Skip to main content

International Law and the Use of Force in Syria


A major topic in current events is the questionable legality of any potential move by the United States to intervene in the ongoing Syrian civil war.  For those interested in better understanding this issue by reviewing the state of the laws governing the use of force, here are some resources that may be useful:
Article 2(4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter pledges member states to refrain from the threat or use of force against other states.  However, there are two exceptions: Articles 34 and 51 permit the use of force when authorized by the UN Security Council or in self-defense, respectively.  Although these articles constitute the law on the international use of force, many modern legal theorists have nonetheless developed justifications for humanitarian intervention when the UN refrains from authorizing the use of force for political or procedural reasons rather than declining to do so on the merits of a given case.
These justifications were used in 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) intervened in Serbia to put an end to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.  In the case of Kosovo, the UN Security Council vetoed the use of force, but NATO’s actions were condoned by the international community despite the fact that the intervention did not accord with international law.  The case of Kosovo is seen by some as a precedent for similar intervention in Syria: both situations involve similar accusations of domestic war crimes, and both are in a legal grey area created by objections on one side that the use of force without UN authorization would be illegal, and objections on the other side that the Security Council veto has broken the process that could result in UN authorization.
A legal analysis of this issue is beyond the scope of this posting; fortunately, legal scholars elsewhere have already done an excellent job.  Anyone looking for an informed consideration of international law regarding the unauthorized use of force may be interested in essays posted here, here or here.

Comments

  1. Very helpful and clear analysis of international law! Thanks for posting this. I found this Washington Post article about the Syrian civil war helpful to understanding the conflict--http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/29/9-questions-about-syria-you-were-too-embarrassed-to-ask/.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Spying and International Law

With increasing numbers of foreign governments officially objecting to now-widely publicized U.S. espionage activities, the topic of the legality of these activities has been raised both by the target governments and by the many news organizations reporting on the issue.For those interested in better understanding this controversy by learning more about international laws concerning espionage, here are some legal resources that may be useful.

The following is a list of multinational treaties relevant to spies and espionage:
Brussels Declaration concerning the Laws and Customs of War (1874).Although never ratified by the nations that drafted it, this declaration is one of the earliest modern examples of an international attempt to codify the laws of war.Articles 19-22 address the identification and treatment of spies during wartime.These articles served mainly to distinguish active spies from soldiers and former spies, and provided no protections for spies captured in the act.The Hagu…

Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades

It’s that time of year again. Law students across the country are poring over their class notes and supplements, putting the finishing touches on their outlines, and fueling their all-night study sessions with a combination of high-carb snacks and Java Monsters. This can mean only one thing: exam time is approaching.

If you’re looking for a brief but effective guide to improving your exam performance, the O’Quinn Law Library has the book for you. Alex Schimel’s Law School Exams: A Guide to Better Grades, now in its second edition, provides a clear and concise strategy for mastering the issue-spotting exams that determine the majority of your grade in most law school classes. Schimel finished second in his class at the University Of Miami School Of Law, where he taught a wildly popular exam workshop in his 2L and 3L years, and later returned to become Associate Director of the Academic Achievement Program. The first edition of his book was written shortly after he finished law school, …