Monday, 3 March 2008

On the other side of the world

It's maybe a reflection of how quiet things are here at the moment that I'm choosing to blog on news on the opposite side of the world, but these issues have dimensions which affect us all.

Forgetting about the US Presidential election for a moment, there is other news from the Americas which may impact us all the way over here. It seems that Colombian troops have killed Raul Reyes, the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). All very good you say, FARC is a terrorist organisation (at least according to the Colombian government, the US, Canada and the EU), they've killed many people in Colombia over a fifty year low-intensity armed conflict with the government, and they're generally bad people.

Well... yes. I mean, subject to caveats (not everyone likes the term "terrorist" for a start - as it is overused and meaningless now) you'd be right in thinking that a hit on the "bad guys" is good for democracy, and striking at the head of the organisation will undoubtedly weaken it thereby slowing their war effort - its good military strategy.

But, the death of Reyes, occurring as it did in Ecuador, raises more questions. Not only has Venezuela's outspoken President Chavez denounced the attack, but both Venezuela and Ecuador expelled Colombian diplomats from their embassies, recalled their own dignitaries from Colombia and have moved significant numbers of troops to their borders with Colombia, thereby increasing tensions in an already politically sensitive area.

And why is this relevant to here?

The Colombian militia's actions - a cross border raid to attack an outpost base of domestic terrorists - was done without the consent of the Ecuadorian President. This emphasises the extent to which nations are now willing to trample over national sovereignty to deal with transnational issues like terrorism. We saw it with the US & non-UN sanctioned action in Iraq. We've seen Israel take steps to protect itself from acts of terror from civilians & military personnel in neighbouring Lebanon. And now Colombia has taken action against guerilla leaders when they've been residing outwith their national borders.

Its a worrying development. And it begs the question - is there such a thing as international law any more?

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