The 1979 occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran shows why Venezuela now requires support in protecting its Washington embassy, says Alfred de Zayas.
International Law applies to all states, even if some violate the norms with impunity. Against the arrogance of power, law is impotent, because the international community has yet to create effective mechanisms of implementation. However, the breach does not abrogate international law, which remains in force until a future time when it is vindicated by the political will of governments and by people power.
Since the adoption of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the United States has committed multiple violations of its provisions. Normally such violations would lead to international adjudication and the obligation to make reparation to the injured state. The outrageous behavior of the United States with regard to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington violates the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is bound, and which has served U.S. interests in the past, when the premises of U.S. embassies and consulates have been targets of terrorism and/or illegally occupation.
The Venezuelan government demanded that the United States comply with the Convention, protect the Venezuelan diplomatic premises and respect the human rights of the activists who protected the building with authorization from the Venezuelan government.
When on Nov. 4, 1979, Iranian students and militants occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the U.S. promptly brought a case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, invoking the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, which refers disputes on its application to the world court. The U.S. also requested the indication of provisional measures of protection, which the court granted, holding that there was no more fundamental prerequisite for relations between states than the inviolability of diplomatic premises, and demanding the immediate restoration to the United States of the embassy premises. In its decision on the merits of the case, the court, in its judgment of May, 24, 1980, found that Iran had violated and was still violating obligations owed by it to the United States, that the violation of these obligations engaged Iranian responsibility, and that Iran was bound to make reparation for the injury caused to the United States.
The current situation concerning the Venezuelan embassy in Washington justifies adjudication by the world court, but in 1986 President Ronald Reagan withdrew U.S. recognition of the court’s automatic jurisdiction, and in 2018 President Donald Trump denounced the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, precisely to be able to violate it with impunity, without fearing the inconvenience of having to appear in The Hague and defend the indefensible.
Article 22 of the Convention stipulates:
No. 1: The premises of missions shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State (United States) may not enter them, except with the consent of the mission.
No. 2: The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
No. 3: The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.
Article 45 stipulates:
If diplomatic relations are broken off between two States….(a) The receiving State must…respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives…
The legal situation is therefore clear. But since an adjudication by the International Court of Justice is no longer possible following the unilateral withdrawals by the United States, it is up to the international community to defend the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and to demand that the United States respect it. Also the United Nations secretary general and the UN General Assembly could make public statements and adopt resolutions reminding the United States that it is not exempt from the application of customary international law, the UN Charter and the Vienna Convention.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson and the many volunteers in the Venezuelan embassy have demonstrated that people power can reaffirm human rights and hold – even if only temporarily – against abuse of power by governments. It is now for the media to fulfill its obligation to inform the people about the facts and to condemn obvious violations of the international order.
Alfred de Zayas was the UN independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order from 2012 to 2018. He is former secretary of the UN Human Rights Committee and head of the Petitions Department at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He is co-author with Judge Jakob Th. Möller of the handbook “United Nations Human Rights Committee Case Law, N.P. Engel, Strasbourg 2009.”
The AP is reporting that the four arrested appeared in federal court today and were charged with “interfering with the State Dept protective functions.”
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Nowhere have I read that the Collective was invited by the Venzuelan government to insist the Vienna Convention be honored. Nowhere is a reference to the Collective’s released statement on their purpose: no mention of their assertion they are not agents of any government but advocates for international law. Nowhere is even a reference to the name of this group, the Embassy Protection Collective — perhaps because it interferes with the prosecutor’s narrative.
This a good reminder that the ‘reporting’ we read everyday is incomplete and or incompetant, sometimes deliberately. Something Robert Parry fought against. He is missed.
Thanks for that note. Ignorant of the details of the story I didn’t even understand why this article was asserting Optional Protocol of the Vienna Convention cause I didn’t know they’d been invited by the embassy.
The US doesn’t understand we can be demonized by the rest of the world and the only thing we’ll have to protect ourselves is a nuclear suicide vest. No allies, no UK/Aus/Can alliance, just an enemy of the world because we chose to be ‘exceptional’ rather than the paragon of morality any nation has to aspire to if it also wants to take responsibility as a leader in the region or globally. We require a consistent moral standard not as some guide to increase the competitive fitness of the corporate state or the military industrial complex, but because it is the only measure by which people (American or otherwise) can judge the legitimacy of the US state. Xi Jinping won’t live forever, neither will Putin or Erdo?an, or the ruling classes of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. At some point their own corruption won’t exist to justify ours or better yet a real leader rises to engage the rest of the world in moving against the US/NATO/IMF/Fed because our own leadership is
Our responsibility as Americans, ones who believe that American exceptionalism is *about* the manifestation of human nature in governments historically and around the world, is to politically supplant the poorly educated corporate culture infiltrating all levels of our society including the process of civic governance itself. Not just to reject more shirts and ties in Congress and state legislatures, but to begin rejecting this notion of corporate progress through profits manufactured by any means. Quantitative easing, corporate stock buybacks, the breakdown of regulatory controls on the financial sector all have to do with regarding our fake, bloated economy with the respect it does not deserve.
But that also requires at some point looking at your own assets, concluding how much wealth we’ve personally made from this period of American culture, and being able to acknowledge how much of it might not have existed without immense government intervention in regards to monetary policy and where that money ended up in the economy because of those policies, the power we’ve traded as citizens to become more indulgent consumers. Obviously most engineered cash ended up in a very few people’s hands, but anyone who still holds any wealth as an American has probably also benefited from the credit empire. Until people themselves are willing to reject their own participation in an economy that was artificially rushed to maintain the postwar hegemony, to challenge our neighbors and colleagues whose wealth itself derives from this nuclear suicide pact, we will continue towards this inevitable confrontation with the peoples of the world who don’t actually benefit from our empire but suffer because of it.
Ultimately until we acknowledge that most people struggle because we used corporate socialism to build tremendous wealth for managers and executives (at least on a balance sheet), but continued to tell those who they managed that savings and work ethic and personal property were still a viable means to an end, we are going to surrender not only power but our rational faculties as a whole. We can either destroy our economy to bring down this class of thieves, snakes and morons, or we can extend and equalize the credit system to the rest of society, which is what Democratic Socialists in America now propose. I’d imagine most of Consortium News’ readers would reject such proposals, but as long as you keep going to work, going to the store and behaving like the structures of power and property are completely legitimate then the only solution left is to assess the artificial inequality in the system and artificially correct it.
Our own leadership is decrepit*
Thank you to Jesse Jackson. May there be more and more like him!
In all seriousness, perhaps it’s time for another location for the United Nations and perhaps all other nations should look at reducing their presence in Washington to a step below that of a full Embassy – perhaps just focussing on trade?
Trump has wanted to get rid of his U.N. payments in any case.
This is exactly what should be done.
Just want to note that the gentlemen with Rev. Jackson in the included photo and video is Ajamu Baraka, who I and about 1,500,000 other Americans (at the least) voted for as Vice President in 2016.
Not trying to be pedantic, but…well maybe I am. Good article.
The Iranian students had actual justification to take over the U.S. Embassy in 1979. It was full of spies who were trying to overthrow the Iranian government. So what else is new? The comparison to the present day situation is off the mark.
Did Russia ever receive any compensation for the seizure of its consulates by Obama on the false pretenses that they stole the presidential election from Hillary? Because they are sure never getting those properties back, which the feds have trespassed upon and inspected with a fine-tooth comb. Those diplomatic properties were supposedly sacrosanct just like an embassy. But this is a new day wherein Uncle Sam rewrites international law to suit his immediate convenience. The MSM barely mentioned Russia’s objections when American agents shut down and rifled the Russian consulate in San Francisco two years ago, which was a funny way for Trump to show his appreciation to Putin for his alleged help in ascension to the throne.
Laws are simply instruments of oppression for the US government. The US simply disobeys any laws that run counter to it’s interests. Falling prey to the US “legal” system is like being in Franz Kafka’s Castle, with no hope of an exit. Laws are just a sick joke to those who rule over us.
So apparently earlier today the lawful *occupancy* of the Venezuelan embassy by the Embassy Protection Collective was ended by so-called law enforcement, and the illegal *occupation* of the embassy by the Yankee-approved, pretend, puppet “ambassador” begins – a further theft of Venezuelan state property by the U.S. government.
Bravo to the Embassy Protection Collective for doing what you could!
I think the U.S.’s gang of cronies in NATO and elsewhere must be looking at this whole prolonged, failed coup attempt with dismay – not at the aggression and criminality, about which they don’t care in the least, but at the ridiculous farce it is proving to be.
For a hegemon relying on raw power, having abandoned not only justice, but even basic rationality, a display of such weakness and ineffectuality – in its own “backyard” no less – is truly dangerous.
Would it not be a shocking scenario where all it takes is an antagonistic host country to prop up an American ex-pat puppet and then recognize the puppet as leader of the US, in order for the host to expropriate *all* local assets/accounts? Oh, wait…
The embassy protectors were not Maduro supporters, in my understanding. They were an island of sanity, procedural caution and respect for the laws that protect all of us. If all the US has is Bolton and Elliot Abrams’ lame-brained geopolitical economic warfare and reactionary lawlessness, then the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
You understand now why veterans and active service members support Bernie Sanders. These old, mad dudes like Bolton don’t even conceive of what modern warfare from Iran already looks like or what the Indian/Chinese market could produce for it in a very short time. They’re not dumb and have the intel from people smarter than me that we’re already too deep into drones and machine learning to unleash that tech even on a small scale, which is what Iran would do to Israel/US. They think if we just act right now there’s still time to construct other countries like they’re in the Louisiana Purchase or something, when the knowledge and application for rogue AI drones to affect our own lives already exists. More war is more instability to produce bad, dangerous ideas, then have those bad ideas get picked up by the next generation of orphaned children of dead insurgents, stripped of childhood or economic opportunity, who then apply their intellect to constructing the next generation of undetonated landmines. Peace is the only means of survival for anyone.
“… in 2018 President Donald Trump denounced the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, precisely to be able to violate it with impunity, without fearing the inconvenience of having to appear in The Hague and defend the indefensible.”
That action, announced by John Bolton of course, was taken in context of Palestinian complaints about the U.S. moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, but a scarce few months later it pays off in the lawless assault on Venezuela.
The various U.S. aggressions synergistically reinforcing each other! Impressive in a sociopathic sort of way.
The US is a neo-con fascist dictatorship. It has been running roughshod over the world for a long time. What happened at the embassy amounts to treason by “law” enforcement and their paymasters. That is because they and their paymasters specifically broke their oath to our Constitution.
They take an oath to be loyal to our Constitution, not to the orders of John Bolton, nor of Juan Guido, nor of Mike Pence or Donald Trump– not to any person but to the Constitution. They should have refused the orders and arrested those who gave them. Instead, they broke faith with our nation, with their fellow citizens, with our Constitution.
I am deeply offended by the actions of this rouge “govt.” It was Obama’s job to arrest Bush and Cheney for war crimes, including torture. Yet even torture is ignored by this rouge cabal. With the break in of the embassy, the dictatorship of the US is trying to start a war against the duly elected govt. of another nation.
While we have many lackeys in the world, we do not own all of this world. Thus, with this action this neocon fascist cabal has put our own embassy staffs in harms way, just as they will put our soldiers in harms way for another of their insane, illegal wars on behalf of stealing resources.
The UN needs to stand up to the US. Do they somehow believe they will benefit from this empire’s lawlessness and wars? If they do, they are most certainly fools. And yes, it will need to be we the people who will restore the rule of law. Justice will not come from the monsters who are running this nation into the ground.
I afraid the US has long abandoned the Constitution’s Laws & Rights? If it can’t obey its own moral standards setup in its own Constitution, how on Earth can it follow International Laws & the Geneva Convention? America & particularly its immoral Rogue Govt shows absolute contempt for any International laws that are meant to act as a handbrake to prevent a Nation tipping over the edge of the rule of law & becoming a fascist state! With America’s consistent undermining & abandonment of these Laws, they are now a Pariah state, a Rogue Lawless, contemptible Nation! The hypocrisy of this is that the US complains about other Countries not abiding by International Laws yet has the barefaced cheek to put themselves above those same laws of compliance! What a shambolic Nation run by Charlatans & crooks!
It’s just a mater of time before people start taking over US Embassies around the globe.
I sincerely hope you are right. The Iraqi embassy would be a great one to start with. US personnel are being evacuated due to war plans for Iran. That embassy is a major intel fortress in that region. It would be poetic justice for it to be turned over to the victims of this vicious empire’s victims.