Sovereignty and International Law

Countries believe in the idea of state sovereignty where each country has the right to dictate on what goes on within its boundaries without interference from other countries. This notion has existed for a long time and is aimed at reducing incidences of countries fighting. Each country has the freedom to enter into an agreement with other countries and leave should they feel short-changed. The idea of sovereignty has remained the basic principle in the international law. However, countries have taken advantage of sovereignty to wage war on their citizens. Something needs to be done in such situations rather than countries turning their back on the issue in the name of state sovereignty (Human rights in Canada: A historical perspective, 1940, par.4&5).

Rules on warfare and weaponry have been established. People argued that since it is hard to abolish war, there is the need to mitigate consequences of war on soldiers as well as on the citizens. The rules aim at limiting the conduct of the warring nations to minimum standards that ought to be upheld during conflict. While most of the conflicting nations have violated the rules of war, such rules have played a role in averting some of the most indiscriminate acts of violence.

The major conventions governing the way states ought to behave during war and which have made a milestone in seeing that the rules have been obeyed includes the Geneva conventions of 1864 and the Hague conventions of 1899. These have helped in coming up with rules that have lead to humane treatment of those wounded in the battle fields, better practices of land warfare, better treatment of prisoners of war as well as protection of civilians who are trapped in the war zones (Held, 2003, p. 164).

Geneva conventions are examples of international humanitarian laws which emerged after people saw the effects of war on humanity. Henri Duncat, after witnessing the cruelty that was being done on wounded soldiers by their opponents, established the first Geneva Convention in 1864. The aim of the convention was to look upon the welfare of wounded soldiers without considering the side that the soldiers were inclined to.

This led to the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that was given these responsibilities. Various rights were accorded to the wounded soldiers which included the right to medical care. The International Red Cross (IRC) was given the right to access the war zones and give assistance to wounded soldiers of all sides (Freeman, 2003, pp. 18-26). More conventions were convened later which saw other categories of victims being accorded some human rights. These included wounded sailors, prisoners of war and civilians in combat zones.

The rules currently keep on changing with the aim of ensuring that the adverse effects of war are alleviated as much as possible and at the same time giving the warring parties freedom to choose on the methods and means of warfare. There have been a series of agreement on the use of different types of weapons such as the rules governing the use of submarines against merchant ships and also use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (Held, p.165).

The issue of respecting the state sovereignty has been seen to hinder the world’s effort in controlling international crime. This has made the nations to agree on ceding some of their sovereignty to establish an international law that will help in mitigation the effects of international crimes. This has lead to the outlining of rules against humanity that applies internationally as well as the establishment of courts that deal with such crimes.

Reference list

Freeman, M. (2003). Human Rights. Cambridge: Polity.

Held, D. (2003). The Changing Structure of International Law: Sovereignty Transformed? Web.

State sovereignty v. international law. (1940). Web.

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