Alfred de Zayas: Poli­tical Provo­ca­tions or the condem­nable art of warmongering

Sarajevo 28. June 1914: Provocation and starting-shot for the American Century

Poli­tical provo­ca­tions are not inno­cent games

By ALFRED DE ZAYAS| Provo­ca­tion entails conduct that induces another to a hostile response. In dome­stic and inter­na­tional law, provo­ca­tion may consti­tute a tort or even a crime– out of fear, anger or outrage.

For instance, the UK the Public Order Act prohi­bits „abusive or threa­tening words or beha­viour“, speci­fi­cally „to provoke the imme­diate use of unlawful violence”. By contrast, in inter­na­tional law there is an abso­lute prohi­bi­tion of the use of force stipu­lated in article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Unfort­u­na­tely, powerful count­ries concoct excep­tions to the rule, e.g. by postu­la­ting a non-exis­tent right of “pre-emptive” self-defence or the so-called doctrine of “respon­si­bi­lity to protect”, both scams intended to circum­vent Art. 2(4) of the Charter.

Recent armed conflicts in Yugo­slavia, Afgha­ni­stan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine docu­ment a tendency to water down the prohi­bi­tion of the use of force. This is faci­li­tated by a compliant media that manages the facts and the narra­tive in an attempt to “legi­ti­mize” the use of force, e.g. by the US/coalition of the willing in their unpro­voked aggres­sion against Iraq in 2003, or to absolve the provo­ca­teur, e.g. by down­playing NATO’s egre­gious provo­ca­tions in Ukraine. It is surrea­li­stic to claim that the use of force in Iraq was legi­ti­mate: It was a crime against humanity.

Equally extra­va­gant is to pretend that the inva­sion of Ukraine was “unpro­voked”. Admit­tedly, Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine was a grave breach of the UN Charter. But the prece­ding NATO provo­ca­tions also violated article 2(4), which prohi­bits not only the use of force but also the threat thereof. As Profes­sors John Mears­heimer, Richard Falk, Jeffrey Sachs and others have pointed out, NATO expan­sion was perceived by Russia as an attempt at encir­cle­ment, hence an exis­ten­tial threat. NATO’s continued provo­ca­tions in Georgia, Ukraine and else­where certainly amount to geopo­li­tical harass­ment in contra­ven­tion of the letter and spirit of the UN Charter.

Every attempt by Russia to defuse this menace by peaceful nego­tia­tion as required by article 2(3) UN Charter was rebuffed by the US and NATO. It can be argued that provo­king someone is more reproachable than reac­ting aggres­si­vely to the provo­ca­tion, because the provo­ca­tion is deli­be­rate, not acci­dental; the reac­tion thereof is ad hoc, lacking malice afor­ethought. Provo­king means inten­tio­nally making someone angry, thro­wing down the gauntlet, invi­ting a fight.

Of course, reta­lia­tion should be propor­tional to the provo­ca­tion. But we humans have this awesome tendency to over­react. Bottom line: Both the provo­ca­tion and the reta­lia­tion are repre­hen­sible. But the one who provokes bears greater moral responsibility.

Accor­dingly, provo­ca­tion should be reco­gnized as an attri­bute of the act of aggres­sion and as an inter­na­tional crime.


About the Author: Alfred de Zayas is Professor of Law at the Geneva School of Diplo­macy and served as UN Inde­pen­dent Expert on Inter­na­tional Order from 2012 – 2018. He is the author of nume­rous books, inclu­ding his latest trilogy released by Clarity Press, 2021.

Website of Clarity Press: Here

Website with details for the long awaited volume III: The Human Rights Industry to be released June 2023Hier


Bitte unter­stützen Sie unseren Kampf für Frei­heit und Bürgerrechte.
Für jede Spende (PayPal oder Bank­über­wei­sung) ab € 10.- erhalten Sie als Danke­schön auf Wunsch ein Dutzend Aufkleber „CORONA-DIKTATUR? NEIN DANKE“ porto­frei und gratis! Details hier.

Kommentieren Sie den Artikel

Bitte geben Sie Ihren Kommentar ein!
Bitte geben Sie hier Ihren Namen ein