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Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 23242, tabled on 20 January 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what working definition of imminence his Department uses in the application of article 51 of the UN Charter.

Answered on

28 January 2016

It has long been the position of successive UK Governments that "the inherent right of self-defence", as recognised in Article 51 of the UN Charter, does not require a State to wait until an armed attack is actually under way before it can lawfully use force to alleviate the threat. A State may use force in anticipation of an armed attack where such an attack is imminent, provided that such force is both necessary and proportionate to averting the threat. The assessments would depend on the facts of each case, with consideration likely to include issues such as the nature and immediacy of the threat, the probability of an attack, its scale and effects and whether it can be prevented without force.