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Yassir Al-Sayegh: Legal Action against Bahrain

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have given Mr. Al-Sayegh as much help and advice as we can. We wrote to Mr. Al-Sayegh in May advising him that there was nothing more that the Foreign Office could do for him beyond what his solicitor is already doing. However, should there be any developments in Mr. Al-Sayegh's case we would of course review this position.

Kosovo: Use of Military Force

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the concept of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" (as now used by the Government in connection with the possible use of force by NATO in the context of Kosovo) is recognised in international law; and, if so, in what form; and[HL3696]

    What is their own definition of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity"; and whether there is a consensus within the United Nations Security Council:

    (a) on the meaning and legal validity of the concept;

    (b) on the authority it may confer on states or groups of states proposing to use military force in the absence of a United Nations Security Council Resolution specifically requiring or permitting the use of force; and [HL3697]

    Whether "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" overrides other principles of international law; and, if

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    so, how are the circumstances in which it may do so to be recognised by the international community; and by whom should they be recognised if military action is lawfully to follow; and [HL3698]

    Whether unilateral declarations alleging "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" may confer legality on threats or uses of force or interference within sovereign states that would otherwise be unlawful; and [HL3699]

    Whether the concept of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" and related legal doctrines have been considered by the International Court at The Hague. [HL3700]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The prohibitions on the use of force contained in the UN Charter do not preclude the use of force by a state or group of states in self-defence in accordance with Article 51 or under the authorisation of the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter. There is no general doctrine of humanitarian necessity in international law. Cases have nevertheless arisen (as in northern Iraq in 1991) when, in the light of all the circumstances, a limited use of force was justifiable in support of purposes laid down by the Security Council but without the council's express authorisation when that was the only means to avert an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. Such cases would in the nature of things be exceptional and would depend on an objective assessment of the factual circumstances at the time and on the terms of relevant decisions of the Security Council bearing on the situation in question.

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