Threat of force (public international law)

Last updated

Threat of force in public international law is a situation between states described by British lawyer Ian Brownlie as:

Great Britain island in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe

Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi), it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. In 2011, Great Britain had a population of about 61 million people, making it the world's third-most populous island after Java in Indonesia and Honshu in Japan. The island of Ireland is situated to the west of Great Britain, and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands, form the British Isles archipelago.

Sir Ian Brownlie was a British practising barrister, specialising in international law. After an education at Hertford College, Oxford, he was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1958 and was a tenant at Blackstone Chambers from 1983 until his death on 3 January 2010. He was a member of the Communist Party until the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.


an express or implied promise by a government of a resort to force conditional on non-acceptance of certain demands of that government. [1] [2]

The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties notes in its preamble that both the threat and the use of force are prohibited. Moreover, in Article 52, it establishes the principle that if threats of using force are made during diplomatic negotiations, then any resulting treaty is invalid, stating "A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations".

Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties treaty

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) is an international agreement regulating treaties between states. Known as the "treaty on treaties", it establishes the rules and procedures for how treaties are defined, drafted, enforced, amended, interpreted, and generally operate.

Threat one persons statement that they intend to harm another, or anothers property

A threat is a communicated intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior chiefly in order to avoid the unnecessary physical violence that can lead to physical damage or the death of both conflicting parties. A threat is considered an act of coercion.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

See also

Related Research Articles

Human rights Inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled

Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law. They are commonly understood as inalienable, fundamental rights "to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being" and which are "inherent in all human beings", regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin, or any other status. They are applicable everywhere and at every time in the sense of being universal, and they are egalitarian in the sense of being the same for everyone. They are regarded as requiring empathy and the rule of law and imposing an obligation on persons to respect the human rights of others, and it is generally considered that they should not be taken away except as a result of due process based on specific circumstances; for example, human rights may include freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution.

A reprisal is a limited and deliberate violation of international law to punish another sovereign state that has already broken them. Reprisals in the laws of war are extremely limited, as they commonly breach the rights of non-combatants, an action outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. It is not to be confused with retorsions, as these constitute unfriendly acts generally permitted by international law.

The legitimacy under international law of the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has been questioned by various parties. The UN Charter is the foundational legal document of the United Nations (UN) and is a primary cornerstone of public international law because UN member states have legally bound themselves to uphold it. At the same time, all member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also member states of the UN, and thus they must also comply with their obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty, the foundational document of NATO.

Succession of states is a theory and practice in international relations regarding successor states. A successor state is a sovereign state over a territory and populace that was previously under the sovereignty of another state. The theory has its root in 19th-century diplomacy. A successor state often acquires a new international legal personality, which is distinct from a continuing state, also known as a continuator, which despite change to its borders retains the same legal personality and possess all its existing rights and obligations.

Peace treaty agreement between two or more hostile parties which formally ends a state of war

A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armistice, which is an agreement to stop hostilities, or a surrender, in which an army agrees to give up arms, or a ceasefire or truce in which the parties may agree to temporarily or permanently stop fighting.

<i>Advisory opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons</i> advisory opinion stating that there is no source of law, customary or treaty, that explicitly prohibits the possession or even use of nuclear weapons

Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons [1996] ICJ 2 is a landmark international law case, where the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion stating that there is no source of law, customary or treaty, that explicitly prohibits the possession or even use of nuclear weapons. The only requirement being that their use must be in conformity with the law on self-defence and principles of international humanitarian law.

A war of aggression, sometimes also war of conquest, is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense, usually for territorial gain and subjugation.

Political crime

In criminology, a political crime or political offence is an offence involving overt acts or omissions, which prejudice the interests of the state, its government, or the political system. It is to be distinguished from state crime, in which it is the states that break both their own criminal laws or public international law.

Rosalyn Higgins, Baroness Higgins English barrister, judge and scholar

Rosalyn C. Higgins, Baroness Higgins, is a British former President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). She was the first female judge elected to the ICJ, and was elected President in 2006. Her term of office expired on 6 February 2009. She was succeeded as President by Judge Hisashi Owada, and Sir Christopher Greenwood was elected in her place as Judge in the International Court of Justice.

Humanitarian Intervention has been defined as a state's use of military force against another state, with publicly stating its goal is to end human rights violations in that state." This definition may be too narrow as it precludes non-military forms of intervention such as humanitarian aid and international sanctions. On this broader understanding, "Humanitarian intervention should be understood to encompass… non-forcible methods, namely intervention undertaken without military force to alleviate mass human suffering within sovereign borders."

Christopher Greenwood British judge

Sir Christopher John Greenwood is a former British judge at the International Court of Justice, on which he served from 2009 to 2018. Prior to his election, he was professor of international law at the London School of Economics and a barrister who regularly appeared as counsel before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the English courts, and other tribunals. Greenwood has been appointed as the new master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, succeeding Rowan Williams, and will be taking up his post from 1 October 2020.

Stephen M. Schwebel American judge

Stephen Myron Schwebel, is an American jurist, counsel and independent arbitrator. He serves as Judge of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal and as a member of the U.S. national group at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Previously, he served as President of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, as President of the International Monetary Fund Administrative Tribunal (1993–2010), as President of the International Court of Justice (1997–2000), as Vice President of the International Court of Justice (1994–1997) and as Judge of the International Court of Justice (1981–2000). Prior to his tenure on the World Court, Judge Schwebel served as Deputy Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State (1974–1981) and as Assistant Legal Adviser to the U.S. Dept. of State (1961–1967). He also served as a professor of law at Harvard Law School (1959–1961) and Johns Hopkins University (1967–1981). Judge Schwebel is noted for his expansive opinions in momentous cases such as Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua and Oil Platforms .

International law regulations governing international relations

International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.

Australia in the Korean War 1950–53 is the official history of Australia's involvement in the Korean War. The series consists of two volumes covering Australia's strategy and diplomacy in the war and the Australian military's combat operations respectively. Both volumes were written by Robert O'Neill, and they were published in 1981 and 1985.

James Richard Crawford, AC, SC, FBA is an Australian academic and practitioner in the field of public international law. He was elected as Judge of the International Court of Justice for a full term of 9 years in November 2014 and took his seat on the court in February 2015. From 1990 to 1992 Crawford was Dean of the Sydney Law School where he was also the Challis Professor of International Law from 1986 to 1992. From 1992 to 2014, he was Whewell Professor of International Law at the University of Cambridge and Fellow in Law at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was formerly Director of the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, also at Cambridge.

Legal status of the Holy See

The legal status of the Holy See, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, both in state practice and according to the writing of modern legal scholars, is that of a full subject of public international law, with rights and duties analogous to those of States.

Simon Chesterman Australian legal academic

Simon Chesterman is an Australian academic, writer and law professor who is currently the Dean of the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Law. A Rhodes Scholar, he is also the Secretary-General of the Asian Society of International Law and Editor of the Asian Journal of International Law.

The Caroline test is a 19th-century formulation of customary international law, reaffirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II, which said that the necessity for preemptive self-defense must be "instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation." The test takes its name from the Caroline affair.


  1. International Law and the Use of Force by States, Ian Brownlie, CBE, QC, FBA, March 26, 1963, Oxford University Press
  2. Submission by Aidan O’Neill QC Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine , Aidan O'Neill QC

Further reading

Cambridge University Press (CUP) is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by King Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house and the second-largest university press in the world. It also holds letters patent as the Queen's Printer.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.