by Amanda Paul

Parliament has just sanctioned airstrikes on Iraqi soil after Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi requested military intervention by Britain a few days ago.

The cause for such a grandiose request – ISIS.

ISIS needs to be STOPPED. I’m concerned though by the means Britain believes it should use to achieve this.

Airstrikes are indiscriminate; they do not differentiate between militants and civilians. Cameron accepts this war will ‘last for years’ and most commentators believe we will see the deployment of ground troops, along with guaranteed civilian fatalities. To quell any public unease about what is to come, we are repeatedly told that Al-Abadi’s request makes the airstrikes legal.

Let’s examine this claim, are Britain’s airstrikes going to be legal?

In order to answer that question, several facts need to be taken into consideration. Some of which for dubious reasons are conveniently left out of the mainstream debate.

For example:

– What type of bombs will Britain use? (Some being more devastating than others)

– What military action did Al-Abadi specifically request?

– What is the size of the specific geographic location Britain was asked to assist in handling?

iraqaThis will be the most legally dubious military action launched by Britain since 2003, and once again the British public are left in the dark about the fine details that could swing opinion one way or the other.

Britain has a moral obligation to act in the case of ISIS; however Britain should not use airstrikes as its first course of action. Britain would be more effective, as suggested by Respect MP George Galloway, if they militarily supported militia in Iraq that are already fighting ISIS. Furthermore I do not believe there is a strong legal case for the airstrikes Parliament has just sanctioned.

Firstly we must note that there is an international prohibition on the ‘use of force’ against a sovereign territory 2.4 UN Charter, see here. The UN GA Res. 3314 see here, further develops the interpretation of article 2.4, which is worthy of note for the purpose of this specific discussion. It does so by saying in article 1 of the aforementioned GA resolution that:

“Aggression is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State…”

In addition to the above, article 3 GA Res lists a few examples of the types of ‘use of force’ that shall be taken to be an ‘act of aggression’. One particular provision of interest when examining Britain’s re-intervention in Iraq is article 3(b), which states:

“Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall … qualify as an act of aggression…


Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State”

After close examination of these provisions it baffles me that politicians throw around the terms legal, lawful etc, with no seeming legal basis for doing so. The logic applied in this particular instance, with Al-Abadi’s request, is that Britain has been given permission. That may very well be the case, but a head of state requesting a prohibited action does not then automatically make said action legal. This myopic state of reasoning may seem irrelevant in the face of ISIS. However the law does not operate at the behest of an arbitrary and desperate request.

ISIS is an impending threat to the safety of several hundred thousand people. Britain has technology, expertise and intelligence at its disposal, some of which are of the highest calibre. It deeply concerns me that David Cameron’s very first thoughts mimic the actions of the US, instead of taking a closer look at what the situation actually needs. I am not saying military action is not necessary, but airstrikes? Surely Britain can find another way. What must stop now is the use of pseudo-legal reasoning and jargon that just serves to further confuse the British public.

It is for the reasons above that I do not believe there is sufficient legal grounds for the airstrikes Parliament have just sanctioned.


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Amanda Paul is a law graduate with a particular interest in public and comparative law. Amanda is currently working as a freelance marketing consultant, having worked for a variety of establishments in advising on structural adjustments for more efficient & cost effective means of marketing, selling and the streamlining of man power.

Amanda also has a very keen interest in the performance arts, notably acting and spoken word being comfortable expressive fortes for her. These various forms of expression for Amanda are a means of therapeutic exploration for many of the ideas that occupy her thought life. Find her on Twitter @Mmarmyte

This piece was edited by Maurice Mcleod


One thought on “ISIS – We’re going to war, but are we breaking the law?

  1. You’re right entirely.

    ISIS MUST be stopped, but I kind of think it may be better, although more dangerous, to send in skilled troops to take out the right people rather than putting the lives of so many innocent humans at risk. That’s a terrible idea and we’ve seen the results in the past from dropping bombs.


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