North Korea and Iran Usher in a New Cold War Era
The attempt at proliferation of nuclear weapons by North-Korea and Iran has been widely condemned by the international community. This article examines whether the failure to recognize the international right to self-determination will result in basic human rights being eroded and limited to a wider extent than permissible.
The international community takes the conservative approach that the right to self-determination must be limited by defined exceptions to such recognition. A prime example of such limitations would be curbing such right in the event of nuclear development threatening the international community. It is undeniable that the threat of nuclear attack cannot be curbed through a reactionary approach akin to domestic police action against criminals after the fact. In international law it is an accepted norm that state intervention prior to an actual criminal act being performed is allowed where there is concrete evidence that such criminal act is imminent. But do we have any evidence to date that Iran and North-Korea have the intent to wage nuclear attacks. There is evidence that these nations have publicly declared their intentions to enrich uranium for the purpose of developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. If the threat of nuclear attack has not transcended the imminent, external intervention on the grounds of a mere possibility of nuclear attack should arguably not be permissible. In 1992 the Security Council ruled that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a threat to international peace and security.
What are the “imminent” security threats, if any, posed by countries such as Iran or North-Korea being permitted to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes, a right which is enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The right to self-determination is a fundamental principle of human rights law and recognizes the right of an individual and collective to “freely determine political status and to freely pursue economic, social and cultural development”. The principle of self-determination is a prominent feature of the United Nations Charter of 1945 and appears in both the Preamble to the Charter and in Article 1.
The International Court of Justice refers to the right to self-determination as a right held by people rather than a right held by governments alone. On the expression of right that this general principle advances, North-Korea and Iran have an argument to make out for recognition and protection under the United Nations Charter. Until such time as these developing nations have shown their nuclear intentions to be in bad faith and a real threat, the principle of self-determination must be respected. If not then we are undermining the very international rights we seek to protect. This is not the intention of the United Nations Charter which expressly permits development of nuclear capabilities if the intention is social and economic progress. It is trite that both North-Korea and Iran have struggling economies. To deny these sovereign states the right to self-determination would be wrong. The international standard is that the threat must be imminent. No such imminence has been shown to exist other than speculative fear.
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