The invasion of Iraq: a challenge to the Charter Prohibition of Violence in Inter-State Relations
Just before its armed invasion of Iraq, the US tried but failed to get the UN to sanction war on Iraq. Having failed in that effort, the US on 20 March 2003 invaded Iraq with the armed support of Australia, Britain and Spain. The invasion was greeted with world-wide condemnation and street protests. The US and its allies were unmoved. It was claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction posing a threat to the world, and that, therefore, it was necessary to militarily overwhelm and disarm it. It was also claimed that President Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator, and that, therefore, there had to be a regime change in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Thirdly, it was claimed that Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda, the elusive terrorist group that was thrust into the international limelight by its spectacular attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, and that, therefore, the war on Iraq was simply one phase of the wider war against international terrorism. This article examines the legality of the war on Iraq in the light of the reasons pleaded in its justification. This is done against the backdrop of the norm of jus cogens prohibiting the threat or use of force by states in their international relations as well as the law of international humanitarian law prohibiting certain means and methods in the conduct of war. The article also considers the ramifications of the war as well as the responsibility, under international law, of the leaders of the invading powers. It is the contention of this article that the war on Iraq breaches the law of the United Nations and violates international law. This transgression of the law, it is argued, engages the international responsibility of the invading powers and the major actors involved in the aggressive war. The article concludes that the war portends certain dangerous consequences regionally and internationally.