Syria and the Law 160

The legal position is perfectly clear. Syria has a recognised government, that of President Assad, represented at the United Nations. That government is legally entitled to call on Russian military assistance. Russian military action against ISIL is therefore legal.

By contrast, US and French military action has neither the sanction of the Syrian government nor the sanction of the United Nations Security Council. It is therefore plainly illegal.

Neo-con propagandists have attempted in the last fifteen years to promote a new doctrine known as the “responsibility to protect”. This is identical to intellectual justifications of Imperialism from sixteenth century Spain through to Victorian England and Imperial Russia. It holds that misgovernment of less developed nations justifies military action against them by more developed countries out of humanitarian concern. It runs directly to the established international law of non-interference and the need for Security Council sanction of military action. The “responsibility to protect” is not enshrined in any generally accepted international treaty – certainly nothing that overrides the provisions of the UN charter – and is not accepted by the large majority of the countries in the world. It is not customary international law and remains a propaganda phrase, not a legal concept.

Finally, I should add that on precisely the same arguments, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.

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160 thoughts on “Syria and the Law

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  • Mary

    Why on earth was Jeremy Corbyn wasting his time attending and speaking at a LFoI gathering?

    That is Joan Ryan in the photo. Returned to the HoC in May. Dodgy expenses claims.

    One of the BLiar babes. Editing her Wikipedia entry. Tut! Tut!

    No shame. A real trougher.

  • RobG

    Wow, what an audience! Mary posted a link yesterday to Edward Snowden’s new Twitter account, and since he opened it, Snowden’s account has gained more than 1 million followers…

    I’m not a great fan of Twitter, but I think this will be one to watch.

  • Republicofscotland

    “Bit like Israel and the Palestinians, I’d say – no genocide but certainly mass expulsions.”

    Surely one had his tongue firmly pressed into his cheek when he typed the above sentence.

    As defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article 2, it consists of any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such

    (a) Killing members of the group

    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group

    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    The “in whole or in part” means that there is no lower limit to the number of people on which these acts may be committed. It is genocide even any of the Acts (a)-(e) are on one person with the intent described. That is, it is not necessary that large numbers of persons be killed for a policy to qualify as a violation of this convention

  • John Spencer-Davis

    30/09/2015 8:55pm

    To be brutally honest, to say that forcibly transferring one child from one racial, religious, ethnic or national group to another or that causing mental harm to one person from such a group is the crime of genocide, makes a mockery of the word genocide, in my opinion.

    It’s tough, because the key is of course the intent. And you can’t say that “doing this to 999 members of the group isn’t genocide, but doing it to 1000 members of the group is.” Or set the limits where you like. It would just seem ridiculous to prosecute someone for genocide, for causing mental suffering to one person out of untold millions of a group because they don’t like the group.

    Kind regards,


  • lysias

    Intervention in Bosnia was authorized by vote of the UN Security Council, and so did not require use of any extraordinary doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

  • Tim


    A new Parliament can indeed abrogate a contract entered into by its predecessor but it will then be liable for whatever remedies are specified in the contract in the event of termination.

    Sovereignty means that you have the right to do whatever you want but, as the Greeks found out, it does not relieve you from the consequences of your actions

  • lysias

    The Convention on Genocide was drafted by Raphael Lemkin in the 1940’s. Although the Polish Jewish lawyer Lemkin must also have had the Holocaust then in progress also in mind, the evidence is that what he was thinking about in particular was the Armenian genocide during and after World War One. Since the Turks and their collaborators did not intend to kill all Armenians, not even all Armenians under Turkish rule (the intent seems to have been to make sure they were no more than a small percentage of the population in any Turkish province), Lemkin’s draft spoke of an intent to destroy “in whole or in part”. Presumably this should be interpreted to mean “in whole or in large part”, a test under which the Armenian genocide certainly qualified.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    30/09/2015 9:06pm

    Actually, I don’t really agree with you. I think a Parliament, or the Government of a sovereign nation, has a perfect right to abrogate any contracts or agreements it likes. The ground for that assertion is that, for example, a previous Parliament may have been corrupted: hand in glove with, say, external corporations who more or less ran the country and extracted whatever they pleased while bribing the previous administration to give them a free hand. That’s just an example. It’s just that the country has to be strong enough and self-sufficient enough to withstand the consequences in the physical world.

    Castro did that. He took over Cuba, and he told the United States to fuck off, corporations, government, agreements, and all. And Cuba paid for it ever since, with sanctions, embargoes, the lot.

    It’s still here, though.

    Kind regards,


  • Ishmael

    ooo btw, the ‘good-ish’ news for me. I’d written a thing earlier but the short version.

    Don’t think i’m being physically stalked, I did some local checking after being ready to go to the police….I don’t imagine I am interesting to them, certainly be strange if I was..

    Though i’m a bit ashamed to say I imagined it expected for someone like Craig. But this is totally bad of me to think. Regardless of ideas or ways anyone can agree with or not, his person should be respected as a matter of natural decency to other human beings…As should most other peoples.

    I blame the fascist impulse of the state lately. As I actually thought less recently they where getting past this ‘bash a lefty’ shit. It’s very corrosive to all of us really.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Salford Lad,

    Nice to see you writing here…you are a clever lad I read you on John Ward’s SLOG. I used to write there too..but John banned me (couldn’t handle 9/11) ( I can hardly blame him ) but I do like some of the stuff he writes – but don’t mention economics or even ex wives or his trip to “England” and staying in the most awful shiitholes..Fck if he hadn’t banned me..he could have stayed round my gaf for free. I really like the bloke.

    Manchester too…in fact I probably know him..


  • Ishmael

    ps, Just for the record.

    I’m not a leftist, or an anarchist, or a ‘socialist’ all quite i’ll defined subjects, I’m a human being.

    Later people…best wishes.

  • lysias

    Castro’s Cuba is still there all right, and many U.S. presidents have left office in the meantime: Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush pere, Clinton, Bush fils. That makes 10, and Obama will soon be the 11th.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    30/09/2015 9:22pm

    No. Cuba paid for it, and its people. I get the impression that at that time, they thought it was a price worth paying.

    We agree on something, anyway. You can abrogate what you like as long as you are powerful enough to withstand (or ignore) the consequences.

    Kind regards

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Mark Golding Number 1 Comment on This Blog

    “I asked Vladimir Putin to save the collapse of the Syrian government based on information known to me and I can disclose that Russia will provide air support to the Syrian army. Thank-you President Putin from the Children of Iraq Association.”

    Thank You So much. I also read what you wrote.

    We can only try our BEST.


  • Daniel

    “He should tell these shills to get lost.”

    I agree. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. The mainstream media and the establishment elite cannot handle the idea that Corbyn can be both a campaigner and a leader, or that decision making can be a democratic process emanating from the bottom up. They just can’t seem to get to grips with the fact that a politician like him answers questions directly and comes across as person with principle and integrity who offers to debate and discuss policy issues with colleagues before formulating them.

    But compromise will be Corbyn’s enemy. His detractors- the current crop of BBC and Guardian political commentators included- will seize upon any inclination towards compromise in order to split Corbyn’s support. His concessions to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) that compromise the democratic wishes of the mass membership, will create the foundations upon which the corrupted mainstream media, whose interests the former share, will pounce.

    The media’s strategy is to exacerbate the wedge between the Blairite elements within the PLP hierarchy and the mass membership. Kuenssberg’s question to Corbyn regarding whether he could ever envisage a circumstance where he would press the nuclear button is an example of this. Their attempts at creating a schism is intended to undermine Corbyn’s authority. We can expect more of this in the coming period.

    Corbyn’s straightforwardness and directness is of a course a great quality in a politician but I do fear that his good intentions will paradoxically lead to his downfall. I hope I’m wrong. You can read more about Corbyn and the speech here:

  • John S Warren

    There is a great deal of grand strategy on this thread (Mackinder/Heartlands) and some of it is trenchantly argued, but I remain unconvinced. I do not feel sufficiently informed of the relevant intelligence (and I am not convinced anyone has it), to argue about anyone’s, or any state’s intentions: but I confess that I do not see the effects of some brilliantly conceived and Machiavellian strategy; all that I can see is something that appears much less monumental than Mackinder’s geoppolitics, and closer to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: what I see is entropy.

  • Resident Dissident

    “I asked Vladimir Putin to save the collapse of the Syrian government based on information known to me and I can disclose that Russia will provide air support to the Syrian army. Thank-you President Putin from the Children of Iraq Association.”

    If the Charity Commission need evidence that the COIA is breaking the law by masquerading as a charity might I suggest that they consider this post from its “trustee”.

  • Mary

    Jon Sopel on the BBC 10pm news was in a very excited state.

    He has even increased the size of the font on his Twitter!

    Jon Sopel ‏@BBCJonSopel · 5 hrs ago
    So is Russian bombing designed to destroy #ISIS or prop up President Assad? The 2 aren’t the same. #Syria just got a whole lot more complex

    Jon Sopel ‏@BBCJonSopel · 6 hrs ago
    Extraordinary. A 3 star Russian general went to US embassy in Baghdad this am, saying bombing starts in 1 hour, clear #Syria airspace

    631 retweets 203 favourites

     Reply

     Retweet


     Favourite


  • Mary

    An excellent and topical essay by John Pilger.

    The revolutionary act of telling the truth
    30 September 2015

    George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

    These are dark times, in which the propaganda of deceit touches all our lives. It is as if political reality has been privatised and illusion legitimised. The information age is a media age. We have politics by media; censorship by media; war by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of clichés and false assumptions.

    Wondrous technology has become both our friend and our enemy. Every time we turn on a computer or pick up a digital device – our secular rosary beads – we are subjected to control: to surveillance of our habits and routines, and to lies and manipulation.

    Edward Bernays, who invented the term, “public relations” as a euphemism for “propaganda”, predicted this more than 80 years ago. He called it, “the invisible government”.

    He wrote, “Those who manipulate this unseen element of [modern democracy] constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country… We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of… ”

    The aim of this invisible government is the conquest of us: of our political consciousness, our sense of the world, our ability to think independently, to separate truth from lies.

    This is a form of fascism, a word we are rightly cautious about using, preferring to leave it in the flickering past. But an insidious modern fascism is now an accelerating danger. As in the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the regularity of a metronome. Muslims are bad. Saudi bigots are good. ISIS bigots are bad. Russia is always bad. China is getting bad. Bombing Syria is good. Corrupt banks are good. Corrupt debt is good. Poverty is good. War is normal.


  • Laguerre

    Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is, beyond any doubt, illegal.

    I agree with Craig’s post, but I don’t understand this point. There are two different situations. Crimea and Donbass. You can argue that Crimea was illegal, though it was a typical Great Power operation, to protect its interests. The US would have done the same on a vital question.

    On Donbass, I don’t see the illegality. The Russians help the Donbass rebels. That’s all. Quite like the US help for the Syrian rebels.

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