REPRISE: Humanitarian Intervention in Syria Without Security Council Authorization—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #68 (July 25)

The article reproduced below, and the earlier articles it cites, address the issue of the legal justifications that might be advanced to support the supply of arms to the insurgents in Syria, or to support military intervention to halt the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity, whether by establishing a no-fly zone or a humanitarian corridor or more direct military engagement. These legal justifications are suggestive of the type of justifications that the governments engaged in such actions ought to provide. Obviously, their international lawyers can develop the definitive legal defenses in considerably more detail. But they should provide public legal justifications for their actions, instead of hiding behind a cloak of secrecy and covert operations, as the U.S. does with its program of targeted executions.

For additional background on international law and humanitarian intervention, see

V.S. Mani, “Humanitarian Intervention Today”, Recueil des Cours / Collected Courses, Volume 313 (2005), Académie de Droit International de la Haye / Hague Academy of International Law (Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, 2005). The “Recueil des Cours” is available in one or more libraries in most of the countries in the world.

First published on April 8, 2012

The futility of the 6-point peace plan of Kofi Annan and the Security Council should now be clear for even the most willfully obtuse to see. Al-Assad has introduced on Sunday new conditions for compliance with the peace plan’s requirements for a ceasefire. As anyone who has closely followed developments in Syria over the last six months already knew, al-Assad will say or agree to anything, but he will never comply with any agreements that require him to halt the killing of the unarmed civilian opposition, or to comply with the laws of war in fighting armed insurgents.

The alternatives have been cogently presented by Senator John McCain in his speech on the Senate floor on March 5. His analysis is relevant not only to American decision makers and politicians, but also to all governments which want to bring the killing in Syria to a prompt halt.

See The Trenchant Observer, “Republican Senator John McCain Urges U.S. Military Attacks to Halt Atrocities in Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #3 (March 5),”
March 5, 2012

The time has come for humanitarian military action to halt the killing.

The Supply of Weapons

The supply of weapons to the opposition can arguably be justified under international law as a measure undertaken to to provide target populations the means to defend themselves when the government in power not only fails to comply with its obligations under “the responsibility to protect” resolution of the Security Council (Resolution 1674), but is itself actively engaged in the commission of the very war crimes and crimes against humanity that “the responsibility to protect” is is established to guard against.

The furnishing of arms to such populations should be conditional, a provisional measure to protect the civilian populations against crimes against humanity and the armed opposition against war crimes, until such time as the U.N. Security Council can act effectively to safeguard these populations.

Military Action by a State or Group of States to Halt the Commission of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Direct humanitarian intervention by a state or group of states may also be required. Such action against al-Assad’s military, after all other recourses have failed, should be undertaken as a provisional measure to ensure that “the responsibility to protect” is implemented within a state engaged in the wanton commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity–in direct contravention of its responsiblities under international law.

On the possible legal justifications for such actions, see the following articles and the sources named in them:

The Trenchant Observer, “Limited military action to halt crimes against humanity: A new template to halt terror in Syria, and elsewhere—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #18 (March 28),” March 28, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, “U.N. Commission Report on Crimes Against Humanity in Syria; Military Action; Unilateral Humanitarian Intervention in Syria and International Law
Friday,” February 24, 2012.

Nikolai Krylov, Humanitarian Intervention: Pros and Cons, 17 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 365 (1995). Available at:

The Trenchant Observer, “Military Intervention to establish “no-kill zones” and humanitarian corridors—Syria Update #9,” February 24, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer on this topic, and others, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.