Eighteen months ago, the No DaPL protests took the matter before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The Court convenes in the Peace Palace, and this author was fortunate enough to have visited it several years ago.
In a stunning ruling, the ICJ determined that not only was the United States of America violating the rights of the indigenous people, but that western Europeans have engaged in illegal wars of aggression since the beginning of the 1500s.
Claims to north American by right of discovery are invalid, the Court explained, because there existed at the time an indigenous population whose rights to the land are superior to that of their illegal conquerors. Indeed, the only portion of the north American continent lawfully occupied by other than the original indigenous tribes is what is now called Manhattan. The ICJ found title to that land lawfully passed to to the Dutch in exchange for 60 guilders of trade goods.
The ICJ also found that claims to north America by right of conquest to be equally invalid, as a country that commits an illegal war of aggression cannot thereby obtain title to the land.
The international court’s ruling, though important, is largely symbolic. It lacks any means to enforce its ruling.