International Law: A blessing or curse?

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International Law: A blessing or curse?

International law has emerged from an effort to deal with conflict among states, since rules provide order and help to mitigate destructive conflict. It is developed in a number of ways. First, law often comes out of international agreements and treaties between states. Treaties are the most important source of international law and also serve as the origins of IGOs, which in turn are important sources of law. Second, customary practices that have evolved over time often become codified in law. Third, general legal principles that are common to a significant number of states can become part of the corpus of international law. Finally, law arises from the community of international legal scholars. Particularly on more technical issues, their expertise is often accepted by political leaders.

Seventy-five years ago, when WW2 had ended after the US intervened at the last minute (not to beat Fascism, which had already been defeated, but to stop Soviet troops from advancing any further), the United Nations was created, which took on an essential mission: “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. Ever since this Organization was founded, International Law and respect for it has been a key element of its work.

The United Nations Charter is considered an international treaty and as such, it is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. This document codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.

In order to uphold world peace, the United Nations completed its structure with a framework of courts, the International Court of Justice being the main one.

As a binding document, the UN Charter clearly stipulates two fundamental principles to uphold world peace: sovereign equality of all of its Members and the prohibition of the use of force in international relations. Both principles have been systematically violated by the US in different parts of the world, without the International Court of Justice taking a single measure to stop it from continuing to violate International Law.

With regard to Cuba, the US has violated the legal responsibility it has in its relations with other States; including, human rights violations and the use of force, and it takes on functions which only the UN Security Council has the authority to take, such as issuing sanctions.

The principle of sovereignty expressed this supreme and exclusive authority of states over their territory, and it confirmed the equal status of all states. It developed its current meaning through the writings of legal and political philosophers between the sixteenth and eighteenth century. Sovereignty continues to be the foundational pillar of the international legal order. For many decades this foundational pillar of international law read: sovereign states are the masters of international law with no world government above them. This meant that the validity of any legal rule depended on the will of states or, conversely, that states are only bound by authoritative legal precepts (norms) that they have consented to.

Imposing and upholding an economic, commercial and financial blockade against the Cuban people to cause shortages, hunger and disease to force them to rebel against their government, is a blatant and systematic human rights violation of an entire population, which has endured for nearly 60 years. Under Donald Trump’s administration, this embargo has been reinforced in such a way that it now persecutes any Cuban transaction made anywhere in the world, with the objective of sanctioning anyone who does business with Cuba so they can cut off the flow of foreign currency into the country.

They have even persecuted shipping companies transporting oil to Cuba and insurance companies that cover these ships, with the objective of cutting the country’s fuel supply. This persecution has also affected liquefied petroleum gas imports which is the main fuel Cuban people use to cook their food. What is this if it isn’t a human rights violation against an entire sovereign people?

The international community has condemned the blockade against Cuba at the UN General Assembly for 28 consecutive years, and far from taking measures to eliminate it and normalize relations, which is what two neighbors and UN Member States should do, the US has instead tightened down on the blockade and added additional measures, such as banning US citizens from traveling to Cuba, cruise ships from entering Cuba, US airlines flying to nearly every Cuban airport, except for Havana. They have also issued sanctions against companies who have tourism-related business interests in Cuba. In short, these are all violations of the UN Charter and International Law.

Going down this route, we’ll soon end up with WW3, which was the whole point of creating the UN in the first place so this wouldn’t happen; but this would be the last World War, because there won’t be anything left to fight for after. So, I ask you: Can a country be allowed to violate every law because it’s the strongest? What is the UN and International Law any good for?

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