International Laws related to War – UPSC Prelims

Context: Russia has launched an all-out attack on Ukraine through land, air and sea.
International laws related to war:
  • The UN Charter
    • The principle of non-intervention is enshrined in article 2(4) of the UN Charter.
    • It demands the states to avoid using force or threat of using force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
    • The Russian attack on Ukraine is violative of the principle and amounts to aggression under international law.
  • The UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974)
    • The resolution defines aggression as the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another state.
    • Also, allowing one’s territory to be used by another state for aggression against a third state, would qualify as an act of aggression.
    • Hence, Belarus can also be held responsible for aggression as it has allowed its territory to be used by Russia for attacking Ukraine.
  • Aggression is also considered an international crime under customary international law and the Rome statute establishing the International Criminal Court.
Principle of self-defence:
  • In wake of the use of force by Russia, Ukraine has the right to self-defence under international law.
  • The UN Charter under article 51 authorises states to resort to individual or collective self-defence, until the Security Council takes steps to ensure international peace and security.
  • As Russia is a permanent member and has veto powers, it looks impossible for the UNSC to arrive at a decision
  • Hence, Ukraine has a right under international law to request assistance from other states in the form of military assistance, supply of weapons etc.
Caroline Test:
  • The Caroline test is a 19th-century customary international law, reaffirmed by the Nuremberg Tribunal post the Second World War.
  • The law says that the necessity for pre-emptive self-defence must be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”