Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


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Turkey’s Breach of the Principle of Non-Refoulement

Yasmine Akkad

Non-refoulement is a fundamental principle in international law that was first laid out in the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1954.[i] Article 33(1) of the convention provides that: “no Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”[ii] Recently, Turkey breached this principle of non-refoulement by illegally returning thousands of Syrian refugees to war-torn Syria.[iii]

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According to a report conducted by Amnesty International, about 100 Syrians have been sent back to their war-torn country every day since January.[iv] This news comes shortly after Turkey struck a deal with the European Union (aimed at stemming the flow of refugees arriving in Greece), agreeing to accept refugees in return for aid and political concessions.[v] Under the agreement, all “irregular migrants” arriving in Greece from Turkey on 20 March onwards will face being sent back.[vi] The agreement further stipulates that the EU will take in one Syrian (who has made a legitimate request) for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey.[vii] The process, which is known as “one in, one out,” is meant to discourage illegal migration into Europe.[viii]

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Amnesty says this latest report exposes the flaws in the deal between Turkey and the EU.[ix] Critics of the deal say the EU is irresponsibly returning Syrian refugees to an unsafe country, in a desperate effort to seal its borders.[x] In the Amnesty report, John Dalhuisen remarked, “in their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day.”[xi]

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Turkey’s recent breach of international law is symptomatic of a larger issue. There is no end in sight for Syria’s civil war, and the number of people fleeing Syria will only increase. Since Syria’s civil war began more than five years ago, Turkey has taken in more refugees than any other country worldwide.[xii] Put simply, Turkey is overwhelmed. The country has struggled to accommodate the refugees, who are putting a strain on Turkey’s economy and healthcare system.[xiii] While it is not acceptable for Turkey to return refugees to war-torn Syria, it is also not acceptable for the world to sit idly by as thousands of Syrians flee the ongoing violence and hostility in Syria.

Yasmine Akkad is a third year law student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’16). She holds a Bachelors of Science in Law and American Civilization and a minor in English from Towson University. Her primary interests include international law and international human rights law. In addition to being a CICL Fellow, she competed in the 2014-2015 Jessup International Moot Court Competition, Mid-Atlantic Region, and is an active member of the American Society of International Law.

[i] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/refoulement/

[ii] Id.

[iii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35941947

[iv] Id.

[v] Id.

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/04/eu-turkey-deal-syrian-refugees-germany-istanbul-hanover

[vii] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35956836

[viii] http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-refugees-forced-back-war-zone-turkish-authorities-eu-turkey-agreement-goes-2348127

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria-turkey/quick-facts-what-you-need-know-about-syria-crisis

[xiii] http://www.ibtimes.com/syrian-refugees-forced-back-war-zone-turkish-authorities-eu-turkey-agreement-goes-2348127

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The War on Culture

Kia Roberts-Warren

The destruction of culture has become an instrument of terror, in a global strategy to undermine societies, propagate intolerance and erase memories. This cultural cleansing is a war crime that is now used as a tactic of war, to tear humanity from the history it shares,” (Irina Bokova, head of UNSECO).[1]

The destruction and looting of art is a widespread and systematic attack to erase people’s memories and identities. The Nazis destroyed and looted hundreds and thousands of books, art, and other cultural relics.[2] Paintings were vandalized during the armed conflict between Macedonia and the National Liberation Army[3] The siege of Dubrovnik, damaging the ancient Mostar bridge, and the Sarajevo national library during the Yugoslav wars.[4]

Terrorist organizations have put destruction of cultural heritage back on the war agenda. Since ISIS’ has taken over territory in Syria and Iraq, they have destroyed and looted numerous World Heritage Sites that the group deems idolatrous and blasphemous.[5] A World Heritage Site is determined by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and is defined as “belonging to all peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”[6] By historical standards, ISIS’ actions in Iraq are “on a rampage of destruction not seen since the Mongol’s sacking of Baghdad in 1258.”[7]

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Temple of Bel (or Baal) in Syria. The Temple was one of the main attractions Palmyra, a Roman-era trading outpost in the desert, northeast of Damascus, Syria

In Syria, ISIS has destroyed the ancient cities of Palmyra, Mar Elian Monastery, Apamea, Dura-Europos, and Mari.[8] In Iraq, ISIS has destroyed the oldest Christian monastery (Dair Mar Elia), Assyrian Empire artifacts in the Mosul Museum, Nineveh archeological site, razed the Tomb of Jonah and other religious sites, Nergal Gate (an entrance to the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, where the men use power tools to destroy a pair of massive statues of winged bulls with a human heads), and the Nimrud archaeological site.[9]

Moreover, the Sunni Muslim library, the Mosul Museum Library, and the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers have also been heavily damaged. These libraries contained collections from the Ottoman Empire, Iraqi newspapers from the early 20th century, and other ancient texts were burned in the streets.[10] Irina Bokova stated that it was “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”[11] (You can see video here)

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A member of ISIS destroying an ancient Assyrian lamassu (screenshot from an ISIS propaganda video)

Intelligence officials say looting is the terror group’s second largest source of income after oil.[12] ISIS encourages civilians to plunder historic sites and then charges a 20 percent tax on anything they sell.

Last February the UN Security Council adopted a new resolution, UNSCR 2199, which was drafted by Russia and co-sponsored by the United States.[13] The Resolution prohibits the trade of artifacts illegally removed from Syria since 2011 and Iraq since 1990.[14] The UN General Assembly, also, passed a resolution called “Saving the Cultural Heritage of Iraq,” which states that ISIS’ actions may amount to war crimes as well as details about ISIS’s attacks on cultural heritage sites and demands its members be stopped and held accountable.[15]

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In the wake of ISIS’ cultural destruction, Italy has teamed up with UNESCO to create a task force.[16] This task force called The Peacekeepers of Culture, will be a 60-person team of art detectives from the art-squad police from Italy’s Carabinieri military police, historians, and Italian-trained restoration experts.[17] The goals of the peacekeepers are to protect ancient artworks, artifacts, and archaeological sites in conflict zones from extremists, protect against “cultural cleansing” and the fear-mongering propaganda, and to cut off some of the Islamic State’s funds acquired through the sale of looted artifacts, statues, and other antiquities on the black market.[18] It will establish facilities in Turin, where it will train cultural heritage protection experts. It aims to “assess risk and quantify damage done to cultural heritage sites, develop action plans and urgent measures, provide technical supervision and training for local national staff,” as well as help move some objects to safety.[19] The task force has not chosen a country for its first mission but is ready to go where UNESCO sends them.[20]

In April 2013, the Smithsonian Institute created the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq (SHOSI) Project. It provides emergency preservation work, conservation materials, and training to Syrian and Iraqi museums to help salvage damaged collections and sites.[21] In the summer of 2014, SHOSI held an emergency workshop in Syria. One of the missions was to provide equipment and supplies for workshop participants to secure the immovable mosaics collection at the Ma’arra Museum in Idlib Province. This museum housed one of the most important collections of third-to-sixth century Roman and Byzantine mosaics in the Middle East.[22]

This may seem to be weak enforcement on the part of the international community. However, destruction of art is as war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 8 (2)(b)(ix) states: “Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives.”[23]

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Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague

The ICC is currently hearing its first ever war crime trial addressing the destruction of cultural heritage.[24] Malian Jihadi leader, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is accused of destroying ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu, specifically, medieval shrines, tombs of Sufi Saints, a 15th century mosque and over 4,000 ancient manuscripts were lost or destroyed all which were considered World Heritage sites.[25] This case is considered to be an important case at the ICC in fighting against war crimes directed at cultural heritage.[26] The last time a case like this was brought to trial was in 2013 when Balkan warlords were charged with the shelling Dubrovnik in the early 1990s, damaging the ancient Mostar bridge, and the Sarajevo national library by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).[27]

When we think of atrocious crimes committed by ISIS, destruction of art and cultural sites are not on the list. We think of targeting civilians, rape, and general pillage. However, it is important because these sites aren’t just the destruction of Iraqi or Syrian history, but, rather history that belongs to the world. These artifacts and sites cannot be repaired or replaced. Once they are destroyed, they are gone completely. To let them perish at the hands of terrorists cannot go unpunished or unnoticed any longer.

Kia Roberts-Warren is a 2l at UB Law. She is concentrating in international law and business law. Kia graduated from Temple University receiving a BA in East Asian Studies during that time she spent a semester in Tokyo, Japan. Kia has an interest in private international law particularly trade and business as well as public international law. She also interested in fashion law and art law in the international context. Last spring, she was an extern at the Hudson Institute, a think-tank in DC that deals mainly with national security issues. Kia is currently the Career Development Director of ILS and recently participated in the 2016 Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Competition. She also plans on attending the Aberdeen Summer Abroad Program this  summer. 

 

[1] http://saudigazette.com.sa/world/mena/this-map-reveals-full-extent-of-daeshs-cultural-destruction/

[2] http://saudigazette.com.sa/world/mena/this-map-reveals-full-extent-of-daeshs-cultural-destruction/

[3] http://www.dailyevergreen.com/news/article_38faf3bc-da91-11e5-a5e1-fb5b07906df6.html

[4] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882

[5] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882

[6] http://whc.unesco.org/en/about/

[7] http://saudigazette.com.sa/world/mena/this-map-reveals-full-extent-of-daeshs-cultural-destruction/

[8] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150901-isis-destruction-looting-ancient-sites-iraq-syria-archaeology/

[9] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/isis-destroys-ancient-art.html#

[10] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/isis-destroys-ancient-art.html#

[11] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/03/isis-destroys-ancient-art.html#

[12] http://hyperallergic.com/183201/un-security-council-takes-aim-at-isis-antiquities-trafficking/

[13] http://hyperallergic.com/183201/un-security-council-takes-aim-at-isis-antiquities-trafficking/

[14] http://hyperallergic.com/183201/un-security-council-takes-aim-at-isis-antiquities-trafficking/

[15] http://hyperallergic.com/210944/un-says-isiss-cultural-destruction-may-amount-to-war-crimes/

[16] http://hyperallergic.com/276208/italy-and-unesco-establish-task-force-to-protect-cultural-heritage-in-conflict-zones/

[17] http://hyperallergic.com/276208/italy-and-unesco-establish-task-force-to-protect-cultural-heritage-in-conflict-zones/

[18] http://hyperallergic.com/276208/italy-and-unesco-establish-task-force-to-protect-cultural-heritage-in-conflict-zones/

[19] http://hyperallergic.com/276208/italy-and-unesco-establish-task-force-to-protect-cultural-heritage-in-conflict-zones/

[20] http://hyperallergic.com/276208/italy-and-unesco-establish-task-force-to-protect-cultural-heritage-in-conflict-zones/

[21] http://unitetosave.si.edu/projects/response/

[22] https://global.si.edu/success-stories/safeguarding-cultural-heritage-syria-and-iraq

[23] http://legal.un.org/icc/statute/99_corr/cstatute.htm

[24] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882

[25] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882

[26] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882

[27] https://news.artnet.com/art-world/icc-cultural-destruction-trial-timbuktu-mausoleums-437882


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Restricting Schengen – Keeping out Refugees

Raiven Taylor 

Recently, European countries have come up with plans to keep migrants out. In June of 2015, the EU had an emergency meeting and came up with a “10-point plan” to “capture and destroy” boats used to smuggle in migrants.[i] Not long after this plan hatched, Hungary and other European countries erected wire fences to keep migrants out. [ii] Germany, Denmark, Austria and a few other countries suspended their willingness to adhere to the Schengen rules and reintroduce border controls.[iii] The Schengen treaty allows for open travel in the 26-nation bloc known as the Schengen area.[iv] This area, created in 1995 and originally consisting of 26 EU nations, abolished passport controls at common borders.[v] The recent suspension of this was thought to shock the rest of EU when it came to border controls to deal with the migration crisis. Because Germany borders nine other countries, without its participation, Schengen fails.[vi] This led other countries to begin closing their borders, criminalizing most new arrivals as illegal immigrants.[vii] With all of the changes, it has been difficult for migrants to find a country that will allow them to enter. This also makes it difficult for those countries that CAN take these immigrants into their territory because resources are tight. As of September 2015, 63,000 asylum seekers from Hungary and Austria entered Bavaria, which is more than the total of asylum seekers for the enter year of 2014.[viii]

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The EU proposed a deal with Turkey, promising $3.3 billion for it to close down its borders.[ix] Denmark has also passed a law allowing it to seize valuables from asylum seekers in order to pay for their upkeep.[x] All of this is leads to bigger problems because even though countries are locking down their borders, migrants are finding other, often very dangerous ways, to get in anyway. On February 12, 2016 the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed its concern for the increasing restrictive measures on the part of EU states, stressing that something must be done to protect the fundamental human rights of the people trying to reach Europe.

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Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) stated that more than 80,000 migrants arrived in Europe by boat in the first 6 weeks of 2016, with 400 dying in their attempt. Statistics show that 58 percent of migrants coming to Europe are women and children. One in 3 people arriving in Greece are children, compared to the 1 in 10 in September 2015.[xi] It has also been reported that two children drown every day, on average, since September 2015 as their families attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea, totaling more than 340 children.[xii] UNCHR and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urge countries to cooperate and make dangerous journeys like this safer for children.[xiii]

A UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, stated that although “Europe has always been a strong advocate of human rights in Europe and elsewhere… its struggle to maintain control of its borders however…is being tested…[and by]stripping away the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants, Europe is creating a scary new ‘normal.’”[xiv] Over-reliance and securitization of borders will not work to keep migrants out because they will find another way in order to survive, allowing smugglers to continue to adapt, prosper, and exploit migrants.[xv] In order to combat smuggling, states must provide regular, safe and cheap mobility solutions, including both identity and security checks.[xvi]

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The European public, predominantly, has the view that Europe needs stricter controls, bigger fences, and more military control.[xvii] Although the public might favor these stricter policies, politicians view them as an immoral and an unworkable approach.[xviii] The question is how will European countries pursue this issue and in what ways will immigration be affected long term? Will countries continue keeping its borders open? Will countries continue with daily limits on migrants? I believe countries should find a less dangerous way for migrants to travel while also coming up with a way to stem the tide of migration. It is somewhat understandable for countries to not want to be overpopulated and have an extra burden on state-run agencies. However, risking the lives of migrants is not the way to overcome this problem. Many organizations are attempting to convince the politicians to work this issue out as peacefully as possible and in a way that lessens the dangers for migrants. Something needs to be done – sooner, rather than later!

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/germany-border-crackdown-deals-blow-to-schengen-system

[v] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[vi] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/13/germany-border-crackdown-deals-blow-to-schengen-system

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id.

[ix] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[x] Id.

[xi] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53217#.VsxxWMfiQtg

[xii] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53272#.VsxxYsfiQtg

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53217#.VsxxWMfiQtg

[xv] id.

[xvi] Id.

[xvii] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/31/europe-bind-act-morally-on-immigrants-heed-its-citizens

[xviii] Id.


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The Precarious Situation of Turkey

Carolyn Mills

Turkey has long been awaiting the day that it can be welcomed into the European Union (EU). Unfortunately with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, the thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey’s border, its internal conflict with the Kurds, and human rights abuse allegations; Turkey may never have the chance to receive that welcome.

Turkey has been an associate member of the EU since 1963, all the while hoping to become a full-fledged member.[1] In May, the EU struck a deal with Turkey in which Turkey agreed to house migrants fleeing the violence in Syria in exchange for $3 billion Euros. Further, it came with a dangling carrot that promised to restart the stalled accession talks that have been ongoing since 2005. Even German Prime Minister Angela Merkel has thrown her support behind Turkey in exchange for its agreement to house the refugees.[2]

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It seems as though Turkey is fighting a losing battle. With tensions between Turkey and Russia mounting since Turkey gunned down a Russian fighter jet, Turkey is facing an even more intensified battle within its own borders with the Kurdistan Peoples Party, or the PKK.[3] The conflict between the government and the PKK is not something that is new; the government’s efforts have increased to quell the efforts of what it labels a terrorist organization. [4]

The PKK has also been deemed a terrorist organization by the US and others in the international community. Since a breakdown of a truce between the government and the PKK in mid-2015, tensions have heightened and violence erupted in the southwest quadrant of the country. Not only is the country inundated with nearly 70,000 more migrants (adding to the nearly 2 million migrants currently there)[5], but Turkey itself cannot even contain the pre-existing violence and tensions within its own borders. Most recently violence erupted in the Kurdish town of Cizre with reports of innocent women and children being caught in the crossfire. [6]

Human rights abuses in Turkey are an ever-increasing concern. Recently, Turkish military forces shot 10 unarmed civilian Kurds, 2 of which were killed, with no recourse. As a result, the UN has called for an investigation. This also calls into question Turkey’s ability to comply with EU directives. EU member states who hold the fate of Turkey’s accession have been silent amid the accusations.[7]

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My fear is that the EU and the rest of the international community are putting entirely too much strain on Turkey. Last year EU Member States agreed to help resettle 22,500 refugees from Turkey and only 779 have been resettled as of the end of January.[8] A recent corruption scandal found that the government exercised too much power over state agencies (read police, military and the judiciary).[9]

It is as if the international community is waiting to place the blame on Turkey if and when something does go horribly awry. With the myriad of struggles facing Turkey both internally and externally, and their clear desire to join the EU there is a waiting game to see is Turkey has the capacity and ability to provide stability for themselves, and abroad.

Carolyn Mills is a graduate from of Bowie State University  and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Carolyn is a 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She serves as 2L Representative for the International Law Society.  Her interests and focus areas are on Central America and West Africa; she has traveled to both Guatemala and Honduras and hopes to visit Ghana this summer. She is currently a law clerk for the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Law Section.  

[1] http://www.euractiv.com/enlargement/eu-turkey-relations/article-129678

[2] http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-europe-migrants-germany-turkey-idUKKCN0SC08020151018.

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35495157

[4] http://www.telesurtv.net/english/analysis/A-History-of-the-Turkish-Kurdish-Conflict-20150728-0042.html

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35495157

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/03/as-syria-burns-turkeys-kurdish-problem-is-getting-worse/.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/02/world/europe/un-turkey-human-rights.html?_r=0

[8] https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/29/turkey-alone-cant-solve-europes-refugee-crisis

[9] https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/turkey.


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Authorization to Use Military Force Against ISIL: What the President Wants and Why it Doesn’t Matter

Matt Matechik

What did President Obama “ask” Congress?

On February 11, 2015 President Obama formally approached Congress and implicitly sought their approval to use American military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Specifically, the President submitted a draft joint resolution Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and encouraged Congress in a formal letter to pass it.[i]

If passed in its current draft form (highly unlikely), the AUMF would grant the President Congressional approval to use American military forces against ISIL “and associated persons or forces” for a period of up to three years. The draft does not impose any geographic restrictions. Therefore, the President would be authorized to conduct military operations against ISIL in Iraq, Syria, Libya (where ISIL appears to have gained a foothold[ii]) and absolutely anywhere else in the world he deems “necessary and appropriate.”[iii] (NOTE: The AUMF only gives the President the domestic legal authority to enter into either Iraq, Syria, Libya, or other states. This blog will not deal with the international authority the President has to do so.)

Although the draft AUMF would not limit the location of military operations, it does purport to limit their scope. The draft prohibits activity that rises to the level of “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”[iv] The administration claims that this phrase prohibits large-scale long-term military campaigns such as those recently conducted by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the stipulation would not prohibit the use of ground forces for less involved purposes such as rescue operations and pursuit of ISIL leadership. Additionally, the AUMF would allow “the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or… other forms of… assistance to partner forces.[v]

This draft language, even with the limitation, is actually very broad, despite what some members of Congress are claiming. The draft intentionally uses open-ended phrasing that President Obama could potentially cite in committing American forces to ground combat.

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Why did the President reach out to Congress?

President Obama approached Congress as part of his “commitment to working with Congress… to authoriz[e] the continued use of military force to degrade and defeat ISIL.” The President urged Congress to “join [him] in supporting our Nation’s security… which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL.”[vi]

Did the President really “ask” Congress for anything?

No! The language of President Obama’s letter to Congress is extremely precise. A careful reading reveals that the President is not actually asking Congress for anything at all. To the contrary, the letter explicitly states that he already has all the authority he needs.[vii] The President is simply inviting Congress to provide their stamp of approval for military action that he is already undertaking and presumably will continue to undertake with or without Congress.

President Obama’s posture is not surprising. Historically, the sitting President, no matter his party, and Congress have performed a delicate dance around the subject of who controls the use of American military force abroad. The tension between the executive and legislative branches stems from the Constitution, which confers upon the President unspecified powers commensurate with the title “Commander in Chief” while endowing Congress with numerous specific war powers including, but not limited to, the power to “declare war” and “organize, fund, and maintain the nation’s armed forces.”[viii]

What about the War Powers Resolution?

This “dance” took on its modern form in 1973 when Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (WPR) to “to insure that the collective judgment of both the Congress and the President will apply to the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations.”[ix] The WPR, at least on paper, requires the President to involve Congress at various points before, during, and after his decision to use force. One of its most controversial provisions requires the President to terminate military action within sixty days of its initiation unless Congress has declared war, extended the sixty-day period, is physically unable to meet, or provided statutory authorization.[x]

In practice, the WPR has done little to prevent the President from unilaterally committing American forces to foreign theatres. The sitting President, no matter his party, typically finds some way to circumvent the WPR’s purpose of involving Congress while still purporting to be consistent with the WPR. The President usually claims he already has all the authority he needs by virtue of his title as Commander in Chief and/or he interprets a statute in a particular way to find the Congressional approval he needs.

AUMF ISIS Blog 2

Sixty Days?! Haven’t we been fighting ISIL for months?!

Yes! The present scenario illustrates the WPR’s questionable influence. President Obama initiated a sustained air campaign against ISIL targets in Syria on September 22, 2015.[xi] Since that time there has been no declaration of war, no extension of the sixty-day period, and no problems with Congress meeting. Under the WPR, President Obama therefore has two choices: obtain Congressional statutory approval for the military action sixty days after initiation or terminate the mission. And yet, only now, 142 days later, far past the sixty-day deadline, is the President seeking statutory authorization and, as noted above, he is not truly even asking for it.[xii]

It should be noted that President Obama’s apparent disregard for the WPR is not unique to his administration. President George H.W. Bush ordered thousands of American servicemen to Somalia during December 1992 without explicit approval from Congress. He “found” statutory approval for the military deployment by broadly interpreting a statute that supported a US humanitarian mission in Somalia. President Bill Clinton ordered over 20,000 American troops to invade Haiti during September 1994 without explicit approval from Congress. His primary argument for nixing Congress was that the operation did not rise to the level of “war” requiring a declaration and therefore Congress need not be involved. These are only a few examples of many.

What happens now?

War (at least the political kind)! Congress must debate the draft AUMF and then either pass it as written, pass it with changes, or pass no AUMF at all. Ultimately, whatever Congress decides will not matter. If they pass any AUMF, the granted authority will be largely for symbolic purposes only. If they do not pass an AUMF, it is all but certain that President Obama will continue to commit American forces to the fight anyway. For the President, it’s a win-win. He will either by a wartime Commander-in-Chief enjoying the support of Congress as he battles America’s enemies abroad or he will be the President who was willing to stand up to the evil that is ISIL when Congress seemingly refused.

AUMF ISIS Blog 3

The political game surrounding the draft AUMF is likely to continue for some time. Politicians will squabble and legal scholars will debate the legal powers of he executive and legislative branches. Meanwhile, the United States is already at war with ISIL, regardless of who formally signs off on it, and will be for the foreseeable future.

Matthew Matechik is an Evening J.D. student at the University of Baltimore School of Law (Class of 2016). He currently works full-time for the U.S. Federal Government as a Counterterrorism Analyst. He has a Bachelors of Arts (Magna Cum Laude, 2008) from Florida State University. All views in this blog post are Matthew’s own views and do not represent that of the U.S. Government. 

[i] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[ii] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11418966/Islamic-State-planning-to-use-Libya-as-gateway-to-Europe.html

[iii] http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/aumf_02112015.pdf

[iv] http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/aumf_02112015.pdf

[v] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[vi] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[vii] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/11/letter-president-authorization-use-united-states-armed-forces-connection

[viii]  U.S. Const., art. II, § 2, cl. 1, U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cls. 1114.

[ix] 50 U.S.C.A. § 1541.

[x] 50 U.S.C.A. § 1544.

[xi] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/23/statement-president-airstrikes-syria

[xii] President Obama seems to be keeping the 2001 AUMF in his back pocket to claim Congressional authorization even if Congress does not pass an ISIL-specific AUMF. The 2001 AUMF authorized the President to use force against “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11,  2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any  future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” The Obama administration suggested as early as September 2014 that they could rely on the 2001 AUMF. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/09/23/background-conference-call-airstrikes-syria. This position is problematic given that ISIL, a new group distinct from al-Qaida, had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks.


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Justification for Attacking IS – Is it Legal?

Clark Smith

In the wake of the President’s address to the nation on forthcoming US-led action against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, foreign officials abroad and legal scholars at home are lambasting the President for his presumed lack of legal justification.  In a primetime speech on September 10, the President laid out his strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS.  In short, his four-part strategy includes: continued air strikes against IS targets, though now expanding to Syria; increased support to forces fighting IS, in the form of additional US uniformed trainers and advisors in Iraq and providing of arms, equipment, and coordination for training to forces inside Syria; continued counterterrorism efforts aimed at denying IS necessary logistics and support by working with international partners to cut off funding, stem the inflow of foreign fighters, and countering IS propaganda; and further humanitarian assistance to those displaced by IS.  Although the President claims bipartisan support, he also claims “the authority to address the threat from ISIL.”  It is the airstrikes planned for Syria-based IS targets and the President’s presumed basis for authority to attack IS more broadly that concerns legal experts.

Iraq map locator

Both Syria and its ally Russia assert that any US airstrikes against targets in Syria would be in violation of international law.  A Syrian government spokesman warned that “any action [against IS] without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria.”  And despite ongoing Russian involvement in the Ukraine, a Russian spokesman warned that any US action in Syria absent “an appropriate decision of the UN Security Council, [] would become an act of aggression, a crude violation of the norms of international law.”  Article 2(4) of the UN Charter would certainly seem to support Russia’s assertion of the Syrian position.  And with Russia’s position on the Security Council, a Security Council decision supporting the US strategy is all but impossible.  But, a Security Council decision condemning, or even prohibiting, the forthcoming US action in Syria is equally impossible.  Just as international law has been ineffective in curbing Russian aggression in the Ukraine, so too will it be ineffective in facilitating the efforts of any of the US’s detractors in dismantling IS.  Even if legitimate international law concerns did exist regarding the US strategy for addressing the IS threat, the US interests do, and should, outweigh those concerns (I make this argument here in my law article, on page 192).

Mapping the Syrian Conflict

More concerning to legal scholars, at least from a domestic perspective, is the President’s claim that he already has “the authority to address the threat from ISIL.”  Presumably, the President is referring to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks.  The key language of that AUMF indicates…

“…the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

Since being passed for combat operations in Afghanistan, the AUMF has also provided the legal basis for attacks against al Qaeda, and affiliates, in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  Just last year Pentagon legal experts defended broad authority under the AUMF when testifying at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  According to the Pentagon legal experts, “the broad interpretation of the AUMF [] gives them the flexibility to deal with the changing threat in a lawful, effective manner.”  Members of the Committee disagreed with the broad authorization assessment, yet no specific solutions were suggested.  Just weeks after that Senate Committee hearing, the President called for a repeal of the AUMF referring to it as the “perpetual war” law.  What he did not call for, however, was a deadline by which to repeal it.  Probably not a calculated risk, but not addressing the “perpetual war” law was a good move in hind-sight.

Obama IS Announcement

In recent months, the Commander in Chief appeared to be relying on his Article II powers to prosecute the limited campaign against IS targets in Northern Iraq.  This was evidenced by the multiple War Powers Resolution letters sent to Congress keeping them informed.  Relying on this authority for the limited strikes and in light of several AUMFs being considered, if not avoided, in Congress in the run up to the President’s speech, it was no doubt quite a surprise when the President claimed he already had the necessary authority to prosecute a sustained campaign against IS.  Experts question why the President did not insist first on Congressional support, but the President has been down that road only a year earlier when Congressional support for action against Assad’s Syrian regime for their use of chemical weapons on their own citizens was clearly, and embarrassingly, unobtainable.

The President’s justification for waging sustained conflict against IS, reliance on the 2001 AUMF, is a stretch indeed.  But it is plausible.  According to the language of the AUMF, the President determines those persons or organizations that participated in the 9/11 attacks.  That was clearly al Qaeda.  Since that time, the President has retained authority to use that AUMF to attack al Qaeda affiliates in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa.  The stretch, albeit a plausible one, is identifying IS as an al Qaeda affiliate or at least something that was at one time an affiliate of al Qaeda.  IS was born of al Qaeda in Iraq and only recently did Ayman Zawahiri disavow IS.  This same organization, regardless of name, attacked US forces in Iraq during the Iraqi war and continues to carry on the legacy of the former al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

In the end, the point may be moot if the President can get the Congressional authorization he very much wants, but is very reluctant to ask for.

Clark Smith is a third-year law student pursuing a concentration in International Law. He has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Political Science and International Relations. In addition to being a Student Fellow, he is the Submissions Editor for the Journal of International Law. His previous experience includes work in both security and policy and his previous overseas postings include Western Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East, and South Asia. His professional interests include international development.


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Syria and US (In)Action – The Time is Now

The Time is Now – Why the US should consider a swift humanitarian intervention in Syria with limited use of force and no “boots on the ground”

Rafiq Gharbi

Image

Image Source: The Malta Independent

As an American law student the crisis in Syria presents itself as a familiar hypothetical posed by your beloved international law professor: the Syrian government is killing its own citizens – is this a violation of international law? Millions of refugees flee their homes as Assad’s regime bombards cities and towns – is this enough to warrant humanitarian intervention? Saying yes or no to these questions and providing an explanation citing the UN Charter will earn you a check in class participation or a symbolic gold star for the day. Unfortunately, the crisis in Syria cannot be so easily shelved away once class is over. Nearly 3 years have passed as millions are forced from their native country and a civil war destabilizes an already volatile region. So what do we do? As the UN and its Member States use international law and diplomacy to achieve peace, there are others simultaneously undermining their efforts.

The United States faces several issues in dealing with Syria. Force will result in fraying (if not severing) the fragile ties between Russia and Iran, while continued inaction effectively condones Assad’s aggression towards the people of Syria.

Inaction simply cannot be the course taken by President Obama for the United States to uphold its position and reputation as the world’s police power. It may very well be possible that the United States does not wish to continue, or even acknowledge, this role that it plays. But, the fact remains that the world’s strongest nation has traditionally intervened in foreign conflicts and more or less brought them to an end, albeit whatever end is politically expedient FOR the United States. There is no sensible end in sight for Syria. No game plan or long-term rehabilitation as there might have been for Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, any end is better than the continued destruction of Syria and its people.

Diplomacy has failed and America cannot continue to lean on this crutch to bide time. The United States needs to intervene militarily in Syria to bring stability. Critics of using force in Syria point to diplomatic issues arising between those who support Assad’s regime and the United States. Would it be so awful to strain ties with Russia and Syria in the name of humanitarian intervention? Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine is further testament to its own disregard of international law. The Security Council remains flawed in its framework, especially as a Permanent Member refuses to abide by the international law and the UN Charter (i.e. Russia). As for Iran, its nuclear programs will continue with or without Assad in power.

Syria Blood

Image Source: Al Jazeera

For those who fear a more widespread destabilization of an already unstable Middle East, the force used must be limited and concise. We can all agree that another ground war is not something that is preferable or practical for the United States. Iraq and Afghanistan have left their mark and Syria would be the next long and costly war if ground forces were deployed. Calculated attacks to depose Assad and his regime would be the most effective means of ending the situation. Without aiding the, also dangerous, rebels and without sacrificing troops, drones could effectively cease the widespread and systemic destruction brought by the Syrian government. Now, could this destabilize the region? Sure. Could tensions rise? Yes, but with Assad gone, the majority of the fighting would stop there.

The aftermath would leave Syria with rebels that want to preserve their country and the same people that lived their prior to the intervention. A swift operation during a limited timeframe would be the sort of action that can be applauded, and if unsuccessful, will not be a critical blow to the country. America doesn’t have a duty to rebuild Syria, but it does have a duty to protect human life in situations such as this.

For better or worse, America has lived up to its prophecy as a “city upon a hill.” The nation should own this role and do what is good for the betterment of the world.

 

Rafiq Gharbi is a second year law student (’15) at the University of Baltimore School of Law and a CICL Fellow. He graduated from Salisbury University in May 2012. While at Salisbury, he majored in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy and was active in the Muslim Student Association. Rafiq is also an avid soccer player and hopes to play for the Tunisian national team in the future.