The UN security council and the international rule of law

Ian Hurd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This article considers the relationship between international law and the UN Security Council. The practical power of the Council is constituted at the intersection of its legal framing, its political legitimacy, and the interests of powerful states. This sometimes means the Council has less power than is assigned to it by the UN Charter, but it often means that it has more. It is clear that the Council sits within the international legal system, the legal limits on its action are interpreted in light of prior Council practice, and thus the meaning of 'compliance' and 'violation' of the Charter changes over time. Some transgressions of the Charter are understood as informal amendments to it; others are seen as threats to international peace and security that impel enforcement action. This ambiguity in the law and practice of the United Nations is inherent in the idea of the 'international rule of law'. The Council straddles the unstable boundary between international law and politics, both undermining and reinforcing the distinction between them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpot015
Pages (from-to)361-379
Number of pages19
JournalChinese Journal of International Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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