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View Diary: Whip count for House of Representatives vote on resolution regarding use of military force in Syria (208 comments)

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  •  Syria and international law (0+ / 0-)

    The doctrine of humanitarian intervention holds that one state has the right to intervene militarily to protect population in another state. A United States military court recognized as much at Nuremberg. p. 981-982. The doctrine does not require action.  But it would legitimize punishment for use of chemical weapons.

    The doctrine of reprisals allows the taking of otherwise unlawful action to punish and deter violations of the law of war. In World War II, for example, Germany put Canadian POWs in chains, and the Canadians retaliated by doing the same to German POWs. Reprisals are not allowed against civilians and civilian objects, but that leaves a wealth of legitimate military targets. This doctrine, too, would legitimize strikes in response to use of chemical weapons.

    Neither of these doctrines amounts to an obligation, however. They are permissive, that is, they legitimate an attack on Syria, facts permitting, but do not require it. I say “facts permitting,” because there has to be strong and valid evidence in order to invoke them. They aren’t a carte-blanche.

    The use of poison gas has been against international law since 1900, if not earlier. That was entry-into-force date of treaties banning use of "poison or poisoned arms" and missiles delivering "asphyxiating or deleterious gases" in international armed conflict. (Art. 22) and . A 1907 treaty banned nearly identical to one of those earlier ones, use of “poison and poisoned weapons” (Art. 23). Key parts of the two major treaties are known loosely as the "Hague Regulations," not "The Geneva Convention." Turkey and France ratified all three agreements. Turkey and later France controlled the territory that became Syria. Therefore, Syria, too, is bound by those conventions.

    Many allude to a chemical weapons treaty of 1925, calling it the Geneva Convention. Actually, it’s the Geneva Protocol of 1925, and the “Geneva Conventions” are separate treaties entirely. The Protocol didn’t actually ban chemical weapons, but it confirmed earlier treaty provisions that did (see above) and extended the ban to “bacteriological” weapons.

    In any event, the International Committee of the Red Cross found that there is now a rule at customary international law which prohibits use of chemical weapons, even in non-international armed conflict. The customary-law status of this rule makes it binding on Syria.

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