Second International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns

Vierhouten, the Netherlands 1988

Afternoon discussion with Professor de Waart

Saturday afternoon, a group of seven discussed international law. Among them, Professor de Waart, who was first asked to elaborate on the historical importance for international law of the International Court of Justice's verdict in the case of the US vs. Nicaragua (described in his morning lecture). Mr. de Waart stated that the very fact that the court declared itself competent to apply international law to this conflict was the most important. To some (and not the least) advisers of the Court this had appeared to be a wrong decision. The US, namely, did not recognize the Court and refused to implement the verdict. This fact, these advisers argued, would expose the Court as non-authoritative, and thus harm its authority in the long run. The Court's courage to nevertheless take up the case was welcomed by Mr. de Waart as a significant historical step, which in his view had generally strengthened the command of international law.

Of more specific interest to War Tax Activists was the following discussion, concentrating on some legal aspects of their position. Could an activist rightfully refuse, it was asked, to pay his share in his country's war preparations?

In his answer Mr. de Waart compared this situation with the one in the UN, where a country dissenting with a majority decision would refuse to share in the cost. He gave examples of such situations where countries had done so, which had been accepted by the other countries. Then again, he argued, countries in an international organization were not completely comparable to individuals in a state.

Then it was asked whether or not such an activist in a democratic state would harm his parliament's exclusive right to decide on the division of the national budget. This “budget right”, namely, is viewed by many as an indispensable democratic asset. Mr. de Waart remarked that tax-deductible donations are, in a strict sense, likewise an invasion of the parliamentary budget right, and nonetheless widely accepted. A few case descriptions underlined Mr. de Waart's opinion that international law is gradually, though slowly, increasing its influence on international relations, which in itself is important to diminish the dangers of war.