PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2003, 12:00am

Stephen Hall, associate professor of law at the City University of Hong Kong, justified America's stand on Iraq in the article headlined 'The legal basis for war against Iraq is watertight' (South China Morning Post, February 6).

Much legal opinion versed in international law has reached precisely the opposite conclusion to that of Dr Hall. And indeed his own article leaks more water than it holds.

Firstly, he quotes Article 24 of the UN Charter, which states that the UN Security Council's primary responsibility is the 'maintenance of international peace and security'. That is why Resolution 1441 was passed, to avoid war by giving the inspectors the means and the time to find out if Iraq was armed and bring about its disarmament in a peaceful manner.

He later says that the resolution speaks of 'serious consequences' if there is a failure to comply with the obligations of this resolution. As yet there is no proof that Iraq has failed to comply, because the US is not giving the inspectors time to find out, but rather producing its own dubious information and presenting it as fact. And secondly, it was made patently clear by at least three members of the security council that 'serious consequences' did not mean war unless there was a second resolution from the UN specifically mandating such action. There is, therefore, no existing authorisation either in Resolution 1441 or previous resolutions.

Finally, Dr Hall says US military action is justified by the 'inherent right to self-defence'. There has, however, been no proof of any link to al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups directly threatening the US and Iraq itself is no threat to the US.

In short, the legal basis for war on Iraq is non-existent and the US knows it. This is why it is producing more and more dubious evidence to try to bolster an illegal act of military adventurism in pursuit of oil. And Dr Hall should also be reminded that the League of Nations became irrelevant precisely because of the kind of unilateral action by the then imperial powers that the US is now proposing to take.

Indeed, the UN will only prove its relevance and value if it can stop the US going to war and give time for Resolution 1441 to be carried out in a proper manner, which may indeed take up to a year.

American impatience and the needs of military commanders are not watertight legal bases for war.