Academic discusses Syria at Chatham House

30 September 2013

Dapo Akande, co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations, is taking part in a Chatham House discussion on the crisis in Syria today. The event, ‘Syria and International Law: Use of Force and State Responsibility’, will see Mr Akande in discussion with Helen Mulvein, Legal Counsellor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and will be chaired by Elizabeth Wilmshurst CMG, Associate Fellow, International Law Programme, Chatham House.

The speakers will discuss issues of international law raised by the ongoing conflict in Syria, including the legal implications of assistance to the rebels and the government, the responsibility of the international community to protect civilians and questions of recognition of entities and governments.

Mr Akande’s opinion was quoted in a briefing paper supplied to MPs on the legality of the use of force in Syria on the day that Parliament voted on UK military intervention. The paper, ‘Conditions for using force in humanitarian intervention’, quoted the following passage from a blog he had written for the European Journal of International Law:

“There is very little State support for the view that international law permits States to use force in other States on humanitarian grounds. The UK is of course one of the few States that does accept that international law provides a right of humanitarian intervention. However, this view has been rejected by the vast majority of States. See for example the 2000 Declaration of the South Summit by the G77 composed of about 130 member States ['We reject the so-called “right” of humanitarian intervention, which has no legal basis in the United Nations Charter or in the general principles of international law'. para. 54 ].

“Also, even other European States have failed to advocate such a right. In the ICJ proceedings regarding the Legality of the Use of Force (by NATO in Yugoslavia), only the UK and Belgium expressly relied on the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. Other NATO countries refrained from doing so.”