Enforcing Law and Punishing Syria, Part 2

by Seth Weinberger

Unsurprisingly, and as I suspected, the UN is having difficulty maintaining its focus in the investigation into Syrian involvement in the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. And, while the investigation has been extended by six months, several members of the Security Council, including Russia, China (both with veto power) and Algeria, have resisted calls to accuse Syria of uncooperative behavior and to pressure Syria towards greater cooperation with the probe. This points out a serious problem for the UN specifically, and the prospects of international law more generally, (which I’ll address in more detail tomorrow when I get a break from grading final exams) namely the tension between the sovereign equality of states and the need to enforce law and punish violators. Until the UN resolves this tension (which I don’t think is likely), it’s ability to uphold international law will be limited, at best.


2 Responses

  1. Can you see a change in the U.N., realistic or not, that would remedy this problem?

  2. Not in the UN itself, as any such change would have to go through the Security Council and the veto power of the five permanent members. However, it is possible to imagine a institution of liberal democracies (a la NATO) that could arise as a counterweight to the UN, with more legal authority and power to enforce and punish. I’ll discuss this more in a post tomorrow….

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