Burdens of Proof and Evidentiary Standards in U.N. Weapons Inspections
Posted: 1 Mar 2010
Date Written: January 2010
The article analyzes the role of evidentiary standards under international law and how perceptions of evidence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) allegations led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The evidentiary record is built by using the five-year Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigation of the pre-invasion intelligence information (concluded in June 2008), the Iraqi Survey Group physical inspection findings during occupation, other government studies, and verified media releases over the past six years. Findings are juxtaposed with the domestic level issue formation, the UN Security Council interactions, and the four months of UN inspection reports. The chronological case study builds a structure of evidentiary standards, explains why Security Council interactions were logistically effective but ultimately unavailing, and is applied to a two-level domestic/international interactive game framework that distinguishes between established evidence and media assertions. Diplomatic and inspector evidentiary perceptions are analyzed as they progressed and are applied to resolution language that should have been the legal frame of reference for breach. Evidentiary standards of proof for breach were required in Security Council resolutions, all UN processes, UN inspection obligations, under good faith diplomacy principles, and even the language of Congress’s October 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. However, preconditions were bypassed. Since the UN Security Council does not possess a formal and dispassionate evidentiary fact-finding institution and diplomatically-produced information can commingle with potentially irreconcilable prerogatives of sovereign authority, an augmenting pressure dynamic can arise to supplant objectivity and relegate impartial, sober, and dispassionate legal processes to the realm of politics.
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