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Corell opposes military strike against Iran

By Jonathan Epstein
On March 12, 2012

Hans Corell, a Swedish national and under-secretary-general for the Office of Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations from 1994 to 2004, voiced his opposition—on legal grounds—to a military strike against Iranian nuclear sites in a panel discussion on social justice in the University held in the Mandel Center reading room on Monday and in a subsequent interview with the Justice. In addressing the crisis, Corell, who worked closely with the Security Council during his decade at the U.N., criticized its permanent members for contributing to international crisis and deadlock.

Corell, a member of the advisory board of Brandeis' International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, said that he supports Iranian nuclear disarmament, because "a nuclear war will never be between two parties—the whole world will be affected."

However, he opposes a strike by the United States or Israel against Iranian nuclear sites because it would breach U.N. legal standards. "An attack on Iran today, in the present situation, will be a flagrant violation of the U.N. charter. The U.N. charter allows armed attacks only in two situations: in the case of clear self-defense or if there is a clear and unambiguous mandate by the U.N. Security Council," he said. "The latter [circumstance] doesn't exist, and the former, this is not the case either, because preemptive strikes are not allowed under the U.N. charter; it flies in the face of the U.N. charter." He added that the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003, as a preemptive strike, was also "a flagrant violation of the U.N. charter."

Corell stated that efforts at Iranian disarmament must be pursued through diplomatic means. "What should be done here is that the Security Council should sit down and have a serious discussion, engaging also Iran, explaining that the Council will not accept that Iran gets involved in enriching uranium to the extent that they would develop nuclear arms," he said.

At the same time, Corell placed the burden of action on the more powerful states to reduce their quantity of nuclear weapons in order to de-escalate a nuclear crisis: "The nuclear states have to observe their obligations under the non-proliferation treaty to start disarming seriously, because the whole world needs disarmament in this field," said Corell.

The actions of the five permanent Security Council members, the U.S., United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, according to Corell, contradict their obligation to prevent war.

"It's absolutely necessary that the five permanent members sit down and have a serious discussion about how they perform their obligation under the U.N. Charter. They have a mandate by all the members to cover the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and yet they act in a manner that sometimes they create conflicts."

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