When the Security Council Fails to Intervene in Mass Atrocities, Who Else Can Act?

Seema Kassab
Vol. 38 Associate Editor

There is no clearer example of the failure of the UN to halt mass atrocities and genocide than the current conflict in Syria. Nearly six years, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and millions of refugees later, the UN has repeatedly failed to effectively take action in protecting Syrian civilians. In fact, the situation devolves year after year without a solution in sight. The dire need for humanitarian intervention in Syria is begging for a response from the international community and the invocation of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), an emerging norm in international law that places a responsibility on the international community to prevent and react to mass atrocities. R2P was intended to address genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing,[1] all crimes that the Assad regime has been committing in Syria for the past six years. The doctrine was adopted at the World Summit in 2005 in response to the failures of the international community to intervene in the humanitarian crises in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo.[2] So why does R2P even exist if no one invokes it when it is most needed? Continue reading

Legal Incubation: Establishing the Rule of Law in Rebel-Held Syria

Nessma Bashi
Vol. 38 Associate Editor

As calls for democracy-building, freedom of expression, and the right to individual sovereignty were chanted by protesters throughout the Arab World in March of 2011, many Syrians were encouraged by the promise of popular power and headed to the streets to make their voices heard. What started as peaceful protests quickly culminated into a bloody civil war with no end in sight.

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Russian Airstrikes in Syria: a Violation of International Law?

Seema Kassab
Vol. 38 Associate Editor

One of the gravest humanitarian catastrophes of the present day has been taking place in Syria over last five years. According to the UN, around 250,000 people have been killed, 13.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and more than 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced.[1] Instability within the country has led to an infiltration of Islamic Extremist groups, most notably the so-called Islamic State (ISIL). The Islamic State’s presence in Syria and Iraq has increased to the point where the international community’s focus has shifted from the atrocities committed by the Syrian government to those committed by ISIL. As a consequence of the rise of ISIL, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2249, which called upon “[m]ember States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures in compliance with international law…to redouble and coordinate efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks committed specifically by ISIL…”[2]

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ISIS Looted Antiquities Funding Terrorism: The Global Community’s Slow Response and What More can be Done

Amy Albanese
Vol. 37 Associate Editor
Vol. 38 Managing Online Content Editor

For over a year, there have been reports in the international press of Syrian and Iraqi antiquities being sold by ISIS as a source of revenue.[1] The reports detail how ISIS is profiting through the sale of Syria’s antiquities on the international art market, some even going so far as to call it a major source of funding.[2] The most recent set of complete trade statistics shows that, in fact, the importation of Syrian antiquities into the United States has remained similar to the pre-2012 sanctions.[3] This is a stark contrast from all other Syrian goods, which have sharply declined from $429.3 million worth of declared goods, to just $12.4 million in declared goods.[4] Yet, in 2014, the importation of “Antiquities over 100 years old,” “Worked Monumental Stone and Mosaic Cubes” and “Collector’s Pieces of Archaeological, Historical or Numismatic Objects” represented $6,633,903, or 54%, of all U.S. imports from Syria.[5] Continue reading

International Legal Implications of Measures Taken to Limit Influx of Refugees in Europe

Christine Prorok, Vol. 37 Associate Editor

As hundreds of thousands of refugees flee states in the Middle East and Africa, bound largely for countries in the European Union, the international community has struggled to furnish a consistent response to accepting refugees. And some have no intent to accept refugees at all. Continue reading

The Need for Internationally Accepted Refugee Laws

Zachary Anderson, Vol. 37 Associate Editor

The recent Syrian refugee crisis has put a massive amount of strain on Europe. An estimated 32,000 asylum applications were recorded in Europe in July of this year alone.[1] In the wake of this crisis, arguably cruel responses by European governments and individuals have garnered the international spotlight,[2] exposing serious shortcomings in the ability of international law to protect the rights of migrants. For example, Hungary has closed its border with Serbia, built a fence, and launched an anti-immigration campaign.[3] Hungarian officials have also been recorded shooting migrants with water cannons and throwing tear gas over the newly constructed fence into crowds of refugees.[4] Continue reading

Understanding the Legality of Russia’s Actions in Syria

Erin Collins, Vol. 37 Associate Editor

Over the past few months we have seen the dramatic increase in Syrian crisis, culminating most recently with a Russian airstrike campaign in Syria. Under the United Nations charter Article 2(4) there is a general prohibition on the use of force. [1] There is a specific exception carved out for self defense in the UN Charter in Article 51 guaranteeing States the “right to individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occur” as well as a more controversial possible exception of humanitarian intervention.[2] Continue reading

The Alien Tort Statute and the Syrian Crisis

Anonymous, Vol. 36 Associate Editor

Syria’s President Bashar Assad has engaged in a civil war with Syrian citizens since March 2011.[i] As the revolution-turned-bloodbath enters its fifth year, the estimated death toll has reached 220,000 and continues to rise.[ii] The conflict has also displaced a significant percentage of the country’s pre-war population. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are 3.8 million Syrian refugees who are now registered in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. [iii] Yet, Assad regime forces have only been more aggressive in their indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and their use of internationally prohibited barrel bombs against both civilians and rebel fighters.[iv]

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United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 and the Future of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine

Sam Fitzpatrick, Vol. 36 Associate Editor

On March 17, 2011, the United Nations Security Council (“UNSC”) adopted Resolution 1973, providing the legal framework for the subsequent NATO led military intervention in Libya.[1]  The resolution established a “ban on all flights in the airspace of [Libya] in order to help protect civilians” and authorized member states to “take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban.”[2]  NATO forces implementing this resolution, including troops from the United Kingdom, France and the United States, conducted 9,000 strike sorties in Libya over the course of the next six months, resulting in the collapse of the Qaddafi regime.[3] Continue reading