Is the Arab League legally justified in suspending Syrian membership within the league in order to resolve this issue? —absolutely not. A clear violation of the Arab League Charter occurred when someone concocted the idea to “suspend” Syria from the League, which resulted, in essence in the quasi-expulsion of the Arab state.
Article VII of the Arab League Charter states, “Unanimous decisions of the Council shall be binding upon all member-states of the League; majority decisions shall be binding only upon those states which have accepted them.” Furthermore, Article XVII, which contains the only language under which an Arab state may be removed, states that “The Council of the League may consider any state which fails to fulfill its obligations under the Charter as separated from the League; this to go into effect upon a unanimous decision of the states, not counting the state concerned”.
There was no such unanimous decision made, and so the quasi-expulsion of Syria was illegal and illegitimate according to the Arab League’s very own charter. Any international organization that would blatantly violate its own governing documents would have raised international attention, but not so. The reason is obvious when we consider the Arab League’s repeated willingness to devalue the rule of law, in their respective states, and as it relates to international institutions.
Under the banner of a commitment to “impose political and economic sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Asaad,” most Arab League members, along with proponents such as the Syrian National Council, have demonstrated the clear political motivation behind the illegal farce that resulted in the “suspension” of Syria. Syria has remained the only Arab government refusing to dance to the tune of the confluence of influences of the Saudi / Israeli / American detente in the region, and yet has earned its title as the state the League must punish at all costs. Syria has been the victim of this legal fallacy not, as some claim, for human rights violations, or violations of international law, but rather for it’s stances on geopolitical topics of interest to the League’s major players- tyrannical despots desperate to hold on to power in the region.
The real motivation behind Syria’s suspension, and continued escalation by League members, is illustrated by the political stance that the Syrian National Council (SNC) has since taken. The SNC has been formed by expatriates abroad who dream of governing Syria one day, and has immediately found itself aligned with the Saudi / Israeli / American alliance who has begun working with and funding the group. Mere months after being formed, the SNC feels comfortable and confident enough to make some pretty hefty promises to its allies. The SNC has declared that if and when it governs Syria, it will recognize the state of Israel, sever ties with Iran, and stop supporting the resistance movements in Lebanon and Palestine. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Burhan Ghalioun, president of SNC, claimed that "Breaking the exceptional relationship (with Iran) means breaking the strategic, military alliance," then added that “we are asking our friends in Europe and the world to get to a point that illustrates to the public in Syria that there is no intention whatsoever in keeping Assad in power.”
Lacking legal legitimacy and failing to promote progress in Syria, the Arab League, along with its proponents, has done nothing but create divisive and counterproductive conflicts for the Arab people. The League has failed in its missions in Arab countries time and again, including, but certainly not limited to; Bahrain, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Palestine. In order to restore any semblance of legitimacy and/or relevance, the League should immediately reinstate Syria into its membership, play a constructive role in reforms throughout the region, and insist on an Arab solution to the failure of the Governments to serve the Arab people. I for one will not expect this change from an organization with such a long record of failure, and which without hesitation has illegally, blatantly and remorselessly violated its own governing charter.
Tarek M. Baydoun is an attorney at Allen Brothers in Detroit and a local political activist. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Arab American News.