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August 15, 2005

Adventures of a Hero of Mulilateralism
Posted by Michael Osborne

Responding to my post of yesterday, in which I made the point that France had intervened without UN authorisation in the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire, KB says that “when the French deployed in 2002 it did so at the request of the legitimate government of the IC and therefore didn't need UN say so.”

The French action has not been adjudicated in any international tribunal but I suspect that if it was it might well be found to have been unlawful. For one thing, by the time the French arrived on the scene a large portion of the north of the country had been seized by opponents of President Laurent Gbagbo, who had thereafter requested French assistance.  Under international law, if rebel forces succeed in acquiring control over a significant portion of the country, the conflict advances to a state of "insurgency," by which time the government's inability to control the entirety of its territory renders its claim to legitimacy uncertain.  Short of U.N. authorisation, states are then expected to refrain from offering assistance to either side in the conflict, inasmuch as any assistance would likely influence the outcome of what has now become a civil war.


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" Short of U.N. authorisation, states are then expected to refrain from offering assistance to either side in the conflict"

Well the french deployment out of their existing base in the IC in october 2002 was part of the ceasefire agreement between the 2 sides. Both sides wanted a 3rd party to patrol the ceasefire line and whilst ECOWAS was the favoured choice they didn't manage to deploy until jan 2003. The french were the only other available party. So if both sides request it I don't see how it's illegal.

When after the ECOWAS arrived the ceasefire brokedown then the UN SC passed Res 1464 on the 4th feb 2003.

IIRC, there was, in fact, ex post facto approval of the intervention by the UNSC, as kb mentions.

I have also heard that several of France's former colonial possessions incorporate authorization for French intervention in their constitutions. Not being able to read French (the language the relevant documents are most likely written in), I am unable to say with certainty if this is true, however, French behavior in the relevant states suggests that it is.

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