The Avengers: a legal reality
Our first Guest blog post by Ridhima Lohia
“The safest hands are still our own” is what Captain America had said when the Sokovian accords (Sokovian accords, ratified by 117 nations, stated that the avengers would stop being a private organisation and instead function under the supervision of a UN panel. It was signed by half of the avengers only) were proposed. However, his words are contradicted by his actions as this is what he had said after they blew up buildings in Lagos, streets of New York and Washington city and left Sokovia in shambles. It is assumed that the Avengers fought those wars for the greater good and to prevent worse harm and that the deaths were just collateral damage. But how much can be forgiven under the name of collateral damage? Have the casualties risen way too much and should their powers now be curbed? If their powers are to be curbed, how and in what capacity does the legal system play a role?
A Need for regulations -
The first kind of legal restriction that should be imposed should be on their innovations and their weapons. What is the legality and morality behind experimenting with newly devised serums on a man like Steve Rogers who is too young and impressionable to fully understand the implications of his consent? It is uncertain if the scientists were the right people to decide who would get injected with the super-soldier serum because in their very midst was a man who was a member of Hydra (Terrorist organisation with fascist views and bent on world domination) and had stolen the remaining samples with the motive of providing it to the group.
“Last year, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) revealed its own plans to create an elite fighting force. One of these projects was to create software which could be uploaded directly to the brain to give their soldiers heightened senses while also attempting to cure ailments such as blindness, paralysis and speech disorders.” While the first set of tests will initially be on human simulators, it will finally be on human volunteers as well and the possibilities of things going wrong are endless. The second set of tests are eerily similar to the “death squad”.
These experiments have various moral and legal aspects connected to them which run parallel to the issues present in the Avengers alternate universe. Like what happens to these men on whom the experiments fail? Is it ethical that they only get half-lives to live? What happens when the experiments succeed on those kinds of men who go rampant and desire world domination? What makes scientists the right people to make decisions on whom to experiment?
Secondly, Ironman’s actions and innovations also need to be regulated because while he was creating the ultimate saviour for the world, he created Ultron who wanted to destroy the world and reign instead. Stark had also created an army of metal robots but had to disintegrate them as they had been manipulated and misused. Stark’s actions come very close to resembling the actions of a private militia. The laws regarding private militia in America talk about how they will be limited only by the criminal laws that are applicable to normal citizens. Normal citizens would be held liable if they had gone around destroying cities and residential towers.
Though the laws do not prohibit the formation of private militia, it does forbid their exercise and parade in the public. Stark has disobeyed this law too and has faced no consequences so we wonder for how long will stark be given special treatment! Stark also shouldn’t be in charge of deciding who gets his armour-like how he gave to agent Rhodes, Spiderman and hulk. For example, when Rhodes was hired as the bodyguard of the president, the president had so much faith in the armour that it was manipulated and used as a tool for his kidnapping.
This proves how easy it is to manipulate armour and thus it is essential to keep a record of who armour is given to. When the avengers operate, they seem to be disobeying the letter of the law and follow what in their eyes is the spirit of the law. What spirit of the law is in their opinion might contradict what the general opinion is like when Thanos thought he was doing a service to the world by using the infinity stones to wipe out have the population but was actually committing mass genocide.
There is a thin line of difference between the Avengers and Thanos as both of them operate on the basis of their beliefs and both their actions end with destruction and death. Both believe that they are assisting humanity. To make sure that this line of difference remains, there should be a set of laws or a legal authority that makes the decisions regarding superhumans and how their mental and physical resources are to be used.
This government body should consist of legal and scientific experts who understand the consequences of the inventions of the Avengers. They should deal with the decisions of who would get injected with the serum, what kind of weapons would be used and how to prevent the misutilisation of their inventions. But a new question arises that what would happen if the government body approved operations go wrong? The government does have a tendency to shift blame and thus we cannot be sure if they would take accountability for those consequences or not.
Need for International Laws
The second set of laws that need to be rectified are international law. The world sees Avengers as “a group of US-based, enhanced individuals who routinely ignore sovereign borders”. Dealing with the first part of the statement - if the Avengers is mostly US-based and one explicitly being called Captain America, the other countries are bound to get insecure. In the absence of International law, the other countries will always be in fear of America unleashing the avengers on them like they dropped nuclear bombs during WW2. This might lead to other countries conducting their own set of experiments to create their own set of enhanced soldiers. This would lead to catastrophic results. Whether the experiments fail or succeed, we do not know what kind of supervillains or superhumans would be created and what relationship dynamic would be shared with the avengers. Thus, there is a dire need for laws on experimenting on humans and on training them to counteract the Avengers.
Now coming to the second part of the statement, the avengers have always disregarded the sovereign borders whether it is iron man conducting surgical strikes in Afghanistan to black widow fighting terrorists in Lagos (when in Lagos, they had created more harm than good as they failed to stop the terrorists and instead blew up inhabited buildings) or hulk conducting research in India. Mostly, these countries had not asked for the avengers to intervene. Neither was the breach of aerial boundary appreciated. Since carrying out military operations in other countries is considered casus belli, the question is what gives the avengers the authority to decide which country to intervene in and where not to. Keeping the success ratio aside, since the avengers have intervened in the matters of most countries, what’s to stop the other countries from asking for assistance from the avengers for every little problem of theirs in the future? The world will either get too dependent on them or get weary of their failures.
Coming to the biggest issue at hand, can laws even be imposed on them and under whose jurisdiction will they be a part of? Though most of them are American, Black Widow is Russian, Black Panther is from Wakanda, Vision is a robot and Thor is from outer space. Especially since they are biologically, mentally and physically enhanced, they cannot be treated like normal human beings. Thus, laws of the country cannot apply unless specifically made for enhanced individuals. Even if those laws are made, there is no single country whose laws can apply to all the avengers. Even the UN as a whole cannot fully control their actions as it is a representative of the nations and not the universes. So, the question that arises is which body has full control and authority over them. Which hands are safer than their own or simply, which hands will protect the people while their hands are busy in combat?