Dr Jonathan Crowe.
Dr Jonathan Crowe.
9 September 2013

A University of Queensland international humanitarian law expert has urged Australia to exercise caution before endorsing military intervention in Syria by the United States or its allies.

UQ TC Beirne School of Law Associate Professor Jonathan Crowe said there was little doubt the use of chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict was a serious violation of international law.

“International humanitarian law – or the law of armed conflict – has long prohibited the use of weapons seen as inflicting unnecessary levels of suffering,” Associate Professor Crowe said.

“The use of chemical weapons in all forms of conflict is now clearly banned as a matter of customary international law.”

Associate Professor Crowe cautioned against using chemical weapons as a basis for military intervention in Syria, noting this was legally and morally questionable.

“Military intervention can only be justified under the United Nations Charter in cases of self-defence or with Security Council approval,” he said.

“From a moral perspective, we would have to be satisfied that military action would improve the plight of the Syrian people.

“However, the short- and long-term effects of military intervention are very hard to predict. It could end up making a bad situation even worse.”

Associate Professor Crowe said the Syrian crisis posed a challenge for Australia in its new role as President of the UN Security Council.

“The Syrian conflict is likely to dominate the Security Council’s agenda during Australia’s term as chair,” he said.

“The Australian government has a moral and political responsibility to carefully consider its position.”

Associate Professor Crowe has published Principles of International Humanitarian Law (Edward Elgar, 2013), examining the key rules of international humanitarian law.

Media: Dr Jonathan Crowe, j.crowe@law.uq.edu.au). Melissa Reynolds, UQ School of Law (07) 3365 2523, m.reynolds@law.uq.edu.au.

Dr Jonathan Crowe

Dr Jonathan Crowe teaches legal theory, constitutional law and international humanitarian law. He holds a PhD in law and philosophy from The University of Queensland, as well as honours degrees in both disciplines. His research examines the philosophical relationship between law and ethics, looking at issues such as the nature and foundations of legal obligation and the role of ethics in legal reasoning. Jonathan has published widely on natural law theory and existentialist ethics, particularly the work of Emmanuel Levinas. He has also published research on constitutional law, international humanitarian law, criminal law, family law, corporations law and alternative dispute resolution.