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What Happened to the Right to Self-determination?

Originally published by Al-Mayadeen English

Article 1 and 55 of the United Nations Charter specifically outline the respect for the rights of peoples to self-determination. It is a critical and highly important part of the charter, signed as a peremptory jus cogens law for all its member states to abide by. A total of 50 member states have signed the charter as legally binding, including the five permanent member states. It is a unanimous right granted to all. However, one thing is what international law stipulates. Another is how certain member states enforce or respect it.

Self-determination in layman terms means the right for a people to determine their own form of governance and how they want to preserve their own national sovereignty. And while the charter exists to maintain relative peace globally, the right to self-determination does not presuppose that such is achieved by peaceful means necessary. The UN General Assembly has at numerous times outlined the respect and legality of oppressed and colonized people to resort to armed struggle in the direct pursuit of self-determination. One such declaration is resolution 1514 of December 1960. It reaffirms the right of peoples to self-determination as outlined in the charter, as the first point of the resolution. The second point “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation” from systems such as colonialism, apartheid, and foreign occupation. Pretty clear and straightforward one would assume. But is such a resolution respected by other UN member states? Rarely.

Certain UN member states, and in particular the United States, the United Kingdom, “Israel”, and others aligned with the latter, have their ways of interpreting UN resolutions and international law in such an unscrupulous and choosy way that it serves its own agendas and foreign-political aspirations. In Yemen, the United Nations sponsored the “Peace and National Partnership Agreement” on September 21st, 2014. An inclusive and bipartisan agreement, it would serve as the basis for Yemen’s future state of governance. The agreement attracted wide global appraisal, with many states urging the quickest implementation and ratification of the agreement as possible. The UN Security Council would then backtrack on its previous statements of support months later by issuing UNSC resolution 2216 that effectively greenlit the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen while directly interfering in Yemen’s internal affairs by solely recognizing the already-resigned president of Mansour Hadi as the legitimate head of state, disregarding much of Yemen’s wide political landscape signatory to the PNPA. What happened to the right to self-determination?

In Palestine – the occupied lands of ’48, the West Bank, and Gaza – the resistance that is tirelessly upholding their right to armed struggle and self-determination by defending their people with arms in hand against a fascist and colonial entity, that even Israeli human rights organization B’tselem and known liberal interventionist Human Rights Watch deemed an “apartheid regime”, is being criticized and condemned left, right and center by members of the so-called “international community” and members of the UN on absolutely baseless grounds of supposed “terrorism” and “anti-Semitism”. But unsurprisingly, such accusations by the usual suspects of imperialist terror follow a known behavioral pattern. Like how the United States used to condemn Nelson Mandela as a criminal engaged in, as Reagan once put it in 1988, calculated terror … the mining of roads, the bombings of public places, designed to bring about further repression. Nelson Mandela and his ANC liberation movement were only taken off the US terror list in 2008. And while Mandela was condemned for his legal armed struggle against colonial apartheid, the UK and US embraced and supported the Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden as a heroic freedom fighter.

The United States interfered in the affairs of Venezuela by recognizing crooked Juan Guaidó as the so-called “legitimate” head of state, enforcing sanctions, blockades, and other capital punishment against the Venezuelan people, and thus restricting the Venezuelans from exercising their right to self-determination. The United States maintains a state of interference towards sovereign Haiti, opposing any kind of political initiative that would serve the Haitian people first and not the United States. They overthrew popular Iranian prime minister Mossadegh in 1953 in opposition to Iranian plans for oil nationalization, then decades later crying foul on the General Assembly podium that their unwanted puppet regime had been overthrown in, once again, complete harmony with the UN charter on the rights to self-determination.

The United States has interfered in the internal affairs of so many countries that the list would be too long to write down. If not militarily then by sanctions, blockades, financial interference, or through covert operations, and its allies usually follow suit in support. They have done everything to oppose the very same international legislation that they purport to uphold. They cannot live with the fact that billions of people across the globe refuse to subscribe to the notion that capitalist liberal parliamentarism is the epitome of a free and fair society, and they will do everything in their power to prevent people from exercising their right to self-determination if it serves US foreign policy. Containing, restricting, and opposing malign American interference in the affairs of sovereign peoples serves global peace. The 18-member “Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations” that was established in March of 2021 is one such coalition that can help enforce global peace by stringently upholding the UN charter related to all aspects of global diplomacy. Because the charter specifically allows for independent people to choose their own destiny in line with their own values and beliefs. To uphold their national sovereignty in the face of foreign conspiracies or malign interventions.

The United States and its allies have not once cared for international law nor human rights of any kind. They act as a two-tongued poisonous snake. Reassurances are made to the Global North while bombs, sanctions, coups, political interference, and invasions rain down upon the Global South. And any opposition thereto, violent, or not, is legal and should be encouraged. International law certainly does. No matter the outpouring of crocodile tears from Washington.