Use of Force
Cornerstone to the prohibition of the resort to war - nowadays a principle of international law - is the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War or Kellogg Briand Pact (1928). This treaty entered into force at 24 July 1929 and is still in force and widely accepted. Although the League of Nations system did not prohibit war or the Use of Force but restricted it to tolerable levels, article 2(4) of the UN-Charter prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconstistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
In case of aggression by one nation-State against another, the United Nations Security Council is authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to allow member states to take all necessary measures to maintain international peace and security. Some examples of Use of Force short of war: economic sanctions, boycott, pacific blockade, embargo, retorsion and reprisals.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the Use of Force. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
- Brownlie, I., International Law and the Use of Force by States, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1963.
- Dinstein, Y., War, Aggression and Self-Defence, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Gray, C., International Law and the Use of Force, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.
- O'Connell, M.E., International Law and the Use of Force: Cases and Materials, New York, NY, Foundation Press, Thomson West, 2009.
- Brownlie, I., International Law and the Use of Force by States, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963.
- Cannizzarro, E. and P. Palchetti, Customary International Law on the Use of Force: a Methodological Approach, Leyden, Nijhoff, 2005.
- Corten, O., The Law against War: the Prohibition on the Use of Force in Contemporary International Law, Oxford, Hart, 2010.
- Helmke, B., Under Attack: Challenges to the Rules Governing the International Use of Force, Farnham, Ashgate, 2010.
- Hudson, K.A., Justice, Intervention, and Force in International Relations: Reassessing Just War Theory in the 21st Century, London, Routledge, 2009.
- Labrecque, G., Les Différends territoriaux en Europe: jurisprudence de la Cour Internationale de Justice, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2009.
- O'Connell, M.E., International Law and the Use of Force: Cases and Materials, New York, NY, Foundation Press/Thomson West, 2009.
- Westra, J., International Law and the Use of Armed Force: the UN Charter and the Major Powers, London, Routledge, 2007.
- Bethlehem, D., "Self-Defense Against an Imminent or Actual Armed Attack by Nonstate Actors", American Journal of International Law, 106 (2012), No. 4, pp. 769-777.
- Bianchi, A., "The International Regulation of the Use of Force: the Politics of Interpretative Method" in L. van den Herik and N. Schrijver (eds.), Counter-Terrorism Strategies in a Fragmented International Legal Order: Meeting the Challenges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 283-316.
- Gray, C.D., "The Use of Force for Humanitarian Purposes", in N.D. White and C. Henderson (eds.), Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law: "Jus ad bellum, jus in bello", and "Jus post bellum", Cheltenham, Elgar, 2013, pp. 229-255.
- Gray, C.D., "The International Court of Justice and the Use of Force", in C. J. Tams and J. Sloan (eds.), The Development of International Law by the International Court of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 237-261.
- Green, J.A., "Questioning the Peremptory Status of the Prohibition of the Use of Force", Michigan Journal of International Law, 32 (2011), No. 3, pp. 215-257.
- Helmersen, S.T., "The Prohibition of the Use of Force as Jus Cogens: Explaining Apparent Derogations", Netherlands International Law Review, 61 (2014), No.2, pp. 167-193.
- Kreß, C., "Major Post-Westphalian Shifts and Some Important Neo-Westphalian Hesitations in the State Practice on the International Law on the Use of Force", Journal on the Use of Force and International Law, 1 (2014), No.1, pp. 11-54.
- O'Connel, M.E., "The Prohibition of the Use of Force", in N.D. White and C. Henderson (eds.), Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law: "Jus ad bellum, jus in bello", and "Jus post bellum", Cheltenham, Elgar, 2013, pp. 89-119.
- Ruys, T., "The Meaning of "Force" and the Boundaries of the Jus Ad Bellum: Are "Minimal" Uses of Force Excluded from UN Charter Article 2(4)?", American Journal of International Law, 108 (2014), No. 2, pp. 159-210.
- Sayapin, S., "International Law, the Use of Force and the Crime of Aggression: from the Charter of the United Nations to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court", Asian Yearbook of International Law, 15 (2012), pp. 3-41.
- Slager, K., "Legality, Legitimacy and Anticipatory Self-Defence: Considering an Israeli Preemptive Strike on Iran's Nuclear Program", North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, 38 (2012), No. 1, pp. 267-325.
- Tronchetti, F., "The Right of Self-Defence in Outer Space : an Appraisal, Zeitschrift für Luft- und Weltraumrecht, 63 (2014), No. 1, pp. 92-120.
- Waxman, M.C., "Cyber-Attacks and the Use of Force: Back to the Future of Article 2(4)", Yale Journal of International Law, 36 (2011), No. 2, pp. 421-459.
- Webb, P., "Use of Force and the Emerging International Judicial System", in A. Byrnes, M. Hayashi and C. Michaelsen (eds.), International Law in the New Age of Globalization, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013, pp. 121-143.
- Chapter VII United Nations Charter
- Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928Scott, S.V., A.J. Billingsley and C. Michaelsen, International Law and the Use of Force: a Documentary and Reference Guide, Santa Barbara, CA, Praeger Security International, 2010.
- Schmitt, M.N. (ed.), Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Systematic classification → Peace and Security, Intervention, Use of Force
Gray, C., International Law and the Use of Force, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018.View this title in our discovery service
This book explores the large and controversial subject of the use of force in international law. It examines not only the use of force by states but also the role of the UN in peacekeeping and enforcement action, and the increasing role of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security.
The UN Charter framework is under challenge. Russia's invasion of Georgia and intervention in Ukraine, the USA's military operations in Syria, and Saudi Arabia's campaign to restore the government of Yemen by force all raise questions about the law on intervention. The 'war on terror' that began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA has not been won. It has spread far beyond Afghanistan: it has led to targeted killings in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and to intervention against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Is there an expanding right of self-defence against non-state actors? Is the use of force effective? The development of nuclear weapons by North Korea has reignited discussion about the legality of pre-emptive self-defence. The NATO-led operation in Libya increased hopes for the implementation of 'responsibility to protect', but it also provoked criticism for exceeding the Security Council's authorization of force because its outcome was regime change. UN peacekeeping faces new challenges, especially with regard to the protection of civilians, and UN forces have been given revolutionary mandates in several African states. But the 2015 report Uniting Our Strengths reaffirmed that UN peacekeeping is not suited to counter-terrorism or enforcement operations; the UN should turn to regional organizations such as the African Union as first responders in situations of ongoing armed conflict.
Ruys, T., Corten, O., (eds.), The Use of Force in International Law : a Case-Based Approach, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018.View this title in our discovery service
The international law on the use of force is one of the oldest branches of international law. It is an area twinned with the emergence of international law as a concept in itself, and which sees law and politics collide.
The number of armed conflicts is equal only to the number of methodological approaches used to describe them.
Many violent encounters are well known. The Kosovo Crisis in 1999 and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 spring easily to the minds of most scholars and academics, and gain extensive coverage in this text. Other conflicts, including the Belgian operation in Stanleyville, and the Ethiopian Intervention in Somalia, are often overlooked to our peril. Ruys and Corten's expert-written text compares over sixty different instances of the use of cross border force since the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945, from all out warfare to hostile encounters between individual units, targeted killings, and hostage rescue operations, to ask a complex question. How much authority does the power of precedent really have in the law of the use of force?
Margalit, A., Investigating Civilian Casualties in Time of Armed Conflict and Belligerent Occupation : Manoeuvring Between Legal Regimes and Paradigms for the Use of Force, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2018.View this title in our discovery service
In Investigating Civilian Casualties in Time of Armed Conflict and Belligerent Occupation Alon Margalit discusses the appropriate State response to civilian casualties caused by its armed forces. Various legal and practical challenges, arising when investigating the fatal consequences of the use of force, are examined through the practice of the US, the UK, Canada and Israel during military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the occupied Palestinian territory. Alon Margalit considers this topical and sensitive issue within a broader context, namely the public scrutiny of State behaviour and influence of human rights law during armed conflict. The debate over the scope of the duty to investigate reflects competing approaches looking to (re)shape the balance between military necessity and humanitarian considerations.
Targeted Killing of European Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Syria and Iraq
In recent years, a significant number of European nationals have travelled to Syria or Iraq to train and fight with terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS). This flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) has posed serious security concerns for Europe, in particular with regards to the threat posed by FTFs returning to Europe to carry out terrorist attacks. In this context, it appears that a number of States have resorted to targeted strikes against their citizens in Syria and Iraq.Read more
Coalition against Islamic State: Too Many Obstacles?
After weeks of fighting, Islamic State succeeded in taking over the Iraqi city of Ramadi and it currently controls large parts of the al-Anbar province, which borders on Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Almost 25,000 residents have fled Ramadi. This week Islamic State also overran Syrian government troops to seize Palmyra (Homs province, Syria), home to the ruins of a 2,000-year-old city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said a third of Palmyra’s 200,000 residents may have fled the fighting in the past few days.Read more
Drones Deployed during War raise Various Legal and Ethical Questions
Drones can be used for many different purposes. The use of drones raises various legal and ethical questions ranging from humanitarian to privacy issues. The Peace and Security Salon of 9 April discussed these questions in the context of the deployment of armed drones and robots during wartime. Three specialists each discussed the use of drones from a different background.Read more
Drones and Robots as Means of Modern Warfare
Several aspects of autonomous weapons systems and the deployment of drones during warfare will be discussed during the upcoming Peace and Security Salon: “Drones and Robots as means of modern warfare” which will be held at the Peace Palace Library on Thursday, the 9th of april. The use of drones as a weapons system has increased exponentially in recent years and this has given rise to a significant degree of controversy and a number of specific questions relating to their use. Questions which arise in relation to drones and autonomous weapons systems include whether they are in conformity with or potentially capable of complying with IHL requirements in conditions of contemporary warfare, issues of accountability and responsibility and ethical questions.Read more
Extending the Coalition against Islamic State
Yesterday, Turkey’s parliament has backed a motion that could allow its military to enter Iraq and Syria to join the campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants. While Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar have quickly joined the bombing campaign, Washington’s traditional Western allies had been slow to answer the call from U.S. President Barack Obama. France was the first Western country to respond, but this week national parliaments in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia have approved to join the global coalition against Islamic State too.Read more
ICC to Investigate War Crimes in Gaza?
On July 23, Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hamas may have violated international law “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.” Senior British lawyers have written to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, urging it to investigate “crimes” committed in Gaza, including the destruction of homes, hospitals and schools. The lawyers say that it is within the ICC’s jurisdiction to act because the government of Palestine made a declaration in 2009 accepting the court’s role and the UN has since acknowledged Palestine as a non-member observer state.Read more
Hague Academy Model United Nations on Drone Warfare and International Law
Directed energy weapons, drones, self targeting bullets, mobile tactical high energy lasers, military robots, spy weapons, weapons undetectable under an x-ray scan, remote controlled insect armies, self driving tanks, robotic mules, thermal camouflage, surveillance technologies and autonomous unmanned systems are some examples of the high tech weapons and military technology that are now used during warfare. The use of this state of the art military technology raises serious ethical and legal questions: (when) is the use of drones acceptable?Read more
Hamas versus Israel : Gaza dangerzone again
The military leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, has been assassinated in an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Who is the initial aggressor in this particular case? Peace negotiations with Hamas resulted in a ceasefire on November 21, at 9 pm., which has been respected so far.
Both parties claim the victory.Read more
The Legality of Drone Attacks
According to a recent report by Stanford and New York Universities’ law schools (Living Under Drones), the current US drone strike policy is counterproductive, has injured and killed civilians and undermines respect for international law. This blog explores briefly both the ius ad bellum and ius in bello implications of drone attacks.Read more
Conference about ICJ's judgment in the case between Nicaragua and the USA
In 1986, the International Court of Justice issued its judgment on the merits in a dispute between Nicaragua and the United States of America. Twenty-five years later, members of the legal teams of both Nicaragua and the United States faced each other once again in the Peace Palace.Read more
Georgia on his mind. From R2P toR2I?
Russia always maintained that its intervention in Georgia was justified by the principle of “responsibility to protect” (R2P).Read more
Russian President Medvedev, also supreme military commander, introduced an amendment to the Russian defense Law to allow Russian armed forces to intervene beyond Russian borders.
UN report accuses Israel of recklessness in Gaza
A U.N. inquiry accused Israel on Tuesday 5 May of gross negligence and recklessness in attacks on U.N. property in the Gaza strip during fighting between the Jewish state and Palestinian militants in January (see the article of Patrick Worsnip in Reuters).Read more
An article of the Guardian by Ed Pilkington (New York) and Rory McCarthy in (Jerusalem) at Tuesday 5 May 2009 reports that: “The summary of the UN report, commissioned by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, censured the Israeli government for causing death, injuries and damage to UN property in seven incidents involving action by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
More Research guides on War, Peace and Security
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