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VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW BY U.S.A.

A CASE STUDY IN HYPOCRISY



SAAHIL DAMA
986
SEMESTER V
B.SC., LL.B. (HONS.)

SYNOPSIS

I. INTRODUCTION
USAs criticism
1
of Russias annexation of Crimea as being against international law comes
as rather outspoken for a nation that is notorious for a plethora of violations of international
law itself. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 without a UN sanction, assaults and drone strikes in
Middle-Eastern nations such as Yemen and Pakistan,
2
imprisoning and torturing suspected
terrorists
3
and the invasion of Nicaragua
4
are all cases that exemplify the claim that the nation
that prides in itself as being the staunchest supporter of international law is also the one that
has the most number of violations to its name. This list, however, isnt close to being
exhaustive.

In the light of these incidents, the paper seeks to evaluate and analysis the nature and extent
of these and other breaches that have been committed by USA. The paper will strive to
examine each of these violations independently and attempt to conclude whether the same
could be morally justifiable, even if it was illegal. As per Nicholar Wheeler, Nations have a
stark choice: they can choose multilateralism, the rule of law and respect for international
law, treaties and institutions; or, they can choose a unilateralist approach in which states
pursue their own interests, irrespective of the will of the world community.
5



1
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-warns-russia-against-annexing-
crimea/2014/03/16/2b4a7006-ad45-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html
2
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/16/undr-m16.html
3
http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/05/17617277-un-says-us-violating-international-law-calls-for-
closure-of-guantanamo?lite
4
Morrison, Fred L. (January 1987). "Legal Issues in The Nicaragua Opinion."
5
Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society (2000).
On a concluding note, the paper also questions the absence of sanctions and a need for the
same in the light of the ever-increasing violations by other nations, such as Russia, Israel and
North Korea.

II. HYPOTHESIS
2.1. The Invasion of Iraq
According to George W. Bush, who was the President of the United States at the time of the
war (2003), the Battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on 11 September
2001, and still goes on.
6
However, what was supposed to be a war on terror soon morphed
into a war on all of Iraq which lasted for over a decade and is reported to have cost the lives
of 7,000 9,000 Iraqi civilians.
7


The then UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was quick to label USAs activities in Iraq as
illegal.
8
One of the largest reasons for why this move was deemed to be in contravention of
international law was because the intervention was conducted without explicit authorization
from the United Nations. Leaked classified United States documents on the war in Iraq
pointed to serious breaches of international human rights law, including summary executions
of a large number of civilians, as well as torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
9


Simultaneously, it has been contested that the words serious consequences in Resolution
1441
10
includes the possibility of military force.
11
However, the legitimacy of whether this
act constituted self-defence begets questioning.


6
George W Bush in Karen DeYoung, Bush Proclaims Victory in Iraq: Work on Terror is Ongoing, President
Says, The Washington Post (Washington DC, US), 2 May 2003.
7
http://www.iraqbodycount.org
8
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3661134.stm
9
https://www.globalpolicy.org/political-issues-in-iraq/international-law-aspects-of-the-iraq-war-and-
occupation/49563.html?itemid=826
10
Resolution 1441, SC Res 1441, UN SCOR, 57th sess, 4644th mtg, UN Doc S/RES/1441 (2002).
11
Darin Bartram et al, It Is Perfectly Legal for the US-Led Coalition to Enforce Resolution 1441 (2003)
<http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=242> at 1 October 2003.
2.2. The Curious Case of Nicaragua
In 1984, an ambassador of the Republic of Nicaragua instituted an action against the United
States with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging numerous violations of
international treaties and laws by the United States.
12
While the primary allegation was that
of the United States supporting anti-government rebellion groups in Nicaragua,
13
others were
also with regards to mining of Nicaraguan harbours, attacking oil installations and exerting
economic pressure on Nicaragua.

The US sought support from the international legal theory of collective self-defence
14
an
idea that was cited by Hugo Grotius as one of the three just causes of war.
15
It contested that
Nicaraguas government was channelling arms through Nicaraguan harbours in an attempt to
overthrow the government of El Salvador. Thus, under the theory of collective self-defence,
this act by the government of Nicaragua permitted the United States to undertake necessary
actions to support El Salvador.

This paper will seek to examine the veracity of these claims in the view of Article 51 of the
UN Charter and the holding of the ICJ in the same matter.

2.3. Torture
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, to which the United States is a signatory,
bans torture in all forms. The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture
and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, American Convention on
Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The countrys stand
against torture was displayed when President Bush condemned Saddam Hussein for inflicting
torture on prisoners in Iraq.
16


Yet there are plenitudes of claims alleging the United States of participating in some of the
most horrific acts of torture. A 600-page independent report once concluded it is

12
Nicar v. U.S., 1986 I.C.J. 70.
13
One prominent violation was that the United States breached its obligations under customary international law
not to intervene in the internal affairs of another state when it lent military support to the Nicaraguan contras
14
Article 51, Charter of the United Nations, 1945.
15
Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace
16
http://www.hrw.org/news/2003/03/11/legal-prohibition-against-torture
indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture after the 9/11 attacks.
The countrys government also had a lawsuit initiated against it for indulging in the practice
of extraordinary rendition i.e. sending suspects to secret jail facilities in countries where
torture is legal.
17
There have been personal claims of victims who were tortured in the
infamous Guantanamo Bay.
18


In the light of these accusations, the paper will evaluate the moral justifications of torture and
highlight ways in which such violations can be prevented in the future.

III. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
3.1. Which provisions of international law statutes, treaties and customs did each of these
actions of the United States violate?
3.2. Whether these violations have a moral justification?
3.3. Whether violations need sanctions to prevent them from happening in the future?

IV. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Emphasis will be laid in comparing the violations against various international statutes,
treaties and customs. Reports and newspaper articles will be heavily relied upon to
substantiate the various claims of violation. Comparisons to other ICJ judgments will also be
made which are relevant to the case.

V. SCOPE
Since it is not possible to examine all violations of international law committed by the United
States, this project will limited its scope to only those violations that are blatant and well-
documented. The project will analyse the various contours of these violations in depth and
also highlight the defence that the United States has offered to show why its actions were not
in breach of the law.

Further, the project would also research the need of sanctions in international law considering
the plethora of violations being committed by other nations, such as Russia and China.

17
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/16/supreme-court-torture-lawsuit_n_862420.html
18
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philippe-sands/torture-in-guantanamo-moh_b_1196711.html;
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/08/lakhdar-boumediene-i-was-_n_212419.html

VI. CHAPTERIZATION
Broadly, the project will be divided into four chapters introduction, cases of violation, need
for sanctions and conclusion. The first part will lay an overview of the project and inspect
into the various situations where the United States has prided itself in being the flag-bearer of
international law. The cases of violation will cover major violations of international law by
the United States and contextualize them in the background of the circumstances in which
they occurred. Need for sanctions will question status quo where violations are rampant
owing a lack of deterrence amongst nations. This section will also pose questions with
regards to sanctions (such a Russias recent removal from the G8) only being imposed by the
United States-United Kingdom-France bloc and never being issued against the United States.
The conclusion will present solutions to the problem and decide whether, morally, these acts
can be justified.

VII. BIBLIOGRAPHY
Morrison, Fred L. (January 1987). "Legal Issues in The Nicaragua Opinion
Huffington Post
BBC News
Human Rights Watch
Nicar v. U.S.
Charter of the United Nations
Darin Bartram et al, It Is Perfectly Legal for the US-Led Coalition to Enforce Resolution
1441 (2003) http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=242
Hugo Grotius, The Law of War and Peace
Iraq Body Count
Global Policy
Wall Street Journal
Nicholas Wheeler, Saving Strangers: Humanitarian Intervention in International Society
(2000).