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MARCH 18, 2003
8:06 AM
CONTACT:  Center for Economic and Social Rights
Roger Normand, (718) 237-9145 ext. 12,
Philip Alston, (212) 998-6173
War in Iraq is "Unequivocally Illegal"
Human Rights Group Warns of Return to the Rule of the Jungle in International Affairs
NEW YORK - March 18 - War against Iraq is "unequivocally illegal under the UN Charter and international law generally", according to a new report. The report rejects efforts by the U.S., U.K, and Australia to circumvent the U.N. Security Council and claim legal justification from past resolutions.

Attempting to legitimize a war opposed by world public opinion, the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.K. Attorney-General, and the Australian Prime Minister have in the past 24 hours each issued major statements insisting that international law justifies their decision to attack Iraq.

The report, issued by the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Right, cites a range of authoritative legal sources to dismiss their arguments. According to Professor Thomas Franck, a leading authority on the use of force, the use of old resolutions to support military action today "makes a complete mockery of the entire system" of international law.

"It is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. and U.K. to base war on Resolution 1441 when they are fully aware that France, Russia and China approved that resolution on explicit written condition that it could not be used by individual states to justify military action," said CESR Executive Director Roger Normand, who recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq. "This war violates every legal principle governing the resort to force. It clearly has little to do with disarmament, democracy, human rights, or even Saddam Hussein, and everything to do with oil and power."

The report warns that an illegal war in Iraq would threaten the pillars of collective security established after World War II to protect civilians from a recurrence of that unprecedented carnage. "This is an attack on the very institutions of international law and the United Nations," said Philip Alston, Professor of Law and Director of Human Rights and Global Justice and New York University. "It opens the door for every country to take the law into its own hands and launch preemptive military strikes without any universally binding restraints."

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the necessity for preemptive attacks against its neighbors and instead outlawed preventive war as a crime against the peace. In the Tribunal's judgment, "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Tearing up the Rules: The Illegality of Invading Iraq is available at


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