The first victim

Publish date 15-10-2022

by Edoardo Greppi

The terrible war in Ukraine has raised serious and dramatic questions on issues such as the use of force, the maintenance of peace, the role of the UN.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the States established the United Nations with the Charter of San Francisco, declaring themselves "determined to save future generations from the scourge of war, which twice in the course of this generation has brought unspeakable afflictions to humanity".

In 1928 there was an attempt to "ban the war", with the Briand-Kellogg Pact, a multilateral treaty that still echoes in art. 11 of our Constitution ("Italy repudiates war as an instrument of offense to the freedom of other peoples and as a means of resolving international disputes; it allows, on equal terms with other States, the limitations of sovereignty necessary for an order that ensures peace and justice among nations; promotes and favors international organizations aimed at this purpose "). The pact, however, had not stopped the aggressive policy of Nazi-Fascism, and the world had slipped into a catastrophe that resulted in over 50 million deaths.
The UN was therefore focused on a general ban on the use of force "against the territorial integrity or political independence of states". This was a truly historic step, since international law did not prohibit war. Indeed, it was considered an indispensable prerogative of sovereign states. In all jurisdictions, the government had a "war" ministry, alongside those of the interior, foreign affairs, education and so on.

With the new international organization, the ban on the use of force was accompanied by the establishment of a "collective security system", centered on a political body - the Security Council - endowed with the power to decide, in situations of threats to peace, violations of the peace and acts of aggression, a use of "legitimate" force against states that do not respect the prohibition. The Council is made up of 15 states, 5 of which (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) hold a permanent seat, with the right of veto. This provision has often resulted in the decision-making paralysis of the Council, which is unable to prevent States from making unilateral choices in contrast with the obligations they have freely assumed.

States - especially the most powerful - are inclined to take action outside the system introduced with the UN Charter. The war against Ukraine represents a conflict of a kind that the international community hoped to have left behind in the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: a war of territorial conquest, unleashed by one state (Russia) against another state. sovereign (Ukraine). What makes the violation of the Charter even more serious is the fact that the aggressor State is a permanent member of the Security Council, whose position of primacy (including the right of veto) is based on the fact that it is one of the most powerful holders. and, therefore, of greater responsibility in the conduct of international relations.

In recent weeks, voices have also been raised calling for UN intervention. But since the State responsible for the violation that is to be brought to an end is a permanent member of the Council, it is obviously not in a position to act.
Alternatively, on 2 March the General Assembly (a plenary body in which all 193 states sit on an equal footing, with the right to one vote) adopted a resolution calling for the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops.
141 states voted in favor, while Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia and Syria voted against, and 35 states abstained. The problem is that the resolutions of the Assembly have no binding effect, they are mere "recommendations".
On March 16, the International Court of Justice (the main judicial body of the UN) ordered "interim measures", asking Russia to immediately suspend hostilities.

Therefore, faced with the impossibility of action by the Security Council (whose decision-making power is and remains blocked by Russia), two UN bodies have called for the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces and the suspension of hostilities. Russian President Putin, whose dictatorial power is not limited by internal institutional counterweights, continues to ignore these strong calls for compliance with the rules that protect the territorial integrity and political independence of states.
The word, therefore, still remains in the arms, in a conflict in which one State is the author of an aggression and another which reacts in self-defense (a right recognized by the UN Charter as "natural", in the face of an attack armed). The UN watches helplessly, and the world looks with anguish at this terrible tragedy, and calls for peace.

Edoardo Greppi
NP June / July 2022

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