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The international law on the use of force has (again) become central in decision-making around war and peace. Conflicts in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan were partly defined by the legal debates that preceded and followed them. This subject will examine the regulation of inter-State violence. It will pay particular attention to the Iraq War of 2003 and will seek to read international law (particularly the relevant provisions of the United Nations (UN) Charter and associated Security Council resolutions) through the various ‘secret’ documents released by the Iraq (Chilcot) Inquiry (United Kingdom) into the war.
Principal topics will include:
- Historical approaches to the legal regulation of the use of force
- The concept of ‘force’ and exclusion from legal regulation of economic or political coercion
- Scope of the general prohibition on the use of military force in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter
- UN Charter framework for collective security and resort to force
- Scope of the right of self-defence, including anticipatory or collective self-defence
- Right to rescue nationals in foreign territory and right of humanitarian intervention
- International crime of aggression
- Legal analysis of the so-called ‘War on Terror‘
- Case studies on legitimacy of NATO bombing in Kosovo, Coalition of the Willing intervention in Iraq and the Georgia-Russia conflict
- The relationship between the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should:
- Be conversant with the scope of the various exceptions to the legal prohibition on the resort to military force
- Be able to critically evaluate purported justifications for resort to military force and understand arguments for and against the legal validity of such claims
- Be familiar with the approach of the United Nations Charter framework for the international legal regulation of resort to force and understand the relationship between this principal treaty regime and customary international law
- Understand the interplay between law and politics in this sensitive area of national decision making and policy.
Last updated: 3 November 2022