Are There Double Standards in International Justice?

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By: M. Akbar Kurtubi Amraj (A Lecturer at UNPAM)

Recent accusations of Britain’s “double standards” in addressing allegations of genocide raise critical questions about the selective nature of international justice. The juxtaposition of Britain’s stance on Myanmar and its opposition to holding Israel accountable for alleged genocide in Gaza sheds light on a recurring pattern of inconsistency in the application of legal principles.

We will discuss the complexities of such double standards, drawing attention to historical precedents that have shaped the international legal landscape.

The accusations of “double standards” stem from Britain’s formal accusation of Myanmar for committing genocide against the Rohingya Muslim population in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). While this move is hailed as a commendable effort to address human rights abuses, the controversy arises when juxtaposed with Britain’s attempts to obstruct South Africa’s initiative to hold Israel accountable for alleged genocide in Gaza.

The key argument presented by Britain in the case against Myanmar emphasizes a broad definition of acts of genocide, considering harm inflicted on both children and adults. This broader interpretation, as highlighted by legal experts, underscores the intent to commit genocide. However, the concern voiced by critics is the apparent inconsistency in applying this broad definition to Israel, potentially adopting a narrower interpretation in this case.

The historical context provided in the article draws attention to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its efforts to convict Serbs over the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

The article contends that when Western powers seek to convict “enemy” states, the desired outcome is often achieved without scrutiny. However, when a Western ally faces accusations of war crimes and human rights abuses, reservations and disputes quickly emerge.

The Srebrenica case is particularly illustrative, raising questions about the evidentiary thresholds set by the ICTY for proving the crime of genocide. We highlight the low thresholds established, such as the non-requirement of a pre-existing plan or policy and the lack of a numeric threshold for the number of people killed. This leniency in defining genocide, coupled with selective prosecution, adds complexity to the perceived double standards in international justice.

The notion of “political reasons” influencing legal judgments is explored, suggesting that geopolitical considerations often play a role in determining which cases receive attention and which are overlooked. We must consider why certain conflicts are labeled as genocide while others with similar characteristics are not. It challenges the objectivity of international justice, pointing to a systemic bias that favors political alliances over consistent application of legal principles.

The accusations of “double standards” in Britain’s approach to Myanmar and Israel raise crucial questions about the integrity of international justice. The article underscores the need for a more consistent and principled application of legal standards, free from geopolitical influences. As the world grapples with complex geopolitical challenges, achieving true justice demands an unwavering commitment to impartiality and fairness in addressing human rights violations on a global scale.

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