease to write:
“There must be no protection for leaders and organizations from the most searching criticism, on the plea that our country is or may be at war. Or on any pretense. The war is incidental; the need for revolutionary reconstruction is fundamental.”
If the global governance advocates have their way, revolutionary reconstruction may coming to our homes, our schools and our political systems sooner than we, or even they, ever anticipated.