The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the oldest and largest progressive bar association in the United States, strongly condemns recent illegal U.S. actions in Iraq, including the killing of Iranian and Iraqi nationals and threats of military attacks on Iran as clear violations of both U.S. and international law. We call on our members and all people of conscience to mobilize in opposition to war with Iran, and we call on Congress to block access to funding for any military action against Iran, to lift sanctions against Iran, and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. Legal Community Must Act to Defend Iranians and other Middle Eastern Communities from Targeted Harassment and Repression by the U.S.
The NLG is alarmed by the reports of the detention and questioning of dozens of Iranian nationals and U.S. nationals of Iranian descent at U.S. borders by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials. Assisted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances.
A U.S. citizen of Iranian descent detained with her family at the U.S.-Canada border last night reported that “The vast majority of people being [detained] were American citizens and We kept asking why we were being detained and asked questions that had nothing to do with our reason for traveling and was told ‘I’m sorry this is just the wrong time for you guys.’”
The NLG’s concern goes further than the actions of CBP. We know too well that periods of escalation of endless U.S. wars leads are connected to an escalation of the racialization and repression of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and all Black and Brown communities, not just under the hands of federal border agents but also local and federal police across all levels of law enforcement.
THE U.S. IS IN CLEAR VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
ACT OF AGGRESSION
On December 29th, the U.S. killed 25 people and wounded 50 fighters in Iraq claiming that it was a “response” to a Dec. 24 rocket attack on its occupation military base in Kirkuk that allegedly killed one private military contractor, despite the fact that the organization targeted denied this allegation and had no fighters stationed in the area. On this false pretext – much like many other imperialist wars, including the U.S.invasion of Iraq nearly 17 years ago – the U.S. launched the deadly Dec. 29 attack.
On December 31, a popular mobilization responded to this attack with an unarmed protest at the U.S. embassy in the Iraqi Green Zone, where most of the occupation forces reside. Protesters breached the embassy walls, demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. On January 2nd, the Trump Administration ordered a drone strike on a convoy leaving Baghdad International Airport, killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mehdi Al Muhandis of the Popular Mobilization Forces of Iraq.
ILLEGAL EXTRAJUDICIAL, TARGETED KILLINGS
The killing of Soleimani and others, Muhandis, and others by drone is not justified under any notion of international humanitarian law or human rights law. Targeted killing is the intentional premeditated and deliberate use of lethal force by states or their agents acting under color of law, who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator. If the person against whom lethal force is directed has not been convicted of a crime for which a death sentence is permissible in the state where the killing occurs, the targeted killing is also an extrajudicial killing outside of any legal process. Targeted extrajudicial killing is, by its very nature illegal. It is an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life guaranteed by Articles 6 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
VIOLATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHARTER
The U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and others by drone strike in Baghdad is an illegal act of aggression violating U.S. and international law, including the United Nations (U.N.) Charter which all members of the U.N. including the United States are legally bound to adhere to. The Charter was ratified by the United States and by virtue of Article VI, section 2, of the U.S. Constitution it has the force of domestic law.
Current discourse on the matter by political leaders, especially those in the US, shows a distressing lack of understanding or disregard for the principles of the Charter which was agreed upon by the global community to prevent future generations from experiencing the “scourge of war.” Furthermore, current references to the “legality” of the strike have been limited to issues of “proportionality” and “imminence” of a “threat”. Neither of these matters addresses the fundamental issues of legality.
VIOLATION OF IRAQI SOVEREIGNTY, NOT SELF-DEFENSE
Attacks on U.S.military bases in Iraq, allegedly by Iraqi based militias which are Iraqi non-state actors, do not qualify as an armed attack on theU.S.by Iran. Neither does the protest action at theU.S.Embassy in Baghdad as a result ofU.S.strikes against the militias amount to an armed attack by Iran against the U.S.
Article 2.4 requires that all U.N. Charter member refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. The only two exceptions to the use of force are contained in Article 51 and 42. Article 51, which recognizes the inherent right to self-defense, is operative only in response to an armed attack by another state. By definition, if an act is not in self-defense it is aggression, which is prohibited under the UN Charter. Article 42 permits the use of force when authorized by the Security Council. The U.S. did not bring the matter to the Security Council to seek a resolution regarding its claims about the activities of Iraqi militias.
FOCUS ON PROPORTIONALITY IS MISPLACED
The reference to proportionality by many commentators is misplaced.
Proportionality under international humanitarian law, otherwise known as the laws of war, relates to whether a particular military action is expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, or civilian objects which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage. By its very nature, the principle of proportionality applies to cases of armed conflict, whether legal or illegal. The U.S. is not in an armed conflict with Iraq where the killing occurred, nor is it in an armed conflict with Iran.
Proportionality does not apply to considerations such as whether the killing of a high ranking army general of Iran is in some equation with the killing of a U.S. army contractor. Similarly, the issue of the imminence of a threat is not recognized under international law to convert an act of aggression into an act of self-defense. Although the Bush Administration used the concept to invade Iraq without UN approval, the international community roundly rejects the concept.
Solidarity with the People of Iran & the Region Means Building a Movement to Dismantle U.S. Imperialism
For too long, the people of both Iran and Iraq have suffered the crippling consequences of war, economic sanctions, instability, and constant threats of more war. The hands of extremist and hardline forces in both Iran and Iraq will be strengthened by Trump’s illegal acts of aggression. We must stand in solidarity with the people of Iran and Iraq who are struggling to achieve democracy by opposing U.S. imperialism and supporting people’s movements.
“The United States plays no positive role in Iraq or in the region and is the biggest threat to world peace. Therefore, we demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. troops and military bases from Iraq, halting all hostilities with Iran, and an international inquiry into and prosecution of the criminal behavior of the United States and its leadership. There is an urgent need to build an anti-war movement this year. Weapons manufacturers and those who profit from war must be shut down. There must be no support given for any electoral candidates and politicians that support this criminal war. And we must end the callous slaughter of millions around the planet. We encourage popular mobilizations in the streets as well as the growth of strategic campaigns around divestment, demilitarization, and international solidarity. No War with Iran! U.S. out of Iraq!” -Excerpt from the Red Nation.
NLG strongly condemns the assassination of General Soleimani as well as all threats by the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran, its people, its leadership and its cultural heritage.
NLG also condemns the outrageous threats by U.S. President Trump to attack 52 targets in Iran, including cultural sites of deep importance to Iranian culture. Such an action would without a doubt constitute a war crime. Iran is home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites. The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.”
NLG condemns the racist and arbitrary detention and harassment of people of Iranian heritage by U.S. Customs and Border officials and calls on the U.S. legal community to act in defense of Iranians and other Middle Eastern Communities from targeted state repression.
NLG calls for an immediate inquiry into the harassment of Iranian nationals and U.S. citizens of Iranian heritage being stopped by CBP and by other government officials.
NLG calls on the legal and human rights community to view the attack on General Soleimani through the prism of international law and to roundly condemn it as an illegal act of aggression, a crime against peace, and a crime of aggression under UN General Assembly Resolution 3314.
NLG further calls on the legal and human rights communities to oppose the deployment of approximately 100 Marines and 750 members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, and the pending deployment of 3,500 additional airborne troops to the region, actions which can only inflame the situation.
NLG joins the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) to call on the United Nations Security Council to immediately address the issue and take all necessary measures to put an end to all U.S. aggressions and interferences in the Middle East and to maintain peace and security in the region.
NLG joins IADL to call on all UN member states not to provide any political or logistical support for U.S. acts of aggression or war crimes against Iran or any other country.
The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.