Necessity and Proportionality and the Right of Self-Defence in International Law

ISBN : 9780198863403

Chris O'Meara
288 Pages
161 x 241 mm
Pub date
Mar 2021
Oxford Monographs in International Law
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States invariably justify using force extraterritorially by reference to their right of self-defence. In doing so, they accept that the exercise of this right is conditioned by the customary international law requirements of necessity and proportionality. However, these requirements are notorious for being normatively indeterminate and operationally complex. As a breach of either requirement renders ostensibly defensive action unlawful, increased determinacy regarding their scope and substance is crucial to how international law constrains military force. This book examines the conceptual meaning, content, and practical application of necessity and proportionality as they relate to the right of self-defence following the adoption of the UN Charter in 1945. It provides a coherent and up-to-date description of the applicable contemporary international law and proposes an analytical framework to guide its operation and appraisal. This book argues that necessity and proportionality are conceptually distinct and must be applied in the foregoing order to avoid an insufficient 'catch-all' description of legality or illegality. Necessity determines whether defensive force may be used to respond to an armed attack and where it must be directed. Proportionality governs how much total force is permissible and prohibits excessive responses. Both requirements are shown to apply on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of an armed conflict prompted by self-defence. Compliance with necessity and proportionality ensures that the purposes of self-defence are met, and nothing more, and that defensive force is not unduly disruptive to third party interests and to international peace and security.


1 Introduction
2 Necessity
3 Proportionality
4 Necessity and Proportionality and Armed Attacks by Non-State Actors
5 Conclusions

About the author: 

Chris O'Meara is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter. Before that, he was a Fellow in Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research interests lie in the field of public international law, with a particular focus on the legal regulation of armed conflict. Chris holds a PhD in International Law and an LLM in International Law from University College London, as well as an LLB in Law and European Law from the University of Nottingham. He has been a visiting researcher at Harvard Law School and Leiden Law School, and previously practised as a lawyer at Linklaters and Latham & Watkins.

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