The United Kingdom’s deployment of the “humanitarian” card to justify its airstrikes on Syria has raised more than a few eyebrows, with opposition politicians, journalists and members of the public picking it apart on Twitter.
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council on Saturday, Britain’s UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, laid out the UK’s legal justification for their airstrikes on Syria. Pierce claimed that under international law the UK is allowed to take measures in order to “alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering.”
The UK government also published the legal position online. It says that three conditions have to be met to justify the intervention.
First, there has to be convincing evidence of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale. Importantly, this must also be “generally accepted by the international community as a whole.”
It also must be objectively clear that there is “no practicable alternative” to the use of force if lives are to be saved. Finally, the use of force must be “necessary and proportionate” to the proposed relief of humanitarian suffering.
The news that the British government was citing humanitarian reasons for launching missiles sparked a flood of reaction on social media, with many people saying that it had not met any of the criteria it laid out.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon described the legal position as “thin” and said it is “not easy to see how [the] humanitarian crisis - the result of years of civil war - will be helped by air strikes.”
1. Legal position seems thin. In absence of UN resolution or self defence - the two clear cut legal grounds for attack - reliance is on averting humanitarian crisis. But not easy to see how humanitarian crisis - the result of years of civil war - will be helped by air strikes. https://t.co/dQk9oGLRhN
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) April 14, 2018
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn also called the strikes “legally questionable.”
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg noted that the UK is one of the few countries that tries to use humanitarian arguments as a justification for military action. She added that most international lawyers don’t accept the contention.
1. Worth knowing that UK one of few countries that tries to use humanitarian arguments as justification for military action - most international lawyers don't accept it, rightly or wrongly
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) April 14, 2018
You'd have to be the worst kind of simpleton to believe that this latest push for war in Syria comes from a humanitarian desire to save Arab lives!!!! pic.twitter.com/k5Sx8UgNxX
— Craig Dempsey (@SaorAlba59) April 14, 2018
Read more: UK claim of ‘humanitarian reasons’ for Syria strikes picked apart online