Saturday, 17 November 2007

What are we really securing and for whom?

The Centre's most recent symposium on "Securing humanity: perspectives from international law" was a true success both from an academic legal and a humanistic perspective. The discussions reverberated in the audience's emotional impulses and successfully preserved a healthy tension and density in the air as an additional speaker commenced with their discourse.

Most interestingly, however, was the capturing discussion that was developed surrounding the question of "us" and "them", another way for dualizing the system and basing it on the preconceived premise that 'divisions' are innate and inherent and colonialism and dominion is inseperable from the ways of mankind. Instead of allowing us to conceptualize our ends and develop upon the means (lamenting to enter the ontological discussion that lurks into and within this discourse), it dooms us to dystopia (as the esteemed scholar amongst us mentioned) and is a further self-limiting, self-justificatory, exercise.

After a series of self-sufficient, but despite this, interdependent dialogues, the second panel presented two speakers who were able to ground the discussion in the pragmatic case studies of the operability of the law on the international platform. International Criminal law and International Human Rights applicable in the context of asylum and immigration law on the International, regional, but particularly, national arenas, have shown (undertaking a very trivial analysis) that international law has tripped over itself a number of times and continues to do so.

The nature of the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction has been curtailed by the sovereignty of states, and the fully justified right to invoke State Responsibility under the secondary rules of international law has analogously been negated by the flaccid rules on Individual responsibility that, as a result of the non-concurrence of the two, allow for the preservation of state impunity in the most appalling cases.

On the other hand, UK Immigration law has become a true cesspool breeding creatively mechanisms to allow for the furtherance of human rights violations. We mentioned the deprivation of asylum seekers from social services and the complete and utter disregard for the principle of the Universality of human rights and the application of fundamental human rights to non-nationals (leaving only a very limited and restrictive margin of appreciation to the state). But where does "security" come in?

Have we not by choosing this course of conduct asserted that we are choosing "our" security over theirs (even though it may only be a question of racism and sterility of the more conservative, but nonetheless dominant, parts of society)? We could even see "security" as a means for protecting our societies from those that try to bring them down, in the very direct sense of the word, advocating actively for border security policies and the drastic cut-down in the number of migrants allowed in, by all means possible. This would bring us even further into the discussion of security and human rights and the questioning of whose human rights would we prioritize when push comes to shove. The present author boldly and brutally asserts: "ours!" If it ever came down to a clash between Article 3 ECHR (prohibition of torture) rights to a potential terrorist (who is likely to be tortured and persecuted if removed to his country of origin) and Article 2 ECHR (right to life) rights to the London tube riders, we can all foresee the likely outcome.

So we had established, superficially, that international law does not, because more likely it cannot, accomodate "humanity". Why? This very naive question can only be answered with another: What is "humanity"? What is the "accomodation" (to what extent and for whom)? This brings us back to the basic premise that it is almost always our "humanity" over theirs or vice versa. The often-neglected truth is that the "good life" (in all of its ingredients) is not an ever expanding cake; it is conclusively finite and its parameters are clearly conceivable.

We had awakened our chronic sense of disillusionment with the international legal order, and then confirmed it with a sense of striking but familiar data, and still, some of us continue to comfortably resign to sinking back into the self-justificatory exercise that we recognized, conceptualised and negated to begin with (a good example: what are we doing with the UN if we know what we are doing and we know what it is like?)

We may want to leave ourselves with a set of basic existential contemplations (whether individual or communitarian): Has our innocence been lost to such a profound degree that there is no way back out of the abyss? Has individualism (in the white, western sense) negated the very pure view of the role of the law in society? Has the international legal order become a prophesy that has brain-washed some, intensely convinced a large group of others, whilst left the rest in a state of unfathomable irritation?

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