UK clarifies view of international law

LONDON (Rooters agency) – “The killing of that Russian bloke” was a “blatant and unacceptable breach of international law,” Therisno Maybe, the House Secretary, declared after a judicial inquiry determined that a Russian former spy who became a British spy and then died in London had been poisoned by Russians.

The conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder is deeply disturbing,” Maybe told a press conference. “When one of our spies defects to the other side, we don’t try to knock him off; half the time, it’s years before we even get around to stopping his salary. If he knows too much, well, there are always patriotic individuals around to do the patriotic thing – but, good heavens, not the state!”

It was only a few days later that political observers and scholars pointed out that Maybe’s words “unacceptable breach of international law” implied that Her Majesty’s Government believed that there were also acceptable breaches of international law. Which breaches were those, they began asking, and how was acceptability determined? Newspapers began filing freedom of information requests for any government documents discussing whether a particular breach of international law was acceptable or unacceptable.

In response to a question in the House of Commons as to whether bombing a country with which one was not at war was an acceptable or unacceptable breach of international law, the House Secretary pointed out that “international law is in many respects even more complex than national law, and we know that even national laws are so complex that only lawyers can understand them or have anything sensible to say about them.”

Surmising that the question may have been alluding to the British government’s bombing of Iraq and Syria, she said, “In both countries, the bombs are being dropped on that country’s people at the request of their government, against which those people may have some minor complaints, but they should be dealt with through peaceful means, not violence.

So I would dispute that it is a breach of international law for Her Majesty’s Government to bomb a country at the request of its government, especially a government that was democratically chosen by – oh, no, forget that part.”

A further question mentioned apparent breaches of international law by the US government’s use of drone bombers to kill people in a number of different countries – without the request or agreement of those countries’ governments. Were such breaches acceptable or unacceptable in the view of the UK government?

I have already mentioned the complexity of international law,” Maybe replied. “The acceptability or unacceptability of such breaches depends upon the circumstances and the seriousness of the breach – it’s a bit like the national law distinction between misdemeanors and felonies.

Clearly, a murder in London is an unacceptable breach, an international felony, if you like. The termination of an enemy of American democracy, or of his family, or his neighbors or a passing wedding procession, especially if it happens in one of those countries where people are used to such things, may in some interpretations be regarded as a technical breach of international law. But it seems obvious that, were the World Court to uphold such an interpretation, it would consider the breach to be of a misdemeanor character, and in that sense acceptable compared to the killing of that Russian spy.

I hope that clarifies the position of Her Majesty’s Government.”