Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oh yeah? (who is "bound" by international law?)

The International Red Cross has said that Israel's response in Lebanon violates the "proportionality" principle of the Geneva Conventions (see this for my views on proportionality). The group has also issued the following statement about the terrorist group Hezbollah:

Hezbollah fighters too are bound by the rules of international humanitarian law, and they must not target civilian areas.

I'm sorry, but what's the International Red Cross been smoking?

Earth to International Red Cross: Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. They exist to target civilians.

Furthermore, there's a general principle involved, one that should be readily apparent to anyone with a modicum of sense:

To be "bound" by a certain law, one (or both) of two things need to be true: (1) the "bound" entity has to agree to the authority of those administering the law; (2) the authority has to have the power of enforcement over that entity.

The International Red Cross has neither over Hezbollah at this point. The only way it would get that power--and it could never obtain #1, only #2--is by a military defeat of Hezbollah, a capture of its leaders, and the act of subsequently bringing them before an international tribunal.

And, of course, to defeat Hezbollah would require a response the International Red Cross already has already condemned as violating the principles of proportionality, since Hezbollah is well aware of the value of hiding behind civilians, and does so purposely and frequently. So, how in heaven's name would any international court ever get authority over Hezbollah, except to try them in absentia? And a fat lot of good that would do, except as meaningless theater.

I'm wondering: has any Islamic terrorist ever been successfully tried under international law for violating the Geneva Conventions? None comes to mind--the only trials I can think of, such as those of Richard Reid or the 1993 WTC bombers, are national rather than international. (I can't say, however, that I've done an exhaustive search, so please feel free to offer any such international cases in the comments section, if you can find them.)

The remark by the International Red Cross about Hezbollah being "bound" by the Conventions made me think of a popular comeback when I was a kid. When someone would say, I'm gonna make you do it, the usual retort was Oh yeah? You and what army?

Somehow I think that's exactly what Hezbollah would say.

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