Point of View
International law is Eurocentric and Colonial – TIME TO CHANGE
How many would agree that imperialism hasn’t ended and it is found in
what we know today as “international law”? The stark reality is that
decolonization took place ONLY AFTER the former empires established
another means of retaining control – that mode was international law.
International law propagated by the West is today applicable
internationally and even locally and relevant to economic, political,
social, private and public affairs.
Imperialism takes place even without our awareness. For sovereign
nations to be realistically free the strangle-hold that the West
dictates through international law must be changed.
History of International Law
Modern international law traces its roots to the 1648 Peace of
Westphalia Treaty that was supposed to grant sovereign equality by
dividing Europe into sovereign and independent states. The 1648 Treaty
of Westphalia was applicable to the civilized European sovereign nations
not the non-European uncivilized world.
International law consists of doctrines and principles developed in
Europe, influenced by European history and experience. We would be naïve
if we were to think that these international laws would be applied to
the non-European world without bias because they were designed with
bias. They were also designed subtly to promote their Christian faith.
If colonies were invaded to spread Christianity and plunder nations –
sovereignty was given to ensure this status quo remained unchanged. Let
us not fool ourselves - ‘Christian law’ has transformed itself as
The manner in which these independent states were to be run led to
standards and establishment of laws applicable to all the sovereign
states under the banner “Family of Nations”. What needs to be noted is
that the Third World was excluded as they were “uncivilized” and
“non-European”. The world was divided as “the civilized and Christian
people of Europe” against “the uncivilized non-Europeans”. Today it is
known as Developed and Developing world. By this very definition, it
reveals racism, bias and discrimination. When by 1914, all territories
of Asia, Africa and Latin America fell under control of major European
states – there is little that needs to be said of the “uncivilized”
manner these supposed “uncivilized” Third World nations were treated!
Little do people realize that these nations had civilizations far
superior to those of the West – what they lacked was English and French.
What right did the White Christian West have to define Indians as
heathens and animals and claim they had no cognizable rights? Similarly,
just because the aborigines do not fit in because they have no
international laws or magistrates can they be written off?
Following the two World Wars – a new international order emerged
dictated by America and Europe.
There were no legal obstacles to taking over these nations because
the mission was to “civilize the natives”. In the eyes of the West – the
colonies were too “primitive to understand the concept of sovereignty”.
So this is the excuse given to why the Third World did not belong to the
“family of nations” and did not have any right to the concepts of
international law that the West designed. It appears there’s little
change and questioning as to why a handful of Third World natives would
still want to continue worshipping these imperialists.
If Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia and the like face the
full force of international law why has the impartial international
legal system omitted actions on George Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney for
scores of misadventures under a new banner called R2P/military
intervention? Why do crimes of aggression not apply to the powerful
When the IMF – International Monetary Fund is under the control of
the US and former colonial rulers who control 85 per cent of the vote -
what more is there to say? Is the IMF not the instrument that dictates
how financial markets run and does this US-led Western monetary body not
force Asian, African and Latin American nations to liberalize their
currencies to benefit Western investors? Third World is made victim to
development with debt – debt that scores of future generations have to
It is in this context that repressive governments are created with
the blessings of the West under a “you scratch my back – I’ll scratch
yours” deal. These created governments are dislodged when they are of no
use or when the real dictators have found new “friends” who are prepared
to offer a better deal and these very nations lecture to us on morality,
ethics and good governance!
If international law was not Western biased – it would not have the
British Foreign Office destroying evidence of its colonial crimes and
keeping them secret from the public all these years? It would not take
victims like the Mau Mau over 60 years to be given justice and it would
certainly encourage nations that had been invaded and plundered to seek
compensation instead of having them beg for justice. The former colonies
need to now break away from their colonial servitude and demand
reparations – India must lead the way by breaking away from the India
If crimes during colonial rule was not enough what about the crimes
taking place presently? What right do these Western nations have to
invade nations, bomb civilians and infrastructure, carrying out
renditions, make false charges and simply use every international law to
We are no fools to realize that the West is using international law
to the maximum to secure global power, oil and forge spheres of
influence. The West created “humanitarian angels” that are simply agents
given that NGOs have grass root access and are able to do their
undercover work since funds can be channeled easily too. The camouflage
of “humanitarianism” is nothing but a sham and equates to mean
imperialism never ended and we are fools to think so. Everything still
remains ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’.
Was it not the desire for title ownership that led Europeans to stake
claim using the Berlin Conference of 1884 and divided Africa between
them? Despite decolonization and self-determination ensuring Third World
nation secured more presence in the UN General Assembly the topic of
nationalization of foreign entities did not go well with the European
colonies who wished to maintain the older rules of international
economic laws that favoured them. Thus World Bank and IMF do a
meticulous job on behalf of the West. Countries colonized and
decolonized were again victims of neocolonialism and burdened by
divisions created by the colonial rulers along ethnic – boundary –
religious lines. All giving rise to issues defined as human rights
Can any of the developing nations obey international law when it sees
merit and discard it when it does not like Europe and America does?
Those that do will end up hounded like Saddam and Gaddafi and killed.
But no one would ever claim these murders were foul or illegal. The
deafening silence about the manner the US and NATO is attacking Syria is
proof that when the West wants something it will move heaven and earth
to secure it – even creating, arming and training terrorist groups. So
much for a supposed war on terror!
So where are the justice seeking activists, the citizens
organizations, the celebrities, the op-ed writers and moral Western
politicians of the West in defense of the defenseless?
Discoveries of non-Western civilizations forgotten
Education systems and pro-Western media have ensured that not much
gets promoted about ancient civilizations that existed before the West
took over the world and the inventors or inventions of these times. How
many in the world are even aware that Sri Lanka possesses the ONLY
man-made irrigation systems with man-made tanks that remain an
engineering marvel to this day and baffles engineers on how without
engineering degrees such works of art could last for centuries when
modern day buildings are seen to collapse on a daily basis. Why have
non-Western inventors never got the limelight that the Western inventors
are getting. Is it possibly because it is from them that the idea was
borrowed and refined?
United Nations and Human Rights Movements
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 completely ignores
the social differences of 191 UN member states and the 58 nations that
existed when it was drafted. Though it is not a legally binding document
its principles are incorporated into domestic legislation and is said to
have inspired more than 60 human rights standards which include the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All drafts are
dominated by the West looking at issues from their angle. It is their
morals, ethics, standards that take precedence. Unfortunately, the fault
lies in the newly decolonized nations not realizing they needed to speak
up and demand equal status for their cultures too because too many of
them were mesmerized by the fact that they were “accepted” into Western
society and were ever ready to give up their cultural heritage save for
a handful. Now people and nations are beginning to realize their
To sustain world balance imperialists need to uplift the majority of
the world’s nations that are impoverished and undeveloped. It is for
these selfish reasons that handouts are given to the Third World. Former
colonies are foolish to think they are no longer OBJECTS of
international law despite being called “sovereign”. What international
law ever favoured or took the aside of the oppressed former colonies?
The Third World is supposed to feel gratitude for being included to the
“family of nations” called the UN. For that “inclusion” what have these
nations sacrificed post-independence?
Real status of Human Rights Laws
Human rights law was created to be used to legitimize the intrusion
of international laws in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and
justify intervention if there was a need. Human rights organizations
were the Wests means of deploying their agents on sovereign soil.
Interventions in the Middle East is no different to the Spanish conquest
of the Indians!
International law has also helped legitimize and sustain unequal
structures and processes that divide people further. Everything
eventually becomes tied to international financial trade and leaders
irrespective of their ideology end up compelled to pursue the same
economic and social policies. When national leaders like Lumumba, Che
Guevara, Allende emerge to challenge the status quo – their fate was
sealed and to stop similar nationalists from emerging, plenty of funds
go to create rebel movements that ensure nations are trapped in a
conundrum. The UN Secretary General Dag Hammerskjold also destroyed
himself in wanting to provide equality to the newly decolonized nations
alongside the former colonial rulers. Such equality was taboo then and
it cannot be any different today. Equality is never part of any deal
though a lot of propaganda goes to show otherwise.
What is evident is that all non-Europeans/Americans are only an
OBJECT of international law. The quasi-sovereign status given to some
under “unequal treaties” was only a sham created to force them to
“honour” the imperial agenda. International laws were adapted to suit
Europeans and there’s little that can be done unless the Third World
realize the status quo and wish to change it.
We are in a world where industrial and well-organized West dictates
its terms to the rest of the world through international laws.
If the sovereignty doctrine expelled the non-European world from its
realm should the Third World not be demanding immediate reforms afterall
the First World cannot run on its own and without the Third World. The
Third World now needs to make their demands. This is what Third World
diplomats are expected to achieve and not to worship the laws that
benefit the West. This is why Third World nations need to recruit
officials who have a love for their nation and wish to use the systems
in place and make representations for the advantage of the Third World
not meekly appease and follow international laws that are dictatorial.
Future recruitment policy of Third World must address this to change the
equilibrium otherwise East-West, civilized-uncivilized,
Developed-Undeveloped, Black-White, international laws that are
Christian-Non Christian biased will continue unabated.