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Russia’s war is a crime, but all sides face legal questions | Russo-Ukrainian War

The United Nations General Assembly has condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a violation of the United Nations Charter, which only allows interstate use of force in self-defence or as authorized by the Security Council.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also established serious violation of international humanitarian law in Russia’s conduct of war. In short, “jus contra bellum” – the legal term for the prohibition of one state’s use of force against another state – and international rules to limit the effects of armed conflict have both been banned. Russia clearly violated.

So what was Russia’s reason for its invasion?

Are from NATO expansion and the right of collective self-defence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republics and Luhansk People’s Republics against accusations of humiliation and attacks on ethnic Russians, the Kremlin has presented a series of arguments to defend its position. about the war.

This is one of a growing number of diplomatic positions adopted by states that their adversaries see as a premise. No wonder Russia has quoted the pretext that the United States used invasion of Iraq in 2003 – possession of non-existent weapons of mass destruction – to criticize Washington. Separately, the Group of Seven (G7) has accused China of using US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan as a pretext for provocative military activities near the self-governing island.

If “excuse” is considered a synonym for “justification”, then international law is clear: The presence of an adversarial military alliance on Russia’s borders is not an attack. Armed workers can justify self-defense by force under the right conditions. . Likewise, Ukraine’s breakaway regions do not meet state criteria for Russia to assert its right to participate in any collective self-defence. Humanitarian intervention by force to protect civilians without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council remains illegal. That’s according to Russia’s own assessment of the NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999.

However, the fact that these are not legal justifications for the use of force does not mean that they do not have legal implications. On the contrary, they point to the need to take a closer look at allegations of violations of other branches of international law that have not received the same attention as humanitarian law and international humanitarian law.

For example, there is debate about whether oral promises by officials of NATO countries in the early 1990s not to expand the alliance eastward represent legally binding obligations that whether it has been violated or not. Allegations of violations of human rights law against the Russian minority in Ukraine have also been made.

Likewise, the US invasion of Iraq with false claims does not change the fact that Iraq’s record of compliance with disarmament obligations is also very poor. Similarly, for countries adopting the one-China policy, visits by foreign officials to Taiwan may violate the legal norm of non-interference in Beijing’s internal affairs.

Although they do not justify the use of force, dismissing these arguments as “preconditions” will ultimately shut down other branches of international human rights law, disarmament, and international agreements. Diplomatic agreements set the stage for the use of force.

Such an approach betrays a vision that prioritizes facts over the tendencies that lead to them. We risk allowing legal issues to build up until the outbreak of war, when the enormity of the conflict forces us to seek justifications for international humanitarian law and contravention of the law. emergency protection. Until then, there are other challenges to relying solely on these principles of international law.

When leading powers get involved – as is the case with Ukraine and in Iraq – a potential Security Council stalemate undermines the ability to enforce the law. Once a war begins, it becomes even more difficult to fight for independence and to obey the law properly.

Challenges, even with the best of intentions, in complying with international humanitarian law during a heated war can be seen in recent succession. Amnesty International’s Criticism of Ukraine’s Behavior in the current conflict.

It is therefore paramount to prevent war – itself an obligation under human rights law. As the war in Ukraine shows us, the tragic result of ignoring the obligation to prevent war is the utmost hostility between the warring parties, resistance to any negotiated peaceful solution. unforeseeable and catastrophic escalation may occur.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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