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The Jus ad Bellum and the Airstrikes in Yemen: Double Standards for Decamping Presidents?

Published on April 30, 2015        Author: 

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A democratically elected president has lost control of his country and fears for his safety. He flees and seeks refuge in a more powerful neighbouring State. He writes a letter as the legitimate President, inviting his host State to take military action against the insurgents who have forced him into exile. The host State does so. Will such a situation meet with condemnation or support from the international community? Does it depend on whether the President’s name is Yanukovych or Hadi, and the intervening State is Russia or Saudi Arabia?

Russia’s Sputnik news agency has been quick the draw the parallels between the Russian intervention in Ukraine in 2014 (the jus ad bellum aspects of which have previously been discussed on this blog, including by myself – see here, here and here) and the continuing Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in 2015, seeking to highlight the divergent reaction to two seemingly very similar situations to skewer alleged Western hypocrisy. In contrast, the US State Department’s spokesperson, Marie Harf, denied the parallels between the two cases when quizzed about the issue at a press briefing:

QUESTION: … People have been asking why is it that the president, the Yemeni president, who fled from his capital, remains legitimate in your eyes.

HARF: Well, I think —

QUESTION: Whereas, like another president who fled. (Laughter.) […]

. . .

HARF: It’s completely different.

QUESTION: My question is the same. The similarities between the two cases are striking.

HARF: In that there aren’t many? […]

QUESTION: There are a lot, I think, but anyways —

HARF:Okay. We can agree to disagree.

This blog post is a tentative exploration of the issues raised by a comparison of the two cases. Are there clear standards for identifying the government of a State, for the purpose of determining who can validly consent to military action on the State’s behalf, or are these standards malleable enough that powerful States can produce whatever legal outcome they want? Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Government, Use of Force
 

Intervention with the Consent of a Deposed (but Legitimate) Government? Playing the Sierra Leone card.

Published on March 6, 2014        Author: 

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The most dramatic moment at Monday’s Security Council meeting on Ukraine came when the Russian representative, Vitaly Churkin, produced a letter, purportedly from ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, inviting Russian military intervention. This seemed to indicate a shift in Russia’s legal justification for its actions in Ukraine. The resolution adopted by the Russian legislature authorizing the use of force referred to the alleged threat to the personnel stationed at the existing Russian bases in Ukraine, while at the previous Security Council meeting on 1 March, Mr Churkin appealed primarily to a request from government of Crimea. It appears that Russia has now decided to rely much more heavily on Yanukovych’s consent. Not only did Mr Churkin emphasise it at the Security Council; President Putin, in his press conference on Tuesday, laid great stress on it:

“[W]e have a direct appeal from the incumbent and, as I said, legitimate President of Ukraine, Mr Yanukovych, asking us to use the Armed Forces to protect the lives, freedom and health of the citizens of Ukraine.”

This shift, which has already attracted some attention in the international law blogosphere, is an understandable move. For the reasons explained by Daniel Wisehart in his post on Tuesday, both self-defence and the invitation of the Crimean government are patently inadequate as legal justifications for Russia’s use of force. There is no evidence of an armed attack on the Russian bases in the Crimea, nor can it be seriously maintained that the consent of the government of a sub‑national unit within a State can legalise military intervention, especially when the intervention is opposed by the federal government.

In contrast, it is much easier for Russia to use Yanukovych’s consent to muddy the waters. For it has been argued, with at least some plausibility, that the international community has accepted the legality of foreign military intervention in support of a ‘legitimate’ national government, despite the fact that it has lost effective control of the state. The use of force by ECOWAS in Liberia in 1990, and in Sierra Leone in 1997, could be given as examples. In Liberia, the incumbent President, Samuel Doe, dispatched a letter to ECOWAS requesting assistance at a time when his forces controlled only a small part of the capital city, Monrovia. And in Sierra Leone, after being overthrown by a military coup, the democratically elected President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had already fled the country (just as Yanukovych has done) before he requested ECOWAS assistance to restore him to power. Despite these facts, in both cases military action met with support rather than censure from the international community. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: Government, Use of Force
 
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