In case you were in need of additional evidence that the strike on Syria recently conducted by the US, the UK and France was illegal, besides the simple logic that countries probably shouldn’t bomb other countries without an indisputable reason to do so, a lawyer affiliated with NATO has declared that the Syria strike was illegal.

Regardless of what Assad and his regime did or did not do, was bombing Syria the correct course of action? Numerous public figures, experts, journalists and normal people have called the legality of the military strike into question. And rightfully so. But now we have a lawyer on our side. A NATO affiliated lawyer to boot.

Lieutenant Colonel Kris van der Meij is his name. The Dutch lawyer is currently working at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Estonia, focusing on the intersection of international law and cyber conflict. While the CCDCOE is not directly funded by NATO, it is an accredited NATO Center of Excellence.

According to van der Meij, none of his CCDCOE colleagues accepted the mission’s “humanitarian” claim a valid reason for military aggression.

According to international law, military action against another country is allowed for only three reasons: self defense, after a UN Security Council resolution, or after a request for intervention is made by the country where the attack is to take place.

However, in unique situations, international law also permits intervention to aid in alleviating humanitarian distress when there is extensive and convincing evidence of extreme humanitarian suffering. There must also be no alternative methods available to alleviate that distress.

The UK claims it met these requirements, despite the fact that the narrative of the chemical attack on Douma on April 7 continues to crumble.

The fourth option sometimes mentioned is this humanitarian intervention, like they did in Libya for example when Gaddafi was slaughtering his own people,” van der Meij said.

But this is not yet considered customary international law. We don’t accept this as a reason to act.

Russia and Syria continue to clearly communicate that they strikes were in violation of international law. Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, called the attacks a “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” at a recent UN Security Council meeting.

Conversely, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, has said he supports the actions taken by the US, the JK and France, saying “There was no other alternative than to react the way they reacted this night.”

But something about bombing people due to claims that they were unjustly bombed just doesn’t sit right, especially on the cusp of an intergovernmental organization’s investigation into the alleged bombing. It should be customary for an international investigation to be completed prior to, not hindered by, military actions being taken. Or perhaps it’s time to reevaluate why NATO even exists.


This article (NATO Lawyer: US-led Strike on Syria Wasn’t Even Legal) is Creative Commons and was originally published by Emma Fiala.