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11 Mar 2003 : Column 221—continued

Mr. Savidge: Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that there was an ongoing pattern of aggression in the area at the time? The action was taken in response to a series of wars and acts of aggression.

Ross Cranston: Our justification was that a humanitarian catastrophe was occurring. The UK has consistently used that reason to justify what we did in Kosovo, but not everybody agrees. One of the most eminent international lawyers in this country, Professor Brownlie, still doubts the legality of what happened in Kosovo. Other international lawyers say that one can draw out from the Security Council resolutions that I mentioned an authorisation—to some extent, post facto—of what was done. However, that humanitarian intervention is no justification for what might happen in Iraq, although its record of human rights abuses is appalling. My point is that the letter in The Guardian is wrong to suggest that the use of force can never be legitimate unless it is in self-defence or expressly authorised by the Security Council. The case of Kosovo also demonstrates that international law has to move with the times and in accordance with state practice.

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I turn to the issue of express authorisation of enforcement action under chapter VII. It happened before the Gulf war in Iraq. Security Council resolution 678 authorised all necessary means to liberate Kuwait. The Security Council has expressly authorised enforcement action in a range of other resolutions, for example in Somalia and Haiti. The letter in The Guardian also said that there was no case for disregarding a veto. However, it seems to me that such an argument might be made for disregarding an arbitrary veto. An example that could be cited is the Chinese veto in February 1999 against the extension of the term for the UN preventive deployment force in Macedonia. At the time, it was commonly believed that China had imposed the veto because Macedonia had just established diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

I do not believe that that example is arguable in the present context. I do not think that we can regard any veto imposed by France, Russia or China, either individually or collectively, as arbitrary. Any veto imposed by those countries would be a considered veto. There might be an argument that a veto could be disregarded, but I do not think that it would apply in that case.

I have mentioned Kosovo, but there are other examples of force being used without the express authorisation of the UN Security Council, and I shall give two. The first example occurred in west Africa in 1990, when the Economic Community of West African States intervened in Liberia to stop a civil war. There was no explicit Security Council authorisation for that, although subsequent actions by the Security Council tacitly accepted and praised the intervention.

The second example occurred in 1991, in the context of the first Gulf war. Russia and China opposed the deployment of military forces to protect Iraqi civilians without Iraq's consent. The US, the UK and France took action to provide safe havens for Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq, and to enforce the no-fly zones. However, there was no express Security Council authorisation.

I turn now to Iraq, in relation to which there have been 17 UN Security Council resolutions. They include resolution 678, to which I have referred already and which authorised the use of all necessary means. On the ceasefire, resolution 687 of 1991 imposed an obligation on Iraq to disarm. The ceasefire was based on Iraq's acceptance of that disarmament obligation. I do not have time to go into the other resolutions that followed, although I referred to them in the debate in January.

We then come to resolution 1441, which is discussed in the report from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The nature of the substantive provisions of resolution 1441 is well known. For example, paragraph 1 states that Iraq

while paragraph 4 deals with

and states that any failure "at any time" to comply or co-operate with the resolution will be a further material breach. Also, paragraph 13 recalls that the Security Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face "serious consequences" as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.

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One element of resolution 1441 has not been discussed. Recital 10 in the preamble contains an express invocation of resolution 687—the ceasefire-disarmament resolution in 1991. Recital 10 recalls:

Recital 11 states that the Security Council is determined to ensure

It seems to me that resolution 1441 revives resolution 687 and the obligation imposed on Iraq. Also, it reminds us that the ceasefire, under 687, was based on Iraq's acceptance of that disarmament obligation. My conclusion is that the use of force in enforcement action, other than in self-defence or in accordance with an express authorisation by the UN Security Council, can be legitimate in international law. I have given a number of examples of that—including Kosovo, west Africa, and the protection of the Kurds after the Gulf war. Resolution 1441, coupled with resolution 687, provides a legitimacy for action to disarm Iraq if there is non-compliance with its obligations. There is no absolute necessity for a second resolution. Any action that follows must, as in Kosovo, bolster legitimacy. A UN administered Iraq would be one contribution to that.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): The hon. and learned Gentleman has treated the House to a valuable opinion. He justified resolution 1441 but cited the article in The Guardian and the views of other eminent lawyers who take a different view from his. Who, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, determines what constitutes the correct interpretation of international law?

Ross Cranston: One of the difficulties with international law as opposed to domestic law is that no body has jurisdiction over the whole range of issues. In some situations, the world court can come in, but many issues are not justiciable.

My party has always had a strong internationalist bent, part of which has been an abhorrence of armed force. That is as it should be. War is a failure and a terrible thing—both for those who are actively involved and for those civilians who are caught up in the conflict. Even those who escape physically unscathed can be mentally affected by the horrors that they experience for the rest of their lives. However, sometimes war is necessary to deal with an aggressor or tyrant, to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, or to uphold good order in the international community. Parts of my party have always found that difficult to accept. When, in 1934, the party produced a document entitled "War and Peace", which recognised that British armed forces might need to be used against an aggressor, people such as Stafford Cripps opposed it. In defending the document, Clem Attlee said that, in the light of what was happening in the world, the party could not wash its hands of its responsibilities. So too today.

4.22 pm

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): It is a privilege to follow the hon. and learned Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston), who gave us a balanced argument.

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Earlier, the argument seemed to be over whether there is any justification for war and, specifically, for pre-emptive strikes. In a moment of cynicism, I might say that the only time that war can really be justified is if it is successful. In such situations, the winner takes all. One has only to consider a situation such as that with China and Tibet. The world has kept very quiet about the mammoth Chinese takeover of little Tibet.

People have spoken about humanitarian issues. We have gone into action in Europe but we have failed lamentably to deal with what we might call "black upon black" issues in Africa, where millions have perished with no world intervention—other than some humanitarian aid to put a little bandage on a deep sore.

I wanted to speak because I have growing concerns. At the beginning, I supported the Government but I also made it plain that colleagues and friends in northern Iraq among the Kurdish people were concerned about what might happen when Saddam was set aside. We always have to think of the consequences before we start action. There may be unforeseen consequences. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) spoke about developments in Iran, saying that things had taken 25 years. It could take even longer than that. I could not help but think about how long it took us, as a kingdom, to come to a full sense of democracy.

Wars were fought among different groups in Scotland, England and elsewhere to bring about democracy. The process took many, many years, so we should not expect the warlords of Afghanistan suddenly to settle down, be good boys and listen to a central Government when they might want to take over and govern by their own traditional methods. Sometimes, we need patience and understanding.

We are debating a very good report on international terrorism prepared by the Foreign Affairs Committee and we have spent a lot of time discussing Iraq. It was interesting to hear Labour Members give illustrations based on Northern Ireland. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle) is no longer in his place. He asked whether the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) accepted that the shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland was justified, which implies that there was such a policy. That has been alleged over the years, but I recall my father, who was a sharpshooter during the first and second world wars, asking me, "How are they training the British Army these days?" I said, "Why, dad? What's gone wrong?" He said, "It's been reported that they were fired at and returned fire, but claimed no hits".

When we talk about a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, we do a disservice to the men and women of our armed services and of the police, who conducted themselves tremendously well and made sacrifices to protect culprits. In that context, I recall a person who undertook security duties with me. He had formerly been a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment and had actually saved the life of Gerry Adams.

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