Sovereignty diminishes as mass human rights abuses increase

February 25, 2019

The sovereignty of a nation is at its weakest when the basic human rights of that nation's people are being violated on a mass scale.


Some people have defended the Maduro regime on the basis that Venezuela is a sovereign nation, so no other nation should interfere in any way.  Maduro himself has claimed that international humanitarian aid is somehow an affront to Venezuela's sovereignty.


The reality in Venezuela, however, is that the currency is so hyperinflated that it has almost no value, which has led to a scarcity of food and medicine, which in turn has led to hunger, malnutrition, suffering, and even death.  All of that, in turn, has led to one of the greatest exoduses of humans so far in this 21st century -- people are literally fleeing for their lives.  And there isn't even war in Venezuela!


As I said above: when the basic human rights of a people are being violated on a mass scale, the sovereignty of a nation is at its weakest.


To believe otherwise is to maintain a strict, legalistic adherence to a political philosophy, but at what cost?  At the cost of real human lives!


To believe otherwise would mean that, if a nation willfully allows its people to suffer, not due to some external cause or natural disaster, but due to the government's policies towards its own people, then the rest of the world would have to sit idly by, without interfering, out of respect for 'sovereignty.'  What does that prove?  What good does that do?


To believe otherwise would mean that, if a dictator comes to power and is responsible for human rights abuses against his own people on a mass scale, then the rest of the world must watch helplessly.  Are we not so interconnected as a human race that we cannot help others in need, as we would want to be helped in the same situation?


Interestingly, there is a parallel to my field of family law.  Many years ago, let's say a century ago to be safe, the law held that a person's private, family life was off-limits to the courts.  Absent something as egregious as murder, the courts had no right to cross the threshold of a person's private home and judge any acts committed therein.  You could basically say that the courts recognized the 'sovereignty' of a person's home, sort of like a man's kingdom that could not be judged from the outside.


Well, here in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, the Protection From Abuse (PFA) Act was proposed and became law, becoming at the time just the second such law in the United States.  The idea was that the public had an interest in protecting people from abuse, as it was legislatively defined, and that public interest outweighed any countervailing privacy interest.


The same logic should certainly apply to international sovereignty.  Yes, there should be respect for the sovereignty of any nation, just as there is respect for the 'sovereignty' of your neighbor's home.  But just as there is a social, public interest in protecting people from abuse, even and especially within their own home, there is a social, international interest in protecting people from mass human rights abuses, even and especially within their own home country.  The latter interest should be recognized in international law, just as the former has already been recognized in family law.

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