Wednesday, 27 January 2010

International Law

In light of the revelations to the Iraq Enquiry that former law officers at the Foreign Office advised the government that an invasion was illegal, how would Interactive Democracy influence International Law?

Indeed, what is International Law and how does it come about?

International Law can be separated into supranational, public and private categories. It is the public aspect, the law between nations, that is relevant here. There has been international law since the Middle Ages, particularly amongst Muslim states, but the key administration in this case is the UN, which is also responsible for non-binding standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And this is the rub of it: International Law may fail to protect the individual from abuse by their state; and other countries that seek to protect individuals from abuse by their states may end up doing more harm than good. In addition to this mismatch of ideas, the UN has no independent power, except through agreement with its benefactors, to provide aid or military power (witness the genocide in Rwanda). In this way it is very different to national systems with independent legislators, judiciaries and police forces.

Is International Law democratic?

The United Nations involves many undemocratic countries whose representatives contribute to the formation of its resolutions. In this way the foreign policy of a democratic country, if it abides by International Law, can be defined by undemocratic states!

I think that the UN is a valuable organisation (jaw, jaw, not war, war) but I'd like to see our politicians and diplomats influenced more directly by the electorate in how they deal with other countries, both in terms of direct action and UN negotiations. ID provides a system that could decide if we go to war or not with a far higher degree of national debate and responsibility than can ever be attained by applying International Law as defined by the UN, or by leaving it to the politicians to have the final say.

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