The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is a non-governmental organization of human rights lawyers around the world.  IADL has been accredited by ECOSOC since 1969

IADL denounces the invasion of Afrin in Northern Syria as a gross violation of various central principles of International Law and an act of Aggression for which Erdogan and other state officials should be held criminally responsible.

Prohibition of the Use of Force

‘Operation Olive Branch’ constitutes a violation of the Prohibition of the Use of Force, a comprehensive prohibition enshrined in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and recognised as a peremptory norm of international law.[1]

No Exception Under Article 51

Erdogan’s stated aim is to attack pro Kurdish groups and ‘suffocate’ a ‘terror army’ in Northern Syria ‘before it’s born’.[2]  This preventive act cannot be justified as self defence under Article 51 of the Charter, Customary International Law only recognising anticipatory self-defence when an attack is imminent.[3]  It should also be noted that Syria has denounced this attack, again precluding the possibility of Turkey justifying its act as a form of collective self defence.[4]

No Exception under Chapter VII

Furthermore, the invoking of Security Council Resolutions 1624, 2170 and 2178 cannot be used as justifications for the use of force by Turkey, as they do not authorise the use of force in the present circumstances against pro Kurdish groups operating in the North of Syria.  ISIL and its affiliates no longer have a presence within the area.

IADL therefore calls upon Turkey to cease its invasion of northern Syria as it constitutes a grave violation of the Prohibition of the Use of Force.

Aggression

Turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria is an act of Aggression as defined in Article 1 and 3(1) of the Annex to UNGA Resolution 3314 (XXIX).  The invasion is also a crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Whilst Turkey is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the activation of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction in December 2017 over the crime of Aggression allows the Security Council to refer a situation for investigation by the Prosecutor under Article 13 of the Statute.

The IADL therefore calls on the Security Council to immediately refer this matter to the OTP as a matter of extreme urgency.

Erga Omnes Obligation

An Act of Aggression constitutes the violation of an Erga Omnes obligation[5] and consequently engages the legal interests of all states.  According to the ICJ Israeli Wall Advisory Opinion 2004, all states are under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from breaches of Erga Omnes obligations.  Furthermore, they are also obligated not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by the breach[6].

IADL consequently calls upon UN member states to denounce the illegal acts of the Turkish state in invading Syria and invoke the International Responsibility of Turkey for its committing of the above International Wrongful Acts.

Repression of the Turkish Population

News reports have circulated in Turkey of the arrest and detention of those peacefully opposing ‘Operation Olive Branch’, both for attending press conferences and posting their dissent on social media.

IADL denounces these flagrant breaches of the right to freedom of assembly and expression, protected by virtue of Turkey’s ratification of the ICCPR and ECHR, and call upon the international community to do the same.

[1] Nicaragua v USA, ICJ, 1986

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-14/erdogan-repeats-warning-of-attack-on-kurdish-enclave-in-syria

[3] Caroline Incident and Nicaragua v USA, ICJ, 1986

[4] Nicaragua v USA, ICJ, 1986

[5] Barcelona Traction Case, ICJ, 1964

[6] Israeli Wall Advisory Opinion, ICJ 2004, at paragraph 159