Reconceptualising Self-Defence in International Law

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Article 51 of the United Nations Charter allows for the right of self-defence to be exercised if an armed attack occurs. Modern state practice deviates from a strict interpretation of Article 51. Since 2002 there has been an intense debate as to the legality of self-defence against an imminent threat. States are called to protect their peoples and the international peace and security from the contemporary threats of stateless terrorism, the so-called rogue states and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This article discusses recent claims that the right to self-defence should be extended to include preventive action not against an actual armed attack, even an imminent one, but against a potential threat the consequences of which, if realised in practice, would be devastating and incorrigible.
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  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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