Russia's war in Chechnya
By Dr. Leopoldo Lovelace
I. AN INTERNATIONAL CRIME UNDER THE LAW OF STATE RESPONSIBILITY.
Russia's war in Chechnya entails a serious violation of the international law of self-determination. According to Article 19, of the International Law Commission Draft Articles on State Responsibility [accepted by most Russian international law scholars and implicitly by numerous Russian governmental positions since its adoption by the ILC in 1975, and therefore opposable to Russia], "a serious breach of an international obligation of essential importance for the protection of fundamental interests of the international community, such as the right of self-determination of peoples, [ ] constitutes an international crime". An international crime is one which constitutes an offense erga omnes, an offense against the international community as a whole, and therefore it is no longer a matter under the exclusive internal jurisdiction of the state in question, Russia in this case.
II. WAR CRIMES.
There is compelling, continuous, widespread material and circumstancial evidence as to that the action of Russian armed forces in Chechnya is violating fundamental international obligations provided for in the laws on non-international armed conflicts, especially:
a) Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (a self-
executing norm of an agreement to which Russia is party),
concerning armed conflict not of an international character,
as to the rights of "persons taking no active part in the
hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid
down their arms and those placed hors de combat", and of
persons "wounded and sick", who "shall be collected and cared
III. CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.
There is also strong material evidence indicating the Russian government and its instrumentations, are violating self- executing provisions of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and of the 1950 European Convention, both in force and binding for Russia, which is a party. There is also circumstancial evidence as to that the Russian government and its instrumentation in Chechnya, especially its security forces, are violating self-executing provisions of the Genocide Convention.
IV. VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL ARMS CONTROL AGREEMENTS.
The action of Russian armed forces in Chechnya, with the means with which it is carried out, is in systematic violation of essential obligations under the system of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including the 1975 and 1992 Helsinki agreements and the 1990 agreement con Conventional Forces in Europe. Recent reports on the use of fuel-air bombs by the Russian armed forces indicate there may also be elements for considering the Russian armed campaign in Chechnya is resorting to means of combat which are prohibited under the different international law regimes on the prohibition of chemical weapons, including the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
V. A BREACH OF THE PEACE AND AN ACT OF AGGRESSION.
a) Russia's war in Chechnya constitutes a systematic violation
of a distinctive line of Resolution of the United Nations
General Assembly and of the Council of Europe, which provide
evidence of binding international customary law obligations
concerning self-determination, the protection of minorities,
and the compliance with minimum due process of law standards
in situations of emergency, all of which are demandable from
Russia. In the sixty year anniversary of the start of World War
II, the most direct and comparable precendent of Russia's war
in Chechnya are the Nazi nacht und fog decrees against the
Jewish people, the Nazi campaign against Poland in 1939, and
the Nazi campaign against Russia itself in 1941.
Should not Russia be dealt with by the international community like other aggressor governments have been, in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans? Is the international community not obliged, and indeed entitled to, under imperative rules of international law and world public order to assist immediately the Chechen people?