International ensure security in the society. According to

law is comprised of different aspects such as treaties, charters (for example
the UN Charter), protocols, international agreements, customs and legal
precedents (Wet 2002).  Traditionally,
international law was mainly concerned with governing of relationship between
states. However, the law has undergone considerable evolution over the years to
include relations between international organizations’, individuals and states.
This has greatly broadened the international law.

law plays an essential role in solving global concerns/issues affecting
different facets of humanity such as insecurity. Focarelli (2012) supports the
view that international law can enhance promotion of global justice if it is
considered as a social phenomenon.  One
of the fundamental responsibilities of the state is to ensure security in the
society. According to Ruka (2017), individual states and the international
community have duties and responsibilities that they are required to fulfil
under the substantive and formative law amongst them promoting security in the
society. Thus, the state is linked to international law.

domestic/national law, implementation of international law by states is
voluntary (Janzekovic & Silander 2014). 
States are required to voluntarily accept the commitments stipulated
under the international treaty in order to be bound by such commitments.  The voluntary nature of international law has
considerable implications on the extent to which states may comply with the
international treaties.  Childress (2011)
emphasise that the lack of central enforcement under international law means
that states must be motivated to comply by other factors rather than the threat
of facing internal sanctions. This indicates that international law may be
characterised by challenges in shaping state behaviour.  This research paper evaluates the extent to
which international law shapes state behaviour with reference to the UN Charter
and international law governing the use of force. The analysis evaluates the
circumstances and extent to which international law either prohibits or allows
states to use force.


International law and state behaviour

international law, the phrase state behaviour is used to refer to how a
country’s domestic behaviour is influenced or altered by the goals and
objectives of stipulated by international institutions or treaty obligations
(Withana 2008). In an effort to promote global peace following occurrence of
World War I and II, the United Nations formulated a Charter whose goal was to
eliminate the use of armed force in dealing with conflicts between states.
Article 2(4) of the Charter prohibits UN member states from threatening or
resorting to use of force against another politically independent state or
threatening its territorial integrity or acting in a manner that is contrary to
the purposes of the UN (Joyner 2005; Arend & Beck 2014). In spite of these
requirements, there are grounds on which the UN Charter allows states to resort
to use of force as expounded herein.


involvement in transnational intervention is considered violation of another
country’s territorial integrity and national independence (Withana 2008).  States may only be permitted to resort to
force as self-defence. A state has a right to self-defence and hence may take
that action by itself. Alternatively, a state may seek assistance of another
state. An attack on one of UN member states may compel other states to respond
by attacking the aggressor (Reus-Smit 2004). For example, according to Article
5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, an attack on a member state is considered an
attack on all the NATO member states. Under such circumstances, the member
states are obliged to attack. This indicates that international law may compel
states to act collectively in response to use of force.

 A decision to use force in self-defence must
however be authorised by the UN Security Council in accordance with Chapter 7
of the UN Charter (Withana 2008).  In
granting a state the right to use force in self-defence, the UN Security
Council evaluates whether the situation faced poses a breach of a state’s
peace, threatens peace or is an act of aggression.  The Security Council’s goal in granting a
state permission to use force is to enhance restoration and maintenance of
international security and peace (Focarelli 2012). This indicates that the UN
Charter, which forms a key component of international law, advocates for states
to adopt the state of non-intervention unless a decision to resort to force is
ratified by the UN Security Council (Mgbeoji 2003). Through this approach,
international law has been successful in shaping state’s behaviour by
restricting them from resorting to use of force or acting violently towards
other states in their international relations.

a state resorts to use of force against another state under the principle of
self-defence, the particular state must prove a number of elements in order to
its actions not to amount to an illegality under the international law.  The state must prove that its decision to use
force was a necessity of self-defence. A state can prove necessity of
self-defence by illustrating that its decision to use force was as a result of
a looming armed attack by another state. Therefore, a state cannot rely on
economic reasons in using force against another state (Scott, Billingsley &
Michaelsen 2010). In the event of an imminent armed attack, the state may not
necessarily use force against another country but also an organisation.  This assertion is evidenced in the 1976 case
of Israel and Uganda in which Israel commandos conducted an armed raid on
Entebbe Airport in an effort to save a number of Israeli nationals taken
hostage by a Palestinian terrorist group. Israel’s justification in using force
in another state was because the Ugandan government was either unable or
unwilling to respond in saving the Israel nationals (Aust 2010). Article 51 of
the UN Charter allows states to resort to use of force in the event of
terrorist attack.  In light of this, international
law provides states the capacity to respond to security threats posed by not
only states but also non-state actors such as terrorist groups. The rationale
of the concept of imminent attack is to enable a country pre-empt such an

   The action to use force should have been
instant and did not leave choice of means. 
In proving that the use of force of necessary, a state must show that
there was no any other feasible option under the circumstances faced
(Tsagourias & Buchan 2015).The state should also prove that there was no
time for deliberations. Moreover, the state must also prove that its
application of force in self-defence was not unreasonable or excessive because
the actions were limited by the need for self-defence and hence limited to that
(Gross & Aolain 2001).

 On the basis of this, states are required to
ensure that their behaviour in the event of self-defence is proportionate.
Subsequently, if states consider using force as self-defence, they must refrain
from applying force that is more than what is necessary in repelling an act of
aggression, breach of or threat to its nation peace. Disproportionate use of
force in situations of self-defence is illegal under international law
(Malanczuck 2002). This aspect is underlined in the 1987 and 1988 case in which
the US launched an attack on Iranian oil platforms in response to Iran’s attack
on the US and a number of its ships with mines and missiles.

addition to attacking the Iranian oil platforms, the US also sank two Iranian
frigates, naval vessels and destroyed Iranian aircrafts. In response to US
actions, the International Court of Justice ruled that US’s actions were
disproportionate in enacting its right to self-defence (Solis 2010). In case of
self-defence, the UN Charter specifically requires states to ensure that force
is specifically restricted for the instant purpose. Thus, states are prohibited
from resorting to use of force for purposes of punitive attack, reprisals or
retribution (Aust 2010).

a state uses force contrary to the UN Charter, sanctions may be used against
such a country. The use of such strategy has greatly enabled countries to
refrain from using force in their international relations. This underlines that
international law influences how states should behave in resorting to use of
force as an approach to self-defence.

Enforcement action

            Under the UN Charter, the Security
Council has the power to compel states to use force on its behalf as an
enforcement action. This situation may occur if the Security Council, which is
charged with the responsibility of maintaining international security and
peace, determines that attainment of this goal as stipulated by Article 39 of
the UN Charter is under threat or has been breached. In its legal capacity, the
Security Council may direct its member states to use force in assisting a state
under threat to quash the threat. Through this approach, the Security Council
is able to assist states undertake their responsibility hence improving its
success in promoting international peace and security (Abass 2012). For
example, in 1990, the Security Council compelled states led by the US to apply
‘all necessary means’ to liberate Kuwait from an attack and subsequent
occupation by Iraq (Aust 2010). Therefore, a resolution based on the UN Charter
can allow states to either individually or collectively apply armed force
against another state that violated peace and security or a non-state actor
operating within the jurisdiction of another state. Thus, states may be
required to use force as a matter of obligation. Through this approach, the UN
Charter on use of force is able to influence states’ behaviour.

Humanitarian intervention

addition to the exception on use of force on ground of self-defence and as an
enforcement action, states may also be required to use force on humanitarian
grounds. Humanitarian intervention is an important subset of international law
that governs the use of force. According to Zaid (2013), humanitarian
intervention ‘occupies an institutional position alongside security
authorisation and self-defence as a legitimate and legal reason for war’
(p.1).  In spite of the fact that the UN
Charter is not explicit on the use of force in response to humanitarian issues,
the UN Security Council may authorise use of force such as military
intervention against other sovereign states in an effort to safeguard the
livelihood of people and societies that might be threatened by the actions of
the state (Aust 2010). This aspect is underlined on the concept of responsibility
to protect, which stipulates that the international community is obliged to
offer assistance to a state that which has failed to protect its citizens or is
involved in acts of repression on its population. Under such circumstances, use
of force is considered necessary as a measure of last resort (Abass 2012).

capacity to international law in influencing states to resort to use of force
on ground of humanitarian intervention is well illustrated in the case of 1991
military intervention by British, US and French forces in Iraq. The military
intervention was ratified under Resolution 678 (1990) of Chapter VII (Wet
2002). The objective of the military intervention was to offer protection to
thousands of Kurds in Northern Iraq who were faced by a serious security threat
from the Iraq government forces. The livelihood of thousands of Kurds was
threatened through as a result of internal displacement and subsequently faced
a serious humanitarian problem because of lack of basic necessities such as
water, food, shelter and medicine. Failure to provide the affected communities
could have resulted in thousands of deaths. However, the Iraq forces restricted
humanitarian agencies from accessing the affected communities (Aust 2010).

 In response to the situation, the UN Security
Council approached the entry of the US, UK and French military forces in order
to create an environment for humanitarian aid workers to provide the basic
necessities to the affected (Aust 2010). However, considering the use of force
by the Iraq forces in an effort to bar the foreign military forces from
operating in the affected region, the French, British and American forces
resorted to use of force in spite of the fact that it was not approved by the
UN Security Council on the ground that such an approach would have increased
human casualties. Nevertheless, the UK, US and French governments proved that
the use of force in the military intervention was necessary in dealing with
such a matter involving extreme human distress. 
This underlines the fact that the UN Charter is not rigid in controlling
states approach to use force against another state if the use of force is
justifiable on humanitarian ground (Davidson 2013).


essay confirms that international law with reference to the UN Charter
governing the use of force greatly influences and shapes state behaviour. In
spite of the fact that the Charter prohibits use of force in international
relations, there are exceptions on which states may be permitted to use force.
One of the grounds relate to cases of self-defence in which a country may apply
force in an effort to protect its national sovereignty. However, states are
required to ensure that use of force is proportionate and necessary. States may
also be required to use force by the UN Security Council in undertaking an
enforcement action under the responsibility of the UN Security Council to
promote international peace and security. Alternatively, states may also
legally use force in cases of humanitarian intervention. In summary, these
aspects highlight that international law significantly impacts how states
behave in response to promotion of domestic and international peace and
security. Thus, the international law on use of force under the UN Charter is
flexible which improves its effectiveness in promoting international peace and