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Obama to seek Congressional approval for military action in Syria

US President Barack Obama said Saturday he would seek Congressional approval for military action in Syria when Congress reconvenes September 9. Obama said [BBC report] he has not made a final determination on the response but noted that a response could come in the near future. Speculation on the likelihood of military action in Syria following Syria's reported use [White House briefing] of chemical weapons earlier this month. The US claims its intelligence reports support the conclusion the attacks were carried out by Syrian forces and military action would be used to deter the future use of chemical weapons. Controversy continues to surround Obama's legal authority to take action prior to Congressional approval. In addition, some Congressional leaders claim [Reuters report] they still require more information to be declassified before a meaningful debate can take place. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is among those who have called [text, PDF] for Obama to delay military action until Congress has approved the measure.

The Syrian civil war [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. This week the UK outlined [JURIST report] the legal justifications for military action in Syria. Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Friday condemned [JURIST report] the escalating violence in Syria and noted the use of chemical weapons constitues a crime against humanity. His statements came days after the UN rights chief condemned [JURIST report] Syria's reported use of chemical weapons. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that nine apparent ballistic missile attacks on populated areas have killed at least 215 citizens including 100 children. In July the Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria urged the international community [JURIST report] to bring peace to the country. In May Pillay expressed concern [JURIST report] regarding reports that described the slaying of entire Syrian families and shelling of communities, as well as the targeted strikes by Syrian armed forces on hospitals and schools. Almost two million have fled to neighboring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced.

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