Secretary-General of the United Nations (U.N), Antonio Guterres has warned that the rule of law is at a risk of becoming “the Rule of Lawlessness.”
Guterres made this assertion to the U.N. Security Council, citing a host of unlawful actions across the globe from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and coups in Africa’s Sahel region to North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program and Afghanistan’s unprecedented attacks on women’s and girls’ rights.
The U.N. Chief also noted as examples the breakdown of the rule of law in Myanmar since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021 and the weak rule of law in Haiti which is overcome by widespread rights abuses, soaring crime rates, corruption and transnational crime.
“From the smallest village to the global stage, the rule of law is all that stands between peace and stability and a brutal struggle for power and resources.”Antonio Guterres
The Secretary-General lamented that in every region of the world, civilians are suffering the effects of conflicts, killings, rising poverty and hunger while countries continue “to flout international law with impunity” including by illegally using force and developing nuclear weapons.
As an example of the rule of law being violated, Guterres pointed first to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The Ukraine conflict has created “a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children, and accelerated the global food and energy crisis,” the secretary-general said. And referring to Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine in late September as well as its 2014 annexation of Crimea, he said any annexation resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the U.N. Charter and international law.
The U.N. Chief then condemned unlawful killings and extremist acts against Palestinians and Israelis in 2022, and said Israel’s expansion of settlements “are driving anger and despair.”
“The rule of law is at the heart of achieving a just and comprehensive peace, based on a two-state solution, in line with U.N. resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”Antonio Guterres
Additionally, the Secretary-General disclosed that the rule of law is the foundation of the United Nations, and key to its efforts to find peaceful solutions to these conflicts and other crises.
Member States Urged To Uphold The Vision And The Values Of The U.N. Charter
Antonio Guterres urged all 193 U.N. member states to uphold “the vision and the values” of the U.N. Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to abide by international law, and to settle disputes peacefully.
The council meeting on strengthening the rule of law, presided over by Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi whose country decided on the topic, sparked clashes, especially over the war in Ukraine, between Russia and Western supporters of the Kyiv government. Nearly 80 countries spoke.
“We, the member states, should unite for the rule of law and cooperate with each other to stand up against violations of the Charter such as aggression and the acquisition of territory by force from a member state.”Antonio Guterres
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield iterated, “no person, no Prime Minister or President, no state or country is above the law.”
Thomas-Greenfield called for those who do not respect sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights and fundamental freedoms to be held accountable, naming Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Belarus, Cuba, Sudan and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers.
However, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia accused the West of using the council meeting “to sell the narrative about the apparent responsibility of Russia for causing threats to international peace and security, ignoring, however, their own egregious violations.”