International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements

International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements

International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements

International Law and the Use of Force by National Liberation Movements

Synopsis

Beginning with an explanation of the traditional tenets of international laws of armed conflict, this book explores the idea that national liberation movements may legitimately resort to the use of force, and examines the application of the humanitarian law of armed conflict in wars of national liberation.

Excerpt

The purpose of this chapter is to examine who had the authority to use force in international law before the idea that identifiable peoples have a right to self-determination gained much support.

Ideas change slowly and inconsistently. It would be misleading and somewhat simplistic to suggest that there is a clear division between traditional legal principles and some new law or a particular date on which these new rules came into force. Indeed, some scholars maintain that the traditional rules are still the law today, while others claim that the new ideas have always been part of the law. Both views have an element of truth. Changes in ideas about legitimate authority are part of the seamless evolution of ideas. This chapter tries to describe a reference point without minimizing the complexity of international law.

2.2 The Concept of Legitimacy

There is some confusion about the word 'legitimacy' and the related phrases 'legitimate authority' and 'the legitimate use of force'. The words are used for two different but related ideas and the distinction between the two is often intentionally blurred. In its strictest sense 'legitimate' means 'in compliance with the law'. International law accepts the use of force by some agents in world politics in particular circumstances. The agents which have this legal right to decide to resort to the use of force may be called legitimate authorities.

In a broader sense 'legitimate' is not restricted to that which is specifically sanctioned by law. This more common use of the word implies that an action is just or right irrespective of its legality. There are many issues in international relations which international law simply does not regulate. There are also situations in international politics, as in domestic politics, where an act may be 'just' in a moral sense, but not in compliance with the law. In this context 'legitimate' implies moral approval but not necessarily legal approval.

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