A few days ago Prof. Crane wrote a very interesting article about the international law on the use of force, particularly regarding in situations where mass atrocities are being committed. The article drew particular attention of JURIST's readers and this is the reason why I would like to share some thoughts about Prof. Crane's article with your readership.
Let me start by those topics on which I share my colleague's point of views: a) most of us support the view that international law is a core element of international relations and it should be strengthened rather weakened by international actors. There is also a wide agreement on much of the content of this law, including the objectives and purposes of the UN, whose primary task to maintain international peace and security; b) although, the UN Charter aims to prevent and resolve disputes by peaceful means, it also envisages the possibility of using force; c) the lack of response from the international community to these mass atrocities, prompted a reaction the UN and other international actors and the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) came out in 2001 and was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2005. Since then, the UN Secretary General (UNSG) issued eight reports on the subject, where it clarified some of the matters in this highly contested principle. Basically, since its first report it stated that the R2P principle encompasses three different dimensions: (1) the responsibility to prevent; (2) the responsibility to react; and (3) the responsibility to rebuild. The UNSG emphasized the importance and challenges of ensuring timely and decisive responses to the four core crimes covered by the principle. Therefore, one can (and I did in my book and several papers) wish that force will be used in a timely and decisive manner so to prevent or put to an end mass atrocities occurring all over the world.
However, when it comes to the US reaction in Syria I beg to differ with Prof. Crane and I do so as a matter of principle and practice. As a matter of principle, it must be recalled that R2P maintains that the States have an obligation erga omnes to take all measures in their power to prevent or put an end to serious and massive human rights violations as soon as possible. This a collective international responsibility, exercisable by the Security Council authorizing military intervention as a last resort, in the event of genocide and other large-scale killing, ethnic cleansing, and serious violations of international humanitarian law which sovereign governments had proved powerless or unwilling to prevent. This is so because the necessity of a timely and decisive response is clearly the most controversial aspect of R2P as it opens the possibility of the use of force within the framework of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In the case of the US Missile Strike on Syria there has not been a UNSC authorization, therefore this use of force, technically, can be labeled, as Russia did, an act of "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law."
In practical terms, I don't believe that the decision by the Trump administration to launch a missile strike on Syrian military targets in response to the regime's chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun is a good one. As it has been said
On the one hand, any feeling person would welcome the Syrian regime being constrained from future chemical weapons use against its own people. On the other hand, it is unclear the missile strike will achieve that outcome and could invite unintended consequences that risk US reputation, blood, and treasure.
Maybe it is true that rogue States only understand powerful answers. Anyway, I don't share the view that brutal force should be dealt with more use of force and, in any case, that decision should come from the only competent body that can authorize the use of force: the UNSC.
Ricardo Arredondo is a diplomat and Professor of International Law. He has been an Argentine diplomat for 25 years and he has been teaching International Law for almost 30 years. He has a global background since he worked in government and academia in a career that has spanned research, policy and operational work in different countries and organizations. He is currently Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of the Argentine Republic in Los Angeles. Prior to this role he served at the Argentine Embassies in the UK and Spain and in the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has taught at the Law Schools of the Universidad de Buenos Aires and Tucumán (Argentina) and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) and published on a wide array of topics in international law and diplomacy.
Suggested citation: Ricardo Arredondo, A response to "The Fist in a Velvet Glove-Hardened Humanitarianism", JURIST - Forum, May. 05, 2017, http://jurist.org/forum/2017/05/Ricardo-Arredondo-a-response-to-the-fist-in-a-velvet-glove-hardened-humanitarianism.php
This article was prepared for publication by Yuxin Jiang, a Senior Editor for JURIST Commentary service. Please direct any questions or comments to her at email@example.com