France Recognizes Libyan Rebels

by Kenneth Anderson

The Wall Street Journal reports that France “formally recognized Libya’s main opposition group, the first country to do so.”

It is an excellent story and walks in brisk fashion through the latest moves in diplomacy and assessment of the military chances of the rebels.  However, it is prudent at this point not to over-interpret the implications of this report about France.  From a legal standpoint, there are degrees and types of recognition, and I have so far not been able to get more detail from either English or French-language press on what exactly this recognition is in a technical sense.  (I’d welcome more information if readers have any on what the French government has actually said, in English or French sourcing.)

Possibilities include, however: recognition of the rebels as the legitimate government of Libya, or recognition of belligerency and the rebels as a belligerent group.  These and more have different international law implications.   The US government seems to have suspended relations with the Qaddafi government and apparently plans to meet with some representatives next week.  But it has not moved to recognize the rebels in whatever way France has.

Update: Thanks Xavier – France recognizes the opposition as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people and will be sending a diplomatic representative shortly.

6 Responses

  1. The French government has officially recognized the Libyan opposition as the “only legitimate representatives of the people of Libya,” and will send an ambassador to Benghazi shortly.

  2. Xavier, thanks!

  3. Does recognition solve the ‘legal basis’                                              problem                             by converting intervention into supporting the legitimate government under attack                                      — i.e., if France treats the rebel council as the gvt of Libya, can it offer military support on the basis that it has been asked to help deal with an internal problem by the government of the country. 

  4. Response…
    Yes, France can respond to a request from the new government and participate in a no-fly zone, send troops, and so forth.  If French troops (or those of any other country) are attacked, they can respond in legitimate self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter (even without the consent of the newly recognized government).
    Seems like something should happen relatively soon or the newly recognized government’s forces may be defeated. 

  5. Response… I find the French recognition of the CNT as the representative of the Libyan people a bit of a stretch. I do, however, think it may be possible, depending on the facts, to recognize the CNT as the legitimate government of the area controlled by the CNT.  Then, going to the CNT’s assistance would not be a violation of 2(4) of the Charter. 

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