The Legality of Weapons Transfers to Ukraine Under International Law

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This article analyses the legality of Western states providing weapons to Ukraine.
It focuses on five areas of international law: (1) the jus ad bellum; (2) the law of
neutrality; (3) international humanitarian law; (4) state responsibility for complicity in internationally wrongful acts; and (5) international criminal law. It concludes that weapons transfers likely violate the law of neutrality, entitling Russia to respond with countermeasures; that Russia can lawfully target transferred weapons under ihl; and that weapons transfers could lead to state and individual responsibility if evidence comes to light that the Ukrainian military is using weapons previously supplied by the West to commit war crimes. By contrast, providing weapons to Ukraine does not violate the jus ad bellum because they are in service of Ukraine’s right of self-defence against Russia and does not make the supplying states co-belligerents in Russia’s international armed conflict with Ukraine.
TidsskriftJournal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)251-274
Antal sider24
StatusUdgivet - 2022

Bibliografisk note

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At a minimum, the prohibition of support applies to ‘weapons strictu sensu, i.e. material which is capable of being used for killing enemy soldiers or destroying enemy goods’. Beyond that, the scope of the prohibition is uncertain.According to Castren, ‘[it] would seem that it suffices for a State to refrain from delivering to belligerents material which has, exclusively or at least mainly, a military purpose’. His interpretation is supported by state practice. Switzerland, for example, deems prohibited war material not only ‘weapons, weapons systems, munitions and military explosives’, but also ‘equipment that has been specifically conceived or modified for use in combat or for the conduct of combat and which is not as a general rule used for civilian purposes’. A number of scholars, however, extend the prohibition even further – most notably, to include providing a state’s military with ‘massive financial assistance’.

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