International law recognizes the right of states to defend themselves.
International law recognizes the right of states to defend themselves. The United Nations system requires all states to abide by Article 2.4 of the U.N. Charter, prohibiting threat and use of force while also requiring that states resort only to peaceful countermeasures when addressing a breach of their legal rights by another state.
Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter vests the
The basic rule about the unilateral use of force in international relations is that such use is forbidden. The only exception is in the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs.” The term “armed attack” in this context means a “very serious onslaught” either on the territory of the injured state or on its agents or citizens, while they are at home or abroad, meaning in another state or in international waters or airspace. According to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter: Nothing 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. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and 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.
Nothing 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. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and 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.
States have the right to resort to collective self-defense in the case of aggression by arms, subject to the request or consent of the victim of aggression. The collective self-defense measures do not affect or prejudice the possible operation of the U.N. security system. The U.N. security system may authorize states to take forceful measures against the wrongdoer if the U.N. Security Council concludes that a gross violation of international community obligations amounts to a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, or an act of aggression. The U.N. Security Council takes over when it faces an international wrongful act that it deems that Article 39 of the U.N. Charter covers.
The U.N. Charter also sets a number of limits upon the right of self-defense, which Article 51 enshrines. This provision, which has developed into a provision of general international law, allows the use of force only in self-defense in order to repel an “armed attack,” and the defending State must immediately inform the Security Council of the action of using arms in self-defense. Article 51 envisages self-defense as a provisional measure by which the victim of an attack by force of arms may safeguard its rights until the security system, which centralizes this function, begins to work.
The basic deficiencies of the collective security system the U.N. Charter outlines include the assumption of continuing agreement among the permanent members of the
The end of the
Two other critical features of peacekeeping operations are consent of the territorial state and impartiality. In some cases, peacekeeping has proceeded on the basis of a partial consent, meaning that peacekeeping forces have lacked the consent of one or more of the parties in the conflict. This situation has jeopardized the impartiality requirements of the operation. In 1992-1995, the
The United Nations deployed forces in all three cases where no peace existed to keep, that is, in situations of ongoing conflict within states and in which a partial or nearly total breakdown of governmental authorities had taken place. This trend in entrusting peacekeeping forces with enforcement functions has, however, undergone strong criticism–nor has it developed to the point of creating a special category of U.N. peace-enforcement units, which U.N. Secretary General
On other occasions, the U.N. Security Council implicitly authorized regional or other organizations or arrangements to use force. The Security Council authorized, for example, maritime operations to enforce the embargo, as well as air operations to back up the peacekeeping forces (UNPROFOR) protecting safe areas. The implementation of the authorization was implicitly but obviously to occur through the West European Union (WEU) and the
Yugoslavia was the conflict with the greatest degree of complexity that the United Nations had confronted since the end of the Cold War. The developments in the following years of war in the former Yugoslavia included unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to end the conflict, including the Vance-Owen plan, the establishment by the Security Council of an International War Crimes Tribunal with the jurisdiction to prosecute crimes that had occurred in the violent conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the authorization of member states by the Security Council in Resolution 816 in 1993 to take “all necessary measures in the airspace of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the event of further violation, to ensure compliance with the ban on flights.” On May 6, 1993, Security Council Resolution 824 declared the cities of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Goraz̆de, and Bihać in Bosnia-Herzegovina as safe areas, after the United Nations declared Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area in Resolution 819 of April 16, 1993. Between April, 1994, and February, 1995, NATO airplanes conducted nine limited attacks against Serbian targets on the ground. In March, 1995, the Security Council decided on the replacement of UNPROFOR by three separate but interlinked peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (UNPROFOR), Croatia (U.N. Confidence Restoration Operation, or UNCRO), and Macedonia (U.N. Preventative Deployment Force, or UNPREDEP).
U.S. M-1A1 Abrams tanks enter Bosnia in 1995 as part of a U.N. peacekeeping force that would allow the United Nations to focus on humanitarian issues.
On August 28, 1995, thirty-eight people died in the Muslim part of
The parties initialed the
The U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution, 1368, on
On the same day, relying on Article 5 of the NATO Statute, the North Atlantic Council unanimously adopted a statement providing for the right of collective self-defense in case of attack on one of the (then) nineteen members of the Alliance. The NATO member states opted to base their solution on U.N. Charter Article 51, thereby referring to the right of self-defense as the avenue rather than collective use of force under the authority of the Security Council.
Practically all states took an attitude that implied a considerable departure from the legal system on the use of force in the matter of a few days, to the effect of broadening the notion of self-defense. States came to assimilate action by a terrorist group amounting to a “threat to the peace” with aggression by force of arms, thereby entitling the victim state to resort to individual self-defense and third states to act in collective self-defense at the request of the former state. The events following September 11, 2001, allowed the victim state of terrorism to resort to a delayed response, undertaking self-defense use of force after some lapse of time. Classic legal doctrine on self-defense requires that the state react immediately to a specific aggressor state. The international community held as admissible that the United States could establish by its own judgment which state had harbored, supported, and assisted the terrorists. The United States thereby became itself accountable and a legitimate target of military reaction. The traditional U.N. Charter system of self-defense implied that the state acting in self-defense may strike only at a specific state or group of states–that is, the aggressor or aggressors. In other words, the victim state could not choose the target; the victim state was to respond immediately to an act of aggression.
On October 7, 2001, the United States, with the initial assistance of the United Kingdom, initiated military action against Afghanistan, which it termed
National ground-force contingents participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations are typically characterized by their distinctive, white-painted armored vehicles, designed to facilitate their identification as a neutral force. Military personnel typically paint their helmets the distinctive U.N. sky blue. The United Nations also awards its own military decorations for meritorious service in peacekeeping operations.
The U.N. Security Council in 1999, voting to allow one more month for the Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan, to hand over Osama bin Laden for trial.
The founders of the United Nations never envisaged the formation of an “army” that was to be at the disposal of the U.N. proper, exclusively dependent on the U.N. Security Council. Originally, the various member states were to place forces at the disposal of the Security Council as military contingents. Special agreements would determine the number and type of forces and their readiness. The U.N. Security Council would exercise its authority over national forces. These national forces would act under the strategic and military direction of the Security Council’s Military Staff Committee. The Charter did not envisage that a state sending a contingent would continue to exercise command and control over it, but by the same token it did not clearly exclude national control, leading to the dangerous possibility of a “dual allegiance” paralyzing these units. However, with the polarizing effect of the Cold War, the attempt at centralizing the use of force failed.
The framers of the U.N. Charter envisaged a different Chapter VII regime governing the use of force in international relations other than the role that U.N. peacekeeping operations fulfill, just as the “authorizations regime” giving complete control to individual member states when using force to enforce the will of the U.N. Security Council also differs. Nevertheless, Chapter VII has become one of the most important U.N. tools, and often the only available one. According to Antonio Cassese (Italian jurist and first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), the international community universally recognizes it as consistent with the Charter.
U.N. peacekeepers with clearly marked vehicles drive toward Kibati in eastern Congo in November, 2008.
The intent of peacekeeping operations is not actually to compel the parties to accept a solution that the U.N. imposes but rather to help put into practice, on the spot, the solution upon which the contending parties agree. U.N. peacekeepers can be very helpful in facilitating the fulfillment of complex peace processes in which the parties are willing to cooperate and build for the future. They of course must serve the first task of stopping the parties from fighting. They also, however, have come under criticism for being counterproductive, in that they freeze the situation without providing a real solution to the basic problems lying at the root of the conflict. An example of a successful U.N. peacekeeping operation includes the
The notion of
For the U.N. report on the sequence of events and causes escalating to UNOSOM II combat with Somali militia, leading to numerous Somali and many UNOSOM II casualties in Mogadishu in 1993, see the “Report of the Commission of Inquiry Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 885 (1993) to Investigate Armed Attacks on UNOSOM II Personnel Which Led to Casualties Among Them” (U.N. Security Council, S/1994/653, June 1, 1994). For a U.N. summary and critical analysis of U.N. military peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina leading up to the Srebrenica massacre in the former Yugoslavia, see “Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 53/35, the Fall of Srebrenica” (U.N. General Assembly, A/54/549, November 15, 1999). For a U.N. summary and critical analysis of U.N. peacekeeping operations in Rwanda, see “Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations During the 1994 Genocide” (U.N. Security Council, S/1999/1257, December 16, 1999). All U.N. Security Council resolutions are available at http://www.un.org/Docs/sc.
Cassese, Antonio. International Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Falk, Richard A. The Costs of War: International Law, the U.N., and World Order After Iraq. New York: Routledge, 2008. Lowe, Vaughan, et al., eds. The United Nations Security Council and War: The Evolution of Thought and Practice Since 1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Malone, David M., ed. The U.N. Security Council: From the Cold War to the Twenty-first Century. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2004. Silber, Laura, and Allan Little. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. New York: Penguin, 1996. Black Hawk Down. Feature film. Columbia, 2001. Crisis in Kosovo. Documentary. ABC News, 1999. Ghosts of Rwanda. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service, 2004. Hotel Rwanda. Feature film. Lions Gate Entertainment, 2004. The Peacekeepers. Documentary. BFS Entertainment, 2005. Sometimes in April. Television film. HBO Films, 2005. Welcome to Sarajevo. Feature film. Miramax, 1997. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. Documentary. Discovery Channel, 1996.
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