- Self-defence — Hostage taking — Protective measures — Proportionality — Protected persons and property — UN Charter
In 1976, Israel conducted a successful, but highly controversial military rescue operation in Entebbe, Uganda, to save its nationals taken hostage on Ugandan territory by members of the ‘Popular Front of Liberation of Palestine’. From an international legal perspective, this case revolves around the existence of a right of a state to take military action to protect its nationals abroad in mortal danger. Following an extensive legal debate in the Security Council on the incident, it appears safe to conclude that a rescue operation such as conducted in Entebbe passes the threshold for a use of force within the meaning of Article 2(4) UN Charter. In light of the ambiguous justification, however, it appears that an Entebbe-type situation falls within a grey area of the prohibition of the use of force. Still, the incident suggests that if states are willing to support the legality of a military rescue operation only the right of self-defence can conceivably justify such a use of force, and only in a case where the local state does not itself deal with the threat in good faith, and under strict conditions of proportionality.
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