Article – The Jurist: Tyranny and the Global Legal Order: The War in Ukraine

Here’s the introduction..

A critical attribute of tyranny is its multi-faced character. We are familiar with tyranny with its domestic face, and it is largely understood that this domestic face often turns outward through war and imperialism. That tyranny turns about-face back to the domestic sphere as the laws, policies and practices of external tyranny return to roost are also familiar. Tyranny’s Janusian nature is long documented, with commentary from classical Greece through to Third World Approaches to International Law demonstrating the non-linear traffic of tyrannical practices. In each of these analyses, the state remains the pivot and this is not without necessity I’ve written elsewhere about the possibilities of tyranny within the Trump administration. But in looking to the global legal order, beyond the horizontal inter-state back-and-forth, something else is revealed.

The state and rooted in this, the horizontal plane of international law, shuts out tyranny as a basis for analysis. Tyranny cannot be present within the global legal order because it is horizontal and so there is no hierarchy from which to exercise tyrannical power. Yet, this makes the global legal order the first and potentially the only legal-political system where power is exercised but where tyranny cannot take root. While that would be wonderful, it is unlikely. In fact, I want to argue it is present, and through the prism of the illegal war in Ukraine, demonstrate how it operates.

Before discussing Ukraine, I will set out what I mean by tyranny. In my book, Tyranny and the Global Legal Order, I outline a history of tyranny in its normative form and, particularly, its relationship with law. I also examine the history of tyrannicide and tyrannophobia. Following on from this, I develop a taxonomy of tyranny. This taxonomy reflects the morphing nature of tyranny as it adapts to political, social, economic and cultural contexts, including the global. The taxonomy begins with the impetus behind tyranny, which rests with the benefits that accrue to tyrant(s) and their cohort – political, financial, psychological or otherwise. Tyranny establishes itself through illegitimacy either in office or while coming to office, tyrannical rule proceeds through rule by law, silence (as the absence of contestation, there is often plenty of noise and sometimes, though not always, accompanied by violence in its broadest sense), and beneficence which can include ‘bringing’ order, material gain or psychological benefits. Tyrants maintain rule through a variety of modes, be it via the politics of scale, through imperialism, through bureaucracy and technology, and is very often gendered.

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