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Turkey’s Shootdown of Russian Jet Was a War Crime


A top U.S. air defense commander told Fox news that Turkey’s shootdown of the Russian jet “had to be pre-planned“.

But even if it wasn’t, the shootdown was still a war crime …

Specifically, as the U.S. commander notes in the linked interview, Russia was in no way threatening Turkey. It was unambiguously on a bombing run against ISIS.

International law expert Francis Boyle – Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, who was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989  – notes by email:

The Russian bombing of Syria is technically legal because they have the explicit permission of the Syrian government, but of course Putin will ultimately act in accord with his interests, not what is best for the Syrian people.

As the International Court of Justice ruled in the seminal Nicaragua case (1986), any use of force even in alleged self-defense must also fulfill the basic customary international law requirements of (1) necessity and (2) proportionality. Even accepting the government of Turkey’s version of events, it does not appear that there was any “necessity” for Turkey to destroy the Russian jet.

Washington’s Blog asked Boyle whether this is analogous to the “use of force” by someone with a gun who claims he was threatened by someone else. He answered affirmatively, explaining:

Necessity and Proportionality are each separate requirements for the use of force in self-defense.

From another [International Court of Justice] case, the basic test for “necessity” is that the necessity of self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation. Clearly, that was not the case here.


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