Against the Law

In the 1940s, the United States, with the strong support of Great Britain, was the prime mover in the creation of a new world order based on international law. In a few short years their efforts brought into being the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Genocide Convention, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, among other landmark laws and institutions designed to set limits on the use of force, promote the protection of human rights, and establish a framework for international trade and global economic integration.

Six decades later, as Philippe Sands explains in Lawless World,* the US, aided in some cases by a compliant British government, seems bent on undermining the legal order it did so much to foster. This isn’t entirely the doing of the current US government—the turn away from international law starts with Reagan—but the second Bush administration has certainly brought a whole new level of energy and commitment to the project, particularly since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Thus the US in recent years has unsigned the Kyoto Protocol and backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; tried (unsuccessfully) to kill off the International Criminal Court; disregarded human rights law in its treatment of detainees in the “war on terror”; and launched an illegal “preventive war” in Iraq.

[ from Lawless World, an interview with Philippe Sands ]


~ by Jay Taber on May 2, 2007.

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