By Edward Trower-
.The Uk government has published its official position on the legality of UK military action in conjunction with the U.S and France.
The reason given for the strikes against Syria was to alleviate the extreme humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their further use. This attack according to Downing Street was in response to the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018.
2.The Syrian regime has been killing its own people for seven years. Its use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering, is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity.
.The statement claimed that the UK is permitted under international law, on ”an exceptional basis” to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention requires three conditions to be met, the statement said. First, that there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale requiring immediate and urgent relief.
Secondly, the statement claimed, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved. Thirdly, that the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose.
Bases near Damascus and Homs were targeted in response to an alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma.
Syrian state media condemned the military action as “a flagrant violation of international law”. Unsurprisingly, Russia’s leader, President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack “in the most serious way”. .The UK considers that military action met the requirements of humanitarian intervention in the circumstances of the present case:
Downing Street say the Syrian regime has been using chemical weapons since 2013. They made reference to the attack in Eastern Damascus on 21 August 2013 which left over 800 people dead. The Uk government also pointed out that the Syrian regime failed to implement its commitment in 2013 to ensure the destruction of its chemical weapons capability. The chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 killed approximately 80 people and left hundreds more injured.
The recent attack in Douma has killed up to 75 people, and injured over 500 people, with over 400,000 people killed, most of whom are civilians. The document stressed that half of the Syrian population has been displaced, with over 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
”The repeated, lethal use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. On the basis of what we know about the Syrian regime’s pattern of use of chemical weapons to date, it was highly likely that the regime would seek to use chemical weapons again, leading to further suffering and loss of civilian life as well as the continued displacement of the civilian population”.
It said that efforts by the British Government and its international partners to ease the suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime at the UN Security Council have been blocked by ”the regime’s and its allies’ disregard for international norms”, including the international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. This last week, Russia vetoed yet another resolution in the Security Council, thwarting the establishment of an impartial investigative mechanism.
It added that ”there was no practicable alternative to the truly exceptional use of force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their further use by the Syrian regime in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering”. Also, as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention to strike carefully considered, specifically identified targets was necessary proportionate and legally justifiable.
The alleviation of humanitarian distress by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring further chemical weapons attacks was necessary and proportionate. It was also legally justifiable. Such an intervention was directed exclusively to averting a humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the action was the minimum judged necessary for that purpose