Military Action in Syria Should Comply with Domestic and International Law

New York CityFollowing this week’s release of a four-page declassified analysis of the recent chemical attack in Syria, Human Rights First called on the Trump Administration to ensure that any future military action against Syria be authorized under domestic and international law. The report released by the White House sets out an ultimatum that further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime “will not be tolerated,” suggesting that if such attacks were to occur in the future, the United States will retaliate with further military action.

“Targeting civilians with chemical weapons is a horrifying violation of international law, and the administration is right to set a hard line against any future attack on civilians by the Assad regime. But President Trump must ensure that any further action he takes is part of a broad-based strategy to resolve this conflict and the humanitarian crisis it has created, and that use of force is authorized under international and domestic law,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “Precipitous military action by the United States without necessary legal authorization would further destabilize Syria and the region, and endanger international peace and security.”

The U.S. report, which comes during a mounting diplomatic crisis with Russia, describes the reasons the White House believes that the Syrian regime carried out the gas attack that killed civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, on April 4, 2017. The attack prompted the United States to launch retaliatory missile strikes against a Syrian airbase three days later. The report further accuses Russia of spreading false narratives about the gas attack “to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community.”

Prior to launching any military strikes against the Syrian regime Human Rights First urges the administration to:

  • Present Congress with its strategy in Syria and seek clear authorization for using military force, which would strengthen the administration’s position and credibility by providing clear domestic legal authorization for future military action in defense of international norms and the protection of human rights.
  • Present a resolution to the United Nations Security Council under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter authorizing the use of all appropriate measures to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria.

“If Russia continues to obstruct the Security Council from passing resolutions to protect the Syrian people, the United States must build a broad coalition to place diplomatic pressure and, where feasible, economic sanctions, on Russia to persuade it to lift its veto and protect Syrian civilians,” added Hicks.


Published on April 13, 2017


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