An Illegal War in Libya

This is a quote from Richard Falk, professor of international law:

“What is immediately striking about the bipartisan call in Washington for a no-fly zone and air strikes designed to help rebel forces in Libya is the absence of any concern with the relevance of international law or the authority of the United Nations. None in authority take the trouble to construct some kind of legal rationalisation. The ‘realists’ in command, and echoed by the mainstream media, do not feel any need to provide even a legal fig leaf before embarking on aggressive warfare.

The core legal obligation of the UN Charter requires member states to refrain from any use of force unless it can be justified as self-defence after a cross-border armed attack or mandated by a decision of the UN Security Council. Neither of these conditions authorising a legal use of force is remotely present, and yet the discussion proceeds in the media and Washington circles as if the only questions worth discussing pertain to feasibility, costs, risks, and a possible backlash in the Arab world.”

So wait a minute… Is the war in Libya ILLEGAL?

Yes. The invasion of Libya is illegal after the standard of international law. I wrote a cautious post about so-called “Western propaganda” on the very day that the military bombing attack on Libya was ordered, where I suggested that in the Western press there might be too much worry about conforming to the politically correct order of the day. Is this true for Libya? Though the military intervenion in Libya is illegal, most people don’t seem to know it. I have read the papers lately, and there isn’t much sign of that many places. It seems it just is not politically correct to point it out.


Filed under Middle East

3 responses to “An Illegal War in Libya

  1. Niconi

    I think it’s not so easy to conclude that the Libyan intervention is a violation of international law. Richard Falk may be right about the absence of a discussion of legal rationalisation. But such a rationalisation would not be about interventions in self-defence. The UN and the participating nations have consitently justified the operation as an operation to protect civilians. In international law, this would be called humanitarian intervention. The UN and the international society has not only a right, but also an obligation to interfare if a country if human rights are grossly and systematically violated.

    The UN was strongly critisized for not interfaring in the Rwanda genocides in 1995. The UN used the principles of humanitarian interventions when international forces intervened in Yugoslavia (Bosnia, Croatia) in 1996 and (Kosovo) 1999. The objective of the operations was to stop and prevent mass killings and ethnic cleansing and to protect civilians.

    So the question is weather Gadaffi and the Libyan regime is grossly and systematically violating human rights. You can argue that when a government uses jet fighter aircrafts to atack peaceful demonstrations, the UN has a right and obligation to prevent this government to use aircrafts, in order to defend civilians. You can also argue that the international forces may have prevented a massacre in Benhazi by their intervention. Gadaffi was on the verge of capturing Benghazi, the opposition stronghold, and he said in a speach that he would “go house by house in Benghazi to extract revenge without mercy or pity”. If the UN had allowed Gadaffi to committ mass murders in Benghazi, the UN would have been critisized for not intervening to prevent the massacre.

    • You could argue that Gaddafi is a brytal tyrant, yet if so it didn’t suddenly happen in March 2011. Britain and France were two of the biggest arms providers to Libya in the last few years, and up until the population revolted the US congress was moving towards a 77 million dollar arms deal with Libya. A few weeks later they go to war against that country using their close, autocratic friends in the Arab League, like Saudi Arabia, to legitimize themselves. At the same time, as soon as popular revolt happens in Jordan, King Abdullah gets secretary Gates flown in for support?

      I’m glad you mention the Rwandan genocide by the way. Back then, the UN were still arguing whether or not to call it a genocide after it had happened. It reminds me of how no action was taken when 1.7 million were killed in Cambodia, which was hushed up because it would have become an embarrasment to the United States (the Vietnamese tried to topple the US backed Khmer Rouge and the US basically reinstated them out of spite).

      It just seems so random when “humanitarian intervention” is called for, doesn’t it?

      F. W. Engdahl calls the “humanitarian intervention” in Libya a “responsibility to protect Washington’s self-defined interests” and to be frank, I am reluctant to dismiss him.

  2. Niconi

    The intervention was not sanctioned because Gadaffi is a brutal tyrant. There are dozens of brutal tyrants around the world. The main purpose of the UN is to intermediate in conflicts between sovereign states. It normally won’t interfare in a country’s internal affairs. It takes more than discrimination, oppression or human rights violations that to sanction an invtervention. In most cases an intervention is sanctioned to stop or prevent a massacre. In the case of Libya the use of military aircraft against civlian demonstrators and the promise to commit a massacre in Benghazi was concidered to be sufficient.

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