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"Force must serve the law" - French Foreign Minister

[JURIST] French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin spoke Thursday to the International Institute for Strategic Studies for London on the theme "Law, Force and Justice":

Through the Iraq crisis, two different understandings of the world are coming head to head. They reflect different relationships between law and force, between international legitimacy and the defence of national security interests.

According to one such understanding, democracy can be imposed from the outside. Having faith in the power of the law is therefore something of a delusion. International legal tools become constraints more than safeguards of international security. Some even say that the US would assume its responsibilities alone and thereby show its strength while Europe's position reflects its weakness. It also means that some governments might decide of their own accord to strike first given the scope of the threats. Self-defence then knows no bounds or constraints....

The alternative is not between force and law. Force must serve the law. Force must be contained by the law to reverse Pascal's words: "unable to make what is just strong, we have made what is strong just." Asserting the primacy of the law is not an admission of weakness. It is a moral and political obligation, the prerequisite not only for justice but also for effectiveness. Indeed, only justice can guarantee lasting security.

Conversely, if the international system is still seen as unjust, if force always seems to prevail over the law, if the opinions of the peoples are disregarded, then destabilizing factors will grow stronger, proliferation programmes will develop, power play will go on needlessly, and hostility towards Western democracies will be increasingly manipulated.
Read the complete text of the French Foreign Minister's speech, now available in English from the French Embassy in Washington, DC.

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