anticipatory self-defence

Quick Reference

In effect, a pre-emptive strike by one state against another. Such action is of doubtful legality under the United Nations Charter. Some jurists have argued that such action was considered justifiable under customary international law and that the right to act upon this basis has been expressly preserved under Article 51 of the Charter. This, however, is merely an argument: it has never been granted legitimacy by the international community. An example can be found in the Security Council's treatment of the British plea of self-defence in the Harib Fort incident in 1964. In that case, the UK had bombed a fort in the Yemen that it claimed had been used as a base for mounting a series of raids into the South Arabian Federation (then a British protectorate). The UK argued that there was every reason to believe that such raids would continue and that the bombing was therefore a legitimate measure of anticipatory self-defence. The Security Council, however, rejected the idea of anticipatory self-defence against attacks that were not imminent and condemned the British action as an illegal reprisal. The Council has taken a similar stance in relation to Israeli claims based upon a similar justification. See self-defence.

Subjects: Law.

Reference entries