Ulfstein: Parliament Must Debate Military Engagement in Syria

PluriCourts director Geir Ulfstein and Norwegian Minister of Defence Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide discussed in the Norwegian TV programme Aktuelt a possible Norwegian participation in the coalition against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Ulfstein emphasized that there was no straightforward answer to the question whether such an intervention would be in line with public international law. Therefore, the full Norwegian Parliament should decide on all future activities.

Recently, the United States asked Norway, along with other countries, to contribute to military activities against IS in Syria. The Norwegian government is now evaluating how and to what extent the Norway should provide military, civil or economic support.

Ulfstein explained that it is necessary to assess legal bases for military activities on Syrian territory. The situation in Syria stands in contrast to the situation in Iraq, where the Iraqi government requested help from other states to fight IS. The Syrian government has not asked the US or other Western countries for support against IS. It is highly unclear whether we could speak of a "tacit consent" by the Syrian government to strikes against IS. Likewise, the recent UN Security Council resolution on Syria does not provide a mandate for military activities against IS. Ulfstein assesses also that the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015 are insufficient to trigger the right to individual and collective self-defence contained in the UN Charter and the North Atlantic Treaty.

Given the complexity of the situation, Ulfstein stated that it is necessary to have a thorough public parliamentary debate taking into account public international law.

Published Dec. 9, 2015 3:42 PM - Last modified Dec. 9, 2015 3:42 PM