Cameron would ‘knowingly’ break the law if UK bomb IS in Syria, warns Man Uni expert

Airstrikes against ISIL will be a knowing breach of international law by David Cameron, a Manchester University expert has warned ahead of Parliament’s vote on military intervention in Syria today.

Iain Scobbie, professor of public international law at the University of Manchester, argues that force against ISIL is acting on ‘very shaky ground’.

Professor Scobbie refers to resolution 2249 which was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council on November 20, 2015, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

The resolution calls upon member states of the UN to take all necessary measures to ‘eradicate the safe haven established by ISIL in Iraq and Syria’.

Speaking exclusively to MM, Professor Scobbie, said: “Any action done [to eradicate ISIL] must be done in compliance with international law, and in particular with the United Nations Charter.

“In the absence of a Security Council authorisation, the UK could only lawfully use armed force against ISIL in Syria with the consent or at the invitation of the Syrian government.

“Or by invoking the doctrine of individual or collective self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

“There is no suggestion that Syria has requested other states to act in its defence.

“And self-defence cannot be invoked by a UN member in response to actions undertaken by a non-state armed group, such as ISIL.”

But while lawyers question the legitimacy of the resolution to justify use of force, Prime Minister David Cameron argues that Britain are acting in collecting self-defence.

Article 51 of the UN charter gives countries permission to use military force in pursuit of individual or collective self-defence.

The threat to national security however has to be forthcoming.

In his manifesto for military action in Syria, Cameron has alluded to this article in the context of supporting the Baghdad government.

A government who are targeting Isis bases in Syria, a neighbouring country where attacks on Iraq are being organised.

Professor Scobbie added: “It would be much better if the Prime Minister were to say, ‘look, we’re going to attack Isil and we’re going to break the law, but we don’t care’.

“Instead of trying to sneak around the law and pull out some dubious claims of justification for attacking the Islamic State.”

The UK’s leading Syrian advocacy group, Rethink Rebuild society, said: “The Coalition’s strategy has proven to be flawed. It has achieved only very limited success in Syria in over a year.

“In not joining the Coalition, the UK is not reneging on its moral obligation, but is rather avoiding involvement in a flawed policy.

“As a more productive course of action, the UK can pursue a policy option that will see an end to the wider conflict in Syria, including the threat from ISIL.

Seek primarily to address the violence and destruction caused by the Assad regime.

Protect moderate rebel forces and the people for whom they fight from the regime’s aerial bombardments, for example through a no-bombing zone.

Increase political pressure upon the regime to end its atrocities.

Push for mechanisms of accountability for the violations that have been committed in Syria.

The above will gain the trust of the rebels and will make them the most effective ground force for effectively defeating ISIL.”

Parliament will vote on bombing IS targets in Syria after a one-day debate later today.

Image courtesy of Alisdare Hickson, with thanks.

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