What is casus belli?

Casus Belli — this is a term meaning a cause for war, a circumstance that causes a break in diplomatic relations between powers and causes a war (definition of the Military Encyclopedia).

According to the dictionary-reference book “International Law”, casus belli (lat. casus belli — case (for) war) — this is the immediate formal occasion for the emergence of a state of war between states.

Initially, casus belli was a category of special law in force in Ancient Rome. This is a set of customs used by members of the collegium of priests in the implementation of decisions of the senate that contained any claims against neighboring peoples. If these peoples did not give an answer within the prescribed time, or gave a negative or unsatisfactory answer to the demands of the Romans put forward in an ultimatum form, this was considered as a casus belli, i.e. a reason for the start of hostilities.

The concept of «casus belli» used in  opposition to "casus federis" (lat. casus foederis). This is a condition of an agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance between states, according to which one ally must provide assistance by all means, including military, to the second ally if an armed attack is made on (Military Encyclopedia).

What can be considered as  casus belli?

Historically, the reasons for war were the desire of states to expand borders, the struggle for the throne, religious motives, etc., notes Military encyclopedia.

The first scientific attempts to systematize such reasons happened in the 16th century. Legal and illegal reasons were highlighted. The Spanishtheologian and Renaissance jurist, the founder of the Salamanca school Francisco de Vitoria(1486-1546) proclaimed that the only legitimate reason for war could be the violation of any right. Differences in religion, desire for expansion of territory or fame, and other ambitions of rulers should be considered unlawful pretexts for war.

Later professor at Oxford University, Italian lawyer Alberico Gentili (1552-1608) developed this theory by pointing out that a legitimate reason for war — it is only such a violation of the law, the only remedy against which is violence. According to him, the desire to convert the infidels to Christianity — this is not a legal reason for war, but if Christians are being persecuted by barbarians, then it is a legitimate reason for war against the latter.

In the 19th century, Swiss jurist Johann Bluntschli (1808-1881) attributed to legitimate causes of war a serious violation of the right, a violent violation of possession, a major violation of the general world order, and obstruction of the establishment of new rights or the progressive change of existing ones.

In the & nbsp; XX & nbsp; century, the reasons for the & nbsp; war were no longer divided into & nbsp; legal and & nbsp; illegal. Theorists have divided them into two other categories: preceded and not preceded by diplomatic negotiations.

As noted by the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, for the First World War of 1914-18 & nbsp; casus belli was the assassination in Sarajevo of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand.

In the  XX  one of  signs of sovereignty), and the concept of "casus belli" obsolete for many states, notes the Dictionary of International Law. Meanwhile, the UN Charter contains provisions on the possibility of hostilities in case of a threat to the peace, violation of the peace or an act of aggression, if these problems cannot be eliminated by other means. This document also provides for the possibility of individual or collective self-defense in the event of an armed attack on UN member countries.


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