A declaration of war is a formal act by which one state goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act (or the signing of a document) by an authorized party of a national government, in order to create a state of war between two or more states.
A state is a political organization with a centralized government that exerts authority within a certain geographical territory. There is not a single, undisputed, definition of what constitutes a state. A widely-used definition is a state being a polity that, within a given territory, maintains a monopoly on the use of force.
War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.
A speech act in linguistics and the philosophy of language is something expressed by an individual that not only presents information, but performs an action as well. For example, the phrase "I would like the mashed potatoes, could you please pass them to me?" is considered a speech act as it expresses the speaker's desire to acquire the mashed potatoes, as well as presenting a request that someone pass the potatoes to them. According to Kent Bach, "almost any speech act is really the performance of several acts at once, distinguished by different aspects of the speaker's intention: there is the act of saying something, what one does in saying it, such as requesting or promising, and how one is trying to affect one's audience". The contemporary use of the term goes back to J. L. Austin's development of performative utterances and his theory of locutionary, illocutionary, and perlocutionary acts. Speech acts serve their function once they are said or communicated. These are commonly taken to include acts such as apologizing, promising, ordering, answering, requesting, complaining, warning, inviting, refusing, and congratulating.
The legality of who is competent to declare war varies between nations and forms of government. In many nations, that power is given to the head of state or sovereign. In other cases, something short of a full declaration of war, such as a letter of marque or a covert operation, may authorise war-like acts by privateers or mercenaries. The official international protocol for declaring war was defined in the Hague Convention (III) of 1907 on the Opening of Hostilities.
A head of state is the public persona who officially represents the national unity and legitimacy of a sovereign state. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government. In a parliamentary system the head of state is the de jure leader of the nation, and there is a separate de facto leader, often with the title of prime minister. In contrast, a semi-presidential system has both heads of state and government as the leaders de facto of the nation.
A monarch is a sovereign head of state in a monarchy. A monarch may exercise the highest authority and power in the state, or others may wield that power on behalf of the monarch. Typically a monarch either personally inherits the lawful right to exercise the state's sovereign rights or is selected by an established process from a family or cohort eligible to provide the nation's monarch. Alternatively, an individual may become monarch by conquest, acclamation or a combination of means. A monarch usually reigns for life or until abdication.
A letter of marque and reprisal was a government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a private person, known as a privateer or corsair, to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer. Once captured, the privateer could then bring the case of that prize before their own admiralty court for condemnation and transfer of ownership to the privateer. A letter of marque and reprisal would include permission to cross an international border to effect a reprisal and was authorized by an issuing jurisdiction to conduct reprisal operations outside its borders.
Since 1945, developments in international law such as the United Nations Charter, which prohibits both the threat and the use of force in international conflicts, have made declarations of war largely obsolete in international relations.The UN Security Council, under powers granted in articles 24 and 25, and Chapter VII of the Charter, may authorize collective action to maintain or enforce international peace and security. Article 51 of the United Nations (UN) Charter also states that: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right to individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a state."
Collective action refers to action taken together by a group of people whose goal is to enhance their status and achieve a common objective. It is a term that has formulations and theories in many areas of the social sciences including psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science and economics.
Few nations have formally declared war upon another since then. In addition to this, non-state or terrorist organizations may claim to or be described as "declaring war" when engaging in violent acts.These declarations may have no legal standing in themselves, but they may still act as a call to arms for supporters of these organizations.
In international relations violent non-state actors (VNSA) are individuals and groups that are wholly or partly independent of state governments and which threaten or use violence to achieve their goals.
A definition of the three ways of thinking about a declaration of war was developed by Saikrishna Prakash.He argues that a declaration of war can be seen from three perspectives:
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An alternative typology based upon the form of the declaration is formulated by Brien Hallettaccording to 1) the degree to which the state and condition of war exists, 2) the degree of justification, 3) the degree of ceremony of the speech act, and 4) the degree of perfection of the speech act:
The practice of declaring war has a long history. The ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh gives an account of it,as does the Old Testament.
However, the practice of declaring war was not always strictly followed. In his study Hostilities without Declaration of War (1883), the British scholar John Frederick Maurice showed that between 1700 and 1870 war was declared in only 10 cases, while in another 107 cases war was waged without such declaration (these figures include only wars waged in Europe and between European states and the United States, not including colonial wars in Africa and Asia).
In modern public international law, a declaration of war entails the recognition between countries of a state of hostilities between these countries, and such declaration has acted to regulate the conduct between the military engagements between the forces of the respective countries. The primary multilateral treaties governing such declarations are the Hague Conventions.
The League of Nations, formed in 1919 in the wake of the First World War, and the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War of 1928 signed in Paris, France, demonstrated that world powers were seriously seeking a means to prevent the carnage of another world war. Nevertheless, these powers were unable to stop the outbreak of the Second World War, so the United Nations (UN) was established following that war in a renewed attempt to prevent international aggression through declarations of war.
In classical times, Thucydides condemned the Thebans, allies of Sparta, for launching a surprise attack without a declaration of war against Plataea, Athens' ally – an event that began the Peloponnesian War.
The utility of formal declarations of war has always been questioned, either as sentimental remnants of a long-gone age of chivalry or as imprudent warnings to the enemy. For example, writing in 1737, Cornelius van Bynkershoek judged that "nations and princes endowed with some pride are not generally willing to wage war without a previous declaration, for they wish by an open attack to render victory more honourable and glorious."Writing in 1880, William Edward Hall judged that "any sort of previous declaration therefore is an empty formality unless the enemy must be given time and opportunity to put himself in a state of defence, and it is needless to say that no one asserts such a quixotism to be obligatory."
The Hague Convention (III) of 1907 called "Convention Relative to the Opening of Hostilities"gives the international actions a country should perform when opening hostilities. The first two Articles say:
In 1989, Panama declared itself to be in a state of war with the United States.On 13 May 1998, at the outbreak of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, Ethiopia, in what Eritrean radio described as a "total war" policy, mobilized its forces for a full assault against Eritrea. The Claims Commission found that this was in essence an affirmation of the existence of a state of war between belligerents, not a declaration of war, and that Ethiopia also notified the United Nations Security Council, as required under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
In December 2005, the government of Chad declared that a state of war existed with Sudan, after Sudan hosted Chadian rebel groups that were behind fatal cross border raids.
In 2008, after armed clashes broke out during the Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict, Djibouti's President Guelleh, when asked if his country was at war with Eritrea, replied with "absolutely".
On 11 April 2012, Sudan declared war on South Sudan after weeks of border clashes.
Declarations of war, while uncommon in the traditional sense, have mainly been limited to the conflict areas of the Western Asia and East Africa since 1945. Additionally, some small states have unilaterally declared war on major world powers such as the United States, United Kingdom, or Russia when faced with a hostile invasion and/or occupation.
This is a list of declarations of war (or the existence of war) by one sovereign state against another since the end of World War II in 1945. Only declarations that occurred in the context of a direct military conflict are included.
| Arab–Israeli War (1948–49)|
Suez Crisis (1956)
Six-Day War (1967)
War of Attrition (1967–70)
Yom Kippur War (1973)
|15 May 1948||declaration of war||Egypt: 26 March 1979 |
Jordan: 26 October 1994
Syria: still at war
Iraq: still at war
Lebanon: still at war
|Ogaden War||13 July 1977||declaration of war||15 March 1978|
|Uganda–Tanzania War||2 November 1978||declaration of war||3 June 1979|
|Iran–Iraq War||22 September 1980||declaration of war||20 July 1988|
|Falklands War||11 May 1982||declaration of war (declaring the existence of a zone of war.)||20 June 1982|
|United States invasion of Panama||15 December 1989||existence of a state of war||31 January 1990|
|Eritrean–Ethiopian War||14 May 1998||existence of a state of war||12 December 2000|
|Chadian Civil War (2005–10)||23 December 2005||existence of a state of war||15 January 2010|
|Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict||13 June 2008||existence of a state of war||6 June 2010|
|Russo-Georgian War||9 August 2008||declaration of war (declaring the existence of a state of war.)||16 August 2008|
|Heglig Crisis||11 April 2012||existence of a state of war||26 May 2012|
|Sinai insurgency||1 July 2015||existence of a state of war||still at war|
The United Nations Charter is the foundation of modern international law.The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by members of the UN, which are therefore legally bound by its terms. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter generally bans the use of force by states except when carefully circumscribed conditions are met, stating:
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
This rule was "enshrined in the United Nations Charter in 1945 for a good reason: to prevent states from using force as they felt so inclined", said Louise Doswald-Beck, Secretary-General International Commission of Jurists.
Therefore, in the absence of an armed attack against a country or its allies, any legal use of force, or any legal threat of the use of force, has to be supported by a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing member states to use force.
In an effort to force nations to resolve issues without warfare, framers of the United Nations Charter attempted to commit member nations to using warfare only under limited circumstances, particularly for defensive purposes.
The UN became a combatant itself after North Korea invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950, which begun the Korean War. The UN Security Council condemned the North Korean action by a 9–0 resolution (with the Soviet Union absent) and called upon its member nations to come to the aid of South Korea. The United States and 15 other nations formed a "UN force" to pursue this action. In a press conference on 29 June 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman characterized these hostilities as not being a "war" but a "police action".
The United Nations has issued Security Council Resolutions that declared some wars to be legal actions under international law, most notably Resolution 678, authorizing the 1991 Gulf War which was triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. UN Resolutions authorise the use of "force" or "all necessary means".
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Throughout the Commonwealth realms (the UK, Australia, Canada, et al.) the formal right to declare war rests with the monarch, currently Elizabeth II, as part of the royal prerogative and exercised by the Prime Minister (for example in the UK) or that realm's written constitution. In the United Kingdom parliamentary approval is often sought to deploy combat forces overseas, for example in the Iraq War and airstrikes on Daesh (ISIL), but this is not a legal requirement.
According to article 93 of the Finnish constitution, the President of Finland may declare war, or declare peace, with permission from the Parliament of Finland.
According to Article 35 of the French constitution, the French Parliament has the authority to declare war.
Article 115a says that unless attacked by an opposing military force, Germany must vote a two-thirds majority vote in the Bundestag if the federal republic is under the threat of war.
Article 28.3.1° of the Constitution of Ireland states that "war shall not be declared and the State shall not participate in any war save with the assent of Dáil Éireann." Ireland has taken a policy of non-alignment (what many confuse with neutrality see: Irish Neutrality) in military terms and is thus not a member of NATO.
According to the 11° article of the Italian Constitution, Italy rejects war as an instrument of aggression.Parliament has the power to declare war if it is it necessary to create an order that ensures peace and justice among Nations; the most reliable authors exclude that among the circumstances in which it can be declared the state of war under Article 78 of the Constitution may be included also the state of internal civil war.
According to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, war is unconstitutional. This article within the Constitution of Japan was intended to prevent the country from being needlessly aggressive in multinational affairs after World War II.
According to Article 89 § VIII of the Mexican Constitution the President may declare war in the name of the United Mexican States after the correspondent law is enacted by the Congress of the Union.
According to the Spanish constitution of 1978, Art. 63, the King, with prior authorization by the Parliament, has the power to declare war and make peace.
According to 2010:1408 15 kap. 14 § entitled "Krigsförklaring" (declaration of war) the Swedish cabinet (regeringen) may not declare Sweden to be at war without the parliaments (riksdagen) consent unless Sweden is first attacked.
In the United States, Congress, which makes the rules for the military, has the power under the constitution to "declare war". However neither the U.S. Constitution nor any Act of Congress stipulate what format a declaration of war must take. War declarations have the force of law and are intended to be executed by the President as "commander in chief" of the armed forces. The last time Congress passed joint resolutions saying that a "state of war" existed was on June 5, 1942, when the U.S. declared war on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.Since then, the US has used the term "authorization to use military force", as in the case against Iraq in 2003.
Sometimes decisions for military engagements were made by US presidents, without formal approval by Congress, based on UN Security Council resolutions that do not expressly declare the UN or its members to be at war. Part of the justification for the United States invasion of Panama was to capture Manuel Noriega (as a prisoner of war) [ citation needed ]because he was declared a criminal rather than a belligerent.
In response to the September 11 attacks, the United States Congress passed the joint resolution Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists on September 14, 2001, which authorized the US President to fight the War on Terror.
Politics of Eritrea takes place in a framework of a single-party presidential republican totalitarian dictatorship, whereby the President is both head of state and head of government. The People's Front for Democracy and Justice is the only political party legally permitted to exist in Eritrea. The popularly elected National Assembly of 150 seats, formed in 1993 shortly after independence, elected the current president, Isaias Afewerki. There have been no general elections since its official independence in 1993. They are governed under the constitution of 1993. A new constitution was ratified in 1997, but has not been implemented.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) sometimes called the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). The ICJ's primary functions are to settle international legal disputes submitted by states and give advisory opinions on legal issues referred to it by the UN. Through its opinions and rulings, it serves as a source of international law.
Territorial integrity is the principle under international law that prohibits states from the use of force against the "territorial integrity or political independence" of another state. It is enshrined in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter and has been recognized as customary international law. Conversely it states that imposition by force of a border change is an act of aggression. It is a political term, for example when applied to a nation-state like Iraq, which has borders which were imposed at the end of WWI.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), charged with ensuring international peace and security, accepting new members to the United Nations and approving any changes to its charter. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations and international sanctions as well as the authorization of military actions through resolutions – it is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The council held its first session on 17 January 1946.
The Iraq disarmament crisis was claimed as one of primary issues that led to the multinational invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003. Since the 1980s, Iraq was widely assumed to have been producing and extensively running the programs of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Iraq made extensive use of chemical weapons during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, including against its own Kurdish population. France and the Soviet Union assisted Iraq in the development of its nuclear program, but its primary facility was destroyed by Israel in 1981 in a surprise air strike.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Resolution 2200A (XXI) on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976 in accordance with Article 49 of the covenant. Article 49 allowed that the covenant will enter into force three months after the date of the deposit of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or accession. The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of August 2017, the Covenant has 172 parties and six more signatories without ratification.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. The Convention entered into force on 12 January 1951. It defines genocide in legal terms, and is the culmination of years of campaigning by lawyer Raphael Lemkin. All participating countries are advised to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime. As of May 2019, 150 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty, most recently Turkmenistan on 26 December 2018. One state, the Dominican Republic, has signed but not ratified the treaty.
The law of war refers to the component of international law that regulates the conditions for war and the conduct of warring parties. Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territories, occupation, and other critical terms of international law.
The Nuremberg principles are a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime. The document was created by the International Law Commission of the United Nations to codify the legal principles underlying the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi party members following World War II.
A crime against peace, in international law, is "planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing". This definition of crimes against peace was first incorporated into the Nuremberg Principles and later included in the United Nations Charter. This definition would play a part in defining aggression as a crime against peace. It can also refer to the core international crimes set out in Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which adopted crimes negotiated previously in the Draft code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind.
The War Powers Resolution is a federal law intended to check the president's power to commit the United States to an armed conflict without the consent of the U.S. Congress. The Resolution was adopted in the form of a United States Congress joint resolution. It provides that the U.S. President can send U.S. Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, "statutory authorization," or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces."
The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, informally known as the Iraq Resolution, is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress in October 2002 as Public Law No. 107-243, authorizing the use of the United States Armed Forces against Saddam Hussein's Iraq government in what would be known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. The document Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications gives an extensive listing and summary of statutes which are automatically engaged upon the US declaring war.
The International law bearing on issues of Arab–Israeli conflict, which became a major arena of regional and international tension since the birth of Israel in 1948, resulting in several disputes between a number of Arab countries and Israel.
The Eritrean–Ethiopian War, one of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa, took place between Ethiopia and Eritrea from May 1998 to June 2000, with the final peace only agreed to in 2018, twenty years after the initial confrontation. Eritrea and Ethiopia, two of the world's poorest countries, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the war and suffered tens of thousands of casualties as a direct consequence of the conflict. Only minor border changes resulted.
The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was established by the United Nations Security Council in July 2000 to monitor a ceasefire in the border war that began in 1998 between Ethiopia and Eritrea. First military troops Netherlands - Canadian battalion 'NECBAT' arrived and established bases in the region in December 2000.
The use of force by states is controlled by both customary international law and by treaty law. The UN Charter reads in article 2(4):
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1244, adopted on 10 June 1999, after recalling resolutions 1160 (1998), 1199 (1998), 1203 (1998) and 1239 (1999), authorised an international civil and military presence in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and established the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). It followed an agreement by Yugoslav President Milošević to terms proposed by Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and Russia's Chernomyrdin on 8 June, involving withdrawal of all Yugoslav state forces from Kosovo.
The legality of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been widely debated since the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Poland and a coalition of other countries launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in September 2004 that: "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it [the war] was illegal", explicitly declaring that the US-led war on Iraq was illegal.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1298, adopted unanimously on 17 May 2000, after reaffirming resolutions 1177 (1998), 1226 (1999), 1227 (1999) and 1297 (2000) on the situation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Council condemned continuing hostilities and imposed an arms embargo on both countries.
Developments in international law since 1945, notably the United Nations (UN) Charter, including its prohibition on the threat or use of force in international relations, may well have made the declaration of war redundant as a formal international legal instrument (unlawful recourse to force does not sit happily with an idea of legal equality).