Use of Force

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As Far As We Know, There Has Been No Armed Attack Against Poland

Yesterday a missile struck a village in Poland, near the Ukrainian border, prompting immediate fears of escalation and of a more direct entry of NATO states into the Russian/Ukranian armed conflict. As I write this it remains unclear whether the missile was fired by Russian or by Ukranian armed forces. However, US President Biden and other US officials have expressed doubts that Russia fired the missile, while Russia itself has denied attacking Polish territory and asserted that the missile came from a Ukrainian S-300 air defence system. Again, as things stand the facts are yet to be conclusively established. But from what we know at the moment it seems unlikely that Russia deliberately targeted Polish territory, including because it had nothing to gain and much to lose from such an action. Two hypotheses seem more likely: (1) that the missile was indeed fired by Russia, despite Russia’s protests to the contrary, but at a target in Ukraine and that it somehow got misdirected, through operator error or mechanical…

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Twenty Years of Drone Attacks

On November 2, 2002, the United States conducted its first targeted killings using a drone. CIA agents based in Djibouti launched the drone’s two Hellfire missiles at a vehicle traveling in rural Yemen, killing six. Several weeks later the Los Angeles Times reported details, including the fact that while the U.S. Air Force controlled the…

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Facts, intuitions and uncertainties in the jus ad bellum

Lawyers disagree about international law governing the resort to force. That much is obvious and evident in numerous posts on this and other sites and in the extensive literature studying controversies in the jus ad bellum. Disagreements between lawyers representing states are easy to attribute to their clients’ clashing interests and ideologies, rather…

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Orwellian Rulings of the Russian Constitutional Court on the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia Provinces of Ukraine

With its historical denialism, Newspeak and propaganda, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has given new life to George Orwell’s evocation of how political language can be used to obscure or misrepresent reality. Does the same hold true for legal language? On 30 September 2022, following the illegal pseudo-referenda organised by Russia in the occupied areas of…

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Three Posts on Articles of War on Current IHL Issues Regarding Russia and Ukraine

This is just a brief post to flag for readers who might be interested a series of essays that Mike Schmitt and I have done over on Articles of War, dealing with some of the most pressing issues of international humanitarian law arising in the Russia/Ukraine conflict over the past couple of weeks. First,…

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