Friday, 3 July 2015

Bombing ISIS in Syria: the importance of international law

This  letters was submitted tot he The Financial Times on 3 July

Your leader (" Cameron steps up the UK’s fight against Isis: Lifting parliament’s prohibition on missions over Syria is justified ," 3 July asserts that "Isis, however, is a far more justified target. It seeks to kill innocent western civilians, including Britons, giving the UK a legal right to thwart its activities." (
This is the same logic as the United States Administration under President George W. Bush used to  seek retribution in the wake of the murder by terrorists of 3,000 people in the attacks on iconic targets in New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2011, when Afghanistan was very quickly invaded, with terrible consequent military casualties for both the US and UK.
But your leader does not address the legality of attacking terrorists based in  a sovereign country, Syria, that has not threatened or attacked the UK. This is not a mere nicety.

As Labour shadow defence spokesman Vernon Coker rightly told Parliament on Thursday in the debate on Britain and International Security,  while Labour  "stand[s]  ready to work with the Government to defeat ISIL and will carefully consider any proposals that they decide to bring forward," he qualified this by insisting, inter alia, on knowing "its legal basis."

SNP foreign affairs spokesman, Alex Salmond, also pointed out that the Attorney General's legal justification provided nearly two years ago to cover the then Coalition government plans to bomb President Assad's military infrastructure, does not cover the present circumstances, and insisted " if that is to be the legal basis, we must be given, and presumably will be given, a further summary note explaining the legal basis for participation in Syria."

In addition to the British Attorney General's legal advice, I think the UK should seek a UN Security Council endorsement, if President Assad does not agree to British bombers operating over his  sovereign state, as is still recognized by the United Nations.
Having lost over 630 British  military personnel dead and over 10, 000 seriously injured in the middle east region- in Iraq and Afghanistan-  we should be aware of mission creep once again.

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