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Part III The Prohibition of the Use of Force, Self-Defence, and Other Concepts, Ch.30 Can Non-State Actors Mount an Armed Attack?

Kimberley N. Trapp

From: The Oxford Handbook of the Use of Force in International Law

Edited By: Marc Weller

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 10 December 2023

Armed attack — Aggression — Armed conflict, international — Armed conflict, non-international — Self-defence — UN Charter — Travaux préparatoires — State practice — Opinio juris — Customary international law

Article 2(4) of the UN Charter prohibits the use of force between States. In so doing, it addresses itself to a strictly interstate context and does not speak to the phenomenon of uses of force by non-state actors (NSAs). The question examined in this chapter is whether the exception to that prohibition—the right to use force in self-defence—is nevertheless responsive to the war-making capacity of NSAs. Otherwise put, is the definition of ‘armed attack’ in Article 51 of the UN Charter (and related customary international law) conditioned on the attacker being a state? In exploring this question, the chapter considers whether attribution is a necessary condition (in ratione personae terms) for the applicability of Article 51 by assessing the language of the Charter (including its travaux préparatoires), jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, and state practice.

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