Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nigel White and Christian Henderson

This innovative Research Handbook brings together leading international law scholars from around the world to discuss and highlight the contemporary debate regarding issues of conflict prevention and the legality of resorting to the use of armed force through to those arising during an armed conflict and in the phase between conflict and peace.

Chapter 3: The prohibition of threats of force

Nicholas Tsagourias

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law, terrorism and security law, politics and public policy, human rights, international politics, terrorism and security


Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter sets out the rule prohibiting not just the use of force, but also the threat of force in international relations. This twin prohibition is presented as one of the main pillars of the international system. Although Article 2(4) dissects the threat of force from its actual use, treating them as independent legal proscriptions, little attention has been paid to the meaning and content of the notion of ‘threat of force’ or to the legal scope of its prohibition. In contrast, the prohibition of the use of force has received extended scholarly and juridical attention even if its scope is still contested. This chapter proposes to examine the meaning and scope of the prohibition of the threat of force by looking into relevant case law and international practice before assessing the legal authority of the rule. As was said above, the prohibition of the threat or use of force set out in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter is one of the guiding principles and norms of international law, because it is the pre-requisite for maintaining international peace and security; one of the principal, perhaps the most important, objectives of the international system. The importance of this norm becomes apparent if it is compared with the pre-1945 rules on the use of force. The regime of the League of Nations (hereinafter ‘LoN’) did not prohibit the use of force but, instead, introduced certain procedural mechanisms to delay and perhaps prevent the outbreak of war among its members

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