Continued from page 1

It is implicit that protecting human rights is not an option, but rather a covenant to which its members are morally bound.

The word universal means that members are committed to shielding all human rights in all places. It is not meant to be selective.

Consider Article 56: “All members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action “

Member states pledge themselves to take joint action to promote human rights.

The word pledge implies a promise as opposed to an option.

If members do not act jointly, they pledge to act separately.

“It is implicit that using chemical weapons against civilians is a clear violation of humanitarian and human rights law and a war crime,” says Winston Nagan, a professor of international law at the University of Florida. “The charter does not get specific as to how member states shall uphold human rights, but it does clearly say that they pledge to take joint and separate action to do so. There are still broader obligations in the U.N. charter that cannot be completely obliterated by the Security Council.”

So, when President Obama said that “the world had set a red line,” he was technically correct.

The United Nations, our treaties and the institutions of international law are only as strong as we make them. If we fail to uphold our own covenants and promises then they will have no meaning.

This is why President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair used force to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

As Mr. Blair put it, “I didn’t feel we could simply stand aside from that if we had the means, which we did, to intervene and stop it It was important — not just that NATO delivered a series of demands, and the realization of them — but also that type of ethnic cleansing was not allowed to continue unchecked.”

President Obama has a sound legal and moral argument to present to the world.

This argument is sound because under international law, U.N. member states have pledged to universally uphold human rights — even if upholding those rights means the U.S. must act alone.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a former Washington, D.C. prosecutor.