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THE UNITED NATIONS: RESTATEMENT OF PURPOSE

By: Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai

Published September 30th, 2010

On October1, 1960, Nigeria became a sovereign, independent state and a member of the United Nations Organization. It legally acquired the status of a subject of international law.

Long before 1960, Nigeria had existed as a group of nation-state entities. The Kingdom of Benin, the Oyo Kingdom, Kanem Bornu, the Sokoto Caliphate, Songhai, were sovereign entities, which existed on the same footing of equality like some German Princedoms, Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein, Andorra etc.

I disagree with some Western International lawyers, who argue that international law was unknown to Africans until their independence in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s

Let me remind such scholars that the Kingdom of Benin established diplomatic relations with Portugal in 1492. The Kanem-Bornu Empire exchange gifts with the Ottoman Sultan of Istanbul in the 12th century. Borno established diplomatic relations with Libya and trained diplomatists in foreign affairs.

As a result our lazy attitude to learning, we readily accept Euro-America definitions, theories and assertions and internalize these as eternal truths.


United Nations:

The UN seems to have lost its grip as the regulator of international relations. African states play marginal roles in the UN business as a result of diminished sovereign status, weak economic strength and poor leadership.

 Anyone knowledgeable in the field of International Law should be wondering whether the United Nations today is an international community governed by international Law or by geo-politics.

The community of Nations has long established and has been guided by international legal rules from which no derogation is permissible.

From the Secretary-Generalships of Dag Hammarskjold to Dr Kurt Waldheim, International Law put states under the effective regime of International Law.

In the last fourteen years, however, it would seem that the Secretaries-Generals from Africa and Asia have been put under tremendous pressures to succumb to the geo-politics of powerful states and their adversaries. As a result, the progressive development of international law and relations has suffered inexorably.

In the last three years, the podium of the UN Assembly is mounted by Presidents, whose utterances do not assist in maintaining international peace and security but their speeches extend the horizon for of antiquated rivalries in the pursuit of geo-political interests.

The just convened UN General Assembly on Poverty did not resolve the international division of labour, whereby African states supply raw materials at controlled prices, while Euro-American states sell their manufacture goods at the prices they dictate. Under this unequal division of international economic relations, poverty cannot be eradicated. Is that clear?


THE purpose of the United Nations:

The Charter of the United Nations Organization and various Declarations, Conventions, Covenants, Treaties and Protocols, explicitly   define the purpose of the United Nations Organization

The UN is to maintain international peace and security, apply universally accepted principles of international law to regulate the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural affairs of member-states and in some cases, corporate bodies that have international legal status. The UN operates through many of its agencies to smoothen relations between member-states.

It has an International Court of Justice and  a  weak International Criminal Court. When this Court acquires the objectivity and fearlessness required of every court, it will try some leaders, who have committed crimes against humanity in various parts of the world.

The United Nations evolved principles of jus cogens, which all states must obey, but are being flouted by powerful states. This weakens the authority of the United Nations.

The peoples of the United Nations need friendly relations and cooperation among states and so should put pressure on their governments to forge amicable relations among peoples, rather than let hate-mongering diatribes, which lead to war and wastage of resources and human lives, prevail.

The principle that  States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat of use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other  manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations had been violated ,in the past forty years with impunity. Any further violation of this principle of jus cogens could be very dangerous.

UN members’ states must enjoy equal rights, especially the inalienable right to self determination.

International law  promotes the judicial equality of all states and the rights inherent in full sovereignty. The above principles are “inter-related and each principle should be construed in context of other principles.”

International Law insists that every state has the right to choose its political, economic and social order provided that a democratic system will be put in place. The legal system condemns aggression, the forcible occupation of states and its people, the destruction of cities, temples, churches, mosques and hospitals.

The United Nations Security Council must prevent acts of aggression and other acts, which may lead to the commission by states of internationally wrongful acts. State officials are now prone to prosecution for committing crimes against humanity  and  corrupt practices.

 Every State has duties to promote the good health, security and well-being of their citizens as well as adopt peaceful measures to foster international peace and security.

The most contentious issue in contemporary international law is the Aid to Gaza dispute. The United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea was concluded in Geneva in 1958 and in 1960. It laid strong foundations for effective regulation of maritime movements of ships.

In May 2010, nine activists were killed in the process of delivering aid to the people of Gaza. This incident yields itself to scrupulous international legal analysis by an objective observer. There were lapses on both sides.

Ocean space is divided into the open sea, territorial waters, contiguous zone and the continental shelf. Very often, international economic interests play an important role in maritime disputes.

In the Aid Dispute, geo-political issues were at play.

The international legal issues in dispute are: What is the legal status of Israeli blockade? For a blockade to be legal, it must be aimed at self-defence. It must have been approved by the UN Security Council. It must be effective. It must not be prolonged. It must not hinder humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of those people under blockade.

A major issue is whether the use of force against those, who tried to affront the blockade, was minimal or excessive. Where the incident took place is important. Was it in the open sea or in territorial waters? It is also necessary to investigate whether the flotilla was acting in utmost good faith or was voluntarism at work? Was provocation pre-determined?

In international maritime law, passage along the open sea or territorial sea of any state must be innocent. Innocent passage means that the passage must not be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state. Such a passage must con form with the Conventions on the Law of the Sea and other rules of International Law.

 According to Article 25 of the Law of the Sea, a call at port must not jeopardize the security of the coastal state. It is difficult to apply this principle if the flotilla was in the open sea.

This episode in issue is complicated because both the flotilla organizers and the Israelis have their explanations, which suit their viewpoints. No-one can offer opinion that can be accepted by both sides.

In international law, a state has the right of self-defence. This right must be exercised with restraint. In this case, the United Nations should have quickly intervened by ascertaining that the flotilla did not carry any arms.

This information should have been conveyed to the Government of Israel. This action would have caused the Government of Israel to use very minimum force, if this became necessary.

After HAMAS won the last elections, they should have been allowed to exercise their right to govern. It would have become obvious whether they would have behaved like a government or like a liberation movement.

Throwing missiles in Israel may never resolve the conflict but will serve to win sympathy for Israel and push Israel to adopt stratagems of self help.

The UN-IRAN relations are a cause for concern. The UN speech by the President of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinajab dwelt on historical facts about US foreign policies, he does not agree with. He also insisted that Iran will continue with its nuclear programme.

The US insists that Iran must stop its nuclear programme and has put in place far-reaching sanctions to prevent Iran from going ahead with its nuclear research, as it is feared that Iran could develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to insist that its programme is for peaceful use.

This creates a problem for those states, which fear that Iran could attack them. With the benefit of hindsight no leader can pretend that he does not know about the fate of victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the insanity in the destruction of human beings through the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Any leader, who wants to commit suicide, has my permission, but to succumb to the   devil’s machinations to exterminate man on earth using contentious leaders to achieve this diabolical plan, is undesirable.

Yonatan Shapira and other Jews are leading another flotilla to Gaza and Israel is threatening physical intervention and this may open another conflict situation in the Middle East.

The performance of Mr. Banki Moon has not been very efficient and informed. A top UN diplomat resigned in protest recently. Banki Moon’s handicap has been traced to powerful influences and non-application of international law rules.

 

Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai is the President of the proposed Afemai University in Fugar, Edo state; Nigeria He is a Writer and Academic.




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