The rule of law threatens to become the “rule of lawlessness”.

TANZANIA – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that the rule of law is at serious risk of becoming the “rule of lawlessness,” pointing to a host of unlawful acts around the world, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and coups in Africa’s Sahel to to North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program and Afghanistan’s unprecedented attacks on the rights of women and girls.

The UN chief also cited as an example the collapse of the rule of law in Myanmar since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, leading to “a cycle of violence, repression and gross human rights abuses” and the weak rule of law in place Haiti, plagued by widespread rights violations, rising crime rates, corruption and transnational crime.

“From the smallest village to the global stage, the rule of law is everything between peace and stability and a brutal struggle for power and resources,” Guterres told the UN Security Council.

However, the Secretary-General lamented that civilians in all regions of the world are suffering the effects of conflict, killings, rising poverty and hunger, while countries continue to “violate international law with impunity”, including through the illegal use of force and the development of nuclear weapons .

Guterres first cited the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 as an example of violations of the rule of law.

The Ukraine conflict “created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children and accelerated the global food and energy crisis,” said the Secretary-General. And regarding Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine in late September, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014, he said that any annexation resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the UN Charter and the international law.

The UN chief then condemned unlawful killings and extremist acts against Palestinians and Israelis in 2022, saying Israel’s settlement expansion – which the UN has repeatedly denounced as violating international law – “is fueling anger and despair.”

Guterres said he was “very concerned” by the unilateral initiatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new conservative government in recent days, which is implementing an ultra-nationalist agenda that could jeopardize a two-state solution.

“The rule of law is at the heart of a just and comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution in accordance with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he stressed.

More broadly, the Secretary-General said the rule of law is the bedrock of the United Nations and key to its efforts to find peaceful solutions to these conflicts and other crises.

He called on all 193 UN member states to uphold “the vision and values” of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, abide by international law and resolve disputes peacefully.

The Council meeting on strengthening the rule of law, chaired by Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, whose country decided on the issue, sparked clashes between Russia and Western supporters of the Kiev government, particularly over the war in Ukraine. Almost 80 countries spoke.

“Today we are ravaged by the war of aggression in Europe and conflicts, violence, terrorism and geopolitical tensions ranging from Africa to the Middle East and Latin America to the Asia-Pacific region,” Hayashi said.

“We, the member states, should unite on the rule of law and work together to address Charter violations such as aggression” and “the violent seizure of territory from a member state,” he said, unequivocally referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Council “an ironclad obligation” for the US and a fundamental principle of the United Nations that “no person, prime minister or president, state or country, is above the law.”

Despite “unprecedented” progress towards peace and prosperity since the UN was founded on the rubble of World War II, she said some countries have failed in their commitment to the principles of the UN Charter — “the most blatant example” is Russia — or is Allowing rule breakers to move on without accountability.”

Thomas-Greenfield called for those who do not respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and fundamental freedoms to be held accountable, citing Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Belarus, Cuba, Sudan and the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the West of using the council meeting “to sell the narrative of Russia’s apparent responsibility for threats to world peace and security while ignoring its own egregious violations.”

He said that prior to February 24, “international law was repeatedly flouted,” and claimed the roots of the current situation “lie in Washington’s amazing desire to play a role as global policeman.”

Nebenzia pointed to numerous cases including NATO bombings in the former Yugoslavia and Libya, the US-led invasion of Iraq “under false pretenses” of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, the “war on terror” in Afghanistan – and he blamed them for the West for what Moscow is calling the current “military special operation.”

First Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova said: “It is very black and white” that Russia is responsible for the crimes in Ukraine and should be held accountable.”

She also warned the Security Council: “The law of violence that Russia is barbarically practicing today over Ukraine sends a very clear signal to everyone in this area: no one is safe anymore.”

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/01/13/un-chief-rule-of-law-risks-becoming-rule-of-lawlessness/ The rule of law threatens to become the “rule of lawlessness”.

Sarah Y. Kim

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