Attack on Syria Justified on Humanitarian Grounds – UK

Attack on Syria Justified on Humanitarian Grounds – UK
# 29 August 2013 17:46 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Even without UN Security Council approval, a foreign military operation in Syria would be lawful under the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, applied in 1999 to justify the NATO campaign in Kosovo, the British government said Thursday, APA reports quoting RIA Novosti.

“The legal basis for military action would be humanitarian intervention; the aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons,” the United Kingdom Prime Minister’s Office said in a summary of legal advice from the attorney general.

Western powers are considering armed intervention in the two-year civil war after hundreds of people were killed last week in the Syrian capital Damascus in an apparent nerve gas attack that the Syrian opposition claimed was performed by government forces and the government blamed on rebels. Western media reported that such intervention might begin in the coming days.

The statement was issued ahead of a House of Commons debate and vote on whether the UK should join US-led strikes on Syria, if such strikes go ahead. In opening the debate, Prime Minister David Cameron called the purported gas attack "one of the most abhorrent uses of chemical weapons in a century."

However, the government had to water down its motion, facing growing opposition from politicians and the public. Even if the premier wins Thursday’s vote, another vote would be required to authorize UK military involvement.

The United Nations Security Council has so far not authorized any military intervention in the Syrian crisis. Moscow, along with Beijing, has previously vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Russia has urged all parties to the conflict to use diplomatic means to resolve it.

The UK Prime Minister’s Office said that if action in the Security Council is blocked, international law still permits the country “to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.”

However, three conditions must be met: First, there should be “convincing evidence” of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale generally accepted by the international community, second, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force, and third, the use of force must be necessary, proportionate and strictly limited in time and scope.

“All three conditions would clearly be met in this case,” the statement reads.

The UK government said it would press for referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The reports of the August 21 attack, in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed, came last Wednesday, shortly after a UN team of chemical weapons investigators started working in Damascus. The Syrian government quickly denied the allegations and said it had evidence of rebel groups using chemical weapons.

The chairman of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), John Day, said an investigation by his committee showed that the Syrian government’s claims that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition were groundless.

“There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claims or the possession of CW [chemical weapons] by the opposition. The JIC has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime responsibility,” he said in a report to the UK prime minister.