Terrorism Court Case May have Impact on Social Issues

By | May 31, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 31 (C-Fam) Two years ago, the United Arab Emirates broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar and gave Qatari nationals fourteen days to leave the country. Qatar responded by filing charges against UAE in the International Court of Justice and a non-binding committee that monitors one of the UN’s treaties on human rights.

The actions of the UAE have raised concerns that governments, and even the ICJ, might see the views of human rights experts as a “rival court” that has legal authority. This development could have ramifications for social issues such as abortion.

The controversy began when the UAE—along with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia—accused Qatar of inciting state-sponsored terrorism and spreading fake news through its government owned Al Jazeera media. Qatar responded by filing a communication with the treaty body that monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Qatar claimed that UAE violated the treaty because the expulsions of its citizens were based upon national origin or race.

Many human rights treaties have optional protocols that allow individuals to file such complaints against their own governments. This is the first time the mechanism has been used by one country against another to settle an international dispute.

At the same time, Qatar filed a legal case against UAE in the International Court of Justice, asking the court to determine that UAE had violated the treaty and to tell UAE it must reverse its expulsions.

What makes the case concerning is that in its response, UAE referred to the treaty monitoring body and the ICJ as “parallel proceedings” that could result in “conflicting legal outcomes.”

This appears to raise the status of a non-binding treaty body to the same level as the international court in The Hague. Equally troubling is the ICJ did not dispute this characterization. At least it has not yet done so.

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945, though it is the successor of a court that began in the early twentieth century. It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and its judges are appointed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.

Conversely, treaty bodies represent the views of experts who act, according to the treaties they monitor, in their “personal capacity” only. They can only offer recommendations and not legal opinions.

For two decades activists have used treaty monitoring bodies to create new rights on a host of social issues. Treaty bodies, along with their bureaucratic bosses at the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, have promoted novel interpretations of the human rights treaties that include an international human right to abortion.

Professor Jeremy Rabkin of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University calls the situation “weird.”

He told the Friday Fax, “No one in America would think that it mattered what the CERD committee says. It’s hard to believe Gulf emirates take it much more seriously. Why would the ICJ?