International law or the law of nations refers to laws that govern the conduct of independent nations in their relationships with one another. It differs from other legal systems in that it primarily concerns provinces rather than private citizens. In other words it is that body of law which is composed for its greater part of the principles and rules of conduct which States feel themselves bound to observe, and therefore, do commonly observe in their relations with each other and with international institutions or organizations, and certain foreign nationals.
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- The law of nations is founded upon reason and justice, and the rules of conduct governing individual relations between citizens or subjects of a civilized state are equally applicable as between enlightened nations. The considerations that international law is without a court for its enforcement and that obedience to its commands practically depends upon good faith instead of upon the mandate of a superior tribunal only give additional sanction to the law itself and brand any deliberate infraction of it not merely as a wrong but as a disgrace. A man of true honor protects the unwritten word which binds his conscience more scrupulously, if possible, than he does the bond a breach of which subjects him to legal liabilities, and the United States, in aiming to maintain itself as one of the most enlightened nations, would do its citizens gross injustice if it applied to its international relations any other than a high standard of honor and morality.
- Grover Cleveland, Message to Congress withdrawing a treaty for the annexation of Hawaii from consideration. (18 December 1893); A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897 (1896 - 1899) edited by James D. Richardson, Vol. IX, pp. 460-472.
- It was disclosed that the U.S. Army had prohibited the press, the Red Cross, and other outside observers from entering the heavily bombed areas for three days, while soldiers incinerated and buried the casualties. The press asked questions about how much evidence of criminal and other inappropriate behavior was destroyed, and about how many died because they were denied timely medical attention, but such questions were never answered... We shall never know many of the facts about the [U.S.] invasion [of Panama], nor shall we know the true extent of the massacre. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney claimed a death toll between five hundred and six hundred, but independent human rights groups estimated it at three thousand to five thousand, with another twenty-five thousand left homeless... Noriega was arrested, flown to Miami, and sentenced to forty years' imprisonment; at that time, he was the only person in the United States officially classified as a prisoner of war... The world was outraged by this breach of international law and by the needless destruction of a defenseless people at the hands of the most powerful military force on the planet, but few in the United States were aware of either the outrage or the crimes Washington had committed. Press coverage was very limited. A number of factors contributed to this, including government policy, White House phone calls to publishers and television executives, congress people who dared not object, lest the wimp factor become their problem, and journalists who thought the public needed heroes rather than objectivity.
- Orwell's 1984 explained that "the special function of certain Newspeak words … was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them." During the week after U.S. missiles hit sites in Sudan and Afghanistan, some Americans seemed uncomfortable. A vocal minority even voiced opposition. But approval was routine among those who had learned a few easy Orwellian lessons... At all times, Americans must be kept fully informed about who to hate and fear... When terrorists attack, they’re terrorizing. When we attack, we’re retaliating. When they respond to our retaliation with further attacks, they’re terrorizing again... No matter how many times they’ve lied in the past, U.S. officials are credible in the present. When they... [say] the bombed pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum was making ingredients for nerve gas, that should be good enough for us.... Might doesn’t make right — except in the real world, when it’s American might. Only someone of dubious political orientation would split hairs about international law.
- The establishment of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been considered illegal by the international community and by the majority of legal scholars.
- Marco Pertile in ""Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the OPT": A Missed Opportunity for the Development of International Humanitarian Law?". Italian Yearbook of International Law. (2005). ISBN 978-90-04-15027-0.
- On April 18, 2006, I had my first confirmed kill. This man was innocent. He was walking back to his house, and I shot him in front of his friend and his father. The first round didn't kill him, after I had hit him up here in his neck area. And afterwards he started screaming and looked right into my eyes. So I looked at my friend and I said, 'Well, I cant let that happen.' So I took another shot and took him out. He was then carried away by the rest of his family. We were all congratulated after we had our first kills, and that happened to have been mine. My company commander personally congratulated me, as he did everyone else in our company. This is the same individual who had stated that whoever gets their first kill by stabbing them to death will get a four-day pass when we return from Iraq... (Testimony given at the Winter Soldier Hearings sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War,
- The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on. It is for this reason that I believe NATO should be abolished and that steps be taken towards disarmament through non-violent action and civil resistance. The means of resistance are very important. Our message that armed groups, militarism and war do not solve our problems but aggravate them challenges us to use new ways and that is why we need to teach the science of peace at every level of society.
- The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on.
- What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery and wars of aggression? They are all “jus cogens.” That’s Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that under international law, no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a “jus cogens” prohibition. The United States has always prohibited torture — in our Constitution, laws, executive orders, judicial decisions and treaties. When we ratify a treaty, it becomes part of US law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture,” the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the US ratified, states unequivocally. Torture is considered a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, also ratified by the United States. Geneva classifies grave breaches as war crimes. The US War Crimes Act and 18 USC, sections 818 and 3231, punish torture, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment. And the Torture Statute criminalizes the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit torture outside the United States.
- Marjorie Cohn in State-Sanctioned Torture in the Age of Trump, by Marjorie Cohn, Truthout (23 January 2017)
- Predictably, without any proof whatsoever, and in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, the US, the UK and France criminally attacked a country, Syria that had not attacked them.
- These three countries are acting with the barbarism that their vast military arsenals makes not only possible, but tempting... (the scandalous contemporary record of the USA in the use of assassinations of foreign leaders, and their subjects would consume a vast library).
- Suffice it to mention the more than 23 assassination attempts against Cuban President, Fidel Castro, to which the CIA has admitted, since 1950 the targets of the USA’s assassination attempts have included the Congo’s leader, Patrice Lumumba, Indonesia’s President Sukarno, the democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, Chilean General Rene Schneider, Bolivian President Torres, murdered in Argentina, Chilean General Carlos Prats, to mention only a few of the targets of assassination by the “intelligence” agencies of the USA.
- The Prosecutor mandated to oversee the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the International Criminal Court (ICC) stated on Wednesday that her office is keeping “a close eye” on the planned demolition of a Palestinian village in the West Bank by Israeli authorities, warning that, according to international law, it could constitute a “war crime”...the village is one of dozens affected by an Israeli settlement reorganization plan... “It bears recalling, as a general matter,” said the ICC Prosecutor, “that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.”
- We are concerned about what the US and its closest allies are doing with respect to Venezuela, brazenly violating all imaginable norms of international law and actually openly pursuing the policy aimed at overthrowing the legitimate government in that Latin American country... Together with other responsible members of the international community, we will do everything to support President Maduro’s legitimate government in upholding the Venezuelan constitution and employing methods to resolve the crisis that are within the constitutional framework... We would like to figure out what the international community could do to prevent another blatant violation of international law and violent regime change... This is what I discussed yesterday with the Iranian foreign minister, who - just like us - wants to find an opportunity for external players to prove themselves useful to the Venezuelan people.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in US policy aimed at toppling Venezuela’s government, TASS' (29 January 2019)
- Your national representatives... want to invade and intervene in Venezuela – they say... in the name of democracy and freedom. But it’s not like that... is as false as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq... This complex multiform aggression is carried out with total impunity and in clear violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which expressly outlaws the threat or use of force, among other principles... for the sake of peace and the friendly relations between the Nations....
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Washington's threats to Venezuela's military violated the United Nations Charter, and are representative of direct interference in the state's internal affairs.
- Washington’s attack on Venezuela is in violation of established international law. [UN investigator Alfred-Maurice] Zayas reports that an atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure him into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from American-financed NGOs asking him not to proceed on his own, dictating to him the report he should write... As Washington’s sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes, Zayas asks what reparations are due to the victims of sanctions. He recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate Washington’s coercive measures that can cause death from malnutrition and lack of medicines and medical equipment.
- Years ago, when I investigated the particular set of crimes mentioned above that were carried out by U.S. military intelligence personnel in Vietnam, I found that only three of the soldiers involved were even punished. And by punished, I mean that the three received fines or reductions in rank. None served any prison time. One of the admitted torturers I spoke with was still unrepentant. He explained to me that, were he placed in the same situation again, he would do exactly the same things. And why wouldn’t he? You don’t find Americans in the dock at the International Criminal Court (ICC). But if the Trump administration has its way...the ICC’s judges and prosecutors might be the ones who find themselves charged and -- though it's a stretch of the imagination -- behind bars. And given what we know about the U.S. prison system, that might also mean finding themselves at risk of torture.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- The problem the Great Powers now faced (after world war II) was how to create a process that the world would consider something more than vengeance masquerading as righteousness, something more than “victors’ justice.” The solution was to demonstrate that their prosecutions had a basis in the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties -- in, that is, the already existing laws of war. In the process of designing those prosecutions, they consolidated and advanced the meaning and power of international law itself, a concept particularly needed in a postwar world of atomic weapons and a looming U.S.-Soviet conflict. Three-quarters of a century and many wars and weapon systems later, enforceable international law still remains humanity’s best hope for adjudicating past war crimes and preventing future ones -- but only if great nations like the United States do not declare themselves exceptions to the rule of law.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- On March 18th, Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines became the second country to leave the ICC, where it, like the U.S., is being investigated for possible crimes -- in its case, against its own people. As the Washington Post reports, the country is “under preliminary examination [by the ICC] for thousands of [domestic drug war] killings since Duterte rose to the presidency in 2016.”
In its menacing rejection of the court, the Trump administration is turning its back on the system of international law and justice the United States helped establish at Nuremberg. The rule of law must not hold only, as hotelier Leona Helmsley once said about taxes, for “the little people.” If Donald Trump had truly wanted to “make America great again,” he would have recognized that international law is not just for the little countries. The greater a world power, the more consequential is its submission to the rule of law. The attacks of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo on the ICC, however, simply represent a new spate of lawless actions from a lawless administration in an increasingly lawless era in Washington.
- TomDispatch: Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, Turning Our Backs on Nuremberg, (26 March 2019)
- Recently, hundreds of PBS stations around the United States were scheduled to broadcast a powerful new Frontline documentary: One Day in Gaza. But viewers tuning in found that it had been replaced... The documentary was to be aired on the one-year anniversary of events that took place on May 14, 2018, when tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Gaza gathered with the intention of deploying the tactics Gandhi had used in freeing India from British control... Palestinians months earlier had announced their plan for a mass, peaceful demonstration in which Gazans would march for an end to Israel’s crippling 12-year blockade and, especially, for their right to return to homes stolen by Israel... Palestinians’ right to return to their homes and ancestral land is well established in international law.
- Israel had responded by immediately deploying a hundred snipers. In the first seven weekly marches, Israeli forces killed about 50 of the marchers and injured over 7,000. During the 8th march on May 14, the day depicted in the film, Israeli forces killed 60 more and shot 1,000 – an average of one person every 30 seconds.
- The United States should have an equal and simultaneous support for both the legitimate security concerns of Israel, and the human rights, dignity and economic opportunities of the Palestinian people... I do not believe the settlements on the West Bank are legal. Also, I would rescind the president's affirmation of sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights. I understand the occupation of the Golan Heights, but only until there is a stable government in Syria with whom one can negotiate. According to international law, the occupation of a territory does not give the occupying country a right to annex it. Also, according to international law, the resources of the occupied territory are to be used for the good of those living there. I also do not support the blockade of Gaza.
- The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. She also asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case. Her request to the court, which exceeded the 30-page limit, was accompanied by a request to extend the page limit to 110 pages, citing “the unique and complex factual and legal circumstances in this situation.” ... According to Haaretz, the ruling means a decision on Bensouda pushing ahead with the case will be delayed by several months. International law expert Nick Kaufman wrote.. that the decision was a “slap in the face” of Bensouda. ...Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has said the court has no jurisdiction and accused Bensouda of being driven by anti-Semitism... she recently told The Times of Israel that accusing her of anti-Semitism was “particularly regrettable” and “without merit... I, along with my Office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity. We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favor,” she said
- The reason why the U.S. Government must be prosecuted for its war-crimes against Iraq is that they are so horrific and there are so many of them, and international law crumbles until they become prosecuted and severely punished for what they did. We therefore now have internationally a lawless world (or “World Order”) in which “Might makes right,” and in which there is really no effective international law, at all. This is merely gangster “law,” ruling on an international level... The seriousness of this international war crime is not as severe as those of the Nazis were, but nonetheless is comparable to it... On 15 March 2018, Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies headlined at Alternet, “The Staggering Death Toll in Iraq” and wrote that “our calculations, using the best information available, show a catastrophic estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion,” and linked to solid evidence, backing up their estimate.... On 6 February 2020, BusinessInsider bannered “US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone”, and linked to the academic analysis that supported this estimate. The U.S. regime’s invasive war, which the Bush gang perpetrated against Iraq, was also a crime against the American people (though Iraqis suffered far more from it than we did).
- Bush’s successors, Obama and Trump, failed to press for Bush’s trial on these vast crimes, even though the American people had ourselves become enormously victimized by them, though far less so than Iraqis were. Instead, Bush’s successors have become accessories after the fact, by this failure to press for prosecution of him and his henchmen regarding this grave matter.
The actual crime, of invading and militarily occupying a country which had posed no threat to the national security of the invader, was ignored, and the conclusion was that “the situation did not appear to meet the required threshold of the Statute” (which was only “Willful killing or inhuman treatment of civilians” and which ignored the real crime, which was “aggressive war” or “the crime of aggression” — the crime for which Nazis had been hanged at Nuremberg).
Furthermore, no charges whatsoever against the U.S. Government (the world’s most frequent and most heinous violator of international law) were considered. In other words: the International Criminal Court is subordinate to, instead of applicable to, the U.S. regime. Just like Adolf Hitler had repeatedly made clear that, to him, all nations except Germany were dispensable and only Germany wasn’t, Barack Obama repeatedly said that “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation”, which likewise means that every other nation is “dispensable.” The criminal International Criminal Court accepts this, and yet expects to be respected.
- The February meeting of NATO... defense ministers... revealed an antiquated, 75-year-old alliance that, despite its military failures in Afghanistan and Libya, is now turning its military madness toward two more formidable, nuclear-armed enemies: Russia and China... NATO seems oblivious to the changing dynamics of today's world, as if it were living on a different planet. Its one-sided Reflection Group report cites Russia's violation of international law in Crimea as a principal cause of deteriorating relations with the West, and insists that Russia must "return to full compliance with international law." But it ignores the U.S. and NATO's far more numerous violations of international law and leading role in the tensions fueling the renewed Cold War: Illegal invasions of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq... broken agreement over NATO expansion into Eastern Europe... U.S. withdrawals from important arms control treaties... More than 300,000 bombs and missiles dropped on other countries by the U.S. and its allies since 2001... U.S. proxy wars in Libya and Syria, which plunged both countries into chaos, revived Al Qaeda and spawned the Islamic State.. U.S. management of the 2014 coup in Ukraine, which led to economic collapse, Russian annexation of Crimea and civil war in Eastern Ukraine... The stark reality of the U.S. record as a serial aggressor whose offensive war machine dwarfs Russia's defense spending by 11 to 1 and China's by 2.8 to 1, even without counting other NATO countries' military spending.
- Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies, What Planet Is NATO Living On? It's No Longer Useful to This One Salon, (24 February 2021)
- The U.S. corporate media usually report on Israeli military assaults in occupied Palestine as if the United States is an innocent neutral party to the conflict. In fact, large majorities of Americans have told pollsters for decades that they want the United States to be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But U.S. media and politicians betray their own lack of neutrality by blaming Palestinians for nearly all the violence and framing flagrantly disproportionate, indiscriminate and therefore illegal Israeli attacks as a justifiable response to Palestinian actions.
The classic formulation from U.S. officials and commentators is that "Israel has the right to defend itself," never "Palestinians have the right to defend themselves," even as the Israelis massacre hundreds of Palestinian civilians, destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and seize ever more Palestinian land... US policy must be reversed to reflect international law and the shifting US opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Every Member of Congress must be pushed to sign the bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum insisting that US funds to Israel are not used "to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law."
- I urge the Israeli authorities to abide by the laws governing armed conflict, including the proportionate use of force. I call on them to exercise maximum restraint in the conduct of military operations. I likewise urge Hamas and other militant groups to stop the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from highly populated civilian neighbourhoods into civilian population centres in Israel, also in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Densely populated civilian areas must not be used for military purposes... I urge Israel to cease demolitions and evictions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. All settlement activities, including evictions and demolitions, are illegal under international law. A revitalized peace process is the only route to a just and lasting solution...
- Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General’s Remarks to the General Assembly Meeting on the Situation in the Middle East and Palestine, United Nations Secretary-General, Statements, (20 May 2021)
- Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe's The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 105-106.
- Writers on international law . . . cannot make the law … it must have received the assent of the nations who are to be bound by it. This assent may be express … or may be implied from established usage.
- Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet, C.J., The Queen v. Keyn; "The Franconia" (1876), 2 L. R. Ex. D. 202.
- International law is part of the common law.
- Pigott, B., Attorney General v. Sillem and others, " The Alexandra" (1864), 12 W. R. 258.
- International law, like the moral law, is part of the law of England, but only to the extent that the Courts will not help those that break it.
- Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Baronet, Attorney-General v. Sillem and others, "The Alexandra " (1864), 12 W. R. 258.
- In questions of international law we should not depart from any settled decisions, nor lay down any doctrine inconsistent with them.
- William Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley, L.C., Udny v. Udny (1869), L. R. 1 Sc. & Div. Ap. Ca. 454.
- A great part of the law of nations stands upon the usage and practice of nations. It is introduced, indeed, by general principles: but it travels with those general principles only to a certain extent: and, if it stops there, you are not at liberty to go further, and to say, that mere general speculations would bear you out in a further progress— thus, for instance, on mere general principles it is lawful to destroy your enemy; and mere general principles make no great difference as to the manner by which this is to be effected; but the conventional law of mankind, which is evidenced in their practice, does make a distinction, and allows some, and prohibits other, modes of destruction.
- Sir W. Scott, "The Flad Oyen" (1799), 1 C. Rob. 140.
- The voluntary law of nations derives its force from the presumed consent of nations, the conventional from their express consent; the consuetudinary from their tacit consent.
- Wolfus, "Jus Gentium" (Prolegomena), § 25.