Weapons of mass deception
How UK Governments deceive HM Forces over the legality of war.
“War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal 1946
The British Government’s legal justification for the war with Libya was the same as that for Iraq and Afghanistan – that military action is lawful and authorised by Resolutions of the UN Security Council operating under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This is wrong. The threat or use of force is always illegal and is prohibited in international and domestic law.
By comparing Government claims of legality against the requirements and prohibitions of the laws of war it is clear that the wars with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are all illegal and that the Attorney General’s legal advice on the legality of war is false and deceptive.
In March 2011 the UK Government argued that the attack on Libya by British and NATO forces was lawful: In its legal advice to Parliament it stated:
“The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives”. [Footnote]
To establish whether the deployment of forces and the use of armed force in Libya Afghanistan and Iraq is lawful we must refer to the UN Charter and to UN General Assembly Resolution 2625; the Charter sets down the law, and Resolution 2625 explains how to interpret it.
The UN Charter
The United Nations is an organization of 193 independent nation states which have promised on behalf of their people to work together to maintain international peace and security and to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. The UN Charter lays down the binding terms of this agreement in 111 Articles.
- 2.3 All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered.
- 2.4 All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
- 41. The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force[Footnote] are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.
- 42. Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.
UN General Assembly Resolution 2625
In the 1960s the United Nations, concerned that States were misinterpreting the UN Charter, asked the International Law Commission to tighten the rules so that all States would be clear on their meaning. In 1970 this work came to fruition when the UN General Assembly agreed and published in UNGA Resolution 2625 the Principles to be used in interpreting the Charter.
DECLARATION ON PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW CONCERNING FRIENDLY RELATIONS AND CO-OPERATION AMONG STATES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CHARTER OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Amongst its many important principles are the following:
Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means of settling international issues.
No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.
The principles of the Charter which are embodied in this Declaration constitute basic principles of international law, and consequently [the General Assembly] appeals to all States to be guided by these principles in their international conduct and to develop their mutual relations on the basis of the strict observance of these principles.
Chris Coverdale Making Wars History May 2012