A Small Legal Assessment About Trump’s 6th April Syria Attack From The Viewpoint Of International Law

In 6th of April, USA forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield “Shayrat”. In this way, the USA counterattacked to Assad’s regime for the first time. This incident generates a discussion about the US’s single-sided use of force to Syria. Is this a lawful legal act with regard to international law or not? For answer this question, in this study will be subjected to close examination.

Before consideration of the case, the act has to be classified for making a legally analysis. Undoubtedly using 59 Tomahawk missiles is a “use of force”. According to Clause 4 of Article 2 of the Charter Of The United Nations, use of force is forbidden: “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.” This prohibition has two clear exception; 1- right of self-defence, 2- authorisation of the Security Council. Another exception of the UN Charter is military intervention with invitation, so approval of the state that under attack. This is out of question that a decision of the Security Council or an armed attack to the USA for using right of self-defence. Besides President Trump made a statement to the press that the USA made the missile attack because of Chemical attack of the Syrian government at 4th April. Accordingly, in this case there is no question about two exceptions. It is not possible to think that Assad Regime gave consent to the USA’s attack. Then why discussion about the attack in progress on the world? For understand of this we need speak to “crack” between doctrine and state practice.

Many of which works at international law mention about contradiction to law of the USA’s attack. For example, Marko Milanovic refers that there is no reason to make justifiable of the USA’s attack.[1] Likewise, John Bellinger mentions that the USA has no authorisation to do this kind of attack.[2] The list grows, even media makes news collections that about the international law experts’ comments of this attack.[3] However, some of these experts refers that the only way out of The USA is “humanitarian intervention.” Similarly, in 1999, NATO forces bombed Kosovo without giving any clear reason about the law of use of force, led by the USA. Afterwards this act tried to be justified by the way of “humanitarian intervention doctrine”. But it is very hard to say that “humanitarian intervention” approved by the international law doctrine. It is unsayable that there is an international customary law about it, yet. Hence, USA’s only way out looks untrustworthy.

[1] https://www.ejiltalk.org/the-clearly-illegal-us-missile-strike-in-syria/

[2] https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-was-legal-basis-us-air-strikes-against-syria

[3] https://www.justsecurity.org/39712/top-legal-experts-syria-strikes/

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