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 6: A study of the scope and operation of the rights of individual and collective self-defence under international law

Dino Kritsiotis

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


Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations assures to all Member States of that Organization their ‘inherent’ right of self-defence, and provides in part that: [n]othing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. This provision, which appears under the rubric concerning action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression, is the solitary article in Chapter VII of the Charter to identify an entitlement of Member States to take action independent of authorization from the Security Council, although this is then hemmed in by the so-called ‘until clause’ of Article 51, which provides that the right of self-defence may be exercised ‘until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security’. Additionally, Article 51 imposes a reporting requirement whereby ‘[m]easures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council’, but the provision concludes by stating that these measures ‘shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security’.

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