Leiden Journal of International Law


The Principle of Non-intervention



This article examines the existence, nature, and content of the non-intervention principle in contemporary international law, concentrating on the application of the principle to areas other than the use of force. It looks at the historical development of the principle and the sources and evidence of the law, in particular resolutions of the UN General Assembly, the decisions of the International Court of Justice, and the practice of states. The article then considers some specific treaty-based applications of the principle, and explores how far the principle may apply to non-treaty, non-forcible situations. It next considers a number of circumstances that may preclude the wrongfulness of intervention (Security Council authorization, consent, and countermeasures), before drawing some tentative conclusions.

Key words

  • coercion;
  • consent;
  • countermeasures;
  • diplomatic relations;
  • domestic jurisdiction;
  • economic coercion;
  • extraterritorial jurisdiction;
  • friendly relations;
  • funding of political parties;
  • human rights;
  • humanitarian intervention;
  • interference;
  • internal affairs;
  • intervention;
  • recognition;
  • sovereign equality;
  • use of force


* Maziar Jamnejad is a trainee solicitor with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. This article is written in a personal capacity and the views contained herein are not those of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP. Michael Wood is a Senior Fellow, Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge, and a member of the International Law Commission. This article had its origins in an International Law Discussion Group held at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) on 28 February 2007. The authors thank Elizabeth Wilmshurst for her encouragement and assistance.