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 5: The centrality of the United Nations Security Council in the legal regime governing the use of force

Christian Henderson

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


The United Nations Security Council (hereinafter ‘UNSC’) is the organ of the United Nations bestowed with ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’. The possession of such a responsibility has led to the notable presence of this particular organ of the UN across the divides of international conflict and security law. For example, the UN Charter expressly provides the UNSC with a key role in the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflict prevention in addition to its role in actions taken by states in self-defence. It also in this context acts as perhaps the primary forum for the discussion and presentation of legal arguments regarding the use of force. Furthermore, it issues ceasefires, plays a key role in foreign territorial administration, establishes and implements peacekeeping operations under what some have described as its ‘Chapter VI 1⁄2’ powers, and has now an important responsibility in referring individuals suspected of international crimes to the International Criminal Court. However, arguably the most important element of this responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security – and the one under focus in this chapter – is its unique position in the realm of forcible measures. Indeed, this importance is manifested in the fact that the UNSC is the only entity today with the unique competence to decide to employ forcible measures outside of the context of a state’s inherent right of self-defence. The aim of this chapter is thus to provide an integrated conceptual and empirical analysis of the contemporary role and relevance of the UNSC in the regime governing the use of force.

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