Saturday, September 7, 2013

What constitutes an armed attack? Is it legal to arm rebels?

International Court of Justice

Case concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America) (Merits)
ICJ Judgment of 27 June 1986



195. “There appears now to be general agreement on the nature of the acts which can be treated as constituting armed attacks. In particular, it may be considered to be agreed that an armed attack must be understood as including not merely action by regular armed forces across an international border, but also “the sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to” (inter alia) an actual armed attack conducted by regular forces, “or its substantial involvement therein…” The Court sees no reason to deny that, in customary law, the prohibition of armed attacks may apply to the sending by a State of armed bands to the territory of another State, if such an operation, because of its scale and effects, would have been classified as an armed attack rather than as a mere frontier incident had it been carried out by regular armed forces. But the Court does not believe that the concept of “armed attack” includes not only acts by armed bands where such acts occur on a significant scale but also assistance to rebels in the form of the provision of weapons or logistical or other support. Such assistance may be regarded as a threat or use of force, or amount to intervention in the internal or external affairs of other States.” 

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