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Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. A textual analysis. Article 2(4).

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article 2 4
Article 2(4)

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

all members
“All members”
  • "All Members” means all members of the United Nations
  • Currently, there are 193 member states
  • Interpreted literally, the UN Charter only applies to its members
  • States do not have to join the UN
  • Article 2(6) of the Charter provides that the UN shall ensure that states which are not members will act in accordance with the these principles
shall refrain
“shall refrain”
  • Written in the imperative, “shall”
  • “refrain” means “to not do something” or “to hold back oneself from doing something”
  • This article contains a command or an order to member states – they shall refrain from using force
use of force
“use of force”
  • Note that “force” is used, not “war” – the word “force” is broader
  • Does “force” include not only military force but also economic force (ie, boycotts, economic sanctions)?
  • This is a controversial issue which isn’t settled - Shaw doesn’t think that the use of economic pressures would amount to a violation of Article 2(4) (see Shaw at p1125)
  • Note that “threats of force” are covered as well as actual force
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) discussed this in an Advisory Opinion: it said that ‘an intention to use force if certain events occur’ would also amount to a breach of Art 2(4)
    • See Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons Advisory Opinion
against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state
“against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”
  • What does this mean? How should this be interpreted?
  • The ICJ and the General Assembly have both given indications that it means that no state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason, in the internal or external affairs of another state
  • Each state must respect the territorial sovereignty of all other states
1965 declaration on the inadmissibility of intervention in the domestic affairs of states
1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States
  • This was a UN General Assembly resolution which emphasized that armed intervention, and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against a state, are unacceptable
  • The 1965 Declaration was reaffirmed in the 1970 Declaration on Principles in International Law
  • If the general rule is: no state shall use force, or threaten to use force, against another state….
  • What are the exceptions?
  • There are two main exceptions:
  • In self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter
  • When authorised by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter