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Endless disregard of the non-intervention principle by the United States

August 21, 2022 at 11:32 am

US marines wait for aerial support alongside a road in Bro area as US and Swedish troops take part of a war simulation called “the battle of Bro” during the Baltops 22 in Gotland, Sweden, June 09th, 2022 [Narciso Contreras – Anadolu Agency]

Non-intervention principle in international law

Article 2.7 of the United Nations (UN) Charter provides that “Nothing contained in the present  Charter  shall  authorize  the  United  Nations  to  intervene  in  matters  which  are essentially  within  the  domestic  jurisdiction  of  any  state …” In 1965, the UN General Assembly adopted Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Domestic Affairs of States to address the “gravity of the international situation and the increasing threat to universal peace due to armed intervention and other direct or indirect forms of interference threatening the sovereign personality and the political independence of States.” Likewise, according to the 1970 Friendly  Relations  Declaration  by the UN  General Assembly, no state has  the  right  to  intervene,  directly  or  indirectly,  for  any  reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state. This is recognised as the principle of non-intervention in international law.

The principle is a corollary to the right of territorial sovereignty of each state. The 1986 judgement by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Nicaragua case, which was brought by Nicaragua against the United States based on allegations of American support for contra rebels, explained that any intervention by a state in the free choice of a political, economic, social and cultural system and formulation of foreign policy by another state is a violation of the non-intervention principle. The ICJ has reiterated the same principle of non-intervention in its 2005 judgment against Uganda for supporting rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ICJ in this case further clarified that the principle of non-intervention prohibits a state to intervene, directly or indirectly, with or without armed force, in support of an internal opposition in another state.

Violations of the non-intervention principle by the United States 

Unfortunately, the United States (US) has a persistent history of violation of the non-intervention principle. The US has repeatedly interfered in the internal affairs of other states to achieve objectives from outright regime changes to the changes in economic and political choices of other states. For this, the US has used both military (such as in Iraq to oust the Saddam Hussein regime) and non-military (such as through economic sanctions on Iran and Russia, financial and military support to rebel groups in Syria, and trade war with China) to coerce other states into submission or compliance with its wishes. There is a long list of the US military and clandestine operations in other states from 1798 to present.

Alarmingly, the US has been able to avoid liability for most of its illegal interventions in other states. The US interference in Grenada in 1983 resulted in international condemnation through a resolution of the UN General Assembly. However no such condemnation followed the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. This is despite the former UN Secretary General has called this invasion illegal as it was a clear violation of the UN Charter. The US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan is another example of the interventionist policy of the current US regime. The visit came despite Beijing’s warnings that it will be a gross interference in its internal affairs. Although legal liability for such violations of the principle of non-interference falls within the grey areas of international law, they undermine the rule-based international order and pose a serious threat to international peace and security.

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