Does French Recognition Have Any International Law Consequences?

by Kenneth Anderson

I have some views, but they are not entirely solidified, so let me put this out as a question.  France has recognized the the rebels as the sole legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, and withdrawn its recognition of the Qaddafi government.  If that is so, what, if any, are the international law consequences of that recognition?

I understand that many readers think of this as having quite obvious, cut-and-dry answers, but let me encourage people to think in terms of plausible ways that different points of view within the main currents of international law might view the answer.  Legal effects, if any, with regards to the rebels; the arms embargo; assistance by France or others to the rebels; the rights and obligations of neutrals; the existence of a civil war or non-international armed conflict; the authority of the Security Council; etc.  Alternatively, is this merely a political-diplomatic step with no further international law consequences? Or some mingling of the two, such that such diplomatic recognition is intended to provide legitimacy for a related legal view?

http://opiniojuris.org/2011/03/11/does-french-recognition-have-any-international-law-consequences/

4 Responses

  1. Presumably this has domestic legal consequences, such as sovereign immunity. But what international law consequences? No other state is affected by this gesture, right?

  2. Response…
    What do you mean “sovereiogn immunity”? Everyone knows that there is no immunity in any international crimnal tribunal for international crimes.  Even the “prior” head of state of Libya has no immunity for crimes against humanity.
    TODAY: Arab League approves no-fly-zone!  NOW article 52 of the UN Charter will support the legality of such, as id did re: NATO and Kosovo — see my Cornell Int’l L.J. article on use of force in Afghanistan — way back

  3. Dear professor Paust

    Article 119 of the Rome statute makes of referral of disputes to the International Court of Justice possible. Imagine that one or more state parties would go so far as to sue Kenya to ICC for not arresting Bashir when he was on visit last year. Kenya could defend itself quoting the case of the Congo v. Belgium. In your opinion, what would ICJ decide in this case? 

  4. some brainstorming in reply to Mr Anderson:
    The recognition by only France shouldn’t have an effect on third States, I think. But from Frances point of view, none of Libya’s international rights (treaty or customary) can be invoked by Gaddafi’s regime any more but instead “the rebels” may raise claims and negotiate with France, render agreements with binding effect on Libya, call upon the ICJ etc. Consequentially, from France’s view, providing assistance to the rebells would not amount to a violation of Libya’s sovereignty.

    France might find the arms embargo inapplicable to providing arms for the rebels, interpreting the embargo as aiming not at the State of Libya whoever rules it but at Qaddafi essentially.

    Are, from the French point of view, the rebels, i.e. representatives, i.e. the aspiring government (only half way there!) currently bound by human rights law? The main idea of the respective law is to protect individuals from the powers that governments have, not from the powers that others exercise (e.g. in order to acquire government powers). The rebels though are recognized only as having representative, not executive, power. (But then of course there is some room for the view that human rights treaties are applicable between individuals, too.)

    Is recognizing some entity as the representative of a people (a) irrelevant (b) equivalent to or (c) a prerequisite for recognizing a (new) State? That question seems linked to the effect of the French de-recognition of the Qaddafi group as Libya’s government. State’s without a government are often (not always) withheld recognition. But once recognized, if their governments turn dysfunctional, they won’t die as quickly as humans do when a heart transplant becomes complicated. It would be impracticable to conclude too quickly that the old State vanishes and a new State rises, discontinuing all international rights and duties. Especially since here, from France’s point of view, Libya currently has a not fully but only half way dysfunctional government, since it has at least a recognized representative. So perhaps, from Frances view, Libya right now is somewhat in a zombie-like state, continuing international rights and duties with a new functioning representative and a crippled executive power.

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