Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), issued a dire warning on Thursday, saying that the rule of law is in grave danger of turning into “the Rule of Lawlessness.” He cited a number of illegal activities occurring around the world, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and coups in Africa’s Sahel region, North Korea’s illegitimate nuclear weapons program, and Afghanistan’s historically unprecedented attacks on women’s and girls’ rights.
The UN chief also used the collapse of the rule of law in Myanmar, where the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration in February 2021, resulting in “a cycle of violence, repression and severe human rights violations,” and the lax rule of law in Haiti, which is plagued by pervasive rights abuses, skyrocketing crime rates, corruption, and transnational crime, as examples.
Guterres told the UN Security Council, “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.”
Yet, the secretary-general bemoaned, nations continue to “ flout international law with impunity” including by deploying unlawful force and building nuclear weapons, while citizens in every area of the globe continue to experience the consequences of war, murder, growing poverty, and hunger.
First, Guterres cited Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 as an example of how the rule of law had been broken.
According to the secretary-general, the conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated the world’s food and energy crises and produced “a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe.” And he stated that any annexation brought on by the threat or use of force is a breach of the UN Charter and international law, alluding to Russia’s annexation of four areas in Ukraine in late September as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In 2022, the UN head blasted homicides and violent actions committed by extremists against Palestinians and Israelis, and he said that Israel’s settlement-building efforts—which the UN has frequently criticized as a violation of international law—were “driving anger and despair.”
Guterres expressed his “very concern” about recent unilateral actions taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new conservative administration, which is enacting an ultra-nationalist agenda and may jeopardize the two-state solution.
He emphasized that “The rule of law is at the heart of achieving a just and comprehensive peace, based on a two-state solution, in line with UN resolutions, international law, and previous agreements.”
The United Nations’ attempts to find peaceful solutions to these wars and other crises, according to the secretary-general, are based on the rule of law, which he described as being the cornerstone of the organization.
He pleaded for all 193 UN members to preserve “the vision and the values” of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to follow international law, and to resolve differences amicably.
Conflicts between Russia and Western backers of the Kyiv administration were brought on by the council meeting on enhancing the rule of law, which was presided over by Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, whose nation chose the issue. Nearly 80 nations participated.
Hayashi stated, “Today, we are beset by the war of aggression in Europe and conflicts, violence, terrorism, and geopolitical tensions, ranging from Africa to the Middle East to Latin America to Asia Pacific.”
He made an obvious allusion to the Russian invasion of Ukraine when he said, ““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.”
“No person, no prime minister or president, no state or country is above the law,” according to US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who also stated that this is a core tenet of the UN.
She claimed that despite “unparalleled” progress toward peace and prosperity since the UN was established on the ashes of World War II, some nations are failing to adhere to the principles of the UN Charter — “the most glaring example” being Russia — or are “enabling rule breakers to carry on without accountability.”
Thomas-Greenfield demanded that those responsible for violating sovereignty, territorial integrity, human rights, and fundamental liberties be held responsible, mentioning North Korea, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Belarus, Cuba, Sudan, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that the West was 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.”
Prior to last February 24, he claimed, “international law was repeatedly flouted,” and that Washington’s startling ambition to act as the world’s policeman was the cause of the current scenario.
Nebenzia accused the West of what Moscow refers to as the present “special military operation” and cited multiple examples, such as NATO airstrikes in the former Yugoslavia and Libya, the US-led invasion of Iraq “using a false pretext” of the existence of WMDs, and the “war on terror” in Afghanistan.
Russian responsibility for the atrocities in Ukraine and the need for accountability, according to Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, is “very black and white.”
The Security Council was further forewarned by her: “The law of force that Russia has been barbarically practicing today over Ukraine gives a very clear signal to everyone in this room: No one is secure anymore.”