As a law student at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies, I made a study of Public International Law. And I am not aware of any principle of international law that would confer upon the United States the right to inflict a punitive missile attack on the nation of Syria in the currently prevailing circumstances.
My understanding of international law tells me that if it is being alleged that the Government of Syria carried out a chemical weapons attack against any group of human beings — civilian or military — the institution that is invested with the power and responsibility to determine whether the allegation is true and to decide upon punitive measures is the United Nations Security Council.
I would therefore like to publicly challenge the current US Ambassador to Barbados, Larry Palmer, to bring to the attention of the Barbadian people any international law principles that would confer on the Government of the US the right to unilaterally supplant the UN Security Council on this issue. I am absolutely certain that no such principle of law exists!
The US is a member-state of the United Nations, and is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Thus, the US is bound by the principles and stipulations of the United Nations Charter.
And this is what the UN Charter specifies in relation to a matter of this nature:
Article 24: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any state … or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Article 39: “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain of restore international peace and security.”
Article 41: “The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions…”
Article 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…”
Article 51: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security…”
It is clear from the foregoing that the only circumstance in which the government of the US would possess the right to make a unilateral decision to launch a military attack on Syria is if Syria had engaged in an “armed attack” on the US, and the US was responding in self-defence. Clearly, there has been no such armed attack on the US, and the responsibility for dealing with this matter rests solely with the UN Security Council.
It is therefore extremely regrettable that in the midst of an on-going investigation into the chemical attack in Syria by Security Council experts, the US should be guilty of deliberately “jumping the gun” and publicly declaring that the Syrian government is the guilty party.
It is even more regrettable that, to date, the government of the US has brazenly refused to share its alleged evidence with the Security Council, in spite of the fact that it has been requested to do so.
Based on the foregoing, the only logical conclusion that we Barbadians can come to is that the government of the US is determined to attack the nation of Syria, and is equally determined to establish a pretext or justification for doing so, even if such a course of action causes them to act illegally and in breach of some of the most fundamental principles of international law.
It is “Iraq 2002” all over again — only this time it is qualitatively worse! On that occasion, the government of the US brazenly lied to the entire world when they asserted that President Saddam Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction”. Back then, they used that lie to gain the support of the UN Security Council. Now, however, their contempt for international law is so extreme that they are not even bothering to seek the cover of Security Council support!
Truly, we have returned to the era of the law of the jungle!
On behalf of the officers and members of the Clement Payne Movement and the Peoples Empowerment Party, I hereby call upon the Governments of Barbados and the Caribbean Community to speak up now and to register their collective disapproval of this lawless behaviour on the part of the Government of the US.
* David Comissiong is President Clement Payne Movement and Peoples Empowerment Party.