Uni' Prof': Syria Action "Questionable"
12 April 2018, 15:09 | Updated: 12 April 2018, 15:14
An expert in international law at Lancaster University says the UK taking action after the recent alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria would be "deepy questionable".
Speaking to the Press Association, Professor James Sweeney of the uni's Law School said there are "very few justifiable ways of using force in international law".
He's been asked for his expert view on where the UK stands in the eyes of the law - if British forces join the US in conducting air strikes against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
When asked if it's legal for the UK to take military action, Professor Sweeney said: "While the UK has justified military action against Islamic State in Syria on the basis of a right to self-defence, this argument would not hold up in the current context as Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons has been against his own people, rather than other countries".
There is some support for a right to use force to prevent humanitarian catastrophe, but it is not a universally accepted view, he added.
He said: "The clearest, albeit most conservative, view would be that there is no right of humanitarian intervention, which makes unilateral action against Syria deeply questionable."
He was also asked how likely is it that the United Nations Security Council would authorise the use of armed force on humanitarian grounds, replying "In a word, unlikely.
"Russia and China, as two of five permanent members of the UNSC, have vetoes which can vote down any resolution or decision.
"Their longstanding opposition to the idea of intervening in other countries, coupled with Russia's backing of the Assad regime, means it is virtually certain that Russia and probably China would veto any attempt to get permission to use force in Syria," Prof Sweeney said.
"While the alleged gassing of civilians in Syria is undoubtedly an awful situation, the use of force against the law would end up opening the door to other countries, including Russia, to do the same".
He added an alternative argument could be that there was an "emerging customary international legal norm" that provides for a right of intervention to punish the use of chemical weapons, and prevent further use.
"It isn't a widespread view, it has to be said", he continued. "But if I were the attorney general I would be going down that route if I had to justify the use of force overseas in this case."